A non-league road loss might have been just what the Johnstown-Monroe High School girls basketball team needed in its quest for its first MBC title since 2005.
The Johnnies lost at Ready 66-53 on Jan. 22, but rebounded to beat visiting Centerburg 70-48 on Jan. 26 to remain in the hunt for a league championship.
After defeating host Fredericktown 44-39 on Jan. 31, Johnstown was 14-4 overall and tied atop the MBC with Utica at 10-2. Centerburg (8-3) and Fredericktown (8-4) followed.
"Ready is especially tough at home, winning all but a couple of games there, and we didn't get out of the gate well," said coach Carl Dufford, whose team played Loudonville on Feb. 2 in a league game. "Ready played a great game and we were down 14 at halftime. We started the second half on an 8-0 run and cut the lead to seven a few times, but Ready did a good job of holding the lead.
"We found some things that we needed to address and were able to do that in practice. Then we went out and probably played our most complete game of the season against Centerburg."
Sophomore forward Paige Cannon led with 21 points, six rebounds, five assists and four steals as the Johnnies broke a five-game losing streak to Centerburg. Junior guard Natalie Carpenter scored 19 points and junior forward Makenzie Spang had 12 points with eight rebounds.
"We had 27 assists in our 31 baskets. I was stunned when I saw that," Dufford said. "(Junior guard) Laiken Valentine only scored five points, but had 10 rebounds and 10 assists. She was getting the ball where it needed to be. We moved the ball well and took what was given to us."
The Johnnies finish league play Saturday, Feb. 9, at Northridge. On Jan. 5, Cannon had 19 points with seven assists and Spang had 16 points with seven rebounds in an 82-39 win over the Vikings. Carpenter also had 16 points and senior guard Marissa Sheets scored nine.
The Division III district tournament draw is Sunday, Feb. 3. Dufford isn't sure where the Johnnies will be seeded, but he expects defending state champion Africentric to receive the top seed.
"It will be interesting to see what happens," Dufford said. "We have an outside shot at the second seed, but we'll probably be third or fourth. I expect North Union will get the second seed, and we're tied with (North Union) for second in (last week's) district (poll behind Africentric)."
Through 17 games, Carpenter was averaging a team-best 18.2 points along with 2.2 steals. Cannon was averaging 13.8 points, 7.4 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 2.5 steals.
Valentine was averaging 11.1 points and 6.7 rebounds, along with team highs in assists (5.1) and steals (3.8) per game. Spang was averaging a team-high 8.8 rebounds, along with 7.6 points and 2.3 assists. Sheets was at 5.9 points, 4.1 assists and 2.7 steals per game.
Boys basketball team to battle Freddies
The boys basketball team was 10-7 overall before playing Centerburg on Feb. 1 in an MBC game.
Johnstown entered that game second (7-3) in the league behind Fredericktown (9-1).
"It's good to be in position to be in the race at this point of the season," coach Kevin Martin said.
"We just have to do our part on the floor."
The Johnnies play Tuesday, Feb. 5, at Fredericktown. They lost to the Freddies 57-37 on Jan. 4 as junior guard Justin Bush led with 12 points.
"Fredericktown has one loss and we're two behind them (before Feb. 1)," Martin said.
"It's a big game and they're playing really well right now."
On Friday, Feb. 8, Johnstown plays at home against Loudonville. Junior guard William Orr scored nine points in a 34-24 win over the Redbirds on Jan. 8.
The Johnnies defeated East Knox 53-41 on Jan. 29 in a game postponed from Jan. 25 because of bad weather. Orr led with 17 points, senior post player Tim Sayer scored 14 and freshman forward Jason Carter added 10.
"I think overall, we're playing better," Martin said. "Defensively, I can't complain, and we're coming around offensively. We're getting to where we need to be."
Johnnies to wrestle at St. Charles
The wrestling team competed in the MBC Duals on Feb. 2 at Fredericktown.
The Johnnies compete Saturday, Feb. 9, in the Nye Cardinal Classic at St. Charles.
Johnstown also will compete in a Division III sectional Feb. 15 and 16 at Madison Plains.
On Jan. 26, the Johnnies finished 13th (66) behind champion St. Paris Graham (448.5) in the 21-team Jimmy Wood Memorial at New Lexington.
Freshman Hayden Bullard went 4-1 and finished second at 120 pounds, and junior Clayton Bullard lost his first match of the season while going 4-1 at 195 and finishing fifth. He lost to Lakewood St. Edward's Mike O'Malley 9-6.