Squad established new gauge
Winning a Division III regional title fell out of reach for the Johnstown-Monroe High School girls basketball team March 9 at Logan.
The Johnnies finished 23-5 overall after losing to Beverly Fort Frye 58-43, but they still had plenty to celebrate.
Johnstown won its first district title, earned its first regional victory to set up its first appearance in a regional final and set a new standard for wins in a season.
"This was still pretty great," second-year coach Carl Dufford said. "We won a league title, we set the record for the most wins in a season and we went further than any Johnstown (girls) team has ever gone in the tournament. That's pretty great."
Johnstown trailed 17-9 after one quarter but cut Fort Frye's lead to 30-26 at halftime. Makenzie Spang, a 6-foot-2 junior forward, had a layup with 7 minutes, 22 seconds left in the third period to pull the Johnnies within 30-28, but they got no closer.
Paige Cannon, a 6-0 sophomore forward, finished with 24 points and eight rebounds. Spang had six points and 12 rebounds and junior guard Laiken Valentine added eight points for Johnstown, which committed 26 turnovers and was 2-for-13 on 3-point attempts.
"We wanted to come out strong and not play catch-up," said Fort Frye coach Dan Liedtke, whose team lost to Africentric 43-40 in a state semifinal March 14. "(The Johnnies) were able to get some momentum at the end of the first half, but we did what we could to stop that after halftime."
Senior guard Morgan Liedtke scored 16 points and senior guard Taylor Buchanan added 11 to lead the Cadets.
In the district tournament, the third-seeded Johnnies beat 18th-seeded Columbus Academy 79-24 in the opening round Feb. 16 and 22nd-seeded Horizon Science 93-29 in the second round Feb. 21. They then defeated fifth-seeded Liberty Union 62-47 in a district semifinal Feb. 28 and fourth-seeded Fredericktown 43-41 in overtime in a district final March 2, with both games at Worthington Christian Middle School.
On March 6 at Logan, Johns-town beat second-ranked Proctorville Fairland 53-47 in a regional semifinal.
Johnstown captured its first league title since the 2004-05 season by winning its final nine MBC contests. The Johnnies shared the title with Utica as both went 12-2 to finish ahead of Centerburg and Fredericktown (10-4), Danville (5-9) East Knox (4-10), Loudonville (2-12) and Northridge (1-13).
The only senior for the Johnnies was guard Marissa Sheets, who averaged 6.0 points, 3.8 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 2.6 steals.
"One thing I'm disappointed about is that we won't have Marissa Sheets anymore," Dufford said. "What a leader she was. What a defender she was. She was the heart and soul of our team for the past two years."
Johnstown expects to return its top four scorers in junior guard Natalie Carpenter, Cannon, Valentine and Spang.
Carpenter, who was first-team all-district and the MBC Player of the Year, averaged 17 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.2 steals. Cannon, who was third-team all-district and first-team all-league, averaged 15.1 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.2 blocks and 2.5 steals.
Valentine was honorable mention all-district and second-team all-league. She averaged team highs of 5.1 assists and 2.7 steals, along with 10.3 points and 5.9 rebounds.
Spang was honorable mention all-district and all-league. She led the team in rebounds (8.7) and blocks (2.0) per game and averaged 8.6 points.
Also expected to return are junior forward Ashley Bush, sophomores Adeline Almen-dinger (guard), Abi LaRoche (guard), Quinn Weinberger (guard/forward), Kerrigan Williams (guard) and Kylie Workman (guard) and freshmen Anna Benton (forward), Tori Helmke (guard), Mallory Henson (forward) and Maddi Lusk (guard).
"This could only be the beginning for these girls," Dufford said. "I'm very proud of them and what they have been able to accomplish."