Lincoln-Way East girls basketball standout Taylor Johnson has been called many things by many people.
Honor roll student. People-to-People Ambassador Program nominee.
And now she will be called MVP, too.
Johnson, a senior guard and Loyola University recruit, was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player after leading East to a 48-33 victory over district rival Lincoln-Way North in the championship game of the Medieval Classic Thursday night on the Griffins’ home floor in Frankfort.
“It’s a big honor to have people think I’m such a good player and deserve the award,” Johnson said. “So, that means a lot.”
She made two 3-pointers and scored 10 of her game-high 17 points in the first quarter as East (11-0) raced to leads of 9-2 and 18-4. Her ball-pressure defense on one end of the floor prevented North from running its offense. And her passing on the other end set up her teammates with scoring opportunities.
North packed its defense in during the early going in a bid to take away what Johnson does best—drive to the basket.
The strategy backfired when Johnson started raining down 3s.
“Yeah, it’s much more comfortable,” she said of her outside shooting. “I worked on it over the summer a lot, and I think it’s really starting to show in my game. So, now, I like to shoot and drive instead of just driving.
“I don’t think they were ready for me to shoot the ball from out there. They were used to me driving over the past couple of years. It caught them off guard.”
The title for East was its fourth straight in the Medieval Classic and third consecutive over Lincoln-Way North.
“We’re excited,” East coach Jim Martin said. “We like our tournament. We like playing here at home, getting four home games. We play whoever’s here with us. And it was a great championship game.
“We were glad to see North. I was happy for Jim (North coach Jim Nair). But we just came out and tried to put defensive pressure on them.”
Johnson was running at the Phoenix guards as soon as they approached the mid-court stripe. Her work—coupled with that of teammates Amy Jacobsen, Nathalie Hill, Caitlin McMahon, Meaghan McMahon and Marissa DeGroot—helped the Griffins force nine North turnovers in the first half and limit the Phoenix to 2-of-8 shooting.
East will carry the momentum of that effort into the New Year.
Johnson wants to be called one more thing before she departs the Griffins.
“I think we’re a good team,” she said. “I think we can take on any competition right now. But I think we still have room to get better, though. Being ready for the ball is one area because a lot of teams we may not be looking for the ball when I’m trying to push it.”