Ajiri Ogemuno-Johnson rolls doubles in Atlantic City

By Jake Tiger

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – In Rider men’s basketball’s 30 regular-season games, senior forward Ajiri Ogemuno-Johnson had two double-doubles.

After a 60-58 loss to Monmouth on Feb. 18, Head Coach Kevin Bagget said, “I think Ajiri’s kind of hit a wall… I don’t think he’s playing well of late.”

With a lot to prove and the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) Tournament looming, Ogemuno-Johnson knew he had to step up.

“I think in the playoffs it’s a little bit different than the regular season. I think as a senior I gotta step up and show the younger guys what it [takes] to win a playoff game,” said Ogemuno-Johnson.

Under the bright lights of Atlantic City’s Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall, Ogemuno-Johnson has been blindingly brilliant, rising to the occasion and taking his game to the next level.

In two tournament showings, the senior forward produced consecutive double-double performances while playing with calculated, controlled ferocity. 

“I think I’ve been getting beat off the glass a lot lately, and it’s just switching up my mindset to overcome the adversity,” said Ogemuno-Johnson. “Instead of getting rebounds on me, I’ll get it on you. That’s my mindset. That’s what I did.”

In the Broncs’ first game of the tournament, Ogemuno-Johnson dropped a season-high 15 points on 7-for-9 shooting, dunking on defenders and sinking a surprising number of jump shots. 

“The last month, coaches gave [Ogemuno-Johnson] a hard time… we told him that we expect more out of him. He’s been here, he’s a veteran and he responded,” said Baggett.

Ogemuno-Johnson also notched 12 rebounds to make the double-double, matching his season-high.

In the Broncs’ second game of the MAAC Tournament, they took on top-seeded Iona and Ogemuno-Johnson came up big again when tasked with guarding Iona’s Nelly Junior Joseph, a member of the 2021-2022 All-MAAC First Team.

Junior Joseph was limited to 11 points, as Ogemuno-Johnson exploited his weaknesses and stifled many layup and dunk attempts.

“Going into the game, [Baggett] emphasized playing hard,” said Ogemuno-Johnson. “My mindset was just to just fight [Junior Joseph] as much as I can… I tried to force him to his left, use his weak hand as much as possible.”

Ogemuno-Johnson bested Junior Joseph on the boards collecting 12 rebounds, doubling his opponent’s total, and earning his second double-double of the tournament.

In the blink of an eye, Ogemuno-Johnson improved every single facet of his game and has his Rider Broncs riding high into the semifinals after 11 years and a 71-70 thrilling victory.

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