Early on in the basketball season, one might expect low scoring games from both teams and players. After all, they’re potentially dealing with new coaches, and almost certainly are working out chemistry and how to play with new teammates in the starting lineup.
That hasn’t been the case for Geraldine senior Gracey Johnson, who has opened the season with back-to-back Game of the Year candidate performances for the Bulldogs, totaling 73 points in those games, and helping lead the team to a 2-0 start.
“It’s been pretty exciting,” Geraldine coach Jamie Gilbert said of seeing Johnson’s start. “Game one against North Sand Mountain, nobody’s looked at film, nobody’s scouted, or even talked, so for her to score 38 against them was pretty doggone amazing. We’ve got several set plays that will open her up a bit, but somehow she’ll get lost in the shuffle from a defender. She’s knocking down threes, but it’s not just that, she’s scoring down low, it’s pretty amazing.”
In that game against North Sand Mountain, a 71-70 thriller in the season-opener last Tuesday, Johnson knocked down seven 3-pointers, was 6 of 8 at the foul line, and pulled in 10 rebounds.
Showing that opening night performance wasn’t a fluke, Johnson followed it up on Thursday night with 35 points in a 66-63 overtime win against neighboring rival Fyffe, a performance made even more impressive after Gilbert noted Fyffe often sent double teams at her, and worked to get the ball out of her hands as she attempted to bring it up the court.
She added four more 3-pointers in that win over Fyffe, bringing her total to 11 through two games.
“We turn around and play Fyffe, and they’re double teaming her the whole game and getting the ball out of her hands in the backcourt,” Gilbert added. “For her to score 35 against those folks was real amazing. We’re excited for her.”
According to Gilbert, he and the team were looking at Johnson to become a leading scorer for the team ahead of her senior season, needing to replace All-Area player Joanna Hammett, who topped the 30-point barrier in a game last season, and said it’s been Johnson’s work ethic that put her in position to open the season like she has. That work ethic is beyond just shooting, but also her conditioning, knowing she would be counted on heavily this season.
“It’s staying in the gym,” Gilbert explained. “The times we’ve practiced, it’s getting up quality shots. She works so hard and really had a good offseason leading up to the season. It stars from the running, from the get go. Being able to run the whole game and having that endurance. She was gassed against Fyffe, but I was proud of her for finding that little extra oomph that she needed there at the end … it started a month or so when we were able to get in the gym. She’s bought into it and going all she’s got, and that’s carried over into the first games of the season.”
For all of Johnson’s success on the basketball court, it’s softball that she’s slated to play at the next level, having already verbally committed this past summer to play at Georgia Highlands in Rome after her time in Geraldine is done. But with the hot start to the basketball season, Gilbert said he’s hoping to get her name out there and that schools will take notice of her skills on the hardwood, which could present more opportunities and college choices for her.
As far as the next step in Johnson’s senior season, it’s now about finding a way to continue her strong play as word gets around about her start, knowing every team will be keying on her from the moment the ball is tipped.
“Unbelievable start to her senior season,” Gilbert added. “I know we’ve got something special in her. For her to continue to do that, it starts and goes right back to practice time. I’m going to guard her in practice with my best and probably spring another on her at any time so she understands what she has to do to get open, but she’ll be fine at it. She finds a way to get lost in the crowd.”
Johnson and the Bulldogs are in action on Tuesday night against Crossville, and will return to the court on Friday night at Sardis.
Elijah Moss, Albertville – Moss, a senior, returned to the court for the first time this season after an arm injury during football season, and hit the ground running Friday night against Arab. The senior guard posted 23 points, 15 of them coming in the second half, in a 49-46 loss to the Knights.
Friday, November 12
Boys: Arab 49, Albertville 46; Boaz 55, Asbury 37
Girls: Arab 38, Albertville 33; Boaz 56, Asbury 19
Saturday, November 13
Girls: Fairview 43, Fyffe 32; Guntersville 64, Hamilton 40
Monday, November 15
Boys: Asbury 58, Madison County 45; Arab 64, Boaz 41
Girls: Madison County 53, Asbury 34; Boaz 31, Arab 29