Trib HSSN Boys Basketball Player of the Week: Moon’s Donovan Johnson
By: Don Rebel
Sunday, March 17, 2019 | 6:25 PM
Donovan Johnson has been scoring points all year for Moon. The senior is averaging more than 23 points per game.
However, when points are harder to come by as the regular season turns into the district and state playoffs, Johnson has continued to do his thing — score the basketball.
On Tuesday, in a PIAA Class 5A second-round game against Archbishop Ryan, Moon was held to only 44 points. However, Johnson scored 24 of them in a 44-36 victory.
“He gave us a huge lift, which he has done all season,” Moon coach Adam Kaufman said. “He is a very efficient scorer and can make plays at every level. That has been a big lift for our team this entire season.”
It was a tale of two halves for Johnson on Friday against District 3 champion Lower Dauphin.
Johnson scored 20 first-half points as the Tigers led 27-24 at the break.
The 6-foot-6 junior scored only one point in the second half.
“The first half, Lower Dauphin was in a zone and Donovan was able to find some gaps and get looks against it,” Kaufman said. “In the second half, he was face guarded and doubled the entire half in their man-to-man defense, and it made it difficult to get looks for him.”
Teammate Jioni Smith hit the game-winning shot with two seconds left in the first overtime as Moon advanced to the state semis with a 51-50 win.
A year ago, Johnson was a sophomore helping Our Lady of the Sacred Heart to its best season in school history at 26-4 with silver in both the WPIAL and PIAA playoffs.
Kaufman thinks the fact that he has been there and done that has helped him this season at Moon.
“He is such a hard-working and coachable kid that he will continue to improve throughout,” he said. “He has become a very good communicator defensively, puts the ball on the floor much more and attacks. He has been a great leader and teammate for us this season.”
Kaufman said he has enjoyed being around Johnson this year, both on and off the court.
“On the floor he is a great scorer. He can shoot it deep, put it on the floor and attack, and has a nice post game. Off the court he is just a great person to be around,” he said. “He is always upbeat and smiling and very engaging. It has been a real pleasure to get to coach him this year.”
Now, the Tigers get what they wanted, a rematch with a Mars team that came back from 16 points down in the WPIAL title game to edge Moon on a buzzer-beater.
“Mars has a tremendous basketball team,” Kaufman said. “It’s a credit to their coaches and kids to have the season that they’ve had. We feel lucky to be in this position, having a chance to play one of the best teams in the state halfway through March.
“We recognize that a lot of teams never get this chance, and hope that we can play well (Monday) night.
Andrew Recchia, Mars
The star of the WPIAL playoffs with his championship-winning buzzer-beating 3-pointer in the WPIAL Class 5A finals keeps shining bright in the PIAA postseason. Mars senior Andrew Recchia scored 23 points as the Fightin’ Planets edged York William Penn, 60-59, in a PIAA second-round game. Then three days later, Recchia scored 19 points with no nail-biting required as Mars advanced to the Final Four for a second straight year with a 73-57 triumph over Meadville.
Daren DiMichele, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart
Our Lady of the Sacred Heart is headed back to the state Final Four for a second straight season after a big week by Daren DiMichele and his teammates. In the second round of the PIAA playoffs, DiMichele scored 20 points as the WPIAL champs destroyed Lakeview, 77-36. Things weren’t as easy in the quarterfinals, but the common denominator was the senior guard pumping in points, 28 to be exact, as the Chargers knocked off District 9 champion Ridgeway, 68-54.
Devin Whitlock, Monessen
The talented freshman continues to lead as Devin Whitlock and his Monessen teammates continue to win. Whitlock scored 23 points and the Greyhounds needed all of them in a 63-62 victory over Bishop Carroll in the second round. Whitlock scored the game-winning basket with 13 seconds remaining. Then, in the quarterfinals, the flashy guard led the team with 15 points as Monessen stunned WPIAL champion Nazareth Prep, 50-46.
Don Rebel hosts the Rebel Yell podcasts for HSSN.