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Johnston takes charge as floor leader

Daily Pilot High School Athlete of the Week

Sophomore point guard has helped Sea Kings improve in Pacific Coast League and led CdM to its first road win.

February 03, 2012|By David Carrillo PeƱaloza
(Scott Smeltzer…)

Jeff Johnston said his father, Jon, played point guard at Estancia High in the 1980s.

"I think they had a really good team back then, at least from what he tells me," said Johnston, whose father led the Eagles to the CIF Southern Section Division 3-A title game in 1984.

Twelve years later, Jon's son was born. Somehow, Jon raised a shooting guard.

Growing up, Johnston was more of a slasher on the court. His style of play had to change before his sophomore season at Corona del Mar.

Johnston had to learn how to play his father's old position. That was the best way for Johnston to earn playing time in his first season on varsity.

The Sea Kings didn't have a point guard coming back from last year's successful season. They really didn't have many players returning.

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Ten were lost to graduation, including all five starters.

The Sea Kings began to form a new team, which looked nothing like the one that claimed a share of the Pacific Coast League title and reached the quarterfinals of the CIF Southern Section Division 3AA playoffs last season.

Players began to fill four starting spots at CdM, leaving the point up for grabs.

The last job came between Johnston and one of his best friends, Charlie Coffman. The two started in the backcourt on the freshman team last season, leading CdM to a league title.

Johnston and Coffman battled to run the floor on varsity. They alternated as the starting point guard, until Johnston won out.

In the 20th game of the season, the fifth in league, Johnston earned the starting job at point guard.

In the next game, Johnston's confidence grew. He went on to turn in his best performance last week on the road, a place that has been hostile to CdM this season.

The Sea Kings hadn't won a road game all season, and they went to Johnston late to secure the first victory away from home.

With around 30 seconds left and CdM ahead by three, Blake Grable attacked the basket. Defenders collapsed on Grable, leaving a wide-open Johnston on the baseline.

From 15 feet out, Johnston, without hesitating, drained the jumper. The Sea Kings' lead grew to five and they were on their way to a 58-54 win at Irvine.

"It seemed surreal," said Johnston, who finished with a team-high 12 points. "I've never really had the ball in a key situation like that, especially in a varsity game. To hit that shot, I was a little in shock at first."

Coach Ryan Schachter was just as surprised, because his team had never traveled and prevailed.

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