The award is presented annually to a Grand Haven girls freshman basketball player who displays the same traits that Lela Johnson possessed — outstanding sportsmanship, academic achievement and a love for the game.
Merz was the lone freshmen on the Buccaneers’ junior varsity squad this season. She was second in the team in scoring at 8.3 points per game, helping the Bucs finish with a 19-1 record. Despite being one of the shortest players on the floor, she was second on the team in rebounding as well as second in steals. She shot 34 percent from 3-point range.
“She gets the game of basketball,” said Grand Haven JV coach Gary Hogeboom. “She’s very passionate about it. She’s always in the gym, trying to get better. She has a great attitude, and she always gives 100 percent."
The award is presented each year in memory of Lela Johnson, who died of a heart attack as a freshman at Grand Haven in April of 2003. Buccaneer varsity coach Katie Kowalczyk-Fulmer described Johnson as a talented, courageous athlete, who found a way to blend her faith with her love of basketball together. She was involved in First Priority, a student-led, non-denominational middle and high school campus outreach ministry.
Lela Johnson was the daughter of Judy Ketner and Jeff and Kathy Johnson.