HANCEVILLE — Swarming around the floor, Lionel Love didn’t let an opportunity to grab a steal go to waste.
Nor did his J.O. Johnson High teammates.
Using 14 players, Johnson picked up the tempo, smothering West Limestone with unrelenting full-court pressure as the Jaguars advanced past the Wildcats 66-32 Thursday in the Class 4A boys Northwest Regional semifinals.
Johnson (20-11) advances to face rival Butler on Saturday in the regional final, with the winner securing a spot in the state tournament.
“They’re athleticism hurt us,” West Limestone coach Justin Taylor said. “We don’t see that kind of athleticism every day. They got us dribbling sideways, trying too often to survive instead of scoring.”
West Limestone (23-10) turned the ball over 24 times, and Johnson finished with 26 points off turnovers.
“Their pressure is tough,” West Limestone guard Aaron McConnell said. “I’ve beat pressure before, but we haven’t been pressured like that. We tried to give ourselves a chance, but just came up short.”
Johnson raced out to a commanding lead. The Jaguars built a nine-point cushion by the end of the first quarter, and led 29-14 at halftime.
Love and Myles Williams-Jones led Johnson with 15 points each, while Charles Woodard added 11. The Jaguars shot 54.8 percent from the field.
Austin Tuten led West Limestone with nine points, while Kyle Casteel scored eight and Nathaniel Adams tossed in six with five rebounds.
“The ending didn’t turn out how we hoped, but this team has got a lot to be proud of,” Taylor said. “We graduated a strong group of seniors — a great player (Preston Herring) and several good players — and a lot of people didn’t expect us to be 23-10 and back down here. These guys had a very good season.”
Contact Justin Graves at 256-340-2460 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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