Even at relative rest, Tierra Johnson is in constant motion.
The sizzling Edison point guard only knows one speed and any kind of respite just doesn’t feel natural to the lightning-quick 5-6 senior.
At the foul line, every release is followed by a lurch toward the basket. Just in case of a miss, she is poised to pounce inside and get involved in the rebounding mix.
But, there were none to be had in that regard for Johnson, who combined her quickness attacking the rim with a steady touch from the line and spring at the top of a defense installed just minutes before the tip. Her overall play, coupled with the rebounding of 6-0 senior Rachel Groom, fueled Edison, No. 13 in the MSG Varsity New Jersey Top 15 power rankings, to a 48-43 victory over previously-unbeaten South Brunswick on Thursday night in Edison.
Johnson was nothing short of breathtaking for Edison (9-1), which bounced back from its first loss, a 59-33 setback to Piscataway on Tuesday, with a super all-around showing. She connected on 6 of 12 from the floor and was a perfect 9 of 9 at the line en route to 21 points.
“She paces the whole game for us,” Edison coach Amy Hansen said. “And, that’s important because we like to run, run, run.”
Such scheming is designed to draw out the best in Johnson, who sat atop a hybrid match-up zone that was introduced to the team prior to tipoff and made her presence felt within it as much as she did on the offensive end.
Johnson hit two free throws before completing a three-point play to close out the third quarter to give Edison a 38-33 edge going into the fourth. Feeding off the closing burst, she skied to make a steal and parlayed it into a layup at the opposite end to push the lead to its widest margin, 40-33, with 7:29 left to play.
Two free throws from Danielle Roberts with exactly three minutes showing on the clock drew South Brunswick (9-1) to within 42-40 but Edison countered with a pair of foul shots from Morgan Peacock and four more by Johnson over the final minute to pad its cushion to 48-40 with only 8.2 seconds remaining.
While Johnson served as the offensive catalyst, Rachel Groom flexed her muscle underneath to control the glass while toiling against Danielle Padovano, one of the state’s premier rebounders. Groom more than held her own, clearing 15 boards, including all nine Edison took down in the fourth, to go with her eight points.
“We talked about Padavano a lot before the game,” Groom said of the 6-0 junior, who came in averaging 16.2 points and 12.7 rebounds per game. “I kept thinking I’m just as tall and as strong as her so it was equal competition.”
Johnson deposited 17 of her 21 points after the break, including nine during a 20-11 effort by Edison in the third quarter. Morgan Peacock complemented the play of Johnson and Groom with 10 points.
Edison endured an offensive blitz from Ashley DeGroff. The junior guard connected on 8 of 13 from the floor (including a 5 of 7 from behind the arc) on her way to a season-high 23 points for South Brunswick. Padovano ended with eight points to go with her 11 rebounds.
Gregg Lerner covers girls basketball for MSG Varsity. Follow him on Twitter: @gregglerner