CHICAGO HEIGHTS | One of the first lockers a person encounters when entering the Bloom Township boys locker room belongs to senior Lejavius Johnson.
On Johnson's locker, for all to see, has been a list of goals for the Blazing Trojan basketball player this season, the teams to defeat and tournaments to win.
One by one, the Blazing Trojans have been knocking to-do items from that list, with an ambitious postseason goal still left to be met.
On Friday, The Blazing Trojans defeated Homewood-Flossmoor for a third time this season to capture the Lockport Sectional title and move one step closer toward the last goal on the list: a state championship.
Bloom (27-3) will travel to Normal for tonight's Class 4A Illinois State Supersectional against Edwardsville (24-5), with a trip to the state tournament at the Peoria Civic Center this weekend on the line.
"To win state has definitely been a goal among us players from Day 1," Johnson said. "Nobody was talking about us at the beginning of the season. Then, when we started winning, they would say we didn't play anybody yet. We took that personally."
Like all of the goals on Johnson's list, the senior has made it his mission to make sure he is a big part of accomplishing each item. Simply put, the 6-foot-2 shooting guard hates to lose.
"I want to be the leader, the hardest working person in practice," Johnson said. "I want to be a leader to the younger players on the team and to make players around me better."
On offense, Johnson has provided a nice perimeter counter to teammate Donald Moore's creative playmaking, averaging 12 points a game. Johnson scored a game-high 17 points last week to lead the Blazing Trojans past Thornton in the Lockport Sectional semifinal contest, and added 11 points in Friday's sectional title win over Homewood-Flossmoor.
"There's no doubt he is one of the better shooters we have," Blazing Trojans coach Jasper Williams said. "When Donald backs down a defense, LJ is his number one option because of the way he can knock down a shot. But the thing about LJ this season is he has really improved his defense."
Williams said Johnson played an "AAU-style defense" when he joined the Blazing Trojans basketball team two season ago. Williams noted that this year, the out-of-position reaching Williams used to see Johnson utilize has been replaced by solid footwork and better rebound positioning.
Despite being a guard, Johnson is second behind forward Johnny Griffin on the team this year in rebounds, averaging better than six boards a contest. The improvement of Johnson's defense has had a positive domino effect on the rest of the team, which has often faced opponents with larger frontlines this season.
"Johnny is our most active rebounder, but LJ provides a lot of defensive help on the ball and down low, which frees up Johnny around the basket to get rebounds," Williams said. "Against Crete-Monee in the championship of the McDipper tournament, we put LJ on one of their best players (LaQuon Treadwell), and his defensive play there really helped us win."
Johnson said he worked hard on his defense last summer with the belief that the success of the Blazing Trojans' defense this season would determine how far the team would go in the playoffs.
While Edwardsville was not a part of Johnson's initial to-do locker list, the state-ranked Tigers should pose a formidable challenge to the Blazing Trojans' dream of a state championship.
"I'd say we are anxious, but not nervous at this point," Johnson said of the playoff run. "After having that close game with Sandburg (for the regional title), we learned that the season can be over real quick if we aren't careful. We don't want that to happen."