Justin Howard wanted to end the first half on a strong note for the Northridge High School boys basketball team.

Justin Howard wanted to end the first half on a strong note for the Northridge High School boys basketball team.

The senior guard saw Johnstown-Monroe's Bobby Morrison grab a rebound from a missed 3-point attempt with 5 seconds left in the second quarter last Tuesday. Morrison raced the length of the court to attempt a layup, but Howard swatted the ball away as time expired.

Despite trailing 39-35 at halftime, the Vikings rallied for a 59-47 victory thanks in part to an aggressive pressure defense and the momentum-building play to end the first half.

"That was pretty amazing," teammate Connor Burke said of the block. "That play got us pumped up and we came out ready to play in the second half."

Howard said he knew Morrison had to go the length of the floor, which allowed the Vikings' player to get into position.

"Before running down the floor, I looked up at the clock and knew (Morrison) wouldn't have time to stop and set up for a jump shot," said Howard, who scored 19 points. "I knew he had to take it in, and I was able to jump and get my hand on the ball as he was going in."

The Vikings improved to 2-2 overall and 2-1 in the MBC. Johnstown controlled the paint in the first half with the one-two punch of 6-foot-4 post players Taylor Atwood and Harley O'Flaherty. Both finished with nine points, but O'Flaherty had seven in the first half and Atwood scored eight in the first two quarters.

"We gave up seven offensive rebounds in the first half, and we just weren't boxing out," said Burke, who finished with 13 points and was 4-for-6 on free throws. "When we didn't, they were getting easy second chances inside."

Northridge coach John Wheeler said getting in position for rebounds was important to the second-half turnaround, but defense also played a role.

"I think our rotation on defense helped us a lot," Wheeler said. "I think they were getting bothered by our defense in transition and they had trouble getting the ball downcourt. When they did beat the pressure, we were able to get our hands in the lane and keep their guards from getting the ball into the post."

O'Flaherty had a basket with 2:04 left in the third quarter to give the Johnnies their last lead at 38-37. The Vikings forced 16 second-half turnovers, nine in the third quarter.

"We turned the ball over (16) times in the second half and they got easy baskets," Johnstown coach Kevin Martin said. "We needed to come out and force more turnovers than we made. We only had four turnovers in the first half and then gave the ball away in the second half. In a nutshell, it was two completely different halves."

Wheeler also is looking for ways for his team to get better.

"We won, but we can still improve in every area of the game," Wheeler said. "We were much more disciplined (against Johnstown) than we have been in the first three games. It's important for us to be disciplined out there."

Aaron Estep scored eight points for Northridge, Tony Rios had six and Caleb Higgins added five.

"We had 11 days off between our first and second game, and we still haven't got into any sort of rhythm," Wheeler said. "Hopefully that will start with the games we play over the break at Grandview."

The Vikings will play at 6 p.m. Wednesday against Hartley in the Bobcat Holiday Classic. The second game will have Grandview against Wellington.

Hartley opened last Wednesday against Whitehall. The Hawks got a late start because of the football team's run to the Division IV state championship.

On Thursday, the consolation game will be at 6 p.m. followed by the championship game.

Grandview was 2-2 overall after defeating Liberty Union 64-47 last Tuesday.

Wellington is 2-4 after defeating Mansfield St. Peter's 63-42 on Dec. 18. The Jaguars started 0-3 and will not play another game until the opening round of the Bobcat Holiday Classic.

Matt Smith scored 18 points with three 3-pointers to lead the Johnnies against Northridge. Johns-town dropped to 1-5 overall and 1-3 in the MBC.

"We showed signs of being a good basketball team, but at times we weren't a good basketball team," Martin said. "It can be from quarter to quarter, half to half or even practice to practice. We need to find some consistency. We need five guys on the same page so they can do the right things on the court. When we do that, we can become a good basketball team."

At a glance

Below are the recent results and coming schedules for the Johnstown-Monroe and Northridge boys basketball teams:

JOHNSTOWN

*Dec. 17 Lost to East Knox 36-33. Tim Sayer scored 10 points. Harley O'Flaherty and Chad Fuller both had seven points.

*Last Tuesday Lost to Northridge 59-47

Wednesday At Watkins Memorial

Jan. 4 Home vs. Worthington Christian

*Jan. 7 At Loudonville

Of note: The Johnnies are 1-5 overall and 1-3 in the MBC.

NORTHRIDGE

*Dec. 17 Lost to Centerburg 60-53. Connor Burke led with 16 points and four 3-pointers. Tony Rios scored 10 points, Aaron Estep had nine, Nick Nixon had eight and Caleb Higgins added seven.

*Last Tuesday Defeated Johnstown 59-47

Wednesday Hartley (6 p.m.) at Grandview Bobcat Holiday Classic. Late game features Grandview and Wellington.

Thursday At Grandview Bobcat Holiday Classic. Losing teams from Wednesday play at 6 p.m., followed by winning teams from Wednesday.

Jan. 4 Home vs. Columbus Academy

*Jan. 7 At Danville

Of note: The Vikings are 2-2 overall and 2-1 in the MBC.

*MBC game