It hasn’t taken long for Ashland University to learn what fans of Wadsworth girls basketball have known for years.
Jodi Johnson is good. She’s really good.
Now the nation is becoming fully aware of that fact as well, as Johnson was named NCAA Division II Player of the Year by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association and the Conference Commissioner’s Association.
While the national spotlight is shining directly on the former Gazette MVP, Johnson is quick to turn that bright light back around.
“It is an honor, but awards like these only come when you play on a great team and you have great teammates,” the sophomore said. “I’m just grateful to be part of such an awesome program.
“Individually, awards and accolades aren’t something I worry about, but I definitely didn’t expect this. I’m truly blessed with an awesome team.”
The modest Johnson deserves all the attention, and then some, as the guard became a staple in the Ashland lineup the minute she stepped on campus.
The top-ranked Eagles won the school’s second national championship a year ago, have captured a pair of Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference titles and are on a 72-game winning streak after beating Montana State Billings 91-73 Monday night.
The streak, which will be put to the test tonight in a national semifinal against Indiana (Pa.) in Sioux Falls, S.D., is the fifth-longest in NCAA history, regardless of gender or level.
It’s been a ride Johnson has never taken for granted.
“This team has a special bond and I think that makes the whole experience so much greater,” she said. “We love each other and we love playing the game of basketball together. I get to play with some of the best players in the country. Not everyone gets that opportunity.”
Johnson enters tonight’s Final Four game leading the nation in 3-point percentage (.602) and steals (3.9), along with scoring 19.1 points a night. She also is fourth in the country in field goal percentage (.616) and shoots free throws at an .839 clip while ripping down 5.5 rebounds and dishing out 3.9 assists.
While she’s always been explosive when it comes to scoring the basketball, the former Wadsworth standout credits her ability to knock down outside shots more consistently with helping her be successful at the next level.
“After my freshman year, going into the postseason, I learned what college basketball was about,” Johnson said. “This summer I spent a lot of time in the gym and I worked a lot on my 3-point shot. That definitely opened my driving lanes more, which has been a big part of my game my whole career.”
Johnson’s play, along with that of fellow All-America selections Laina Snyder and Andi Daugherty, has put Ashland in the driver’s seat for another national title. The Eagles will make their fourth Final Four appearance tonight and all have come since 2012, a stretch that also included a championships in 2013.
Standing in the Eagles’ way is an Indiana (Pa.) team that is having a record-setting season of its own. Behind the play of senior guard/forward Megan Smith (18.3 ppg, 5.6 rpg) and junior guard Carolyn Appleby (15.3 ppg), the Crimson Hawks find themselves in the Final Four for the first time.
“We just need to focus on us,” Johnson said. “To get back to the national championship, we just need to dictate the tempo and play our style of game.”
Contact Dan Brown at email@example.com.
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