Jerron Martin sliced through the lane, avoiding several defenders with an up-and-under move while soaring for a tough layup in the third quarter of Monday’s Capital Beltway League championship.
With the clock winding down, Johnson used a quick crossover to shake a defender before nailing a three-pointer at the buzzer.
The sequence led both players to nod in approval and slap hands out of respect, but the back-and-forth matchup would end with Johnson having the final say. The George Washington commit scored 33 points, including several clutch free throws, to help the Crusaders hold off Princeton Day, 95-89, and win the league’s inaugural title in Upper Marlboro.
In the teams’ last meeting, Princeton Day used a box-and-one defense to slow Johnson.
On Monday, Johnson and the Crusaders came prepared. They used ball screens and decoy plays to free up the sharpshooter.
“I knew coming in that they were going to come at me with the box-and-one again, so I tried using screens more and being more aggressive with the ball in my hands,” said Johnson, who earned tournament MVP honors.
Initially, defense seemed to matter little as both teams drained three-pointer after three-pointer.
By halftime, the squads had combined for 13 of their 20 total baskets from behind the arc and were locked in a tie at 45.
Chinanu Onuaku (20 points, 10 rebounds) asserted himself in the third quarter, scoring six points while dominating the offensive glass.
But the Storm’s continued strong shooting led by Martin (24 points) and Aquille Carr (26 points) kept the game’s outcome hanging in the balance.
With 3 minutes 49 seconds remaining, Crusaders Coach Louis Wilson called a timeout and challenged his team to give one final push in their most important game of the season.
“I reminded them of how hard they had worked to reach this point and now was not the time to hold back,” Wilson said. “I think after that we dug deep and found a little more juice in the end.”
The extra boost surfaced greatest in Johnson and Robert Tyler, who combined for the Crusaders’ final 18 points.
“I’ve gotten a lot of trophies, but this is my first championship net,” Johnson said, tightly holding his nylon strip. “I’m going to keep this in a safe place because this is a special win.”