Despite a nagging bruise on her knee, there was no doubt that Western's Dana Johnson would play in her third game in as many days yesterday.
"I wanted to play, but I did take it easy," Johnson said after the No. 1-ranked Doves (3-0) had toppled University City (Pa.), 62-30.
Johnson, The Evening Sun All-Metro Player of the Year last season, had scored 26 points and grabbed 32 rebounds in Friday's 71-31 victory over Spalding in the Greater Baltimore Women's Basketball Invitational Mixer at Notre Dame College. Then she got 26 points and 23 rebounds in Saturday's 63-47 victory over Coolidge (D.C.). She scored only six yesterday.
Johnson easily could have contributed more, but the Doves jumped to a 20-4 lead and were never really threatened by University City. She sat out a lot with a bag of ice draped across her knee.
"It's not serious, but I've gotten it hit so many times, it has started to hurt more," said Johnson, a trimmer and slimmer 6-foot-2 center.
"Yes, I lost about 15 pounds, just playing all day long, every day this summer," she said. Coach Breezy Bishop cited team speed as a key factor in the Doves' success.
"People just don't realize how quick our tall girls are," said Bishop. "Dana and Kelly Evans [6-1] can move up and down the court. University City was supposed to be very fast, but they just couldn't stay with us."
Johnson, who signed early to attend the University of Tennessee next fall, said her summer schedule really helped her lose the weight without any effort.
"I was playing AAU ball, playing in the women's league at CCB [Community College of Baltimore], went to the Blue Star Camp and played in a tourney in California. I just really enjoyed the whole summer."
As for the pressure of choosing a college, Johnson said there really wasn't much of it.
"Coach Bishop told me to get my goals in mind, then keep them in mind as I looked at each school," she said. "I knew I wanted to be All-America, play for a national champion and, if all went well, play in the Olympics in 1996. I wanted to major in business, so that was the first criteria. Each school I looked at had an accredited business program.
"In the end, it came down to my liking the coaching staff and players at Tennessee."
Johnson said her parents, Portia and Bobby, played a very supportive role in her decision by not giving her their opinion. "I probably would have gone where they wanted me to, rather than where I really wanted to," she said. "I am very happy they let me make the decision."
Four years ago, a tall but overweight freshman could not have made such a mature decision.
"I sat on the bench and got to play a little back then," said Johnson. "Mostly, I learned from players like Comalita Haysbert and Shannon Anderson every day in practice. It wasn't until the end of that freshman season that I decided I really wanted to play."
That was apparent yesterday. Johnson easily could have sat out, but chose to help her teammates.
Perhaps the biggest benefactor was sophomore Kisha Ford, who ended with a game-high 26 points and five rebounds. On one fastbreak, Johnson pulled up at the top of the key and fed Ford sprinting to the basket. A defender went up with her for the block, but Ford flipped in a running hook.
"Kisha invents shots," said Western assistant coach Herb Simon.
"That [Ford's shot] didn't surprise me," said Johnson. "Kisha makes them and I expect her to."
Bishop was pleased that her reserves had the opportunity to play and did well.
"If we have a weakness, it's our bench," she said.
And Johnson's Achilles' heel, er, knee.