By Michael Carman
Peninsula Daily News
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While growing up in Neah Bay, she made the journey to Spokane along with her family to witness her brother Eric Johnson's performances with the Red Devils basketball team.
“I've always been into basketball. I wanted to be like my brother and my dad, who was always playing in tournaments,” Krista Johnson said.
As a Roughrider, she's been a member of the varsity team since her freshman year, and this trip to Yakima SunDome
for the state tournament is
The senior co-captain had a clear goal when asked about her plans for this tournament: “I really, really want to place at state and leave a part of our team in that trophy case [outside the school gym],” Johnson said.
“Now we can't just be satisfied, we actually have to do something with the opportunity.
“I want our team to be a team that people are talking about 20 years later.”
Johnson did her level best to make that a possibility in Thursday's 53-52 heartbreaker of a loss to Lynden, scoring 21 points, with four 3-point baskets and adding three steals on defense.
The Riders will have to earn a place, the hard way, with a 9 a.m. loser-out contest today against the East Valley (Spokane) Knights, who fell to 53-37 to W.F. West early on Thursday.
Port Angeles' ability to work together is the primary reason the team advanced to state and Johnson is one of the more vital pieces of the squad's machinery.
This year she leads the Riders in points per game with 12.8, assists with 3.7 per outing and steals with 3.7 each game.
“Her game this year is so multi-dimensional,” Port Angeles coach Michael Poindexter said.
But what might be the most impressive aspect of her game is one that never gets quantified on the scoreboard: her quiet confidence out on the court.
“One of the things Krista has demonstrated this year is a floor leadership — a savvy, calm, relaxed state — and she is often the person who gets us going scoring-wise,” said Poindexter.
Johnson has been a solid contributor to the Riders program since freshman year, picking up All-Olympic League Second Team honors after her sophomore and junior seasons.
This year, after dedicating herself to the art of the pass and to improving her defensive performance, she cracked the Olympic League's First Team.
“We've gone to more of a zone approach this year on defense and she has really bought into that,” Poindexter said.
“She has great hand-eye coordination and you would think that at 5 foot 5 or whatever she is, people would be able to see over her and pass the ball but she reads the ball extraordinarily well.
“Her zone sense and help-defense sense is extraordinary for a high school kid.”
This defensive understanding has led to an improved ability to find the open teammate on offense.
“It makes her a very good passer against the zone on offense,” Poindexter said.
“If I can name the kid who will find the open player in the zone along the baseline its Krista. Maddy [Hinrichs} is good at it, Kylee [Jeffers] is getting there, but Krista is gifted at that. She really looks people away and zips the ball into spaces.
“She takes things away from teams that underestimate her because of her stature.”
Johnson moved to Port Angeles midway through eighth grade, but had a pretty seamless transition to the “big city” thanks to playing for the Olympic Avalanche youth basketball team along with former riders Mariah Frazier, Macy Walker and Shayla Northern.
“Those are some of the best memories I have,” Johnson said of her Avalanche days.
“I got to meet a lot of the girls that I played with after I moved ,so I already had friends when I came and the transition was pretty easy.”
A more difficult transition was the change in coaching staffs with the departure of Mike Knowles and the hiring of Poindexter.
“It took awhile for them to internalize what we were trying to get across on offense,” Poindexter said of his early days coaching the Port Angeles girls.
“But Krista, she gets it; she gets what we are after, where her shots are going to come from, she understands where she can pass to people.
Johnson has made the most of her time as co-captain with Maddy Hinrichs this season.
“I've really enjoyed being a captain because it makes you closer with the coaches,” Johnson said.
“You get to talk to them more and it made me feel like I was more involved with the team's success.”
“I was more comfortable this year because we are all closer and more of a family [than in the past], so I wasn't pressured to do too much or to do too little,” Johnson said.
A serious fan of basketball at all levels of the game, Johnson often finds herself drawn back to her Neah Bay roots.
She was in the stands at Port Angeles High School for Neah Bay's Tri-District doubleheader last month, cheering on her former classmates, including her best friend, Red Devils standout Cierra Moss.
“I tried to bring her to [play at] Port Angeles but that didn't work out,” Johnson joked.
Johnson will be checking up on Moss and the Neah Bay boys and girls teams as they play in the 1B tournament at the Spokane Arena, but she's glad to be a Roughrider.
“I really wouldn't trade this season for anything,” Johnson said.