Motivated Johnson leads IC Catholic past St. Edward
IC Catholic Prep's Alia Johnson is motivated to make her final season playing basketball a memorable one.
The 5-foot-10 Johnson started her senior season on a strong note Monday, scoring a team-leading 17 points to fuel the Knights to a 52-38 victory over St. Edward in Metro Suburban play in Elmhurst.
The season opener for both teams featured the normal sloppiness that comes with two familiar opponents coupled with the added adjustment of playing with masks.
But Johnson and junior Claire Wagner helped the Knights overcome some sluggish moments with their hustle and consistent play. Wagner added 13 points and 11 rebounds.
"Claire is always big on hustle, so I appreciate that and it helps us all," Johnson said, sporting an Under Armour black mask. "I'm really excited because we have a lot of components that blend well. I'm happy to end my season on a good note and get some games in for my last year. I just want to play hard. I didn't know this season would happen, so to be out there feels really good."
The chemistry between Johnson and Wagner was evident on the court, with both players constantly cutting to the basket and looking for each other. Johnson scored on a fast break layup, off a pass from Wagner, early in the fourth to pad the lead to 42-27. A few possessions later, Johnson returned the favor with a bullet pass to Wagner for a layup.
"On the cuts, I'm always looking for Claire first," Johnson said.
Wagner, a 5-11 guard/forward, matched Johnson's energy by attacking the offensive and defensive boards. Wagner drained a 3-pointer from the wing with just under two minutes left in regulation to put the game out of reach. Wagner said she's been working on improving her perimeter shot to add another layer to her all-around game.
"I usually shoot threes, but usually not that much because I'm mostly a down low player," Wagner said. "But shooting (threes) has really helped me a game a lot."
IC Catholic coach Todd Fisher said Johnson and Wagner are a strong duo that form the backbone of the team.
"Alia and Claire do so much on the court," Fisher said. "They play good defense, rebound and showed a lot of leadership and helped calm us down. They do so much that people don't see and bring stability to our team."
IC Catholic's Gia Gaudio (7 points) was a strong presence in the post, especially at the start of the third quarter. St. Edward guard Brooke Biggins scored a game-high 23 points, including seven points in a fourth-quarter flurry.