Panthers beat Titans, fall to Lions


The Johnston boys basketball team rolled past Toll Gate 76-44 last week to extend its unbeaten record to 9-0, however, fell to Lincoln the following game to take its first league loss in a potential championship matchup.
Despite a sluggish start in the opening few minutes against Toll Gate, the Panthers would catch fire when Jayden Testa drilled a trio of three’s and finished the opening frame with 11 points. That spark fueled the Panther offense the rest of the way as it then outscored the Titans 30-6 in the second quarter to put the game out of reach the rest of the way.
“Jayden is hungry, he’s hungry every game and he’s ready to go. He’s going to have to be consistent for us going into this stretch and have some big games for us,” said Johnston coach Mike Bedrosian of Jayden Testa’s impact this season as a sniper from beyond the arc.
Jayden Testa finished the day with 22 points while Neari Vasquez scored 13 and Michael Carlino 10. Brayden Healey and Dylan Perreault led Toll Gate with 10 points each.
The Panthers took on Lincoln in a big DII showdown on Monday, with each club entering the contest undefeated and atop the standings. Despite leading at half and being tied 40-40 heading into the fourth quarter, the Panthers were unable to hold on as the Lions roared to the 63-58 win. Vasquez finished with 15 points while Carlino and Branden Testa each put up 12.
Johnston is now in its toughest stretch of the regular season, taking on St. Ray’s, Tolman and Rogers in the next three games, all of which are in the top-6 in the standings.
The Panthers are looking forward to the grind and proving that they are still the top club in the division as defending champs.
“We’re confident because we’re the defending champs. We want to beat people because we know that people have us circled. We’re not chasing anyone in our division,” said Branden Testa.
Jayden Testa added: “It’s really fun to be in these games. Nothing compares to those close games and that energy.”
Although the Panthers entered the tough stretch unbeaten, Bedrosian believes that they will be playing with a chip on their shoulder these next two weeks.
“They’re hungry. Everyone is saying that Johnston hasn’t played anyone yet, everyone is talking about everyone other than us. As far as I’m concerned, what I’ve been telling them is that we’re the team to beat. We’re the defending champs and until we’re dethroned, we’re the team to beat,” said Bedrosian, who will also be relying on Vasquez and Carlino’s leadership as they were key members of last year’s championship run. “I told them from day one that no one has the experience that we have, no one has been in those games. Nothing is going to be too big for them. They’ll just need to stay mentally tough and disciplined, they’re going to have to rally the troops. The moment isn’t going to be too big for them and they’re buying into it.”
The biggest key for the team will be how it handles adversity when it’s faced with it, according to Bedrosian.
“We’re going to see how good we really are in the next two weeks. If we can get five or six wins in the next two weeks, I’ll be happy. It’s very hard to go undefeated but it’s all about how we stay together,” Bedrosian said. “It’s going to be tough, but we’re built for it.”


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