A-K Valley athletes of the week: Apollo-Ridge’s Gage Johnston, Highlands’ Kalleigh Nerone

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Saturday, December 25, 2021 | 5:32 PM


Gage Johnston

Class: Junior

School: Apollo-Ridge

Sport: Basketball

Report card: Johnston scored 30 points, including 21 in the first half, to lead Apollo-Ridge to a 58-46 victory over Steel Valley on Tuesday to improve to 2-0 in Section 3-3A. He hit a half-dozen 3-pointers in the win. Johnston was the leading returning scorer at four points per game for a Vikings team that had four starters graduate.

How did it feel to lead the team to a big section win in the home opener?

It felt good. We needed a win going into the break. That’s a big thing, because we will go into the break with momentum before our Christmas Tournament next week.

What’s the feeling like for a scorer when you get into a groove like you did Tuesday?

The best way for me to explain it is that I feel like every shot I take is going to go in. Everyone around me is excited when I shoot, because they have a feeling it’s going to go in, too.

How has it been building chemistry within the team after losing the majority of last year’s starting lineup to graduation?

It’s been great. Practice is a main part of it, especially on Saturdays in the morning, because no one really wants to be there, but we go there and fight through it together to get better. The after-school practices are great, too, because of the competitiveness. That’s when everyone wants to be there, and they want to go at it.

Who would win a team-wide game of knockout?

I’m not sure, but I know it will be competitive and entertaining to watch.

Do you have any pregame routines or superstitions?

I make sure I put on my shooting shirt first and my shoes on last. I’ve done that since seventh grade and I’ve played pretty good, so I try to never change that routine. I also like to take a pregame nap.

What gift do you want the most for Christmas?

Either Yeezy or Human Race Adidas shoes.

What is your favorite school subject?

I’d say math would be the best for me, because I feel like I’m really good with numbers. It’s really easy to me. I can pick things out and put them in the right spot to solve the problem.

What are your hobbies outside of basketball?

I like to hang out with my family most importantly. Everybody needs family time, because you wouldn’t be where you are without your family.

Kalleigh Nerone

Class: Sophomore

School: Highlands

Sport: Basketball

Report card: Nerone scored a team-best 15 points and helped Highlands pull away from Derry in the fourth quarter in a 50-32 win. She is one of four returning starters for a team that’s off to a 6-0 start after winning nine games last season.

How did it feel to contribute to a big section win before the holiday break?

It was great. I felt like we executed well. We had a little bit of a slow start at the beginning of the game, but we picked it up towards the end.

What’s been the key to the team’s strong start?

Our team chemistry plays a huge part. Defensively we’re getting better every game. Everyone has so much heart and is very dedicated.

How has it been working with new coach Jason Kerr?

He’s definitely stepped up. He works us and coaches us very well. He conditions us really well. He’s putting in new offenses and has us watching film. He’s setting us up to be successful.

Who would win a team-wide game of knockout?

I’m going to say Kate Myers. She’s our best shooter, and she’s definitely the most competitive.

Do you have any pregame routines or superstitions?

Before every game I have to drink a Pepsi. It’s funny, because during pregame Coach Kerr is like, “Are you serious, Kalleigh?”. But I have to drink a Pepsi. If I don’t have it, I’m not going to have a good game.

What gift do you want the most for Christmas?

I’m going to say some Jordan 1 shoes. I want a couple pairs of shoes. I love shoes.

What is your favorite school subject?

I’m really into marketing and retail. That’s my favorite class right now.

What are your hobbies outside of basketball?

I live in the gym. I like to hang out with my friends, and we always play basketball. That’s pretty much our lives right now.

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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