MVP Johnson collects 41 points, 13 rebounds as Nottingham wins ESCIT Massenat title

By Rich Fisher

Dec. 29: Plan on covering Darell Johnson with one guy?

Good luck.

“There’s a mismatch on the court whoever is guarding him every game,” said coach Chris “The Baron” Raba after Johnson’s epic night lifted the Nottingham boys’ basketball team to a 97-79 victory over Conwell Egan in the ESCIT Massenat Bracket championship game at Trenton Catholic tonight.

Johnson was unstoppable en route to winning tournament MVP honors. He shot 15-for-20 en route to a career-high 41 points. The forward was 3-for-5 from 3-point range and 8-for-9 from the foul line. He also had 13 points and four blocked shots and has been outstanding through Nottingham’s first five victories.

“He’s always been so versatile,” Raba said. “His problem was always confidence, now he has confidence. He played on a high-level AAU team and had a terrific summer. Confidence was always his issue, sometimes he was missing it when he shouldn’t have been, when he’s the best player on the court.”

Johnson has had no such issues this year.

“I worked a lot in the summer, I got better on the perimeter,” he said. “I was ready for tonight. I’ve been in big games like this for three years now, they don’t really faze me.”

There are several Northstars who can make that statement as the senior nucleus of Johnson, Richie Jones, Cliff Joseph and Kastro Montina can finally celebrate their first holiday tournament championship.

“It’s our first time for us playing together, so this is kind of big for us,” Johnson said. “This was on our list before the season started.”

“We told the guys beforehand, there’s three things in high school basketball – your Christmas tournament, the Mercer County Tournament and the state tournament,” Raba said. “This was the first one to check off.”

It was obviously a good omen this morning when Tina “The Baroness” Raba called up her Facebook page.

“My wife told me today something popped up on Facebook that seven years ago we won this (ESCIT title) when I was at Hamilton,” Raba said. “She showed me the picture. We beat West Windsor North on this exact day.”

Nottingham (5-0) wasted little time taking control as it scored the game’s first 12 points. Conwell Egan got within four midway through the fourth quarter but the Northstars can seemingly turn on the jets whenever they want and regain a sizeable cushion. They ended the half with a 45-31 lead, got the advantage to 71-47 in the third quarter and never let the Eagles (2-2) get closer than 12.

One of the reasons Nottingham maintains it’s intensity in lopsided games is the presence of Montina, whose motor never stops.

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“Kastro’s an unsung hero, Kastro does everything,” Raba said. “He gets every loose ball. We don’t run one play for Castro and the stat book is spread out with everything he does – steals, rebounds, points.”

Montina had 11 points and seven rebounds in this one,

“I’m the energy man,” he said proudly “I come out there and grab every rebound and make defensive plays. I know my role on this team. My role is, whenever they shoot the ball, I get every rebound and that’s how I get my points.”

“For me Cliff and Rich, he’s one of our favorite players,” Johnson said. “He just brings energy. When the energy level is low in the building, we know Kastro’s gonna come play hard. It doesn’t matter about scoring. He’s always on the stat sheet everywhere.”

That’s what Nottingham needs, as there are enough scorers on the team. And what makes them even more dangerous than just their talent, is that each player finds the open man. There were several times a guy would have a decent shot, but passed to Johnson for a better one.

“That’s one of our biggest rules,” Darell said. “We talked about it before the season. If the guy’s open, get him the ball, it doesn’t matter who it is.”

When it comes to Nottingham, whoever it goes to is a pretty good option.

Steinert falls in Warrior Classic final; Hamilton wins Florence consolation

Steinert ran into a buzzsaw at New Egypt as the host team took a 59-42 win in the Warrior Classic championship game. The Warriors led 30-11 at halftime and pulled further away in the fourth quarter.

Trevor Giordano had 11 points for the Spartans.

Hamilton West consoled itself in the Florence tournament with a 63-30 win over Stem Civics in the consolation game. Dane Riley had 19 points, Chris Charles added 16 and Tyler Beebee had nine for the Hornets.

Spartan girls win Cougar tournament consolation

Jayda Bing had 13 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals as Steinert beat Monroe, 52-39, in the Cougar tournament consolation game at Montgomery High.

Tatiana Dorner added 9 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists and 6 steals, Natalie Mehl had 7 points, 4 rebounds and 5 assists, and Erika Golik added 6 points and 10 rebounds. Leila Collazo chipped in with 7 points and 2 steals.

About The Author

Rich Fisher has been around the Hamilton Township sports scene for so long that he actually got Rich Giallella’s autograph when Giallella was still a player! Proud product of Hamilton YMCA and Lou Gehrig baseball leagues and former teammate of Jim Maher on a very average Barton & Cooney rec basketball team, Fish graduated from Nottingham Junior High and Steinert High school and has covered township sports since 1980. His goal in life is to convince Maria Prato that Jersey tomatoes are at least 100 times better than California tomatoes.