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Throwback Thursday: Gettysburg grad Braea Johnson believes in finishing strong

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Braea Johnson still remembers the frustration she felt, missing 16 of her first 18 shots in her first appearance at the Giant Center.

She remembers, even when her confidence began to fall away, how her Gettysburg girls' basketball teammates supported her. Keep on shooting, Warriors coach Casey Thurston said.

With 4.8 seconds left on the clock and her team tied against Northeastern in the District 3 Class AAA semifinals, she penetrated the lane and sank a soft shot that made all the misses melt away.

After the game, Johnson gave a monster quote to the Gettysburg Times.

"You see the ball coming at you from the top of the key, you see three girls coming at you, you know they're gonna foul you or they're going to block you maybe, but I refused," Johnson said. "It wasn't going to happen. Not in the Giant Center, not in the district final game, not to Braea Johnson and not to the Warriors; we were going to finish it and that was it."

Six years later Johnson is a specialist in the Army, stationed in Fort Bragg. She laughed when she heard the quote over the telephone.

"I've grown up a little bit since then," she said. "I sounded like a teenager that's a little full of themselves. But, I mean, I think back on it. I wouldn't change the way I said it. It wasn't going to happen to any of us that night; it wouldn't have mattered who's hands the ball was in."

No longer involved with athletics on a regular basis, Johnson said basketball helped her understand the value of falling into rank and playing her role as a teammate. On the really tough days with the Army, the game still sticks out in her memory.

"Your day can have a horrible beginning, but by the end, something great can happen and the whole entire day turns around," she said.

Gettysburg's 2007-08 season went similarly. Picked as a challenger to win the Mid-Penn Keystone, the Warriors instead placed fourth in the division. Using only six players throughout the playoffs, the team hustled its way to the PIAA Class AAA semifinals. The Warriors said then that the district semifinal win against the Bobcats was one of the team's best moments.

Caitlyn Lowe was the decoy on the play after finishing off a freakishly hot shooting streak.

The Warriors trailed, 56-51, with five minutes left in the game when she found her 3-point stroke, hitting four of her game-high six from behind the arch.

Lowe went on to play basketball at Division II Gannon College after a 1,587-point carer at Gettysburg. Even now, she said the feeling of being on a 3-point shooting streak is one of the best she's ever felt.

"I just always felt like when I got in that zone, it was basically unconscious," she said. "My teammates knew when I got in that zone, I was always lucky enough when they passed me the ball."

Lowe scored 24 points that night, not quite enough to keep up with Autumn Lau, who finished with a game-high 33. Her sister Amber Lau also scored 23.

The Warriors remember the fearsome twin combo that combined for nearly 4,000 points at Northeastern among the most dangerous offensive players they encountered.

With the game seemingly in hand, the Warriors still felt one final scare as Autumn fired a shot off from mid-court that banked off the rim before falling away.

"Coach Thurston dropped to her knees like, 'Oh my goodness if this girl makes the shot, we're done for,'" Johnson said.

Lowe said she'll never forget seeing her friends, teachers and members of the community in the stands at Hershey and on the road to the PIAA championships.

"That was a season that anyone would dream of," she said. "That's one thing I will always remember about my career in Gettysburg, how the community embraced us."

The Warriors' fearsome foursome from that season have spread across the country since high school. Lowe lives in Virginia; Katie Williams, the team's feisty point guard, lives in California; and Kate Jacobs, the team's main inside presence lives in South Carolina.

But when they're able to get together, it's as if they never parted.

"With small-town sports, it's more about camaraderie and about building relationships," Johnson said. "It's not about state titles and championships. It's more about making lifetime friends and mentors."

Contact Adam Michael at 717-637-3736 ext. 123

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