July 26, 2017

Packer Hall Wins Summer Hoops Series Opener As TNCJ Alum Johnson Helps Thwart Majeski

PACKER NATION: Kevin Johnson dribbles the ball in recent action for the Packer Hall All-Stars in the Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League. Last Monday, Johnson scored seven pouts as seventh-seeded packer edged top-seeded majesty Foundation in the first game of the league’s best-of-three championship series. Game two is slated for July 26 at the Community Park courts.  (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Last year, Kevin Johnson helped the Majeski Foundation win the title in the Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League.

On Monday, Johnson was trying to keep Majeski, The College of New Jersey men’s hoops team entry in the league, from taking a big step toward a second straight crown as a star guard for the Packer Hall All-Stars when the squads met in the first game of the best-of-three title series.

“It is weird, I am not used to going against them like that, I am used to playing with them,” said the 6’0, 170-pound Johnson, a former TCNJ standout guard who played his senior campaign for the Lions in 2016-17, averaging 3.5 points a game.

“It is less structured with Packer because we have no plays and we have the rotation and we want to get everyone to play. It is more freelance, it is fun.”

It was weird to see Packer in the title series against top-seeded and undefeated Majeski as it went 2-6 in regular season and was the seventh-seeded team in the playoffs

“It is definitely defense and not being lazy,” said Johnson of the team’s unlikely playoff run that started with a 58-51 victory over second-seeded LoyalTees in the quarterfinals before a 39-38 overtime win against sixth-seeded NJAC in the semis.

“Before we played defense but we would be lackadaisical. We wouldn’t make the extra effort. We want to win in the playoffs.”

Packer displayed its defensive intensity in the title series opener on Monday, leading 11-10 at halftime on the way to a 30-29 victory.

“It was just play hard and whatever happens, happens,” said Johnson, reflecting on Packer’s mentality coming into the contest.

“It was don’t try to force anything, just play defense and just play as hard as you can and live with the result.”

Johnson chipped in seven points in the win, including a critical three-pointer that knotted the game at 23-23 with less the five minutes remaining in regulation.

“When I first walked in, I didn’t get to shoot or anything,” said Johnson. “I got a little rhythm; I felt better in the second half.”

Khalid Lewis got into a rhythm for Packer, scoring a game-high 10 points, including the game-winning free throw with four seconds left in the second half.

“He brings everything, he plays hard on defense, he is our vocal point,” said Johnson of Lewis.

“He always brings us back to where we need to be mind- wise. He is always playing hard so we feed off of him.”

Playing hard to the final whistle, Packer overcame a late  29-26 deficit to pull out the win.

“It was not giving up, we were down at some points but we still played defense,” said Johnson. “We weren’t afraid to take those shots so live with the result.”

Looking ahead to the second game of the series which is slated for July 26 at the Community Park courts, Johnson knows that Packer needs to bring the intensity it showed on Monday in order to come away with a title.

“It is play just as hard, they are going to come back playing harder,” said Johnson.

“They were undefeated until today. They are going to be upset on Wednesday and we have to be able to conquer that.”