Weekly Feature

2017-12-07 / Sports

West boys hoops wins Pioneer Tournament

Tourney MVP Johnson posts triple-double in season opener

How in the world do you even attempt to top winning a state championship one week prior to playing your first varsity basketball game at a “new” school?

If you’re Timon transfer and West Seneca West junior Juston Johnson, you post a triple-double in Friday’s opening round of the Pioneer Motorsport Tip-Off Tournament en route to helping the Indians knock off the hosts by 30 points in Saturday’s championship game.

And the reward for that hard work? Johnson was named the Tournament MVP. That’s not too shabby of a start for Johnson, the Indians and first-year coach — and former West star — Des Randall.

“We came out and you could tell it was our first time playing against a different opponent, but there’s nothing like going against other teams’ starters and best players,” Randall said. “You could tell that our football guys had just came back and the other guys were playing at game speed for the first time. We didn’t have the best chance to scout and prepare, so we had the first-game jitters to start. But, once we settled in we dialed it up and did some really good things, especially on defense.”

West, which was able to get out to a 23-12 lead by the end of the first quarter, went on a 24-5 tear in the second quarter to take a commanding 47-17 lead at the half. The Indians didn’t let off at either end of the court in the third quarter — or the second half in general — as they outscored Holland by a 31-29 margin to close out the game in comfortable fashion.

“With the firepower we have offensively, I just wanted us to focus on being as great as we can be on defense, no matter who our opponent is,” Randall said. “I was very pleased with the things we did defensively in the second quarter especially.”

Johnson led the way for West with 24 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists, while All-Tournament Team selection Nate Ryniec chipped in with 17 points and four rebounds. Adrian Baugh contributed 14 points and 10 rebounds, while Jesse Broad added eight points and three rebounds. Alex Wayland chipped in with seven points and three steals, while Mike Borton contributed four points and 15 rebounds for West.

“I actually was thinking about it afterwards, and I don’t think I ever had a triple-double when I played,” Randall said of his younger brother’s effort. “He played great. It was just one of those games where he fell into a rhythm, but I was pleased with the balance he had. Juston was efficient with his shots, and the way he rebounded for a 6-foot guy … me and my dad used to joke about what it is he thinks allows him to go underneath and rebound with the big guys, but he always finds a way to get them. Juston wanted to make a statement and have his basketball season start well coming off the football title.

“I was just really pleased with the balance and unselfishness that were on display offensively,” Randall continued. “Jesse openly embraced moving into the ‘first guy off the bench’ role — he still played a starter’s worth of minutes — and really likes it. It lets him focus more on defense, and I was so surprised and pleased to hear that from him. It speaks to our team-first mentality.”

The win advanced West to Saturday’s championship game against the host squad, and though the Panthers played the Indians closer than Holland, it wouldn’t last as West went on a 19-6 run in the second quarter to take a 31-14 lead into halftime. The Indians doubled up Pioneer in the third quarter, 28-14, to bump their lead up to 59-28 heading into the final stanza.

“Pioneer’s an ‘A’ school so it’s someone who we could potentially face later this season,” Randall said. “They’re better than the 73-43 final score might indicate, but our depth just ultimately overpowered theirs. It’s hard to get a gauge on how good the other teams were — both have the potential to do well in their leagues — but we built a lot of chemistry in the fall, and for us to just really get started like we have speaks to the potential we have this year.

“We were a little deeper than both teams, but both teams had a couple of guys who could play,” Randall continued. “Our depth is what made us overall better than both. Both teams only had eight players, and we had 13 with more than a handful of guys who can really play. Our guys have been practicing hard and our football guys are fresh off a state title, so they know how to win. When you taste a little bit of success you get hungry for more, and our basketball guys want to achieve what our football players did.”

Baugh led the way for West with 22 points and five rebounds, while Johnson had another standout effort, scoring 16 points, dishing out 10 assists and swiping six steals. Wayland finished with 11 points and five rebounds for the Indians (2-0 overall), who took on JFK Tuesday in one final non-league tune-up for league play that ended too late for this edition.

Weather permitting, West is slated to close out its week by facing Clarence on Friday.

“Everyone is going to have to stay humble and hungry,” Randall said. “Everyone gets better throughout the season, so we have to get better too. We’re going to get everyone’s best shot, and any night in our league that you decide not to come and play, you can get beat. So, we’ll just clean up some things and build. We’ll tweak some things that we see on film and build on the things we did well so that we can improve our weaknesses and enhance our strengths.

“If we go in and execute on both sides of the ball the way we did in the tournament, we should be ready to battle moving forward.”

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