Blue Devils return home with runner up finish

CHARLESTON – St. Marys’ heart and effort were on full display Saturday afternoon inside the Charleston Civic Center during the Class A state championship game, but Huntington St. Joe’s talent and athleticism proved too much as the Irish rolled to their sixth consecutive title via an 83-48 triumph.

The Irish (23-3) scored the first six points of the game and never trailed. Head coach Shannon Lewis’ squad hit 17 of 42 from downtown, establishing new records for both 3-pointers made and attempted.

Griffin Dempsey bucketed a game-high 30 points on 10 of 20 shooting from the floor. That included 7 of 14 from 3-point land as the senior tied her own state tournament record with seven made 3s, which she set during last year’s 73-32 championship game win against St. Marys (24-2).

“The difference is this year I think the experience level and the amount of seniors they have,” said SMHS head coach Howard Meeks, whose squad landed senior Kendra Walker and sophomore Ashley Hall on the all-tournament team. “There is nothing to be ashamed of here.

“They are just a great team and they deserve what they got. A bunch of little girls played hard and we battled our butts off.”

Hall tallied six of her team-high 17 points in a first quarter the Irish dominated and led 21-7. St. Joe attempted more 3s (13) than the Blue Devils had total shots (10).

Things didn’t get much better in the second period as Dempsey and Notre Dame signee Mychal Johnson, who had 15 points, nine assists, five steals and five rebounds, recorded triples to push the lead to 20 for the first time.

Walker, who finished with game-highs of 14 caroms and four blocked shots to go along with nine points, scored on a putback and after Mikaela Britton knocked down an 18-foot jumper the Blue Devils were within striking distance at 30-14 with 4:17 left before intermission. However, St. Joe ended the half on a 12-4 spurt as Dempsey closed things out with a trifecta from the top of the key via a Mychelle Johnson assist just before the buzzer for a 42-18 advantage.

“We talked about coming out with some energy and do what we do. Today the shots were falling,” said Lewis, whose squad hit 40.8 percent (31 of 76) from the field compared to the Blue Devils’ 44.4 percent (20 of 45).

“It was a bad matchup for St. Marys. Unfortunately, they probably knew that a little bit. I think St. Marys ran into a senior team. They ran into a buzzsaw.”

St. Marys, which lost the turnover battle 23-6, had its best spurt of the affair to open the second half. The Blue Devils worked the ball on offense and twice got easy buckets from Walker thanks to assists from Haley Everett and Tari Ashworth. Everett’s deuce from a Hall assist cut the deficit to 42-24 at the 5:08 mark, but the Irish proceeded to go on a 17-4 run and left no doubt about their dynasty.

“We’re always there for each other and we trust each other,” Mychal Johnson said of the key to their success.

The Blue Devils trailed 59-30 entering the final eight minutes and tallied the final seven markers of the game – five from Jenna Nichols and two by Lydia Watson.

Rachel Lee had a double-double of 21 points and 10 boards while teammate Asia Petitte finished with 13 points.

Britton netted nine markers and the Irish starters scored all but two points.

Dempsey, Lee and Mychal Johnson along with Tucker County’s Stephanie Belter and Charleston Catholic teammates Anna Whelan and Vida Imani rounded out the all-tournament team.