Shelbyville High School senior Ella Johnson prepares to grab yet another rebound. | photo by ISABELLA MATNEY

Golden Bears fans knew to expect it: Ella Johnson would be on the floor at some point any given game.

“She’s a hustler. She’ll go after the ball no matter where it is,” Shelbyville High School girls basketball coach Rebecca Hoefler said.

Johnson, the daughter of Curt and Amy Johnson, set the school’s single season rebounding record on the second to last game of the regular season last month, senior night against Whiteland. Her 233 rebounds eclipsed the previous record of 210 set by 1990 graduate Sharon Knecht.

It was a far different role from her days of bringing the ball up the court for the St. Joe Lions, where she and twin sister Lilly were part of the city elementary championship team and runners-up their fourth and fifth grade years, respectively.

When Johnson reached high school, though, there were multiple older players at her position.

“Hoefler told me, ‘When you do get on the court, you need to get rebounds,’” Johnson recalls. “I realized that being aggressive and going for rebounds would get me minutes.”

The advice was typical from Hoefler, who has turned the Golden Bears around over her five seasons.

“Younger kids like to shoot,” Hoefler said. “But by the time they’re juniors and seniors, I make it very clear what their role is on the team for us to be successful. The best thing about Ella, and the reason she set the record is because she knew her role on the team. 

Johnson, who played with prolific scorers Kylee Edwards, who graduated last year, and Ava Wilson, found plenty of success despite starting only one year, in which she set the record.

“This was my favorite year. I finally got to start and we had a really good team and good team chemistry,” Johnson said. 

With only three returning players with varsity experience next year, Hoefler said she will miss this group of graduates, which included the Johnsons, Wilson, Ellie Simpson and Lilly Marshall.

“We’re losing the senior mindset, which is going to be tough to fill,” Hoefler said. “We had five seniors who pushed every day in practice, knew the competitive level necessary and knew what they had to do to be successful on top of Ava scoring and Ella rebounding.”

Johnson said she will miss both soccer and basketball when she goes off to college next year. 

“It’s really weird not playing, so hopefully I can find a team club on campus.”

She is in the process of narrowing her college options, and considering studying philosophy to enter the field of law.