Big Bend sophomore Miranda Johnson team clown, on-court killer

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Connor Vanderweyst/Columbia Basin Herald Big Bend sophomore Miranda Johnson was named first team all-region in the NWAC East.

MOSES LAKE ­— Don’t be fooled by Miranda Johnson’s “team clown” moniker.

Big Bend athletic director Mark Poth described the sophomore guard as the homecoming queen that wrecks opponents on the court. That competitive edge comes natural to Johnson, who made multiple game-winning shots for Big Bend during her freshman season.

Balance.

Knowing when to cut the tension and when to focus.

It’s what makes good teams great.

“She just understands the balance that’s great for an athlete to have,” head coach Preston Wilks said. “She’s not too over the top, you know, but she’s not too frivolous either. She just has a perfect balance, I would say, of enjoying the game, enjoying the chance to play, and the team environment, but she also knows how to be a cold, stone killer too as far as hitting big shots at the end of the game or coming up huge in big games for us.”

And to think, Johnson was a student at Utah State University her first year out of high school. Her basketball career at Olympus in Salt Lake City, Utah was done. All that was left was to earn a degree and enter the dreaded space known as “real life.”

A fortuitous phone call changed everything.

“I decided that I missed basketball so much and somehow Coach Wilks got my number and talked to him, talked to some of the players here and I just felt like I should come and I have loved it here,” Johnson said.

Coaching roots stretch far and wide.

“A coach gave me a tip and so that’s how we got onto Miranda was just through a tip from another coach and it was a great tip — one of the best tips I’ve ever gotten before,” Wilks said.

Wilks had seen it before almost a decade prior — a talented high school player who didn’t get an opportunity to play in college.

Longtime Columbia Basin basketball fans may remember Dana Bates.

The Warden standout was away from basketball her first year out of high school, but returned to play for Wilks at the beginning of his coaching tenure. Bates averaged 17 points, 10 rebounds her sophomore season and committed to play for Westminster College in 2010.

“In my 12 years, I had another girl in a real similar situation — one of my best players to ever play here was almost exactly the same thing,” Wilks said. “She went away for a year thinking that she didn’t want to play and then after a year of going to school had that fire still in her belly and came back and was a first team all-region girl for us and went on and played, so it’s almost like a carbon copy of what happened to Miranda.

“I’ve seen it happen before, especially when you’re that good and you didn’t get to a chance to go on and keep playing and mark that off your bucket list, your wish list and I think that’s what happened to Miranda — she still had that fire in her belly and wanted to be able to do something about it.”

Johnson was a reserve at the beginning of her freshman season before worming her way into the starting lineup by East Region play. A knockdown shooter with “in the gym” range, Johnson was a perfect fit for a Big Bend program that relied heavily on the 3-ball.

Johnson averaged 13.3 points per game with shooting splits of 40.3-32-83.3 her freshman year. Those numbers — outside of free throw shooting by a slim margin — have increased her sophomore year to the tune of 14.4 points per game and splits of 43.4-35.2-82.5.

That steady production, coupled with an NWAC East Region championship, helped Johnson earn first team all-region honors.

“I’ve been able to do my thing in pressure,” Johnson said. “I don’t really feel like I stress as much as I did in high school. I feel like I’ve come a long way, especially having such a long season and working over the summer and everything.”

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