Johnson, Blue Wave avenge loss to Rams


P.K. Yonge's Niya Johnson drives past the defense of Eastside's Jurnee Pettigrew in the second half on Thursday.

Aaron Daye/ Staff photographer
Published: Thursday, January 20, 2011 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 21, 2011 at 12:03 a.m.

When basketball shots aren't falling, it helps when you have a prolific scorer to take over.

For the defending Class 2A champion P.K. Yonge girls team, that would be guard Niya Johnson.

On Thursday night, the junior scored 75 percent of her team's total, or 30 points, in a 40-32 home win over Eastside.

The win pushed the Blue Wave's overall record to 18-4 on the season with three non-district games left in the regular season before the District 5-2A tournament in Hawthorne. It also avenged a two-point loss at Eastside last month.

“Our shots just weren't falling in the first half,” said P.K. Yonge coach Willie Powers.

“We were struggling offensively. Niya is a scorer and she does what she has to do to get us points. But she also distributes the ball and gets her teammates involved.”

Johnson scored all seven of the Blue Wave's points in the opening period, and had 12 of the team's 14 first-half points. The Rams, which led by as many as five (12-7) in the second, saw their lead evaporate and trailed after Kiarah Mallory's basket put P.K. Yonge in front. But Eastside ended the half with the shot of the game, as Tiara Lundy connected on a half-court shot at the buzzer, giving the Rams a 15-14 lead at intermission.

“I knew it was going in from the moment it left her hands,” said Eastside coach Ash'lea Moore. “She had a nice rotation on it. It looked like it was going to go in.”

That momentum for the Rams didn't carry over into second half as Johnson hit four straight free throws and one of her four 3-pointers on the night, giving the Blue Wave a 25-21 lead going into the fourth.

A 7-0 run to open the fourth, highlighted by another Johnson 3-pointer, stretched P.K. Yonge's lead to 11, 32-21.

Eastside had a nice run in the final minute, scoring seven straight points, but the outcome never wavered.

Ashlee Bryant and Lonna Turner led the Rams (11-7) with eight points each.

“She (Niya) is the difference in every game she plays in,” Moore said. “What hurt us was our lack of execution.”

The Blue Wave's Kandice Dixon had a game-high 15 rebounds. Johnson also had six rebounds and seven steals.

“Kandice does the dirty work for us,” Powers said. “She had an incredible game tonight. She is the glue to this ship.

“It is good for us to play a quality program like Eastside, who has such an outstanding coach. This helps prepare us for the district tournament, playing quality teams like this.”

Contact Larry Savage at 352-374-5050 or larry.savage@gvillesun.com

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