The Johnstown-Monroe High School girls basketball team has been clicking on all cylinders in the new year.
Before playing Utica on Jan. 12, the Johnnies had averaged 85.7 points while surrendering an average of 33.7 in their first three games of 2013.
Johnstown defeated Loudonville 98-38 on Jan. 3 and Northridge 82-39 on Jan. 5 to improve to 8-3 overall and 5-2 in the MBC.
Against the Vikings, Paige Cannon had 19 points and seven assists and Makenzie Spang had 16 points and seven rebounds. Natalie Carpenter scored 16 points and Marissa Sheets scored nine.
"We needed to get back to basics," coach Carl Dufford said. "We needed to be working more on our man defense as well as being more active in the zone. We knew we had to do our homework in order to get better and to compete against the top teams."
In a non-league game Jan. 9, the Johnnies defeated Lakewood 77-24. Johnstown led 46-4 at halftime, forcing 21 first-half turnovers despite pulling off its pressure defense after one quarter.
"We have started to play team defense and (we're) talking out there (on the court)," said Laiken Valentine, who had 14 points and eight steals against the Lancers. "When we talk out there, we play loads better.
"We feel that our offense comes from our defense. The press and running with the ball are big for us."
Carpenter led the Johnnies with 18 points against Lakewood, and Spang had 15 points and 15 rebounds.
"I think we're all meshing as a team right now," said Cannon, who scored 13 points against Lakewood. "We're all good friends off of the court and we have really started playing as a team."
After finishing 19-5 last season with a 93-54 loss to top-seeded and eventual state champion Africentric in a Division III district final, Johnstown had high expectations for this season. But a 4-3 start grounded the Johnnies and made them more focused.
"We thought we were going to come out and win all of our games, but then we had three quick losses," said Cannon, whose team lost to Utica 54-51 on Dec. 1, Centerburg 52-50 on Dec. 15 and Licking Valley 74-69 on Dec. 18. "That kind of opened all of our eyes. We can't go out there thinking that we can just win every game. We have to play our best every game and not worry about games down the road. We have to stay focused on each individual game."
Through the first round of league play and before the games of Jan. 12, Centerburg and Utica were tied for first in the MBC at 6-1, followed by Johnstown and Fredericktown at 5-2. Danville (3-4), East Knox (2-5), Northridge (1-6) and Loudonville (0-7) rounded out the standings.
Offense sputtering for boys team
The boys basketball team was 6-6 overall and 4-2 in the MBC before playing Northridge on Jan. 11, and the Johnnies hadn't scored more than 37 points in their three previous games.
Johnstown lost to Ready 47-28 on Dec. 29 in the consolation game of the Newark Catholic Holiday Tournament.
The Johnnies then lost to Fredericktown 57-37 on Jan. 4 as Justin Bush scored 12 points and William Orr had six.
On Jan. 8, Johnstown bounced back by beating Loudonville 34-24. Orr scored nine points, Charles Benton had seven and Jason Carter and Cody Farley added six apiece.
Orr was averaging a team-leading 17.5 points with 22 3-pointers through nine games. But in the three games before playing Northridge, he was limited to 21 total points without a 3-pointer.
"We have been struggling a little bit offensively with teams taking away Will a lot more," coach Kevin Martin said. "We have been struggling to find ways to score. (Orr) was getting open shots earlier in the season, but now he has to work hard to get his shots. We haven't been flowing well offensively."
The Johnnies play Friday, Jan. 18, at Utica, which they defeated 41-35 in the MBC opener Dec. 7 as Tim Sayer scored 14 points and Orr added 12.
Johnnies seek track coach
Athletics director Nick McIlwain said a new coach was being sought for the boys and girls track and field teams.
Brad Orr, a 2006 Johnstown graduate, led the programs for two seasons. He also is an assistant boys basketball coach.
"Brad did a great job for us," McIlwain said. "But he had job commitments that would limit his ability to lead the programs."
Applicants should email a cover letter and resume to McIlwain at email@example.com by Jan. 25 or call (740) 967-2721 extension 3202 for more information.
Wrestlers compete at Nelsonville-York
The wrestling team finished 13th (111 points) behind champion Gallipolis Gallia Academy (248) in the 19-team Nelsonville-York Invitational on Jan. 5.
The Johnnies compete Wednesday, Jan. 16, in an MBC tri-match at Loudonville.
Clayton Bullard won the 195-pound title at Nelsonville-York, going 4-0 with three pins and a technical fall.
Hayden Bullard (120) and Logan Writesel (160) were sixth for the Johnnies and Aaron Davis (220) was seventh. Josiah Annis (132) finished eighth.
The draw for the inaugural state team tournament is Monday, Jan. 14. The regional quarterfinals will be held Jan. 23.