CARROLLTON, Ala. — Catherine Johnson had double the motivation.
First, the 5-foot-7 senior point guard wanted to erase the memory of a 4-of-11 shooting effort from the free-throw line against Central Academy on Friday night.
Despite Johnson”s atypical performance, the Pickens Academy girls basketball team still advanced to the finals of its tournament to face rival Southern Academy.
The matchup focused Johnson”s attention because Southern Academy defeated Pickens Academy 38-35 on Dec. 5 in the finals of its tournament.
With two things to play for, Johnson didn”t disappoint, pouring in a game-high 28 points grabbing five rebounds, and making six steals in a 62-30 victory. She also was 11 of 12 from the free-throw line.
For her efforts, Johnson is The Commercial Dispatch Prep Player of the Week.
Pickens Academy (11-2) followed up its most recent victories by beating Southern Academy 51-38 in a region game on Monday. Information from that game wasn”t available at press time.
Johnson said her play Saturday was satisfying because she is playing with a different attitude and is learning how to manage being so hard on herself.
“I just tried to influence my teammates as much as I could and support them as much as I could,” Johnson said. “I just try to remind them to give effort every second of the game.”
Johnson doesn”t consider herself a “coach” on the floor, but she feels she is a leader on the team who is more positive this season. She said her goal this season is to help the program advance past the Elite Eight, which has been a stumbling block at least the past two seasons.
“I guess I am doing all right,” Johnson said. “There is always room for improvement. I probably need to step up my defense a little more and take better outside shots.”
Johnson didn”t have many opportunities to get frustrated Saturday. She said the team was pumped up and ready to play. The focus showed for Johnson at the free-throw line, where she said she pushed herself a little harder to have a better effort.
Johnson also hit 3 of 4 3-pointers.
“I was open a lot more than usual and the shots were going in, so I kept shooting,” Johnson said. ”
Pickens Academy coach Wade Goodman said Johnson”s experience in the summer at Point Guard College at the University of West Florida has helped her become a better player. He said Johnson is still tough on herself, but he feels she now is managing her emotions better and is setting a better example for the rest of the team.
“The camp was geared toward attitude and being a team player,” Goodman said. “It wasn”t necessarily dribbling and all of that. It was focused on being positive and lifting the positive out of the negative, and she has really done a good job with that.
“She refuses to lose this year. All of them look to her for everything. (In the past), she has tried but she gets down on herself and she is pouting and mad and that is going to make them upset. It is not that way this year. When they look at her now, they know they can get through what we have to do to get it done.”
On Saturday, Goodman said it was Johnson”s time to break out of a shooting slump.
“She is usually about 75 percent (from the free-throw line), but for four games in a row she has been struggling a little bit,” Goodman said. “She turned it back on Saturday. I never saw her play like she did Saturday.”
Goodman said Johnson arrived early Saturday at the gym intending to erase the memory from Friday. Johnson said she made a point to attack the basket. Her goal wasn”t necessarily to score because she said she prefers to break down defenses to create openings for her teammates.
As it worked out, Johnson earned a chance to get back on track at the free-throw line.
“Shooting 4-for-11 at the free-throw line, I wasn”t going to do that again, for sure,” Johnson said. “I stayed focus and didn”t let little things bother me.”
n Central Academy 53, Starkville Christian 40 (B): At Macon, Ferris McGuire had a team-high 14 points to lead the Vikings.
Hunter Campbell and Cole Newman each had 13 points for Central Academy.
Ethan Willers led Starkville Christian with 14, while Chris Koehn had 10.
n Central Academy 37, Starkville Christian (G): Alex Dawkins had 18 points as the Lady Vikings (4-5) used a 12-4 fourth quarter to rally.
Corey Dawkins added six points and Lillian Lindsey had five for Central Academy.
Anna Lea Little led Starkville Christian with 20.
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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