The Evening-Observer

Heary, Johnson ‘rivalry’ more fiction than fact

If hype were reality, Mike Heary would want a piece of Justin Johnson and vice versa.

Each would claim he’s the best boys basketball player in Chautauqua County, and the other is a bum.

Fredonia’s Heary vs. Jamestown’s Johnson.

They would call each other names and make fun of each other’s clothes and friends and hometowns and the way the other guy wears his socks.

Naturally, each would talk about their big games.

Heary scored 62 points a week ago against Traditional. He is averaging 42.7 points after three games.

Johnson had 50 at Hamburg last Tuesday despite sitting out the last four minutes.

His average of 33.7 points for four games includes 28 points, five blocks and 10 rebounds in a 88-57 victory over Lancaster Friday night.

Johnson now has 1,173 points in his career, a new Jamestown school record, while Heary is the all-time county scoring leader.

They could even start trash-talking about college choices – Heary is bound for Navy, Johnson for Army – and who got the most college offers.

Claims and recriminations such as these would add spice to tonight’s meeting between the two at Fredonia High.

Not that the game needs much of a boost. A capacity crowd of 800 or so is expected. Many of them will travel from Jamestown for the game.

But hype is not reality. The players don’t hate each other. In fact, from Heary’s perspective, nothing is further from the truth.

He said he and Johnson hung together last summer during the Empire State Games and – egad – became friends.

“He’s really nice, really friendly and very smart,” said Heary of Johnson. “He speaks very intelligently and is fun to be around.”

“It’s always fun to play against Mike, but it’s not me versus him,” said Johnson. “There’s eight other guys on the court.”

Indeed, the Red Raiders have an extremely capable supporting cast in 6-4 Tom Bailey, who Friday had 19 points on 8 of 14 shooting and eight rebounds, and Rob Parinella, who had 11 assists.

At 6-8, Johnson is taller than Heary, who at 6-5 is the tallest player on his team and therefore the natural choice to guard Johnson tonight.

The plans call for staying in front of Johnson whenever the ball is out on top beyond the foul-line extended.

“We front the block so I’ll need backside help,” said Heary. “I can’t do it (guard Johnson) myself.”

Heary, Johnson and Booker Coleman, a Jamestown native who attends Cathedral Prep in Erie, were instrumental in leading the Western Region team to the silver medal in the Empire Games last summer.

Truth be told, they practically won one game by themselves by pooling their talents down the stretch.

“It was good,” said Heary. “I liked playing with him (Johnson) a lot. We worked really well together. He caught all my passes and made some shots. When he didn’t have the shot, he’d kick it back out.

Off the court, they talked about how other people try to make more of their rivalry when all that matters are wins and losses.

To that end, Heary is quick to note Fredonia has won four of the six meetings since he and Johnson were freshmen.

“If that means anything,” Heary said.

That’s as close to mean-spirited as it’s going to get.

“I’m very confident with the numbers I’ve put up, so I’ll let the numbers speak for themselves,” Heary said. “He’ll let his numbers speak for themselves. Then people can draw their own conclusions.”

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