By Rob Abruzzese
One of biggest questions facing Christ the King heading into the season was who was going to be their point guard. It may not be a question any longer.
The Royals might have found their point guard in Deja Johnson after a 53-48 victory over rival visiting Nazareth in CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens Division I girls’ basketball Saturday afternoon.
She only tallied seven points in this game, but scored five of those in the final minute, including a momentum-changing layup with 48 seconds to go with CK (2-2) up a point. Johnson, a junior playing in her first varsity league game, missed the Royals’ last two games with concussion symptoms.
“We were point guard by committee and it’s hard when you do that,” Christ the King Coach Bob Mackey said. “Deja stepped up real nicely tonight though. I think she’s kind of coming into her own. She’s growing up, too.”
The points were important, but perhaps the most impressive thing she did was defending Nazareth star Bianca Cuevas. Cuevas scored 12 points of her 16 points in the first half and carried Nazareth (1-1), which ended the Royals’ season in the CHSAA Class AA state semifinals, to a 31-30 lead at halftime.
It was at the start of the second half, though, when Mackey made the switch to have Johnson guard Cuevas. The move left her frustrated, got her into foul trouble and ultimately kept her to just one field goal after the break.
“She’s a good offensive player and she’s really quick, so it is hard to guard her,” Johnson said. “I just tried to keep up and I tried to do my best.”
Mackey said that he’s not ready to give Johnson the starting job just yet, but admitted that she is the frontrunner for the position right now. Freshman Dominique Toussaint could also challenge for playing time after an impressive four points in the second quarter. Johnson did get a strong endorsement from teammate and team captain Sierra Calhoun.
“Yeah,” Calhoun said emphatically when asked if she thought Johnson should start. “I mean, I’m not the coach, she started this game and she did great for us. She brings a lot of energy on and off the court.”
She is the unquestioned team leader and it showed. Calhoun scored a game-high 26 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in front of UConn Coach Geno Auriema and a host of other college coaches. By the end of the game she was clearly gassed and missed four consecutive free throws.
That opened the door for a late comeback attempt by Nazareth, which got as close as 48-47 with just under two minutes to play before Johnson put the game away. It’s CK’s first regular season win over Nazareth in the regular season since Feb. 5, 2011.
“It’s going to be a long season,” Mackey said. “One game doesn’t make it.”