The Post-Journal

It’s Not Fair

Ron Frederes was groping for an appropriate response, but he couldn’t find the right words.It was 11:30 Tuesday night, a little more than two hours after he’d watched the Jamestown Red Raiders struggle to a 61-56 victory over Frontier in a Section 6 Class A pre-quarterfinal basketball game at the JHS gym.

And, as if the team’s lackluster performance wasn’t enough to keep the Jamestown coach’s stomach churning, here he was being asked to talk about the loss for the rest of the season of his best player, Justin Johnson, who suffered a broken hand late in the fourth quarter.

“It’s really tough for me to react, “Federes said. “I’ve known about it for roughly an hour and … I’m reaching for quotes. I’m still a little bit in shock, like he is.”

Just last week, the Red Raiders were the talk of the town, having dispatched of Sweet Home and Fredonia in the span of three days, while earning the second seed in the Class A Playoffs.

“I think Jamestown’s the best team (in Class A),” Frontier coach Gary Domzalski said after Tuesday night’s game. “I think when they went to Sweet Home and beat them by 16, that’s an indication of how good they are.”

With that kind of endorsement, all things pointed toward a sectional title berth, more recognition for the team and, certainly, more for Johnson, who has quietly amassed some mind-numbing statistics this season.

But all that speculation has come to an abrupt halt. X-ray’s on Johnson’s hand after the game revealed two breaks. He’s now wearing a cast from his wrist to his fingertips. His season is history. So, too, is his high school career.

And that’s sad.

For if there was one person who deserved to finish his senior season in a blaze of glory, it’s Johnson. Projected as, a “can’t miss” player as early as junior high school, Johnson performed well — if not spectacularly — in his first three seasons. In fairness, he was part of an unsettled program, thanks to coaching changes (he’s had three different coaches in four years) and team discord that detracted from his overall play.

But this season made up for lost time.

Playing with renewed confidence and aggressiveness, the West Point bound senior poured in 632 points (a 30-point average), boosting his career total to 1,670, 13th on the all-time Western New York list. His top single games were 51 and 49 points against Fredonia and 50 against Hamburg. He now holds school records for points in a game, season and career.

“His accomplishments to this point are beyond compare and it’s going to be a number of years before there’s another Justin Johnson at JHS,” Frederes said. “Anybody that’s watched Jamestown play this year or in the last four years should have appreciated Justin and his accomplishments and I salute him.

So do I.

In his first three seasons, I wondered if Johnson was really as good as advertised. While his statistics were among the best in the area during that time, I was skeptical whether he had all the tools to take his game to the next level.

Well, Justin, you’ve delivered a facial on me.

I’m just sorry that you can’t continue to do so for another couple of weeks.

It’s not fair.


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