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story.lead_photo.caption NWA Democrat-Gazette/J.T. WAMPLER Sierra Johnson, a senior forward at Jasper, was named to the all-state and all-state tournament teams last season as a junior.

JASPER -- There's a presence about Jasper senior forward Sierra Johnson every time she walks onto a basketball court.

"You can tell she's one of the best players on the court the moment they step out there," said Jasper coach Jeff Lewis. "She just has that look."




CLASS Senior



NOTABLE Helped the Lady Pirates to a 31-6 record last season and the second round of the Class 1A state tournament. … Jasper was undefeated in conference play. … Averaged 12 points and 8 rebounds per game as a junior. … Was named to the All-State team. … Also named to the All-State Tournament team. … Helped Jasper win the Region I-A tournament championship.

Maybe it's her loud and constant verbal communication, the physical nature of the way she plays or her 6-foot frame that causes opposing coaches to have fits when trying to match up with her.

"I feel like I can play inside and out, so if I have a smaller person on me, I'm gonna take them inside," Johnson said. "If I have a big person on me, I'm gonna take them in the lane and go past them."

Some people might assume that someone with Johnson's size and strength would be a traditional center -- back to the basket, posting up, scoring on layups and rebound putbacks. Anyone who watches Jasper play understands that she has many more dimensions to her game, which was key in leading the program to a state tournament berth last season.

"Growing up, people always thought, 'She's the tall girl, so we have to put her inside,' but I didn't necessarily enjoy that because I was a little small," Johnson said. "I just wanted to be a player who could do a little bit of everything."

With a 36.5-percent clip from behind the 3-point line, opponents are limited in ways to adequately shut her down when she's hitting. If she's allowed to camp inside, her size creates a clear, classic mismatch that opens up layup opportunities. Leave her space, and she'll make teams pay from deep.

"People aren't necessarily excited to play against me, or to guard me or to be in a game with me, and that makes me satisfied," Johnson said.

Perhaps Johnson's biggest moment last season game in Jasper's narrow victory over Kingston in the 1A-1 Regional championship. Trailing by a point with 18.3 seconds remaining, the Lady Pirates called a set play to go for the winning shot. The sequence broke down, and she ended up with the ball on the low block. She laid it in for the game-winner.

Jasper was 31-6 last season, but was ousted in the second round of the by Mount Vernon. Johnson is determined that won't happen again as she sets sights on a career beyond high school.

"Anybody on a state championship team has an edge," Johnson said. "I'm keeping my options open; I haven't decided anything yet. I just know I want to work hard, have a great senior year, see how it turns out and hopefully be able to pick a school on the collegiate level."

Sports on 11/04/2018

Print Headline: CLASS 1A Versatile Johnson hopes to lead Jasper to state title

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