COLUMBIA — Hickman point guard Jade Holly takes a shot that bounces off the rim and high into the air.
Center Ellie Johnson reaches up and grabs the ball without jumping as she towers over the opponent. Johnson gathers the offensive rebound and puts the ball back up for a layup and gets fouled on the play.
St Joseph's Academy (16-5)
at Hickman (20-3)
WHEN: 7 p.m.
WHERE: Hickman High School
Over the last three weeks, plays like this, involving Johnson, have occurred often for the Hickman girls basketball team.
The sophomore center stands 6-foot-1 and gives the Kewpies' seven-player rotation its only size advantage.
Off the court she claims she is lighthearted and funny. On the court she prides herself on playing a physical game.
“Being tall, you get a lot of contact and body up with a lot of bigs, so you have to be strong,” Johnson said. “I’m really used to that style of play. I’ve been doing it my entire life.”
Johnson is preparing for a key matchup on Friday night. St. Joseph’s Academy from St. Louis is traveling to Hickman, and they bring a talented roster. One name that is noticeable on the stat sheet is 6-foot-3 center Sydney Stipanovich. The Angels' senior averages 15.6 points, 11.3 rebounds and 6.5 blocks per game this season, according to stlhighschoolsports.com.
Johnson knows what St. Joseph’s brings and has a game plan for matching up against an interior player.
“I’m supposed to play big and play broad and pronounce myself,” Johnson said after practice on Thursday.
Hickman coach Tonya Mirts has learned that Johnson elevates her play when the games are bigger. Mirts thinks Johnson has the ability to turn in another great performance against the Angels.
“I would like to limit their entries to her (Stipanovich) and I think Ellie is athletic enough to do that,” Mirts said. “The other thing is to make sure they don’t get offensive rebounds.”
Johnson transferred to Hickman from Fayette High School for this school year. She has embraced her role as the center and gives Mirts a lot of flexibility to the game plan.
“She changed Hickman basketball this year by adding that height dimension,” Mirts said. “She allows us to match up with teams that we just didn’t match up well with before.”