Forget layups, jump shots, blocks and steals. There's one thing that excites Annapolis senior Josh Johnson more than any reverse dunk or fadeaway: a simple rebound.
The 6-foot-6 Johnson was at his workmanlike best last night, gathering 19 rebounds as the 14th-ranked Panthers defeated visiting Long Reach, 57-46, in a Maryland 3A East Region quarterfinal. Johnson also scored a team-high 22 points, but it was his work on the boards that made him proud.
"That's my thing," Johnson said. "When that ball is up there, it's my job to go get that ball, man. For real. . . . If I am not getting rebounds, I'm not in the game."
Johnson's play, and plenty of opportunities from the free throw line, helped the Panthers (22-1) overcome a shaky shooting night and a pesky Long Reach squad to advance to host River Hill on Wednesday in a regional semifinal.
Johnson was, at best, the third option on offense, but with Annapolis's talented guards having a rough shooting night -- the team was 17 of 51 from the field -- Johnson proved vital underneath.
Senior guard Laronja Owens scored 18 points for the Panthers, but was 5 of 19 from the field. Eight of his points came from the foul line, where Annapolis had a distinct advantage. The Panthers shot 29 foul shots to Long Reach's five, and were whistled for 13 fewer fouls, which Long Reach Coach Al Moraz said shifted the balance of the game.
The Lightning (19-5) tied the game at 43 on a three-pointer by senior guard Eric Smith (nine points) with 4 minutes 7 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. But Annapolis shot 8 of 13 from the foul line down the stretch to seal the game. Long Reach junior guard Mike Smelkinson scored a team-high 12 points.
Jackson Lifts Friendly
After Friendly senior guard Trevan Jackson spent Sunday night calling each of his teammates to urge them to elevate their play in the postseason, Jackson backed up his words by having one of the finest games in his career last night against Gwynn Park.
Jackson posted the second triple-double of his career (19 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds) as No. 2 Friendly won its playoff opener on the road, 68-56. Junior center Sam Young chipped in with a game-high 24 points and a career-high 21 rebounds as Friendly (21-1) advanced to Maryland 3A East semifinals for the third straight year.
The second-seeded Patriots will host third-seeded Mount Hebron, which defeated Wilde Lake, 58-50, at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
"This is the playoffs, and it's win or go home, and I wanted our whole team to understand that," Jackson said. "The last three years we have been good in the regular season, but we haven't got it done in the playoffs, and that's when it really matters. This team understands that."
Defending regional champion Gwynn Park (18-6), which lost in last year's state championship game to Douglass of Baltimore, had to play without leading scorer Edwin Davis, who suffered a sprained ankle in the team's first-round victory Saturday. Davis averaged a team-best 20.4 points this season, including 24.5 in two regular season losses to the Patriots.