Virginia Union 93, Livingstone 63
Johnson Has Herself a Day
Virginia Union’s Kiana Johnson may have bolstered her candidacy for National Player of the Year honors, as the senior from Chicago lit up Livingstone for 41 points as Virginia Union (24-2) ousted the Lady Blue Bears 93-63.
“I’m real proud of a second effort from our kids as they followed up an (84 point effort vs. Johnson C. Smith) with a 93 point performance,” said Virginia Union head coach AnnMarie Gilbert. “That’s not easy to do.”
Livingstone (15-12) scored the first four points of the game, including a layup by Kyala Searcy two seconds into the game, before the Lady Panthers began raining threes, starting with Johnson’s three which helped her become the first CIAA player to reach the 700 point mark in a season since Kim Brewington scored 906 points for Johnson C. Smith in the 1988-1989 season.
Virginia Union would hit four threes in the first five minutes of the game to take an early 14-6 lead. Johnson capped off the first quarter with a three as the Lady Panthers took a 28-17 lead.
So, when did Johnson realize that she was in the zone?
“There was one possession in the game when the shot clock was running down and I hit a one-handed three point jumper,” Johnson said. “I may not practice those, which is kind of funny, but it went in. I just knew that I had a good rhythm and I just had to continue to keep it going.”
If that first quarter wasn’t enough, Johnson scored 13 of the Lady Panthers’ 16 points in the second quarter as Virginia Union extended their lead to 44-32 at the half.
“She’s a phenomenal athlete, she’s very elusive, she has cat-like reflexes, her basketball IQ is out of this world,” said Livingstone head coach Anita Howard. “To have an athlete with that basketball IQ is very difficult.”
Howard threw everything except the kitchen sink against the nation’s leading scorer, but nothing seemed to work, despite holding Johnson to just seven points in the third quarter. Johnson was still finding open teammates, including Ashley Smith, who scored 22 points in the game.
“Ashley has been productive in some games, more in others, but she’s a very talented young lady and I’m glad to see her ability come out on this stage,” Gilbert said.
With the Lady Blue Bears keying in on Johnson, who eluded double- and triple-team coverage by finding open teammates, Smith took advantage, primarily via baseline runners.
“From there on, I just kept taking it and shot free throws,” Smith said. “Then I saw that they started playing off of me, so I started shooting it.”
And then, there was Rahni Bell, who chipped in 15 points as the Lady Panthers outscored Livingstone 49-31 in the second half.
In the end, however, Johnson, who finished with 41 points on 14-of-26 shooting, including 5-of-9 from three point range, and a perfect 8-for-8 from the foul line, proved to be too much for the Lady Blue Bears.
“In all honesty, she played hard and we let up at times,” Livingstone junior guard Brittany Taylor.