Girls basketball: Coyotes’ Johnson aims to guide team to 5A title

JEREMY PAPASSO
Monarch’s Alexus Johnson would like to cap her prep career with a state title this season.

LOUISVILLE — Monarch girls basketball has produced enough stars to fill the night’s sky. But recently one has nearly outshone them all.

Alexus Johnson has been one of the big reasons why the Coyotes are among the most feared team in Class 5A. The forward has proven she is the complete package, leading nearly every one of her team’s statistics and helping it to one unparalleled season after another. But even with all the senior has accomplished there is still one thing missing.

And Johnson is the first to admit a state championship would sure put a nice bow on an already grand career.

“Really with our talent and ability, I don’t see why we can win one this year,” she said.

Johnson proved over and over as a junior that she has the tools to take Monarch to the top.

The forward was her team’s most dominant player in the paint, with her ability under the hoop helping her collect nine double-doubles. But more than averaging 14.2 points and 8.6 rebounds per game, it was Johnson’s versatility that made her so dangerous. She proved in 2010 she could shoot the long ball (38 three-pointers), force the issue on defense (46 steals) and set her teammates up for buckets (36 assists).

Gail Hook understands the weapon she has in Johnson and has been particularly impressed with her unselfishness on offense. But the Monarch coach believes it is the senior’s ability to perform under the hoop that makes her the most dangerous.

“She is a big scorer driving or with her back to the basket,” Hook said. “She is strong in the paint and does not back down.”

Johnson is an asset, but far from Monarch’s only one.

The Coyotes enter the season with all of the starters from their run to the 5A Great 8 back. While Hook anticipates having as many as seven girls in line to record points on any given outing, it is Monarch’s senior class that really turns heads.

 

When everything is said and done, the class could produce three big-college athletes. Guard Ashton Davis signed with the Air Force Academy, and Johnson with Grambling State University, leaving just Rebecca Richmond on the hunt. And the talent at the top is not lost on the players themselves.

“Becca is high energy and Alexus is our leader on the court,” Davis said. “We are definitely bringing a lot to the season.”

Monarch has plenty of talent fueling it to a championship, but it also has the motivation. Despite roaring through 2010-11 to a Front Range League title, the team was stung at the end of the season. The Coyotes were upset in the Great 8 by Fort Collins, with the conference foe beating them by 1 point.

The loss was a shock, given the Coyotes beat the Lambkins by 22 points in the regular season. But there might be a silver lining to the falter — a boost in Monarch’s mental toughness and focus.

“Word around town was we had the game won before we even stepped on the court and we believed it,” Johnson said. “Believe me, we won’t take one team we step on the floor with lightly this season.”