Johnson hopes to play through injury in Eagles’ final
By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer
TCC sophomore guard Ryan Johnson walked gingerly from the team’s locker room, wearing an orthopedic shoe on his left foot.
He didn’t look like a player who just minutes earlier was on the floor leading the Eagles to a 64-51 victory over Pensacola State College this past Saturday.
Johnson has been playing sporadically for the Eagles, missing five games because of a stress fracture in his left foot. His return is a big boost for the Eagles who have had to go through the homestretch of the season with as few as eight players because of injuries.
Coach Mark White said he expects to have Johnson, who scored a game-high 13 points against Pensacola, to play in the last three games. He played 26 minutes against the Pirates.
Johnson, a 6-foot-5 transfer from Rutgers University, made his mark early in the season when he led the team in scoring. He even scored 30 points in one of TCC’s early victories.
But he said it hasn’t been easy for him on the floor in recent weeks.
“It was very painful tonight, but I’ve got to do what it takes to help my team win,” said Johnson, who was diagnosed with the fracture just after the midway point of the season. “Tonight I just tried to do all I can.”
The Eagles needed every effort they got from Johnson, although they dominated the game early. Pensacola cut a TCC lead that was as many as 18 point to 13 with a run midway through the second half.
Johnson hit two consecutive 3-pointers during a run that put TCC’s lead to 14 before the Pirates made one more run.
“Ryan is a big piece; he can play the three or four and rebounds well, too,” said Daishon Smith, who had nine defensive rebounds in his total of 10. “Having him back relieves pressure on a lot of other players who are on the floor. We are just happy to have him back.”
TCC played Gulf Coast on Wednesday night in a game that would have given the Eagles (18-9 overall and 7-2 in the conference) at least a share of the Panhandle Conference title. They will try to get a sweep over Chipola College when they host the Indians on Saturday at the Eagledome.
A week later, the Eagles travel to Niceville to wrap up the regular season against Northwest State College in a game that could decide the conference winner.
White said Johnson will continue to see limited practice time, but he expects to have him in the lineup to end the season.
Johnson is eager to do just that.
“I’m going to give my teammates my all because they give it their all every night out,” he said. “I’m really just playing for my teammates and trying to finish this year strong because they give great effort that helps me out.”
TCC women 53, Pensacola 41
In the first half of Saturday’s doubleheader, the TCC women’s team scored 18 points in the fourth quarter to get past Pensacola 53-41.
Sabrina Banks and Eboni Watts each scored 13 points for TCC, which hit 32.8 percent of its shots. Deijah Brown led the Pirates with 12 points and eight rebounds.
The Eagles improved to 15-11 overall and 4-5 in the Panhandle Conference as they continued a push to lock up the final of three postseason berths. Pensacola dropped to 12-14, 1-7.