Athlete of Week: Alex Johnson, Harrisburg
Senior point guard Alex Johnson is leaving her mark on the Harrisburg girls basketball program. Last year, she helped the Tigers win their first ever State A title in 2013.
"It was pretty exciting (winning the State A title last year) because it was the first time ever and a big step in our school. It got our name out there and recognized what we are," says Johnson.
This year, the 5'7" senior guard has helped guide Harrisburg to third place (12-7) in their district behind Washington and Lincoln in their first year of Class AA girls basketball.
"It's been tough, but I think we've handled it pretty well. We've gotten a lot more physical and there's better competition. (To win AA title) would be pretty big because people don't expect it from us, but we are going to have to work really hard to get to that," tells Johnson.
A big reason for the Tigers success the last two years has been having six seniors on the squad. (Johnson, Hailey Axtell, Hailey Halling, Morgan Darner, Morgan Beaner, and Tiara Ugofsky).
"It's good because we've been close and played together forever. We grew as a team, and not as individual players," adds Johnson.
Alex has always enjoyed the team aspect of basketball and her love for the game has helped her become a leader.
"She's a natural leader. As a point guard of our team, she gets us going on and off the floor. She leads by example in the classroom, and at social events, " says first-year head coach Nick Mayer. "She's an all-around good kid. I've known her for just a couple of months now, (because I'm new to the district), but she's a great kid, and great role model for young kids. I'm real happy to have her on our ballclub."
As a senior ball handler, Johnson has relished in her role as a leader. She loves to talk and call the offense to keep the Tigers upbeat, and on the right track.
"Vocally, she makes sure the kids are working hard by picking up her teammates, and feel accepted of what we are doing. She has accepted her role as a ball handling leader of our team and has done a phenomenal job of that with the pressure we've seen," adds Mayer.
Mayer tells that Johnson's teammates agree with the skills she brings to the Tigers in practice, and on a nightly basis in games.
"She is a leader. She leads by example and is there to pick them up when things aren't going our way. She has strong leadership qualities, and is a great teammate."
The combination of the senior guard's leadership skills and her presence on the court makes her difficult to defend for opponents. At the mid-season mark through 16 games, Johnson is averaging 7.7 points, 4.1 assists, 2.7 rebounds, and 2.2 steals. (statistical averages for games on February 18th, 20th, and 22nd were not given).
"She is hard to guard. She can attack off the dribble. She's quick, can shoot the ball really well, and is a smart basketball player, like a lot of our kids are. She knows the game, and by knowing the game, she can find gaps in the zone to attack or where to go without the basketball. A lot of those intangibles, sometimes you have it or don't, and she's got it. She's done a nice job for us," shares Mayer.
Johnson has become an all-around player for the Tigers, and in two games last week, she had her two of her best games of the season. Against Brookings at home, she posted 15 points, four rebounds, and three assists. Four days later, on the road against Pierre, she scored a season-high 18 points, along with three rebounds, three assists, and two steals. On Saturday, she tallied 17 points against Sturgis.
Mayer says Johnson's confidence is increasing and is shooting the basketball a lot better, as the results have shown the past few games.
"Early on, we struggled offensively to find our niche, but now in the last couple games, she's really found her shot. She's shooting the ball a lot better, her confidence is higher, and when that opens up, she can move the basketball to her teammates. She has done that before, but as a senior, she understands that this is her last year of high school basketball and wants to leave her mark on Harrisburg basketball, which I believe she has done."
She definitely has left her mark on the Harrisburg girls basketball program, and has helped pave the way for future success for the Tigers.
Alex's love for the game came at a young age when her dad started coaching her. She believes she started playing basketball in kindergarten. When she's not playing basketball, she enjoys watching Duke, and studying math in school.
Johnson finishes the year on February 25 at Watertown.
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