CHARLESTON - No. 3 St. Marys' dream of becoming the first non-private school to capture the W.Va. State High School Girls' Class A championship since fellow Little Kanawha Conference member Williamstown accomplished the feat in 2003 came to an abrupt end Saturday when four-time defending state champion Huntington St. Joseph made it five-in-a-row with a 73-32 victory.
Junior Griffin Dempsey led three Fighting Irish into double figures with a game-high 26 points while the St. Joseph defense limited the Blue Devils' Twin Towers - senior Audra Clark and junior Kendra Walker - to 16 points and one less rebound in defeating the Pleasants County team for the third time in four years in the title tilt on the Civic Center floor.
For awhile, at least the first six and one half minutes, it appeared as if the four-time LKC champs and winner of the W.Va. Hometown Invitational, would give the defending champs their stiffest test of the year.
Photo by Jeff Baughan
St. Marys' Audra Clark, center, and Kendra Walker, right, try to take the rebound away from St. Joseph's Mychal Johnson Saturday in the Class A state title game. St. Joseph's won, 73-32.
St. Joseph, like it has so many times this year, jumped out to a 13-4 lead behind the play of Dempsey, who scored six of her team's first 13 points.
St. Marys (25-2) fought back behind inside buckets by Walker and Clark and a pair of free throws by Abbi Fetty and trailed by only three, 13-10, with 1:32 left in the opening quarter.
Little did anyone in attendance realize, however, that Clark's bucket would be the last points by the Blue Devils for the next eight minutes while the Irish would go on a 20-0 run during that span to put the game out of reach before the intermission.
"Short and simple," said St. Marys head coach Howard Meeks II. "We couldn't get one to fall. It's that simple.
"The more they couldn't get shots to drop, the more it became a mental thing. It wasn't from a lack of effort or from what they (St. Joseph) was doing. It was just wasn't a very good shooting game for us and you can't have that when you are playing a team like them."
Asia Petitte, who finished with 18 points, got things rolling for the Irish with a short jumper and Dempsey, who finished with seven treys on the day, took a feed from Petitte and buried a triple with 25 seconds left in the quarter for the final points of the period.
Things went from bad to worse as the second quarter opened as Petitte opened with a deuce while freshman Michelle Johnson ended the run by taking a pass from Rachel Lee for a lay-in to give the Irish a 33-10 advantage with two minutes remaining until the intermission.
St. Marys finally got on the scoreboard when Clark hit Walker with an inside pass for a lay-in and freshman Ashley Hall canned her only triple of the game to send the two teams to the locker rooms with Huntington leading by 21, 36-15.
"They (St. Joseph) would do a good job of collapsing on me and I made the mistake of picking up my dribble and that allowed them to come up with some turnovers and turn them into easy points," said Fetty.
The Blue Devils offense began clicking a little in the third quarter, scoring 11 points. But, the Irish answered every points with two, or more, of their own to finish with 27 in the period and head into the final quarter leading by 37, 63-26.
"It's hard to say (just what happened)," said Clark. "For me, and I can only speak for myself, my shots just weren't falling. I thought we played hard. They just played harder."
Clark, who came into the game averaging 21.5 points per outing, was held to 10 and pulled down a team-high 11 rebounds. Fetty and Walker chipped in with six apiece.
St. Joseph's Mychal Johnson finished with another impressive triple double - 12 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists.
"We'll take the next couple of days off and then we'll begin conditioning for next season," said Meeks. "That's what we have to keep doing if we are going to be able to compete with teams like these."