Editor's note: Because of early deadlines, complete coverage of the girls basketball team's appearance in a Division III district final and the state wrestling tournament will be in the March 10 edition of ThisWeek Johnstown.
Coach Carl Dufford dusted off a bit of the recent past to motivate his Johnstown-Monroe High School girls basketball team.
Dufford wanted to give his team a sense of what to expect before the third-seeded Johnnies played fifth-seeded Liberty Union on Feb. 28 in a Division III district semifinal at Worthington Christian Middle School. So he showed his team a video of the first quarter of its 93-54 loss to Africentric in a district final last season at New Albany.
The tactic worked to perfection as the Johnnies defeated Liberty Union 62-47 to reach their second consecutive district final.
"(On Feb. 28) for the first time since we played that game, we watched the first quarter of the (district final) against Africentric," said Dufford, whose team improved to 21-4 before playing fourth-seeded Fredericktown in a district final March 2 at Worthington Christian Middle School. "I wanted them to realize what kind of intensity we needed to play with from here on out. I wanted them to see what kind of crowd would be here, and I really think that helped us with our focus."
The Johnnies took a 14-4 lead after one quarter and led 31-14 at halftime. They built their lead to 43-23 entering the fourth.
Johnstown focused on limiting the production of Liberty Union point guard Morgan Kirkbride, who was named second team all-district averaging 13.9 points and 3.1 assists.
"(Kirkbride) makes things go for them and we really wanted to limit her penetration," Dufford said. "She can also force teams into making bad fouls and getting into foul trouble and we were able to stay away from that."
The Johnnies started the season 4-3, but had gone 17-1 since -- before playing Fredericktown -- by scoring 67.8 points per game and surrendering 40.6 points. They held opponents to 50 points or fewer in 15 of those 18 games.
"We knew (Kirkbride) was a good player, and (senior guard) Marissa (Sheets) did a great job on her," said junior guard Natalie Carpenter, a first-team all-district selection who scored nine points against Liberty Union. "We had lost a couple of games in a row before Christmas and we worked hard on getting things right defensively. We have been working together as a team on defense and that has made a big difference."
Makenzie Spang, a 6-foot-2 junior forward, led Johnstown with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Sophomore forward Paige Cannon (6-0), a third-team all-district performer, had 17 points with six rebounds and seven assists as the Johnnies used their size advantage for a 34-18 rebounding edge.
"Coach told us before the game that because they had short nets (on the rims at Worthington Christian Middle School) that the ball would come through quicker and we would be able to get our fast break moving better," said Spang, who was honorable mention all-district. "I think we were able to take advantage of that, especially early in the game."
Sheets scored 10 points and was 7-for-8 at the foul line, as Johnstown made 14 of 20 free-throw attempts. Junior guard Laiken Valentine, who was honorable mention all-district, added seven points with three steals.
The district champion advances to a regional semifinal at 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 6, at Logan against second-ranked Proctorville Fairland (23-0) or Portsmouth West (14-11). The Johnnies have not played either team this season.
The winner moves on to a regional final against Beverly Fort Frye, Zanesville West Muskingum, Frankfort Adena or Ironton at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, March 9, at Logan. Before March 2, Fort Frye was 20-3, West Muskingum was 14-10, Adena was 21-2 and Ironton was 21-4. None of the teams had played Johnstown this season.
The regional champion plays in a state semifinal at 1 p.m. March 14 at Ohio State. Possible opponents include defending state champion and sixth-ranked Africentric, Marion Pleasant, Bucyrus Wynford, Ontario, Ottawa-Glandorf, third-ranked Archbold, Bloomdale Elmwood or Findlay Liberty-Benton.
The state final will be played at 10:45 p.m. March 16 at Ohio State.
Johnnies send one wrestler to state
The wrestling team advanced one competitor to state while finishing 23rd (27.5 points) in the Division III district tournament Feb. 22 and 23 at Duncan Falls Philo behind champion Amanda-Clearcreek (147.5) as 54 teams scored.
Junior Clayton Bullard (195 pounds) finished third at district to qualify for the state tournament, which was held Feb. 28 through March 2 at Ohio State. The top four in each weight class at district advanced.
On Feb. 28, Bullard won his state opener 8-2 over Kyle Dieringer of Versailles.
At district, Bullard pinned Columbus Academy's Dan Jones in 45 seconds in the third-place match to go 5-1 for the tournament. He entered state at 52-3 overall.
Also competing at district for the Johnnies were junior Alex Workman (1-2 at district, 30-8 overall) at 152 and freshman Hayden Bullard (0-2, 34-19) at 126.
Boys basketball team falls to Pleasant
The boys basketball team finished 14-9 overall after losing to seventh-seeded Marion Pleasant 65-59 on Feb. 27 in the second round of the Division III district tournament.
Junior guard William Orr and freshman forward Jason Carter both scored 20 points for 13th-seeded Johnstown and senior post player Tim Sayer added 14 points.
The Johnnies won their tournament opener, defeating ninth-seeded Mount Gilead 56-50 on Feb. 23. Orr scored 36 points and Carter, junior guard Justin Bush and sophomore guard Cody Farley added six points each.