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O'Hara senior gets a new attitude

Shanice Johnson is well aware of her critics.

Shanice Johnson is well aware of her critics.

They say that she's inconsistent. That she can lose focus and sometimes let other aspects of the game of basketball get in the way of her play.

The 6-foot-1 forward for Cardinal O'Hara is the first to admit to all of these faults, but that was the old her, Johnson says. The new Johnson is more mature and confident. She also feels as if she has everything to prove.

"I used to let the other team and players get in my head," Johnson said. "It is about staying focused and not getting overwhelmed by the refs or other things."

Johnson played her freshman year at Cardinal Dougherty and transferred to O'Hara after Dougherty closed. Since she put on a Lions uniform, she has been a starter, but that doesn't mean it was an easy transition.

Now a senior who has committed to the University of Delaware, she has taken on a leadership role with the team.

"Shanice passes the ball better than any big kid we've ever had," veteran O'Hara coach Linus McGinty said. "She can play multiple positions. She is a great athlete and is starting to shoot the ball better from the perimeter. I think her future is unlimited."

Beyond trying to prove what she can do, Johnson is adamant about the endless capabilities of O'Hara as a team.

Last season, the Lions finished 21-5, suffering devastating losses in the Catholic League semifinals to Archbishop Wood and in the first round of the state playoffs.

The defeat against Wood was particularly hard for the Lions, as they had defeated the Vikings early in the year, en route to an undefeated regular-season league record.

All but two players from last season's squad return for O'Hara, with seniors Libby Lannon, Lisa Mintzer and Mackenzie Rule, and junior Mia Farmer rounding out the starting five. Mintzer has committed to La Salle, Lannon will play at Ursinus next year, and Rule is still undecided.

"Sha is such a good player that it makes both of us better when we guard each other," the 6-4 Mintzer said of Johnson. "I personally love when she guards me.

"It makes me do things that I'm not used to doing that I can bring into the game," Mintzer added. "She is very tough, and when I get the ball down low, she isn't afraid to push me around."

Johnson credited having to guard Mintzer at practice with making her a better player. Lannon and Farmer agreed that having two players of that caliber down low makes the O'Hara attack very balanced.

As a junior, Johnson averaged about 11 points and eight boards a game. She has had big games against the Lions' biggest rivals, Archbishop Carroll and Wood, but says that playing well in high-stakes games isn't enough for her this year.

This season, she hopes to average 18-20 points, double-digit rebounds, and five or six assists.

"I can't just be useful in one game, but all of our games," Johnson said, matter-of-factly. "I should be able to do that all year-round."

First up for Johnson and the rest of the O'Hara squad is Episcopal Academy, when the Lions take part in the Blue Chip Tip-Off tournament Saturday at Carroll.

Johnson has heard the criticism.

Her rebuttal - "consistency is everything," she said - will begin Saturday.