An ankle injury has zapped most of the explosiveness from Friendly Patriots senior guard Michael Johnson for much of the year, but it apparently hasn’t affected his heart. With his team trialing the Largo Lions with just over a minute left, Johnson put the ankle woes behind him and took over, steering the Patriots to a 60-57 win before a shocked crowd in Largo, Md. on Feb. 10.

After Largo overcame a second half Friendly lead, a dejected Friendly bench was left staring at a five-point deficit with little time left. That’s when Johnson came to the rescue. The sweet-shooting guard scored a quick layup before stealing the in-bound pass and nailing a side three-pointer to tie it with 58 seconds remaining.

With 13 seconds left and the game now tied at 57-57, Johnson received a pass from Friendly senior point guard Sherrod Baltimore and launched a corner three-pointer that sailed through the net before pounding his chest in celebration.

Largo immediately called a timeout with 5.5 seconds still left on the clock and diagrammed one final play. Largo point man Derrick Colter then took the inbounds and dribbled up the court before launching a long-range attempt that was on line but just a little too strong. It bounced off the back of the rim, sending a large Friendly contingent into total eruption. The Fort Washington, Md. school has now won 16-straight games but after the near-defeat, the only thing head coach Rob Garner could talk about was his hobbled star.

“He’s a senior and he’s been in the program for three straight years and he’s one of our go-to guys,” Garner said. “What a big shot. Mentally, to be able to stay in it and be able to bury a shot like that, that’s big time.”

Friendly (17-3) is peaking at the right time while Largo (13-7) has now lost four of its last six games. With the Prince George’s County 3A playoffs nearing, every win at this stage of the season is huge, a reminder that Johnson issued after the game.

“It’s a big win,” Johnson said. “It sets the tone for the rest of the season. We’re battle-tested we’ve been through plenty of situations so we knew not to panic and we knew to stay strong and get this victory.”


Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO