When you watch Southampton’s senior point guard Israel Johnson split a pair of defenders and pull up smoothly for jump shot after jump shot, it’s hard to believe that as a freshman, according to his coach, Herm Lamison, “He couldn’t shoot it.”
The hours of practice time working on his midrange shot has paid off. Johnson scored 23 points and was his usual masterful self in distributing the ball as Southampton defeated Oyster Bay, 83-67, Tuesday night in the Long Island Class B championship/state regional semifinal at Suffolk CCC-Selden.
“I started working on my midrange shooting sophomore year. My teammates keep getting me the ball,” said Johnson, who often returns the favor as he is, in Lamison’s words, “a pass-first point guard.”
That was evident in the game-turning second quarter when Johnson had four slick assists as the Mariners (16-7) built a 45-50 halftime lead that grew to 71-47 after three before the Baymen (13-10) made a brief run in the fourth quarter.
Aaron Krzyzewski added 18 points and Elijah Wingfield 15 off the bench for Southampton, which advanced to the state Class B regional final on either Friday or Saturday against an opponent to be determined.
Mike Bizzoso scored 25 points and Kyle Schindler added 14 for Oyster Bay, which finished 13-10.
“That’s what we like to do. Distribute the ball so everyone gets a chance,” Johnson said. “We’re not looking for the good shot, but the great shot.”
Wingfield, an energetic 6-1 sophomore, was particularly effective in the second quarter. He had entered the game late in the first quarter and stole an inbounds pass and beat the buzzer to give the Mariners a 21-16 edge. But he was just getting started.
During one sequence, Wingfield banked in a putback, scored in transition on a bounce pass from Johnson, returned the favor with an outlet pass to Johnson for a layup and made back-to-back three-pointers.
“He’s been taking extra reps in practice,” Lamison said of Wingfield. “Today was one of those days where it really paid off.”
Despite playing much of the game in foul trouble, Johnson was a key part of an effective second-half trap that helped break open the game and still assumed the primarily ball handling chores.
Johnson scored 10 points in the Mariners’ 26-point third quarter, including two of his specialty pull-up jumpers and a spectacular step-through-and-jump-step floater.
“He looks to make his teammates better,” Lamison said. “Izzy is a true leader.