NEGAUNEE — “I was actually a big gymnast when I was in elementary and into middle school. I fell in love with the game and I ended up moving away from gymnastics and I’ve been playing since,” Aleda Johnson said.
Aleda Johnson has been playing on the Negaunee girls varsity basketball team since ninth grade. When she was a sophomore, her sister Clara, a freshman, was brought up from the JV team, making it the first time they got to play basketball together since middle school.
“It was so fun. I realized that it’s a lot different when you really know somebody to play with them. It was really fun, and ever since then, whenever we play together, there’s always a little connection there,” said Clara Johnson.
The Miners now have one of the most potent backcourt combos in the Upper Peninsula, which makes head coach Brandon Sager’s job a lot easier.
“Their competitive spirit is relentless. A lot of times in our pre–season workouts when I put them against each other, they’re usually rolling on the floor, one of them is getting injured at some aspect. They’re great kids. They push each other to be as good as they can be and be the best. It’s always good because you always know that one of them is going to be pulling the other one or pushing the other one along,” Sager said.
So what is it like playing with your sibling? The sisters say they feel like they have an advantage over everyone else.
“We both know each other and what we’re going to do. We know each other’s moves like they’re our own moves. When we’re playing defense on each other, it’s like ten times harder because we know what we’re going to do. We know we have to be more crafty on offense to be able to beat the other person,” Aleda said.
“We have the same ideas, so when we’re trying to pull our team together, we know we’re always on the same page, so it’s a lot easier to lead the team,” said Clara.
And off the court, Aleda and Clara get along a lot better than most siblings do.
“We’ve never been like “who’s going to score more tonight?” or “who’s going to get more defensive stops?” It’s not like that with us. We share the same room. We sleep in the same bed so we’re really, really close,” said Aleda.
Last year, the Miners won a conference and district title. But this year, Clara wants to help her sister win a state championship in her final year at Negaunee.
“She puts so much time in the off-season and in-season. Every day, she shows up and works so hard. The whole team, we got to do it for her, Hailey [Fezatt], all the seniors. Because they put so much time in and love the game and they deserve to win something big,” said Clara.
“Even last year, just to win a district championship, to share that with someone that lives with you and to be able to go home and know that we talked about for weeks upon weeks. We’re still talking about it and we’re still talking about the possibility of going far this year. Even just thinking about it makes us so excited. It’s amazing,” Aleda said.
Negaunee will be back in action tomorrow at Iron Mountain.