Panthers wrap up historic season


The Johnston boys basketball team dropped a 64-63 heartbreaker to Smithfield in the Sweet 16 round of the open state tournament last week to see its season come to a close.
Johnston held a five-point lead late in the fourth quarter, but Smithfield would battle back in the final two minutes and sink a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to advance to the Elite 8.
Despite the tough loss, it was a historic season for the Panthers, who took home the Division II Championship to claim their first title since the 1996 season.
“It was a tough way to end the season, especially coming off such a high from (the Division II Championship). It took the wind out of our sails, but the kids recovered by the next day and really focused on what we accomplished this year,” said Johnston coach Mike Bedrosian.
The Panthers did, indeed, accomplish a lot. Johnston finished the season with just two league losses and took first place into the postseason. It then rolled past St. Ray’s in the semifinals, avenging one of those two defeats.
Senior captain Derek Salvatore also enjoyed one of the best seasons in program history, putting on an epic 24-point performance in the DII title game while also hitting his 1,000th point in the regular season. Other seniors like Anthony Corsinetti and Camani Batista also enjoyed big years as well.
“This was a special group. For these seniors to finish their careers out on top with me leading them, it was a very special year and a great group. This junior class, too, now they have one under their belt as well. Now they know how it feels to be on top and it will give them even more motivation next year,” said Bedrosian. “It was special for Derek to be able to come back after losing his freshman year and to win it. Anthony and Camani both transferred to Johnston for a reason, to help bring a championship to their hometown, so it was special to them as well.”
Although the Panthers will be graduating a significant core, they should be back in the mix next season as they return a group of impact juniors including Neari Vasquez and Cam Walker. Other returners will be Jayden Testa, Brandon Testa, Armani Arias and Michael Carlino.
“There were leaders everywhere. Even juniors like Neari and Cam, we got leadership from everyone, and everyone had their role. If one person didn’t have the game that they were supposed to have, then somebody else would step up. We did that in the championship and throughout the season,” said Bedrosian.
Bedrosian is hoping that this year’s championship run will pay dividends next season.
“These kids will be used to playing in front of crazy crowds. Next year, there will not be a game where they are not comfortable playing in,” Bedrosian said. “That’s the biggest thing that they’ll take away. That and that motivation to have that feeling again.”


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