Clarion University's Tippin Gymnasium was the site of one of Allan Johnson's most heart-wrenching losses during his scholastic basketball career.
On Saturday, March 3, it was the site of one of his most satisfying victories.
Johnson, a 1984 graduate of Altoona Area High School and first-year coach of the Keystone High School girls basketball team, guided his squad to a 39-24 victory over Clarion High School in the District 9 Class A championship game less than two weeks ago.
"Keystone girls basketball is not very well known [across the state],'' Johnson, 46, said. "It was kind of hard at the beginning of the season, but once the girls started getting that [winning] mentality, it's been wonderful. We were 22-0 until losing to Cranberry in the [Keystone Shortway Athletic Conference] championship.''
The district title was Keystone's first since 1978.
"We set this goal at the beginning of the year,'' Keystone junior Malinda Brozenick told the Clarion News after the District 9 title win. "What we wanted the most was to go into our gym and see our own [championship] banner.''
Johnson was a member of the 1984 Altoona boys team, along with future NBA player Doug West, that lost to Meadville in the PIAA Class AAAA Western semifinals at Tippin Gymnasium on a controversial last-second call that allowed Meadville to shoot the game-winning free throw with no time on the clock.
Johnson then went to Clarion University and played baseball. He met his wife, Bonnie, at Clarion and started a family in Knox. His two daughters, Morgan, a junior who has scored more than 1,500 points in her career, and Madison, a freshman, start on the Keystone team along with Brozenick, another junior and a sophomore.
The Lady Panthers beat Winchester Thurston, 74-31, in the first round of interdistricts to improve their record to 26-1 and will now face District 7 second-seed North Catholic in the second round at 6 p.m. tonight at Butler Area High School.
"North Catholic will be the toughest team we've faced this year,'' Johnson said. "I think athletic-wise we match up with them, but they play a much tougher schedule.''
If Keystone knocks off North Catholic, it faces the winner of the Bishop Guilfoyle-Fort Cherry game on Saturday.
"That would be kind of nice to play a team from my hometown,'' said Johnson, whose mother, Clesta Slogenhop, lives in Sinking Valley.
Johnson was the Keystone junior varsity coach the last few seasons and said he reluctantly became the head coach in late November when Chad Nellis abruptly resigned. Johnson, an assistant vice president of Farmers National Bank in Knox, said he is taking coaching on a year-to-year basis.
"It's been going really well,'' said Johnson, who also has a 10-year-old son, Troy. "But I don't care for all of the stress. I get enough of that at work.''