By Nelson Coffin
An old hand on the starting unit for Roland Park Country School, senior guard Jeydah Johnson also had the hot hand for the third-seeded Reds in a 62-38 victory over No. 6 seed John Carroll in an A Conference quarterfinal Tuesday afternoon.
Johnson had a team-high 20 points in her final appearance on her home court.
All year, as the sole senior starter, the 5-foot-10 senior has been a steadying force for a team that features a slew of underclassmen in key positions.
“In the beginning of the season, I was a little hesitant about how good we could be,” said Johnson, who has committed to play the sport at Long Island University Brooklyn next season. “But then after we beat the No. 5 team in the country, I felt our chemistry starting to build.”
That team was Ossining, which was rated No. 1 in MaxPrep’s preseason rankings in New York and boasted four four straight New York State Public High School Athletic Association championships. The Reds prevailed, 70-60, in December against the New Yorkers.
Since then, Roland Park (18-6, 8-4 conference) has suffered a few defeats of its own while continuing to perform well in the upper echelon of the A Conference.
And the win over the Patriots (10-12, 6-4) allows Johnson and her teammates to play at least one more game when they travel to Owings Mills for a semifinal battle with longtime nemesis McDonogh on Thursday.
The second-seeded Eagles (23-2, 8-1) prepped for the encounter by clubbing No. 7 seed Archbishop Spalding, 75-29, in another quartefinal.
On Sunday at 6 p.m. at Stevenson University, the Roland Park-McDonogh winner will challenge the survivor of the meeting between fourth-seeded Seton Keough (14-10, 6-6) and No. 1 seed St. Frances Academy (25-0, 10-0) on Thursday.
The Reds lost both conference battles with the Eagles this season, the second in blowout fashion.
Yet they remain reasonably confident heading into the showdown.
“In some games during the season, you’re going to be a little shaky,” said Johnson, alluding to the 72-38 setback to the Eagles on Feb. 3. “Even I got down in that game, but if we stay strong as a unit, stay confident and work with each other, we can win.”
The Reds never allowed John Carroll to get comfortable on Tuesday, and the Patriots were sort of relearning how to mesh after all-conference guard Savannah Simmons was reinserted in the lineup following a month on the sideline due to an injury.
“We were 11-2 with Savannah before the injury,” said her father, John Carroll coach Craig Simmons. “Without her in the lineup, we had a kids playing positions they weren’t accustomed to playing. And she was a little rusty tonight, and we didn’t execute very well as a team.”
Still, Savannah Simmons led all scorers in the contest with 20 points. Freshman center Vonnie Lidie added seven points and hauled down eight rebounds for John Carroll.
Continuing a banner rookie season for the Reds, freshman Mir McLean had a double-double with 15 points and 11 boards.
Roland Park coach Scott Buckley said that the key to winning the game was starting in an uptempo mode and staying there.
“We thought that John Carroll likes to play in the 40s and we like to play in the 60s,” he said. “We felt if we could get to the 60s, that we would be OK.”