E.A. Sports Today

Daja’s view of a title

Senior point guard Johnson makes Lady Wildcats look good in 63-42 win over Oxford for county girls crown

Girls MVP Daja Johnson (24) drives past Oxford's Kayla Lowery during Saturday's championship game. On the cover, the Lady Wildcats rush to collect the winner's trophy. Below, Jordan Briskey (10) prepares to attack the basket while avoiding Oxford's Makayla Kidd (3). (Photos by Kristen Stringer/Krisp Pics Photography)

Girls MVP Daja Johnson (24) drives past Oxford’s Kayla Lowery during Saturday’s championship game. On the cover, the Lady Wildcats rush to collect the winner’s trophy. Below, Jordan Briskey (10) prepares to attack the basket while avoiding Oxford’s Makayla Kidd (3). (Photos by Kristen Stringer/Krisp Pics Photography)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

JACKSONVILLE – Daja Johnson says she gets the most enjoyment on the basketball court making her teammates look good.

She made them look good Saturday night – and looked good doing it herself.

Johnson, Saks’ senior point guard who teammates describe as “the eyes of the court,” won MVP honors in the Calhoun County Girls Tournament after leading the second-seeded Lady Wildcats to the title in a 63-42 victory over No. 8 Oxford.

Johnson scored 13 points – all in the first half – and keyed the 14-0 run between the first and second quarters that gave the second-seeded Lady Wildcats (18-6) control of the game that ultimately would become their second county title all-time. She had 10 points in the run, including eight in a row with two 3-pointers, then settled back and started doing things to make her teammates shine.

“Daja is the eyes of the court; she’s like the quarterback of the football team,” junior guard Maiya Northard said. “If Daja’s having an off night, we’re all having an off night because she sets up our offense, she brings the ball down the court. I can’t score without Daja; she’s the one who gives me the passes. Daja is the leader of the court. Without her we would be nothing, so I definitely think she deserves what she got tonight.

“She came out on top. She hit some big shots that brought us into the game. Daja came to play today and that’s how we came back in the game. If she didn’t hit those big shots or make the big passes she made we would have lost tonight. She was the key player of the game.”

The run helped the Lady Wildcats pull away from a 17-12 deficit to take a 29-20 lead at halftime. Oxford, the eighth seed, cut its deficit to four midway through the third quarter, but Saks steadily pulled away.

“It’s the first time we hadn’t come out and threw the first punch and they responded,” Saks coach Michelle Lively said. “It was like they said no one was going to take it from them.

The best way Johnson thought to describe the way she played against the Lady Jackets was simply “feeling it.” Right before the big run she sensed her team was struggling and as the leader on the floor she knew she had to act.

And when she leads, her teammates follow.

“I like to make my teammates look good,” Johnson said. “I love making everybody else on the court look good, so me being able to see that, it makes everything better.”

“She fixes everything,” Saks coach Michelle Lively said. “I don’t know how to say this; she’s my duck and they’re the feathers. She’s going (really fast) under the way but she’s calm and cool on the surface. Whenever anything goes wrong she just fixes it.”

Balanced scoring and a smothering full court press powered the Lady Wildcats, who Oxford coach Tonya Peoples called “a well-rounded team.”

In addition to Johnson, Jordan Briskey had 14 points and Maiya Northard had 11 points with six rebounds. Bre Browning added nine points and four rebounds, while Tatyana Jenkins chipped in with seven points and seven boards.

On the defensive end, the Lady Wildcats forced Oxford into 15 first-half turnovers and 32 total. The press created eight turnovers in the third quarter as Saks extended the lead to 43-30. Briskey had seven points in the quarter, 13 in the second half.

”Their press is their game and they really turned the heat up and we had too many turnovers,” Peoples said. “They just keep pressure on you and try to make you make mistake and they did us. I thought we had two different ways to make a little run there; they bent a little bit, but they just weren’t going to break.”

Tremeria Britt led Oxford with 14 points. Makayla Kidd added 10 points and five rebounds, Jordan Smith six points and nine rebounds, and Winter Taylor five points and 12 boards.

Northard was named the tournament’s offensive MVP, while Oxford’s Winter Taylor was named defensive MVP.

“Winter’s our MVP,” Peoples said. “She carries a lot on her.”

The rest of the all-tournament team included Rian Chandler (White Plains), Joeley Cupp (JCA), Rayne Beck (Weaver), Miajah Bullock (Anniston), Keshauna Jones (Piedmont), Ally McCoy (Ohatchee), Bre Bradford (Alexandria), Kyra Williams and Dasia Kirksey (Jacksonville), Mikala Simpson and Mckinley Parris (Pleasant Valley), Jordan Smith and Britt (Oxford) and Briskey and Browning (Saks).

Brant Locklier contributed to this report.

Saks 63, Oxford 42

OXFORD — Anna Bolton 0 0-0 0, Makayla Kidd 4 0-2 10, Winter Taylor 2 1-4 5, Makayla Lowery 1 1-1 3, Acacia Kidd 0 0-0 0, Tremeria Britt 5 1-2 14, Ashleigh Goodwin 0 0-0 0, Ebony Kelley 1 0-2 2, Alex Gomez 1 0-0 2, Jordan Smith 3 0-0 6, Grace Mitchell 0 0-0 0. Totals 17 3-11

SAKS — Talisa Christian 1 0-0 3, Tayler Teague 0 0-0 0, Jordan Briskey 4 6-9 14, Maiya Northard 4 1-6 11, Miracle Dennard 1 1-2 4, Christianna Gooden 1 0-0 2, BryAnna Browning 4 1-4 9, Daja Johnson 5 0-0 13, Tatyana Jenkins 2 3-4 7. Totals 22 12-25 63.

Oxford 14 6 10 12 — 42
Saks 10 19 14 20 — 63

3-point goals: Oxford 5 (M. Kidd 2, Britt 3); Saks 7 (Johnson 3, Northard 2, Christian, Dennard). Fouled out: Britt. Total fouls: Oxford 21, Saks 16.


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