Garfield Heights squared off against reigning Ohio Division II state champion St. Vincent- St. Mary last week at the NEO Youth Elite Christmas Classic. Although they lost 88-53, sometimes our biggest lessons are learned through defeat. Heading into Friday’s contest with Erie (P.A.), Garfield Heights vowed that the team would be better.
From the opening tip, Garfield Heights played suffocating defense led by Meechie Johnson, which propelled the team to a 10-0 lead before an Erie timeout. Teams have played Garfield Heights this season with the main focus on shutting down the prolific scoring ability of Johnson. Johnson has an uncanny ability to score in bunches and an effective jump shot that extends to NBA range.
Scoring the basketball is only one phase of the game, Johnson knows that he must have an impact in whatever area is necessary to put his team in the best position to win basketball games. On this particular night, it was leadership that made the biggest difference.
Early in the game, Johnson had several looks on offense that a month ago he would have shot. Instead, he showed faith in teammates by looking to get them involved.
Before halftime, Johnson dazzled the crowd as he broke the defense down off the dribble and created an open corner three that fell just before the halftime buzzer. Johnson put up 11 in the second quarter opening the lead to double digits.
Johnson finished the game with 24 points, 6 assists and 4 rebounds. 18 of those points coming in the first half. In the end, Garfield Heights pulled out the victory over Erie (P.A.) 74-44.
For a team like Garfield Heights led by an underclassmen backcourt of Meechie and Sonny Johnson Jr., games like these help establish an identity that the team can carry for the rest of the season.
This weekend, Garfield Heights, Buchtel and several other top Northeast Ohio teams including square off in the Play By Play Cleveland Classic in Elyria.