The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Sports

December 28, 2012

Johnston scores 30 to lead Cardinals to victory

ERIE, Ill. — Thursday in the Erie High School annex gym was Jacob Johnston Day.

The 6-foot, 4-inch Erie senior scored 30 points and took over the game for several different stretches during the Cardinals' 58-55 win over Stark County at the Warkins Cardinal Classic boys basketball tournament.

"A lot of times I could take my guy off the dribble, so I took advantage of that," Johnston said. "Then, if I had an open shot, I took it. My shot felt good."

The Cardinals (10-6) needed all that production from their star small forward.

Stark County led 48-47 with under five minutes to play when Johnston went on a run. Over the next 4 1/2 minutes, he scored eight of Erie's nine points, and the Cardinals held Stark County to four points during that stretch to take a 56-51 lead.

"That's what we've been telling Jacob, that he's got to really assert himself," Erie coach Ryan Winckler said. "He's got to lead the team and then everyone else will follow. ... It all comes from Jacob establishing himself. I was really excited about the aggressiveness Jacob had today."

After a Stark County basket, Rhett Stover made a pair of free throws to push the lead back to five.

Stark County cut the lead to three and had a chance at a game-tying 3-pointer. Winckler said his team did a good job on that possession keeping the ball out of the hands of Stark County's shooters. The Rebels fired a shot off target at the buzzer.

Johnston's 30 points tied him with Wes DeClercq of Riverdale for the seventh-most points scored in a Warkins Cardinal Classic game.

"It's cool," Johnston said. "But it's not like it's going to help the team or anything. It's cool that my name is going to be there at our tournament."

From the Cardinals'perspective, the win was especially needed after losing their first two games of the tournament.

"It's a good start to get going again," Johnston said. "We took a couple steps back in the first two games. Now we're heading in the right direction."

One of the things with which Winckler was not pleased after the first two games was Erie only attempted 11 free throws in two games.

The Cardinals went 15-of-24 from the line Thursday.

"I thought we did a better job of attacking," Winckler said. "We did a better job of moving the ball. We were able to do some ball fakes and shot fakes and attack the basket. That was the biggest thing. We didn't just settle for 3-pointers."

Johnston helped the Cardinals get off to a strong start, as well. He scored nine of his team's first 10 points and then assisted on a Connor Saad 3-pointer to give Erie a 13-10 lead.

"We always talk about starting fast and every minute matters," Johnston said.

 "We came out ready to play, and we played hard. The last two nights, we were worried about everything; worried about winning, worried about the tournament. Today we forgot all that and just played each possession."

Winckler said the Cardinals also made better decisions this game.

"I thought Connor and Jordan (Chandler), our freshman point guard, made a lot of good decisions and got the ball where we needed it," Winckler said. "Jacob was able to create. ... Overall, the effort was better, and I'm happy about that."

Erie takes the court tonight at 7:30 against five-time defending champion Orion, which is 3-0 in pool play.

"I told everybody coming into the tournament that Orion has won like 25 straight games here," Winckler said. "They've won our tournament five years in a row and haven't lost. Until someone is able to beat them, they're still going to be the favorites. Once again, they've put themselves in position to get there.

"It's a great opportunity, and it's one I think our guys are excited about."

Johnston said the Cardinals were excited to get another crack at the Chargers.

"We already played them this season and they beat us, but we don't feel like we played our best game," Johnston said. "Hopefully, we'll come out like we did today."

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