Earlier this month on Jan. 10, Saxony Lutheran senior Becca Johnson became the first Crusaders girls basketball player since 2019 to sign with a college to play at the next level.
Johnson officially inked with Division-III Webster University in St. Louis, which is the same school former Saxony all-stater Addison Beussink became a 1,000-point scorer and the program’s third-ever all-region selection in 2022.
“This means a lot to me because it was a long, hard road with a lot of adversity in the way,” Becca said. “Finally signing and getting that out of the way takes all the weight off my shoulders for sure. I knew [Addison] — I followed her. She was an inspiration to me, and my future coach at Webster talked about her when I visited.”
What Johnson likes about Webster’s women’s basketball program the most is the team’s style of play, which is heavily focused on defense. Becca noted that it also seems like their players play for each other.
With this model, the Gorlocks have won two-straight St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SLIAC) tournament championships and are currently undefeated at 19-0.
It shouldn’t be to anyone’s surprise that Johnson is the one to break the five-year drought after the program had three signings in a span of two years. Like most college basketball signees do, Becca spends a majority of her offseason in the gym.
Becca first started playing basketball in fifth grade and travel ball when she was a seventh grader. Johnson first fell in love with the sport when she went to her brother’s practices and made her very first goal.
“That made me really excited because it took me a couple of weeks to get the ball up there,” Becca joked. “That kind of set it off for me, but my mom started a program in Advance in fifth grade. It started off like that.”
Johnson has played for AAU powerhouse Missouri Phenom’s St. Louis team ever since she was an eighth grader, having played with Southeast Dynasty leading up to her days with Phenom.
“Phenom pushed me a little more to be a better player instead of just playing all the time,” Johnson said. “We traveled to more places and got a lot more exposure, so that just kind of gave me a step ahead of everybody.”
What Johnson’s eyes were opened up to the most in her own game through playing with Missouri Phenom were her defensive and ball handling abilities. Becca said she faced many teams with Division-I talent, including Nike Elite Youth Basketball League (EYBL) teams.
“I could see I needed work because there was more pressure defense in those games,” Johnson said. “Learning how to handle the ball and how to play great defense went into that, so I learned by playing.”
Outside of that, Johnson also spends time on her own training and shooting as much as possible. “Shooting is one of the main things — you’ve gotta stay consistent in the gym,” she said.
In her final season as a Crusader, this is Becca’s second and final year as a starter and didn’t get to start her senior campaign until week three due to injury. Saxony currently sits at 12-5 and reached the First State Community Bank Holiday Classic championship game for the first time since 2018 last month.
The Crusaders accomplished the feat with a 41-37 win over one of their SEMO Conference rivals Jackson as Johnson was Saxony’s second-leading scorer in the contest with nine points.
At .706, Saxony currently has its best winning percentage since the 2018-19 season back when the Crusaders were on what was a eight-year streak of winning districts. Prior to this winter, Saxony finished 13-13 (.500) Becca’s junior year and under .390 both seasons when she was an underclassman.
The Crusaders have already faced two of their Class 3 District 2 opponents in Kelly (10-7) and Woodland (12-6), winning both games by at least 30 points at 75-45 and 63-24, respectively.
“It’s a very big relief to get back to where we were — we’re back in the class we should be in, which is Class 3,” Johnson noted. “I think we’ll go really far this year in Class 3, but I think it’ll be a battle. Knowing we have a chance at making it far in the postseason is really nice.”