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Platte-Geddes' Coby Johnson poses for a picture in the locker room at Platte High School Thursday. (Sean Ryan/Republic)

Platte-Geddes’ Johnson named Daily Republic player of year

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The Platte-Geddes boys basketball team has been impressive during state tournament time the last two seasons, and much of that is because of Coby Johnson.

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The forward has helped the Black Panthers to first-round upsets at the state tournament each of the last two years, and that included a championship-game appearance this year. Johnson and Platte-Geddes finished runner-up, falling to James Valley Christian in the title game.

“Coming into the season I was going to be really happy if we made it to the state tournament, let alone take second,” Johnson said.

The 6-foot-5 junior nearly averaged a double-double this season, scoring 20.2 points and grabbing 9.7 rebounds per game. He added 2.3 steals and 2.2 assists per game, while making 48 percent of his field goals and 73 percent of his free throws. Aside from being a presence inside for the Black Panthers, Johnson was able to step out and shoot from beyond the three-point line, knocking down 49 three pointers on the season.

“Besides being a statistical leader for us, he is a vocal leader as well,” Platte-Geddes coach Frank Cutler said. “I’m just glad he’s on our team. We were counting on him.”

For his performance this season, Johnson has been named The Daily Republic boys basketball player of the year, an award voted on by the newspaper’s sports staff. All area boys basketball players in the newspaper’s coverage region were considered. Players are given five points for a first-place vote, four for second, three for third, two for fourth and one for fifth.

Seven players received points in the poll, with Johnson receiving two of the three first-place votes and a total of 14 points.

Other players receiving votes included Ethan’s Blake Bartscher (12), who received the other first-place vote, and Camden Myers (10), Hanson’s Jordan Marquardt (6), Chamberlain’s Skyler Bertram (2), Mitchell’s Beau Brown (1) and Mount Vernon/Plankinton’s Deric Denning (1).

Johnson and the Black Panthers have made a recent habit of showing up and playing their best on the biggest stage.

“Most of the guys look to me on the team and I try to do my best to be a good leader,” Johnson said. “I don’t go into games thinking we are going to lose. When you do that, you probably will.”

Platte-Geddes won its first-round game at state last year as a No. 8 seed — the lowest seed in the event — at the Class A tournament and finished third. This year, Platte-Geddes went into the tournament as the seventh seed and took out second-seeded Langford Area and sixth-seeded Ethan to earn a spot in the Class B title game.

The Black Panthers were seeded at the bottom of the bracket both years but showed no fear, playing like a team with the confidence of a champion.

In the semifinals this year against Ethan, Johnson stole the ball with three seconds remaining when his team was leading by two points. The final buzzer sounded and Johnson ran to his bench to celebrate with his team, thinking the game had ended, but it was not. A foul was called with less than one second left, and Johnson had to compose himself for a pair of free throws. He made the first, but missed the second and a full-court heave by Ethan’s Tyler Myers nearly went in. But Johnson and his teammates celebrated again, this time knowing they would play for the state championship.

“It was a surreal feeling,” Johnson said. “There was a little doubt that creeped in when the foul was called and the game wasn’t actually over.”

Johnson scored 28 points in the title game loss and was named to his second straight all-tournament team.

Coming up short the past two seasons has left Johnson and his teammate with motivation for next year. Shortly after falling in the Class B title game on March 22, Johnson said there is one goal for his senior season, and that is to walk away with a state championship.

The Black Panthers, who finished 19-7 in 2013-14, also return Carter Dykstra next season. Dykstra gave Platte-Geddes a strong scoring punch to compliment Johnson after transferring from Dakota Christian prior to the school year.

“Carter was great for us this year,” Johnson said. “Whenever I had a bad game, he was there to step up and carry us.”

With a strong core returning for next season, the Black Panthers will have a tough time sneaking up on their opponents, and Johnson knows that added pressure comes along with expectations.

“Everybody is going to remember a gut-wrenching loss like that and we will use it as motivation for next year,” Johnson said about what his team learned from the Class B title game loss to JVC.

“When we walk into the gym, people are going to know who we are. There is a lot of pressure with that, but it’s going to be fun.”

With college being more than a year away, Johnson said he hopes to continue to play basketball at the next level. Dakota Wesleyan University and Mount Marty are among the schools already showing interest.

Here’s a look at the other six players who received points in the voting:

• Ethan’s Blake Bartscher helped lead the Rustlers to a fourth place finish at the Class B state tournament. The senior point guard averaged 18.7 points, 7.5 assists and 3.2 rebounds per game. He earned a post on the Class B all-tournament team and won the Spirit of Su award. He received 12 points in the voting, including one first-place vote.

• Ethan’s Camden Myers averaged a double-double for the Rustlers in 2013-14. The sophomore averaged 18.3 points and 10.2 rebounds per game and made 70 percent of his field goal attempts int he regular season. He received 10 points in the voting.

• Hanson’s Jordan Marquart led a potent Beaver offensive attack in 2013-14. He averaged 18.1 points and 5.7 assists per game, while also grabbing 4.8 rebounds and over one steal per contest. He received six points in the voting.

• Chamberlain’s Skyler Bertram led the Cubs to a 16-6 record and a runner-up finish at the Region 6A tournament. Bertram averaged 22.3 points, 5.1 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 2.2 steals per game. He made 51 three pointers and received two points in the voting.

• Mitchell’s Beau Brown stood out for the Kernels despite a one-win season. The junior guard averaged 15 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.7 assists and two steals per game. He was named to the all-ESD first team and received one point in the voting.

• Mount Vernon/Plankinton’s Deric Denning averaged 19.9 points per game for the Titans this season, while adding 3.5 rebounds and 3.3 assists per contest. He received one point in the voting.

Past winners

1995-Chris Janssen, Emery

1996-Cody Vollmer, Lyman

1997-Mike Miller, Mitchell

1998-Mike Miller, Mitchell

1999-Doug Hall, Scotland

2000-Jared Reiner, Tripp-Delmont

2001- Matt Jones, Alpena-Wessington Springs

2002-Ben DeWaard, Stickney

2003-Nathan Graves, Mitchell Christian

2004-Mike Steffen, Mount Vernon

2005-Preston Broughton, Corsica

2006-Danny Fathke, Avon

2007-Matt Malloy, Parkston

2008-Jordan Miller, Mitchell

2009-David Maxwell, Parkston

2010-Jesse Tolsma, Mitchell Christian

2011-Tucker Volesky, Mitchell

2012-Jade Miller, Mitchell

2013-Jesse Taylor, Kimball/White Lake

2014-Coby Johnson, Platte-Geddes

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