Senior point guard Kar’ron Johnson made an impact in the very first game he played for the Blue Devils boys’ basketball team this season.
The game went to overtime, and his team-high 15 points helped the EHS win, 72-66, over Princeton High on Jan. 17.
“It was definitely a good win,” Johnson said. “We would have liked to have won by more. It was definitely exciting to be in that.”
Johnson grew up playing with the Ewing players on the AAU team that his father formed, but then attended Conwell Egan Catholic School in Fairless Hills, where he won a Pennsylvania state championship with the team in 2015. He transfered bach to EHS this year, but was forced to sit out the first 30 days of this season due to New Jersey’s transfer rules.
“Hearing everyone around the county talk, everybody has kind of been counting us out this year because of the rough start we had,” Johnson said.
As of Jan. 25, the team was 10-4 and sat atop the CVC Patriot division despite going 3-4 in December. Since the calendar changed to 2017, the team has not lost a game, ripping off seven straight wins in a row.
Johnson led five Ewing players in double figures against Princeton. Ryan Conde had 14 points, Jon Azoroh and Edamiyon Doggett had 13 points apiece and Justin Reed had 12 points. Lawrence Joseph had three points and Isaiah Sparks added two free throws.
The Princeton game was one of a number of nailbiters that the team has played so far this season.
“We’ve had a couple close games that we lost, and we’ve had a couple close games that we won,” said Ewing head coach Shelly Dearden.
“I expect balance,” Dearden added. “There’s not one particular person who’s any better than the other. On any given night, it could be any person.
The Blue Devils are trying to ride momentum as they head into February and gear up for tournament play in the county and state.
“Our potential is definitely very high,” Johnson said.
Johnson’s addition could help key their growth. The team already showed potential, and now gets even stronger.
Johnson played with Ewing during the summer and demonstrated then how he could help. The team finally was able to see his contributions in a real game.
‘Not every game every player is going to play well. If I have an off night, I know one of the guys will step up in the moment.’
“He adds experience,” Dearden said. “It’s another person who can handle the basketball, so he can take over the point guard position which then frees up Doggett or Conde or other guards. When he’s playing the point guard position, he’s freeing up other people. Also he’s a very good defender, so he adds another dimension to our defense.”
Johnson has been part of successful teams before. He gained experience during his career at Conwell-Egan. He played a number of games as a freshman, but broke his leg going into his sophomore season, ironically playing against Ewing in the Moody Park summer league.
“I got cleared to play right around the time tryouts started,” he said. “I didn’t start playing a lot until state tournament time. That was the year we won the state title. I started a quarterfinal game. The semifinals, I played a little bit. The finals I didn’t see much in that game.”
Johnson started all but one game last year as a junior when Conwell-Egan won the district title and reached the state quarterfinals. He’s hoping his experience will help Ewing.
It didn’t take him long to adjust playing with his old teammates. And the first game, they looked in sync with each other.
“The chemistry was definitely there from the jump,” Johnson said. “It wasn’t hard to play with everybody because I already knew everybody’s game and how they played.”
Johnson bolsters a senior class that was already strong with the likes of Azoroh, Joseph, Corey McKinnon and Justin Reed.
“The senior class, they’re winners,” Dearden said. “They know how to win. They’ve won tournaments as freshmen, they’ve won tournaments as JV players. I think they have that winning attitude since they came into the program so that’s a plus for them.”
That class would like to go out as winners too, and they feel they have the ability at both ends of the court to produce titles. Johnson sees the team’s balance as a key to their offense. If they can continue to get the sort of all-around contributions that they had against Princeton, they will be tough to stop.
“I think it’s a huge advantage,” Johnson said. “Not every game every player is going to play well. If I have an off night, I know one of the guys will step up in the moment. Even guys that come off the bench, I know they can score too.”
And Johnson thinks a lot of the Blue Devils’ defense. Their press enabled them to force turnovers against Princeton as they rallied in the fourth quarter to force overtime, and Ewing has the ability to stifle any opponent.
“I think we have a really athletic team,” Johnson said. “Even our bigs can move. Especially when we press, we can cause a lot of problems. And even in our man-to-man defense, we can give problems if we’re doing everything right like help defense and not reaching and staying in front of our man. We can be a really, really good defensive team.”
With Johnson in the mix, the Blue Devils were only missing junior Tyler Bell, who was injured in a win over West Windsor-Plainsboro North, but is expected to return. With their team almost all together, Ewing finally got a look at its full potential.
“We’re pretty excited,” Johnson said. “Everything is looking good. Once we get Tyler back in the upcoming weeks, once we have everyone back to full strength, I think we’ll be a big problem for teams to handle. We’re really, really excited about the next couple of months.”