MARYLAND HEIGHTS • Finally, the McCluer North girls basketball team got some positive on-court mojo going on Monday.
The Stars, who have lost six games this season by single digits, broke through to win a close one.
Freshman forward Samya Johnson and some solid defense helped North to a 35-31 win at Pattonville.
“We've most definitely been working hard, trying to get these wins and they haven't worked out,” Johnson said. “We've had games where things haven't gone our way, but I'm real proud of us, the way we played tonight. We found a way to win,”
McCluer North (8-11) leaned on Johnson, who scored 11 of her game-high 16 points in the second half, to put the Stars over the top in a back-and-forth game.
Johnson turned in one of her strongest effort of the season even though she is still bothered by ankle injury suffered in a loss to MICDS.
“My right ankle hurts and it's painful,” Johnson said. “It doesn't really hurt when I'm running on it. I got moving and was fine tonight.”
Oddly enough, Johnson scored most of her points standing still, where she was 10-of-14 from the free-throw line.
North coach Pat Dougherty lauded Johnson for paving the way to victory.
“Her game has progressed all season,” Dougherty said. “We needed this as a team. We really struggled and this result was very important.”
While Johnson was a key to the North offense, the total-team effort triggered the Stars success on the defensive end of the floor.
North held off each Pattonville charge in the last four minutes. The Stars limited the Pirates leading scorer, senior Tyra Brown to five points - well below her average of 12.8.
“We haven't been able to hold the lead yet this year and we were able to hold the lead,” Dougherty said. “We took care of things tonight and I am very proud of the girls. The girls really worked on the 3-2 zone and I don't think Pattonville was ready for it.”
Junior guard Kendall Battle led Pattonville (9-5, No. 8 in the STLhighschoolsports.com large-schools rankings) with eight points.
Pattonville coach Doug McGhee said his team simply couldn't find the basket in its first home game of the year.
“We couldn't get our rhythm going, they came out in a man and they normally play a zone,” McGhee said. “We were prepared for it. We just couldn't knock down shots when we needed to do it. McCluer North played hard, but we just couldn't get going.”