Johnson carries Mission to D4 North title

LOWELL, Mass. –- Whenever the New Mission High School girls basketball team needed a big play during Saturday’s Division 4 North sectional final, junior guard Tianna Johnson provided it.

Johnson scored 14 of her team-high 19 points in the second half to help fifth-seeded New Mission post a 64-55 triumph over second-seeded Fenway at Lowell’s Tsongas Center.

“At certain times I decided I was gonna [take over], so I could help my team,” Johnson said. “I tried to penetrate more and dish it out to my wings. We came here to win.”

New Mission never trailed in the contest. The Titans led 18-10 after one quarter, 30-22 at halftime and 48-39 entering the fourth.

Fenway used a 13-4 run in the final quarter to trim its deficit to two points (54-52), but Johnson scored eight points in the final 2:21. She made each of her four free-throw attempts in the final minute.

“At the end we started getting scared as a team, but our coach told us not to panic,” Johnson said. “We tried to slow it down, so we don’t have to play at their pace. That let us do what we know how to do.”

Eleven players scored for New Mission, which improved its record to 18-5. Senior guard Robbi Cardoso tossed in 10 and was the only other New Mission player to score in double figures.

“It was a very hard-fought game,” New Mission coach Greg Berry said. “Hats off to Fenway.

“One of the things I can say about Tianna Johnson is she’s one of the best point guards I’ve ever coached. She looks to get others involved, but when she needs to turn it up she does. Sometimes pass-first guards forget about themselves, but Tianna doesn’t.”

New Mission will face Hull, the Division 4 South champion, Monday at TD Garden at 2:15 p.m. Hull advanced by beating Greater New Bedford, 50-38.

Fenway’s Tajanay Veiga, a sophomore guard, led all scorers with 24 points. Veiga also scored 24 points when Fenway beat New Mission, 59-51, in the Boston City League semifinals last month.

Fenway (19-4) also received a 16-point performance from junior guard Kayla Cox.

The Panthers lost even though they had a 35-10 edge in free throw attempts. Fenway made 19 of its 35 attempts. New Mission made seven of its 10.

“We didn’t do a lot of the little things when they beat us,” Berry said. “We didn’t do a good job of identifying who their shooters were. The girls were a more cohesive unit this time. When you play a team a second time you can learn a lot from your mistakes.”

“We came back and told ourselves, ‘We’re not losing to a team twice,’” Johnson added. “We played a lot better in this game.”

The Titans built a 10-point lead (13-3) midway through the first quarter. New Mission’s first-half lead peaked at 11 points, 28-17, when De’Andra Humphries scored with 1:12 left in the half.

New Mission made five 3-pointers in the first half.

“She [Johnson] actually pulled me aside at halftime and said, ‘Coach, I’m gonna take over,’ Berry said. “I want the ball in my hands. I’ll get everybody involved and we’re gonna pull this one out.’”