At the Division III district tournament draw Feb. 3, Carl Dufford saw this coming.
The coach of the Johnstown-Monroe High School girls basketball team predicted the third-seeded Johnnies' eventual showdown against fifth-seeded Liberty Union in a district semifinal, which will be played at 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 28, at Worthington Christian Middle School.
"This was pretty much what I expected, so we have scouted them a couple of times for that reason," said Dufford, whose team is 20-4. "They can play up tempo or slow things down. They do a great job of setting screens and picks. They just are a pretty good team."
Liberty Union is 18-4 and led by seniors Taylor Dickson and Morgan Kirkbride. Dickson, a 5-foot-9 forward, led the Lions in scoring (14.7 points) and rebounding (7.8) averages through 21 games. Kirkbride, a 5-6 point guard, was averaging 13.9 points, 3.6 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 2.3 steals.
"Their kids work hard and they have an excellent point guard (in Kirkbride)," Dufford said. "She does a nice job of running their offense, but she can also shoot from the outside, penetrate to the basket ... whatever they want.
"Dickson is their bread-and-butter player. They set screens and picks to open things up for her. She is like a smaller version of our (6-0 sophomore forward) Paige Cannon."
Through 23 games, the Johnnies were led in scoring by junior guard Natalie Carpenter, who was averaging 18.4 points. Cannon was averaging 14.3 points, 7.1 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 2.1 steals and 1.2 blocks.
Junior point guard Laiken Valentine was averaging 10.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 3.7 steals. Junior forward Makenzie Spang was averaging 8.3 points, 8.6 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 2.2 blocks.
The winner advances to play fourth-seeded Fredericktown or eighth-seeded Ready in a district final at 7 p.m. Saturday, March 2, at Worthington Christian Middle School.
Fredericktown, which is 20-4, lost to the Johnnies 56-35 on Dec. 20 and 44-39 on Jan. 31 in MBC games. Ready, which is 14-10, defeated Johnstown 66-53 on Jan. 22.
The district champion advances to a regional semifinal at 8 p.m. March 6 at Logan against second-ranked Proctorville Fairland, McDermott Northwest, Portsmouth West or Oak Hill.
To reach a district semifinal, the Johnnies defeated visiting Horizon Science 93-29 on Feb. 21 in the second round. Carpenter led with 21 points, Cannon scored 20, Spang had 16, Valentine had 10 and senior guard Marissa Sheets added nine.
The Johnnies defeated Columbus Academy 79-24 on Feb. 16 in a first-round game. Carpenter scored 20 points and Cannon had 16 points, six rebounds and six assists. Valentine had seven points, eight assists and five rebounds, and Spang scored 10 points.
Three wrestlers advance to district
The wrestling team advanced three competitors to the Division III district tournament while tying Grandview for 10th (69) behind champion Amanda-Clearcreek (258) in a 14-team sectional Feb. 15 and 16 at Madison Plains.
Junior Clayton Bullard won the 195-pound championship, junior Alex Workman (152) placed second and freshman Hayden Bullard (126) was fourth.
The top four in each weight class at sectional advanced to district Feb. 22 and 23 at Duncan Falls Philo, where the top four in each weight advanced to state Thursday, Feb. 28, through Saturday, March 2, at Ohio State.
Clayton Bullard was 3-0 at sectional, improving to 47-2 overall entering district. In a final, he won by default over Academy's Dan Jones.
"It's a great feeling to get through to district," he said. "I'm pretty healthy, and I've been drinking a lot of liquids. That helps me make sure I don't cramp up and that I don't get sick."
Workman went 2-1 at sectional to improve to 29-6. In a final, he was pinned in 5 minutes by Amanda-Clearcreek's Caleb Horn.
Hayden Bullard went 2-2 at sectional to improve to 34-17.
Also competing at sectional but failing to advance were junior Logan Writesel (160, 0-2), sophomores Trevor McGee (138, 1-2) and Cody Thompson (145, 0-2) and freshmen Clay Psurny (132, 0-2) and Ryan Thacker (106, sixth, 1-3).
Last year, 2012 graduate Joey Dismuke finished eighth at state at 195.
Boys basketball team opens at Mount Gilead
The boys basketball team was 13-8 overall before playing at ninth-seeded Mount Gilead on Feb. 23 in the first round of the Division III district tournament. The Johnnies were seeded 13th.
The winner plays at seventh-seeded Marion Pleasant in the second round at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 27. The Spartans are 16-6 and did not play the Johnnies this season.
The second-round winner plays second-seeded North Union, Marion Elgin or Berne Union in a district semifinal at 8 p.m. March 5 at Central Crossing.
Johnstown concluded the regular season Feb. 15 by defeating Northridge 66-54. Junior guard William Orr scored 23 points with four 3-pointers, freshman forward Jason Carter had 11 points and senior post player Tim Sayer scored eight.
The Johnnies tied Danville for second (10-4) in the MBC, behind Fredericktown (13-1) and ahead of Utica (9-5), Centerburg (6-8), Northridge (4-10), East Knox (3-11) and Loudonville (1-13).