Dolls, not balls, captured Gabby Johnson’s interest when she was younger.

“I grew up watching my brothers play sports, but that was never my thing,” she said.

Then, during school years, Johnson tried out and made the girls basketball team.

“That’s when I started playing with my brothers and was one of the guys on pickup teams,” she said. “The more I played, the more I loved it.”

That, in turn, led to Johnson making the Mountain Pointe girls basketball team as a sophomore.

But those early years weren’t especially exciting for the Pride senior.

Mountain Pointe’s girls team was 9-20 her sophomore season and 3-21 last year.

When the regular region play started this season, the Pride already had won more games than the past two years.

“Oh, yeah, it was frustrating going through all those losses,” Johnson said. “But I stayed with it because I love basketball and I love the girls on our team. If everyone works hard and sticks with it, it’s bound to lead to success.”

Johnson missed most of the summer season with a hairline hip fracture that was stubborn to heal.

“She played a couple of games in our first summer tournament, then got hurt again and didn’t play the rest of the summer,” said Mountain Pointe coach Trevor Neider.

It took a little while for Johnson to get her legs back under her this fall, but she never lost her shot.

Through the first 16 games this season, she is averaging almost 10 points per game with 14 rebounds and 11 steals.

This season the Pride has moved out of the Central Region, where they faced teams like Desert Vista, Corona del Sol and Basha, and into the East Valley conference, with Mesa Skyline, Desert Ridge, Westwood, Casa Grande and Tempe Marcos de Niza.

Another change this season was on the coaching staff when Neider took over the program.

“I coached Gabby on junior varsity, so that helped,” Neider said. “She can score and plays great defense.”

The Pride swept through the five games of the Queen Creek Turkey Shoot-out tournament in November and with the exception of losing to a team from North Torrance, Calif., held its own in the national Nike Tournament of Champions in Chandler.

“The Queen Creek tournament built our confidence for sure,” Johnson said. “We did pretty well in the Nike, too. It seems like the more games we play, the more confident we get and that’s contributing to our team getting better.”

Mountain Pointe lost to rival Desert Vista and Chandler Highland earlier this year, but Johnson said it was a moral victory not to get blown out by those powerhouses.

“We’re working our way up,” she added. “Our goal is to be one of the top teams in the state this year, and we’re goin’ for it.”

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