Rick O'Brien: 6-6 senior Josh Johnson powers Norristown

Norristown's Josh Johnson defends against Chester's Rashan Dejarnette during a game last season. RON TARVER / Staff Photographer
Norristown's Josh Johnson defends against Chester's Rashan Dejarnette during a game last season. RON TARVER / Staff Photographer
Posted: February 07, 2013

A still-raw senior and some social media-driven motivation helped Norristown clinch the Suburban One League American Conference boys' basketball championship.

Josh Johnson, a 6-foot-6, 185-pound senior whose first real taste of organized basketball came this season, scored 19 points, grabbed 10 rebounds, and blocked 3 shots as the host Eagles crushed Wissahickon, 69-48, Tuesday night.

Johnson and company were bent on gaining revenge after bowing to the Trojans, 55-54, in Ambler last month. That was followed by some jabs on platforms such as Facebook.

"They rubbed it in pretty good," Norristown senior guard Luke Kelley said. "We weren't too happy about it. It just got to be too much. It motivated us to play hard against them."

After Tuesday's game, tension between the squads flared up during the handshake process and carried over into the hallway. Fortunately, it never boiled over.

Five of Johnson's eight field goals, including an alley-oop dunk off a feed from B.J. Gordon, came in the third quarter. Ahead by six at intermission, Norristown took a 51-34 advantage into the final eight minutes.

Late in the third, Johnson's three-point play; 6-5 forward Jahbri Hargrove's three-pointer from up top; and Johnson's fastbreak slam, courtesy of Hargrove's steal, put the Eagles comfortably in front, 49-33.

Johnson, used sparingly off the bench last season, shot 8 for 11 from the field and 3 for 5 from the line. Six of his 10 boards came on offense. He added three assists and two steals.

In the fourth quarter, Johnson's steal and high-flying jam gave Norristown (18-3 overall, 12-1 American) a 60-36 lead.

"Dunking feels great," the 18-year-old said. "It pumps me up, pumps my teammates up, and pumps our fans up."

Afterward, Johnson, who tried football as an eighth grader, talked to an assistant from Kutztown. He also has heard from Delaware Valley, East Stroudsburg, Gwynedd-Mercy, Penn State-Berks, and Widener.

Said Kelly: "He's gotten a lot better in a short period of time. He never used to dunk. He was scared to miss. Now, all he wants to do is dunk."

Against Wissahickon, Kelley chipped in 12 points, 6 assists, and 6 boards. The 6-0, 165-pounder was 2 for 4 on three-pointers.

Hargrove, coming off the bench, posted 18 points, including three treys, and six rebounds; Gordon handed out five assists; and 6-4 senior forward Marquis Bryant managed nine points and seven caroms.

"We're playing with a lot of confidence," Kelley said. "We're playing as a team. Nobody is being selfish."

Showdown. We are just days away from the highly anticipated contest between powers Chester and Neumann-Goretti.

The No. 2-ranked Clippers (17-3) and No. 3 Saints (16-4) will battle at 6 p.m. Sunday at Neumann University in Aston. It will be televised live on ESPN2.

Tickets, at $12 each, are available at the respective schools and at playbyplayclassics.com until Friday. Walk-up tickets will be sold beginning at 4:45 p.m. Sunday.

Tap-ins. Germantown Academy's Greg Dotson and Chester's Diamonte Reason will compete for spots in the American Family Insurance National High School Dunk and Three-point Championships on CBS. The seniors will vie each week in a bracket-style elimination format determined by fan voting. The finals will air April 6 at 2 p.m. Fans can vote at Facebook.com/HighSchoolSlam. . . . Entering Wednesday night's matchup at Archbishop Wood, St. Joseph's Prep seniors Steve Vasturia and Miles Overton were averaging 20.5 and 16.7 points, respectively. . . . Council Rock South's Christian Crane is averaging 16.3 points. . . . John Fender (14.4 ppg.) is Strath Haven's top scorer. . . . Downingtown East freshman Cary Angeline, who has shown considerable promise on the gridiron, is averaging 15.3 points. . . . Maalik Rochester joined Kennett's 1,000-point club in Tuesday's 45-40 win at Unionville.

Rick O'Brien: The Inquirer TOP 10


Team Record

Records are through Tuesday.

Last week's rankings in parentheses.

1. Math, Civics & Sci. (1) 21-1

2. Chester (2) 17-3

3. Neumann-Goretti (3) 16-4

4. Lower Merion (4) 20-2

5. Vaux (7) 15-7

6. Martin Luther King (6) 20-2

7. Imhotep Charter (8) 18-4

8. Roman Catholic (9) 15-5

9. St. Joseph's Prep (5) 16-4

10. Great Valley (10) 20-0

Under consideration (listed alphabetically): Abington (17-4), Archbishop Carroll (16-4), Friends' Central (19-6), Germantown Academy (18-5), La Salle (15-5), Norristown (17-3).

- Rick O'Brien

Contact Rick O'Brien at robrien@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @ozoneinq. Read his blog, "The O'Zone," at www.philly.com/ozone

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