MONROE — Rayville High’s La’Dencia Johnson cried when she heard she had been selected as the 2013 Farm/Bureau Miss Basketball by the Louisiana Sports Writer’s Association.
Winning the award was more than the senior forward ever expected.
“It’s overwhelming,” Johnson said. “Words can’t explain it.”
Johnson said her goal this season had been to get past the second round of the Class 3A bracket. The Hornets did that and much more.
Led by 6-foot Johnson in the post, Rayville coasted through the playoffs with an average margin of victory of 32 points, including a 22-point win over No. 1-seeded Albany in the semifinals and a 33-point win over No. 2 Baker in the finals, on its way to the school’s first girls state championship in Class 3A.
Through the playoffs and the regular season, Johnson consistently posted solid performances. She averaged 18.5 points, 13.5 rebounds and seven blocks per game.
She had six blocks and 17 rebounds in the championship game. Rayville coach Amber Obaze-Ford said Johnson’s defensive play helped set the tone against Baker.
“I was just amazed at how she could time those balls and not foul,” Obaze-Ford said. “She was hitting them off the backboard. She said no one was passing through there on her.”
Now that Johnson has conquered the high school court, she faces a new challenge.
While every Louisiana Miss Basketball since 1996 has played for a four-year university, Johnson is still looking for a college home.
She’s received no Division I basketball offers, and community colleges started calling only after Rayville won the state championship.
Obaze-Ford, a former Louisiana Tech player, said she knows Johnson has what it takes to find success at the next level. She credits Johnson’s strength, speed, ball handling and vertical jump that can reach the rim as signs she physically can compete, but she said Johnson’s intangibles make her a special player.
“She actually sees the floor in the post,” Obaze-Ford said. “A lot of posts can’t pass outside of it, but she can catch and make that next pass because she’s seeing everything.”
Johnson also grew into the leader of a team full of seniors. She helped the older players adjust to first-year coach Obaze-Ford’s new scheme, which eased early tensions between the team and their new coach.
Obaze-Ford said that leadership showed on the floor, too, because she made sure everyone went to the right positions.
“She’s directing more than you see because she’s at the post,” Obaze-Ford said.
Now Johnson just hopes to keep doing what she’s always loved: playing basketball. She said members of the Rayville community, which rested their dreams of a title on Johnson’s shoulders, continue to be supportive as she searches for a college.
“As I kept playing, people kept saying, ‘You’re going to make it. You’re going to be somebody,’ ” Johnson said. “I just pushed myself and here I am. I just hope I get a chance to get into college and play.”