Girls makes most of practice 'homework'
The Johnstown-Monroe High School girls basketball team didn't have the most exciting winter break.
With only two games scheduled during the 15-day break from classes, the Johnnies only played one -- a 56-35 MBC victory over Fredericktown on Dec. 20, two days into the break.
A few inches of snow Dec. 29 forced the postponement of a non-league game against host West Lafayette Ridgewood, giving the Johnnies a long layoff and a lot of time to practice.
"They had a Level 2 snow emergency in Coshocton County, so we didn't play that game," coach Carl Dufford said of the Ridgewood contest, which will be made up Jan. 28. "That was really tough because we were really hoping to get that game in, but that's part of playing a winter sport."
Dufford said while the downtime can become monotonous, it will help his team become better.
"Right now, it's not the (most fun) part of the season, especially when you're not playing games," he said. "But just like you have to do your homework to keep your grades up in school, practice is our homework. You have to practice in order to play well in games, and we have to keep working on that."
Before playing a league game against Northridge on Jan. 5, the Johnnies were 6-3 overall and 4-2 in the MBC.
Natalie Carpenter scored 22 points for the Johnnies against Fredericktown. Paige Cannon had 14 and Laiken Valentine added 10.
"We had lost to Licking Valley (74-69 on Dec. 18) and (the Panthers) came out and played a great game against us," Dufford said. "Then we came out and played well against a Fredericktown team that had only lost two games before that. (The Freddies) were playing well and we came out and played our best game of the season."
The MBC season intensifies for Johnstown in the first two weeks of the new year with three games scheduled, including a rematch Saturday, Jan. 12, against Utica, which entered 2013 unbeaten in five league contests.
On Dec. 1, Johnstown lost to the visiting Redskins 54-51 in the MBC opener as Carpenter scored 13 points, Cannon had 11 and Valentine added 10.
"(Utica) is just one of those games that always comes down to the end," Dufford said. "If we could win that and get help from someone else, we would have a chance for a league title. If not, it will be tough to get that, but we have ... a Licking County game with Lakewood (on Wednesday, Jan. 9) before we can look to Utica."
Boys team looking to grow
The boys basketball team was 5-5 overall and 3-1 in the MBC before playing Fredericktown on Jan. 4.
The Johnnies started winter break strong with a 41-33 win over Centerburg on Dec. 21 in league play. William Orr scored 20 points and Tim Sayer added 10.
"We started off slow (with an 8-2 deficit after one quarter) but still played good defense (against Centerburg)," coach Kevin Martin said. "We trailed 12-11 at half but had a (20-point) third quarter to take control and held (the Trojans) to six points in the fourth to get the win."
But the Johnnies dropped both of their games in the Newark Catholic Holiday Tournament. On Dec. 28, Orr scored 21 points and J.D. Arnold added 13 in a 55-50 loss to Big Walnut. In the consolation game Dec. 29, the Johnnies fell to Ready 47-28 as Jason Carter scored eight points and Orr was held below double figures for the first time this season with six points.
"We are still growing and we still have a lot of things we need to do to get better," Martin said. "Our guards have to do a better job of decision-making and not take the risks that we tend to do. We have been throwing home-run passes instead of taking the time to get the ball down the floor and get into our offense. That's something that will come with time and practice."