St. Joe back in title game
CHARLESTON -- Huntington St. Joe is playing for its fifth consecutive Class A girls basketball state championship Saturday.
However, getting into the state tournament finals didn't come without an early wake-up call from Tucker Country in the semifinals. Tucker County hung around for nearly 12 minutes of the game Friday before St. Joe (24-1) put on a pressure defense that led to a late second-quarter run in a 63-31 victory over the Mountain Lions.
Following the game, St. Joe coach Shannon Lewis praised Tucker County as well as his own squad.
"You have to give Tucker County a lot of credit," Lewis said. "They came out with a lot of intensity and got after us for a while and then we were able to put some pressure on them and do the things we like to do."
Midway through the second quarter, Tucker County cut a deficit to 21-19 before St. Joe went to its pressure and went on an 18-0 run to end the first half.
Tucker County had 15 of its 32 turnovers in the second period as the Irish seized control of the game.
St. Joe's defensive catalyst was freshman guard Mychelle Johnson with 10 steals.
On the offensive end, Mychal Johnson continued to impress with her total game, compiling 23 points, six steals, six assists and five rebounds.
Mychelle Johnson and Griffin Dempsey both scored 12.
The older Johnson spoke of how the Irish pressure gets into the psyche of opposing teams quickly.
"We're athletic so all five of us can pressure the ball," Mychal Johnson said. "We get after teams, and it's not easy for them once we get up in their face."
St. Joe's pressure forced 32 turnovers and sent the team to its sixth consecutive appearance in the Class A state championship game.
The Irish will take on St. Marys (25-1) at noon, Saturday for the championship. The St. Marys Devils beat Wheeling Central in its semifinal, 45-43.
TUCKER COUNTY 13 6 5 7 -- 31: Simmons 2, Ambrose 8, Betler 6, Evans 9, Kachmarek 4, Bonner 2.
HUNTINGTON ST. JOE 16 23 20 4 -- 63: Dempsey 12, Mychal Johnson 23, Mychelle Johnson 12, R. Lee 7, Petitte 7, Anderson 2.