Weekly Feature



2018-02-08 / Sports

North gives West boys hoops toughest test to date

Johnson hits 1,000 points for career, passes brother on team’s all-time list

West Seneca West’s boys basketball team found itself in an unfamiliar spot Jan. 30 when it took on Williamsville North in a rematch of the Indians’ 24-point victory on Dec. 19: Trailing for most of the game.

But, did coach Des Randall or any of his players panic at any point during the first three quarters? Nope. Instead, the Indians went to work in the fourth quarter, continuing the surge that trimmed North’s 36-21 halftime lead down to 50-43 by the start of the final stanza to close out the game on a 28-17 run that gave West the 71-67 victory, its single-season record 17th of the year.

“North didn’t allow us to accomplish anything easy, but we really needed a game like this,” Randall said. “They came out with a great game plan that they executed well, but we were resilient, stayed the course and ultimately were able to get a championship-caliber win. And for it to be the one to break the school record for most wins in a season – with Juston [Johnson] doing what he did in it to get 1,000 points for his career in the process just made the whole night extremely special.”

Johnson, who has been West’s leading scorer more often than not this season, was the Indians’ unquestioned leader against the Spartans, finishing with a career-high 42 points to end the night with 1,025 points – just two more than Randall, his older brother, finished his West career with. Johnson used a variety of methods to cross the 1,000-point plateau and tally the most points in a single night for his career, going 19-of-20 from the free-throw line, knocking down key three-point baskets – including a three-quarter court, buzzer-beating trifecta at the end of the third quarter to bring North’s lead into the single-digit range – and otherwise taking whatever North would give him and turning it into gold.

“I know that’s a milestone he’s wanted to achieve – and I’ve wanted him to achieve too – so to get to 1,000 and then pass my total by two on the night was great,” Randall said. “That’s how it’s supposed to be; the little brother is supposed to be better than the big brother. North face-guarded our shooters and seemed to be saying to us, ‘You’re not going to rain threes down on us, you’re going to have to finish in the paint over our big guys,’ and I think that’s what opened the game up for Juston to do what he did.”

As impressive as Johnson’s performance was – he also had 12 rebounds, six steals and five assists – West’s win was by no means because of a one-man show. The Indians, who trailed 16-8 after the first quarter, got big three-point baskets in the fourth quarter from Alex Wayland and Jesse Broad. And Adrian Baugh, who spent a significant part of the game on the bench due to foul trouble, came back into the game and scored five quick points to help demoralize North down the stretch.

“At this point in the season our pressure and press are no surprise to anyone,” Randall said. “They had a few different ways to attack, but our mentality was, ‘Let’s try to make them do it until the clock hits zero.’ Our thought process is, ‘Can you do it the whole game?’ We’re not going to back off no matter what other teams do against our press. So, we made some adjustments to our press in the fourth quarter, got the ball in the guys’ hands we wanted to and forced them into some rushed shots, which we turned into chances at the other end.”

Baugh finished the game with 15 points, four rebounds, four blocks and three steals for the victors, while Wayland added six points and three rebounds.

“We need these types of games going into the playoffs, especially with the margin of victory we’ve been enjoying all season,” Randall said. “We needed to be pushed all game. And I’m honestly happy about this game in terms of our league too. Our league is probably the most competitive and consistent out there from top to bottom, and with North playing us as tough as they did, I think we were able to prove to ourselves that we’re for real.”

West had a much easier time against Frontier two days later, riding Wayland’s long-range shooting – his eight three-point baskets for the game gave him a school record 111 for his career – to a 97-49 Senior Night victory.

Wayland finished the game with 33 points, seven rebounds, six assists and six steals for the Indians, who jumped out to a 29-8 first-quarter lead and never looked back. A 22-12 run in the third quarter pushed West’s advantage to 31 
West Seneca West’s Juston Johnson, middle, is joined on the court by sister Jada Johnson, far left, West varsity coach — and older brother — Des Randall, second from left, cousin Arianna Hamilton, second from right, and mom Leslie Johnson, far right, after picking up his 1,000th career point during the Indians’ 71-67 victory over Williamsville North on Jan. 30. Juston Johnson scored a career-high 42 points to finish the game with 1,025 points, two more than Randall tallied during his playing days at West. West Seneca West’s Juston Johnson, middle, is joined on the court by sister Jada Johnson, far left, West varsity coach — and older brother — Des Randall, second from left, cousin Arianna Hamilton, second from right, and mom Leslie Johnson, far right, after picking up his 1,000th career point during the Indians’ 71-67 victory over Williamsville North on Jan. 30. Juston Johnson scored a career-high 42 points to finish the game with 1,025 points, two more than Randall tallied during his playing days at West. points, 74-43, going into the final stanza.

“All of our seniors, including two who hadn’t started all year and hadn’t really played a whole lot this year, played very well to start the game,” Randall said. “In the end, it was one of those nights where we got Alex a lot of shots and he knocked a lot of them down. I think a lot of people forget he was the leading scorer for us last year, but he was more than ready to capitalize on his chances Thursday and give our program another special moment in what has already been a really special season.

“We just didn’t want to have a letdown after the big win on Tuesday, and so we just came out ready to go, starting fast and never letting up. We took to heart the fact that every game – especially every league game – is important.”

Johnson finished the game with 28 points, 10 assists and five rebounds, while Baugh added 11 points, eight rebounds and two steals. Broad tacked on nine points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals for West (18-0, 10-0 ECIC I), which returned to action at Orchard Park Tuesday in a game that ended too late for this edition.

West closes out its regular season Friday at Jamestown. And, as was the case against Frontier, Randall reminded his players going into the final week of the regular season that now is not the time to be taking anyone lightly.

“We’ve got to be even hungrier this week than we’ve been all year,” Randall said. “These last two games, because of the timing and the significance of them, are our two most important games of the season, so we’ve got to be mentally prepared for a battle from start to finish each game. We need to know everything that it’s going to take to win on the road, and then we need to embrace that challenge.”

email: jnadolinski@beenews.com

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