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Third attempt to win a game is the charm for Johnson

By: Matt Long
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Twice earlier this season, Tony Johnson had a chance to hit game-winning shots at the buzzer and failed. In his third opportunity on Saturday, Johnson hit nothing but net, as his jump shot gave the Bulldogs a Sac-Joaquin Section Division I Championship in a 66-65 win over Rodriguez at Arco Arena. "When we broke the huddle after the timeout, Coach (Bobby) Edwards told me ˜when in doubt, take it up and shoot it yourself,'" Johnson said. "I had a good feeling about it and that gave me even more confidence. "I knew I wanted to shoot it, so it would have been hard to give up that shot." Johnson's long 3-point attempts in games against Del Campo and Sheldon earlier this year were off the mark, sending both contests to overtime. Saturday Johnson couldn't afford to miss because Folsom trailed by one, 65-64. "I hit some game-winning shots before, but they weren't buzzer beaters," Johnson said. "I hit a shot against Socastee with about 30 seconds to go, and one against Monterey Trail with about a minute to go, but nothing quite like that (on Saturday night)." Johnson took the inbounds pass and drove to the 3-point line and with his feet on the line, rose up and delivered the Bulldogs a section title. As a point guard, the 5'11" junior has led the team all season long and it's no surprise he came through when his team needed it the most. "His skill is impressive so you know he can perform," Folsom coach Mike Wall said. "On top of that, he's incredibly dedicated to being better and because of that he's a great role model for the other players. "His strength is basically his lack of weaknesses. Teams don't know what to do with him because he does so many things well." Don't think his teammates don't know Johnson's value to the team either. Senior guard Ben Palmer, who along with Johnson are the team's top scorers, is complimentary of his backcourt mate. "He's one of the best defenders on the team with quick hands and long arms," Palmer said. "He can pick off or deflect any ball. He's also a great offensive player. He's a great shooter and can also take it to the hole and finish on anyone." One similar characteristic that both Johnson and Palmer share is their calmness. It's hard to tell what the score is or how important the game is by watching them because they're so calm. "Tony and Ben are so calm and controlled all the time," Wall said, "and that rubs off on the other guys. When your point guard is that way, it has a huge impact." Johnson isn't the most vocal player on the floor, but he's improved his leadership qualities throughout the season, talking more as the season progressed. "He's worked on being more demonstrative and outspoken, which he's done," Wall said. "We sort of made New Year's resolutions as a team and it was to win a section championship," Johnson said. "Individually, I wanted to be more of a leader by talking more and always communicating with players and coaches. Defensively, I wanted to do a better job of stopping dribble penetration." Perhaps Johnson's biggest impact from a leadership standpoint has come by his working with freshman guard Kori Babineaux. Babineaux has been an important addition to this year's team, especially as a third scoring option behind Johnson and Palmer. "Tony's been my mentor," Babineaux said. "When the season first started, some guys were like, ˜oh, you're a freshman,' but Tony was cool with it from the get-go. He's been a big help to me." Whether it's making a steal, delivering a perfect pass, helping a teammate, or hitting a game-winning shot, Johnson has been there when the Bulldogs needed him." Twice earlier this season, Tony Johnson had a chance to hit game-winning shots at the buzzer and failed. In his third opportunity on Saturday, Johnson hit nothing but net, as his jump shot gave the Bulldogs a Sac-Joaquin Section Division I Championship in a 66-65 win over Rodriguez at Arco Arena. "When we broke the huddle after the timeout, Coach (Bobby) Edwards told me ˜when in doubt, take it up and shoot it yourself,'" Johnson said. "I had a good feeling about it and that gave me even more confidence. "I knew I wanted to shoot it, so it would have been hard to give up that shot." Johnson's long 3-point attempts in games against Del Campo and Sheldon earlier this year were off the mark, sending both contests to overtime. Saturday Johnson couldn't afford to miss because Folsom trailed by one, 65-64. "I hit some game-winning shots before, but they weren't buzzer beaters," Johnson said. "I hit a shot against Socastee with about 30 seconds to go, and one against Monterey Trail with about a minute to go, but nothing quite like that (on Saturday night)." Johnson took the inbounds pass and drove to the 3-point line and with his feet on the line, rose up and delivered the Bulldogs a section title. As a point guard, the 5'11" junior has led the team all season long and it's no surprise he came through when his team needed it the most. "His skill is impressive so you know he can perform," Folsom coach Mike Wall said. "On top of that, he's incredibly dedicated to being better and because of that he's a great role model for the other players. "His strength is basically his lack of weaknesses. Teams don't know what to do with him because he does so many things well." Don't think his teammates don't know Johnson's value to the team either. Senior guard Ben Palmer, who along with Johnson are the team's top scorers, is complimentary of his backcourt mate. "He's one of the best defenders on the team with quick hands and long arms," Palmer said. "He can pick off or deflect any ball. He's also a great offensive player. He's a great shooter and can also take it to the hole and finish on anyone." One similar characteristic that both Johnson and Palmer share is their calmness. It's hard to tell what the score is or how important the game is by watching them because they're so calm. "Tony and Ben are so calm and controlled all the time," Wall said, "and that rubs off on the other guys. When your point guard is that way, it has a huge impact." Johnson isn't the most vocal player on the floor, but he's improved his leadership qualities throughout the season, talking more as the season progressed. "He's worked on being more demonstrative and outspoken, which he's done," Wall said. "We sort of made New Year's resolutions as a team and it was to win a section championship," Johnson said. "Individually, I wanted to be more of a leader by talking more and always communicating with players and coaches. Defensively, I wanted to do a better job of stopping dribble penetration." Perhaps Johnson's biggest impact from a leadership standpoint has come by his working with freshman guard Kori Babineaux. Babineaux has been an important addition to this year's team, especially as a third scoring option behind Johnson and Palmer. "Tony's been my mentor," Babineaux said. "When the season first started, some guys were like, ˜oh, you're a freshman,' but Tony was cool with it from the get-go. He's been a big help to me." Whether it's making a steal, delivering a perfect pass, helping a teammate, or hitting a game-winning shot, Johnson has been there when the Bulldogs needed him."