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Shepherd's Johnson gets the point

February 26, 1997

By BOB PARASILITI

Staff Writer

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - Mike Johnson will be the first to tell anyone that television is an educational tool.

It sure taught him how to play point guard for the Shepherd College men's basketball team.

Johnson only scored 12 points and had four assists, but was on the floor every time the No. 8-seeded Rams (12-15) made a run to put away West Virginia Tech, 94-75, in the first round of the West Virginia Conference tournament at the Butcher Athletic Center.

Johnson spent his whole senior season trying to find a way to fit in on the young Rams team. The suddenly, on Feb. 1, when Shepherd's game with Bluefield was replayed on television, he found his game.

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"The Bluefield game may have been the break through," the 5-foot-8 guard said. "I watched that game and I realized what my role was. Before I would make up my mind while heading down the floor on if I was going to shoot or pass. Now I'm taking what the other team gives me. If they come up I pass, if they back off I go for the shot. It's a simple game."

Johnson made it look simple against the Golden Bears with his front court defense and explosive moves up floor. With Shepherd trailing 19-18 with 12 minutes remaining in the half, Johnson found Jim Coyle on a baseline drive for a three-point play. It ignited a 14-4 run to give the Rams a 32-19 lead.

"He's the sparkplug. He's the key," Shepherd coach Denny Alexander said of Johnson. "He plays with the poise of a senior. I think he's the best point guard in the league. There are others who might shoot better than he does, but as far as being a pure point guard, I think he's the best around."

Ninth-seeded Tech (9-17) came back to within 37-34 with Johnson on the bench. When he returned with 4:55 left in the half, the Rams ran off a 10-4 rally for a 47-38 halftime lead. Shepherd opened the second half with a Chris Teal dunk and a 13-6 run to take a 60-43 and all but put the game away.

Richie Sutherland led five Shepherd scorers with 19 points and Rashad Crutchfield added 17 to move the Rams into Thursday's WVC tournament quarterfinal game against Salem-Teikyo - the No. 2 ranked team in the nation - at 7 p.m. at the Charleston Civic Center.

"This is a big step for us ... one that we have been looking forward to," Alexander said. "Now we are down to eight teams left and we are glad to be one of them. With our speed and quickness, anything can happen. I think we are just starting to peak."

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