Youthful Thomas Johnson Boys Basketball Getting Results


Last season was a difficult one for the Thomas Johnson boys basketball team. The Patriots struggled to perform in clutch situations, finishing the season 7-15 despite being in many close games.

This season has been a different story for Thomas Johnson. The Patriots are 9-3 despite having one of the youngest rosters in Maryland. Thomas Johnson has five sophomores on its roster, four of which routinely start.

"I would say our strengths this season are our defense and rebounding. We want to play an uptempo, fast pace game, but if we need to slow it down we will," head coach John Manley said. "On the offensive side, we like to get lots of touches to get the best available shot. We are a very unselfish team."

The team recently got through a brutal stretch of games that included match ups with Frederick County powerhouses Linganore, Frederick and Tuscarora, as well as a showdown with Washington County's South Hagerstown. Each game finished with the teams within six points of each other.

Thomas Johnson emerged from the stretch 2-2, picking up a 52-49 win against Frederick, as well as a 72-66 overtime victory against South Hagerstown. For Manley, what he enjoyed seeing was his group thriving where his group last year struggled- pressure situations.

"I learned that when it got close to crunch time that they did not fold. They played until the end, until the horn went off," Manley said. "I think we learned as a group that we can play with the elite teams in Frederick County, even though we are so young and a little inexperienced in the intensity of these games. The good thing was that even though we lost two of them we were in the game and we had multiple chances to win."

Battling through the recent difficult slate of games hasn't been Thomas Johnson's only shining moment of the season.

On Dec. 20 the Patriots pulled off an impressive 62-59 win over Oakdale, the program's first against the Bears. Although many would assume that victory would be Thomas Johnson's marquee win, Manley believes the game two days later against Westminster says more about the kind of character his team possesses.

"In the Westminster game we were trailing them by 19 points, and came back to beat them by double digits. The final score was 71-51," Manley said. "We came off the high of beating Oakdale for the first time and still managed to put together a good win on the road."

If the team is going to continue to get big results, then multiple players will have to continue to do their jobs.

Junior guard/forward Braxton Foreman has been one of the Patriots' main scoring threats, averaging 17 points per game, while sophomore forward J.R. Powe has been the team's top rebounder with 10 per game. Sophomore point guard Richard Rivas has been able to score both inside and from behind the three point line, while sophomore Zay Brooks has been a major asset to Thomas Johnson because of his versatility- he can play all five positions on the floor at a high level. Ed Plasket, a senior guard, has also been immense for the Patriots this season by providing crucial leadership for his younger teammates in addition to being a talented shooter.

The team's fast start has Manley believing the Patriots can make a big mark this season. He hopes the team can register at least 14 wins in the regular season, and then make an impact in the MPSSAA playoffs, though he also has goals for the team away from the court as well.

"As for outside basketball, I expect to produce fine young men in the community and in the school, use good sportsmanship and most importantly, have fun while playing a game they love," Manley said.
January 20th, 2017By: Wick Eisenberg

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