It took overtime and a 22 point night from sophomore guard Aliyah Johnson, but the North Stars outlasted Highland Tuesday night to complete the perfect league season and win the program's first outright league title in 14 years. "We knew it was going to be a tough fight and we told them we had to stay in it to the very end and it came down to overtime so I'm very proud of them," said third year coach Briana James (14-11, 8-0 record).
14 years ago James was on the JV team and saw first hand how the Stars got it done. "We're not always the favorite team but our kids give a good effort and they work really hard," she said.
This time around one player has made things a little easier. Johnson is averaging 22 points, 11 rebounds and 5 steals per game but coach James says her impact goes beyond the box score. "Her basketball IQ is just off the charts and that in itself. She's kind of a team leader naturally so having someone on the court like that that other people can go off of and feed off of."
This has been the first season players have fed off her energy, not because she's only now playing hard, instead because she's a transfer from Kern Valley. "It's different. A lot more people," Johnson said of her time in Bakersfield. "More competitive. It really is."
Even after winning league James thinks her girls will enter the playoffs as the underdog but thinks it's a situation Johnson and the rest of the Stars can thrive in. "I think that takes the stress off of us and pressure and our kids do better whenever they're loose and having fun," she said.