MOUNT VERNON — Senior Kurt Sammons was a man on a mission Tuesday night. Then again, the Johnstown Johnnies were a team on a mission.
Sammons posted 22 points to lead the Johnnies past Mount Gilead in a Division III sectional game at Mount Vernon High School. With the win, Johnstown advances to face No. 1 seed Bishop Hartley in the second round on Friday night.
Johnstown (9-12) and Sammons looked impressive from the start. Sammons scored the first four points of the game, but the Johnnies quickly found themselves behind, 6-4, less than four minutes in. Marcus Vanderkooi and Geoffrey Gompf each drained 3-pointers to get Mount Gilead going. The Johnnies responded with three buckets to end the quarter, however, and led by four, 10-6, after one quarter.
“We jumped out on them early, but they clawed their way back into it and that’s going to happen,” said Johnstown coach Kevin Martin. “Teams are going to go on runs, and we’ve stressed that you can never get too comfortable. ... We talked at halftime about playing solid defense. We knew that’s where the game was going to be won. I knew we could score enough points to get it done.”
Sammons scored a three-point play to open the second quarter, which started an 8-3 run for Johnstown and doubled up the Indians, 18-9. Not to be outdone, though, Mount Gilead went on a 14-3 run to end the quarter and took a 23-21 lead into the locker rooms.
“We came in at halftime and tried to get refocused,” said Sammons. “We kind of got a little complacent there at the end of the first half. We knew we had to come back out strong and get back to business.”
Looking to put the game away, the Indians stretched their lead to six with a pair of layups in the first 2 1/2 minutes of the third quarter. A Johnstown layup by Riley Cannon answered those shots, and following a timeout, the Johnnies continued to answer in the form of four more buckets. Cannon added another and Sammons had two, and all of a sudden, Johnstown led 31-27 after three quarters.
“We knew we needed to make a couple of stops that we weren’t getting,” said Sammons. “It was now or never, so we dug down deep and found them.”
Playing with momentum — and Sammons — the Johnnies scored six more point to open the final period, pulling ahead by 10, 37-27. A 3 by Vanderkooi cut the lead to seven, but strong free-throw shooting never allowed the Indians to pull any closer. Johnstown went 7-of-8 at the line in the final 3:35 to seal the 44-35 victory. Sammons capped his night, and the game, with a pair of free throws with 43 seconds left.
In addition to Sammons’ night, Cannon posted a double-double of 11 points and 13 rebounds. He also had three steals and two blocks. Jay Orders had three points, nine rebounds and three steals; Shawn Block finished with four points, nine rebounds and two blocks; and Jake Hollis had four assists.
“They are a physical matchup,” said Martin. “Kurt and Riley may not be as big, but I’ll take those two any day of the week. ... Part of our game plan was to go inside, and one of keys to winning was to control the paint, offensively and defensively.
“We through the ball into (Kurt) and he is shifty in there. He is only 6-foot, but he finds a way to put the ball in the hole.”
Cody Castline had 11 points, eight rebounds and two steals to lead Mount Gilead, which also got 10 points and three assists from Vanderkooi. Gompf added seven points, nine rebounds and four blocks.
Johnstown was 16-of-40 from the field and 12-of-18 from the line, and the Johnnies outrebounded the Indians, 42-29.
Friday game, which will be played at Gahanna-Lincoln High School at 8 p.m., won’t be an easy one. Bishop Hartley has some of the better talent in the Central District, so Martin expects a tough game.
“It definitely not going to be an easy game, whatsoever,” Martin said. “But when I went into the district tournament draw, I didn’t look at any second-round opponent. I really was focused on getting a game I thought we could win; then we will deal with whoever we play in the second round. I thought we were evenly matched with Mount Gilead and we came away with a win. Now, we turn our sights to Hartley.
“They have a really, really good player in Ben Seifert. He is one of the top players in Central Ohio in all divisions. They’ve got great tradition. We’ll take our shot.”