Johnson’s 34 points spark Lady Braves’ first win

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 31, 2003

LORMAN &045; Tnonealyer Powers still looks around the floor and tries to remember everyone’s names on her own team.

She knows Candace Roberts and Catronda Thornton &045; her two teammates in the post who played key roles last year. It’s the new bunch of guards Alcorn’s Lady Braves have this year that Powers and the rest of the team are having to get used to.

The one familiar face out there, junior LaToya Johnson, came up big in her new role of scorer Saturday, posting 34 points and 12 rebounds in a 70-63 win over Lamar for the Lady Braves’ first victory of the season.

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Johnson, too, is getting used to everyone on the floor, but you’ll make friends real quick when you have nights like she had Saturday. Her three assists and three steals were also team-highs.

&uot;She was on,&uot; said Powers, who finished with 10 points and five rebounds. &uot;She did a good job and stepped up for the team. This was our Christmas present. We needed this one. We were in a slump, a big slump. The shots weren’t falling (in our losses), and we had to get used to playing with each other. It was a learning experience for us, and we’re playing better.&uot;

The Lady Braves had to do it without two key players &045; Alicia Gardner out with the flu and Shirley Gooch attending a funeral &045; but relied on Johnson and solid post play to get the job done. The turnovers still nagged at them a bit with 22 to Lamar’s 18, but just some hustle defensively at the start of the second half proved to be a key.

After the two teams went into halftime tied at 28, the Lady Braves got some turnovers along with 11 points from Johnson in the first six minutes to take a seven-point lead.

&uot;I don’t know &045; I felt good,&uot; Johnson said. &uot;I felt we were going to win. It was about time for us to win. We just really couldn’t knock down any shots (in the losses). That’s all. It’s just basically getting to know each other. I think we’re pretty much on the same page right now. We’re starting to come together.&uot;

Johnson provided plenty of damage at the start of the second half, including a three-point play at the 14:21 mark for a 41-36 lead. But the Lady Cardinals had a little spurt to trim the lead back down to one when Audrea Samuel converted a layup off a turnover in the press.

Then Alcorn kept pounding it inside and put together a 14-2 run to blow the game open.

&uot;The first five minutes of the second half was a disaster,&uot; second-year Lamar coach Leonard Drake said. &uot;We play our game to a tie the first half and come out the second half and didn’t have the same intensity. We turned the ball over four of the first six possessions of the second half. I give (Alcorn) credit for staying aggressive and attacking.&uot;

Powers hit the first basket before Roberts tossed in two free throws, and Johnson hit consecutive baskets to get the run going. Natasha Dennis finished it with a wide-open layup under the basket for a 57-44 lead with 6:34 left for the Lady Braves’ biggest lead of the game.

The play around the basket was big not only in key stretches offensively but on the boards the entire game. Alcorn finished the game with 39 rebounds to Lamar’s 24 as the Lady Cardinals had just eight offensive rebounds.

&uot;It was real big,&uot; Powers said. &uot;Our coach told us to go inside and we have to go inside-outside to win the game. That’s what we tried to do.&uot;

Said Drake: &uot;They gave us some problems inside. It’s no secret we’re not a big team. We’ve had to compensate for our lack of size by trying to block out and get our guards to rebound. We did that for the most part. But the first part of the second half was the game for us.&uot;

Give the Lady Cardinals credit for trimming the lead after that point to within range. After falling victim to that 14-2 run, they put together a 12-4 run of their own thanks to three-point plays from Rashekiii Howard and LaToya Carson to trim the lead to 65-51.

Alcorn, however, got two free throws from Johnson and a bucket from Tiffaney Smith to answer it and put the lead at nine with 1:25 left.

&uot;I don’t think personally we knew each other very good, but I think tonight we came together as a team,&uot; ASU head coach Shirley Walker said. &uot;Our freshmen were playing kind of tight. We only have three people back from last year’s team. A big part of it tonight was we had two starters out.

&uot;We’ve got some people who have never played college basketball before. We made a lot of freshman mistakes. We had 11 turnovers at halftime, and that’s what we were afraid of.&uot;

Some strong perimeter shooting from the Lady Cardinals kept Alcorn from building a lead late in the first half. The Lady Braves took advantage of Lamar’s 15 fouls in the first half to build a 26-20 lead on one of two free throws from Catronda Thornton with 2:51 left.

The Lady Braves switched to a 2-3 zone defense, and Gerly Kostla hit one shot from just

inside the 3-point line and two from beyond it to help tie the lead at 28-28 with 59 seconds left, a score that stood until halftime.

Lamar tied the score at 20-20 on a bucket from Trenice Hines with 6:00 left, but Alcorn answered with a 3-pointer from Shikhia Sims to take back the lead.