High school girls basketball: Johnson's 25 propels Cougars

Published: Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 8C
Last Modified: Monday, Jan. 14, 2013 - 9:45 am

Sparks fly and ticket buyers are rewarded for plunking down hard-earned cash when Kennedy plays Florin.

It's not only because No. 3 Kennedy and No. 5 Florin are two of the area's top girls basketball programs and keen Metro Conference rivals.

They also have two of the area's most prolific players in Kennedy's Lynette Johnson and Florin's Daijah Joe-Smith. Between them, they have combined for 2,750 points and 1,742 rebounds as four-year varsity players.

So Friday most eyes were on the two returning Bee All-Metro first-team players and friendly rivals when they met up in Greenhaven.

It was a good night for Johnson, the 5-foot-9 forward/guard headed to Utah State on scholarship. She scored 25 points and grabbed six rebounds in leading the Cougars (13-3, 4-0) to a 54-44 win over the Panthers (10-4, 2-2).

It was more of challenging night for the 5-8 Joe-Smith who injured her left non-shooting wrist in the third quarter but continued to gut it out. She had five points and seven rebounds.

In playing in the Metro Conference the last three seasons, Kennedy coach Dave Parsh has watched Joe-Smith, a track sprinter, dominate opponents, with her slashing and rebounding.

"We know she likes to attack the basket," Parsh said. "So I was pleased we were able to do things defensively where she didn't get her normal looks."

Florin tried to do its best to disrupt the calm and cool Johnson and while body contact worked at times – she was only six of 20 from the field – she made 11 of 12 free throws.

"She was so aggressive going to the basket and getting to the line," Parsh said. "I was a little surprised because she wasn't feeling well earlier today."

Florin coach Larry Price has mixed emotions when playing against Johnson. He's watched Lynette grow up while coaching her older sister on an Amateur Athletic Union team.

"It's interesting she's over here doing what she does, and we're over there doing what we do," Price said. "But after all is said and done, it's a big hug. She's a great kid."

In Johnson's four seasons at Kennedy, the Cougars have gone 86-29. Kennedy won the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I title last March, beating Oak Ridge in the final at Sleep Train Arena, and then fell to Berkeley in the CIF Northern California championship game.

When Johnson was a freshman, Kennedy lost to an Oak Ridge team that would go on to win the CIF State championship.

Behind Joe-Smith, Florin has gone 69-30. While the Panthers haven't had quite the playoff success of Kennedy – the Panthers lost to state power St. Mary's of Stockton in the D-II semifinals and quarterfinals the last two seasons – it was a totally different program before Joe-Smith arrived. Florin was 3-45 in the previous two seasons.

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