It may be early in the season, but the Johnstown-Monroe and Northridge high school boys basketball teams still know the advantages gained when the teams play Tuesday in Johnstown.

It may be early in the season, but the Johnstown-Monroe and Northridge high school boys basketball teams still know the advantages gained when the teams play Tuesday in Johnstown.

Before last Friday, only one game separated the teams in the MBC standings. The winner Tuesday will take a big step forward in the league race.

"Despite being as young as we are, I don't think we should expect anything other than winning a league title," said Northridge coach John Wheeler, whose team was 2-2 overall and 1-1 in the MBC before playing Centerburg last Friday. "With that in mind, we can't look ahead to Johnstown. We can't forget about Centerburg (who we played last Friday). In fact, we (didn't) start talking about (Johnstown) until (last) Saturday morning. That's when we start to focus on Johnstown."

The Johnnies were 3-1 overall and 2-0 in league play before playing East Knox last Friday.

"(The Northridge game) is important like all the games are, but I think this one may have a little extra edge," said Johnstown coach Kevin Martin, whose team split with Northridge last season. The Vikings won the first game 53-51 and the Johnnies won 46-42 in the second. "In basketball, since you play teams twice in your league, I don't think you get as hyped up for a rivalry game this early in the season. It's not like football when you only play a team once."

Northridge opened with a 60-36 loss at Tree of Life on Dec. 5 before winning at Liberty Union 71-66 on Dec. 8.

"I think we're kind of on that roller coaster as young as we are," Wheeler said. "Against Tree of Life, we didn't play with a lot of confidence. There were two different teams in that gym and one of them came knowing it was going to win and the other came in hoping to win. We were the one hoping to win and it showed."

The Vikings lost to Fredericktown 45-34 on Dec. 11 in the MBC opener despite 16 points from sophomore Aaron Estep.

Northridge won a league game last Tuesday at East Knox 53-48. Justin Howard and Cody King led with 12 points apiece and Connor Burke had 11. E.J. Snyder had a team-high 13 rebounds.

"Connor Burke, a sophomore, has been aggressive for us offensively and Cody King has been shooting the ball well and had an extremely good game against Liberty Union," Wheeler said. "Aaron Estep scored 12 of his 16 points in the second half against Fredericktown and Bill Andrews hit three 3s against Liberty Union. Also, E.J. Snyder has been averaging about 10 rebounds a game for us in the post."

Since falling to Westerville North 72-33 in the opener on Dec. 4, the Johnnies have won by an average of 13 points after beating Heath 63-46 on Dec. 8, Danville 59-45 on Dec. 11 and Utica 54-46 last Tuesday.

The key has been a potent perimeter game led by Shawn Block, Cody Green and Michael Kessler when teams have collapsed on 6-foot-5 senior Riley Cannon in the post. Cannon had nine points against Danville and two points against Utica, but the Johnnies found a way to win in both contests.

"The game against Utica was one that we wouldn't have won last year," Martin said. "We have learned how to work together as a team and it shows that we can be a good team if we can get everyone consistently on the same page."

Shawn Block scored 24 points to lead the Johnnies and Green added seven points against Danville. Kessler had 14 points with four 3-pointers, Block had 13 points and Green added seven points against the Redskins.

"For the first time this season, Michael Kessler got hot from the perimeter and that's something we believe can continue," Martin said. "Shawn Block has the long arms and the versatility to play in the post or in the perimeter. He can guard the guards or go inside to defend in the post. He came on strong last year and he is still getting better."


At a glance

Below are the recent results and coming schedules for the Johnstown-Monroe and Northridge boys basketball teams:

JOHNSTOWN

*Dec. 11 -- Defeated Danville 59-45 in MBC opener *Last Tuesday -- Def. Utica 54-46 *Last Friday -- Played East Knox *Tuesday -- Home vs. Northridge Jan. 2 -- At Ridgedale *Jan. 8 -- Home vs. Loudonville

Of note: The Johnnies were 3-1 overall before last Friday.

NORTHRIDGE

*Dec. 11 -- Lost to Fredericktown 45-34 in MBC opener *Last Tuesday -- Def. East Knox 53-48 *Last Friday -- Played Centerburg *Tuesday -- At Johnstown Dec. 29 -- At Grandview for Bobcats Holiday Classic vs. Grandview Dec. 30 -- At Grandview for Bobcats Holiday Classic vs. Hartley or Wellington Jan. 6 -- At Columbus Academy *Jan. 8 -- At Danville

Of note: The Vikings were 2-2 overall before last Friday.

*MBC game