Johnson provides spark for St. Joseph
HUNTINGTON -- Mychal Johnson scored the final six points of the third period Friday to break a tie and give Huntington St. Joe a six-point advantage over Eastern from Meigs County, Ohio.
The junior got the first two points on a floater from in the lane. The second two points came on free throws. She followed with a steal and a layup. Johnson continued that pattern -- find seams and shots in the lane and/or open teammates for dumpoffs after drawing defenders -- in the fourth period and her play propelled the Lady Irish to a 70-56 win over the Lady Eagles at St. Joe's gym.
"She makes the decisions and kept making the right ones," St. Joe coach Shannon Lewis said. "She missed a few (shots) in the first half. She got her legs under her and took off. She's a special player."
Johnson, who's given a verbal commitment to Notre Dame, finished with a game-high 26 points. Rachel Lee added 14, Griffin Dempsey 11 and Asia Petitte 10.
On Petitte's second basket in the third period, she and Johnson executed a perfect pick-and-roll.
More than once, on drives to the basket, Johnson drew a crowd and flipped the ball to an open Lee on the wing who would hit from behind the arc.
"I like to get my teammates involved," Johnson said. "When the ball's in my hands, I'll drive and look to score first. If the defense comes over, I'll kick the ball out to the open player. I've got confidence in my teammates. When Rachel's on, she doesn't miss."
St. Joe, 12-1 and ranked No. 1 in Class A in West Virginia, is off until Friday, Feb. 1, when the Lady Irish take on Scott County (Ky.) at Spring Valley High School. On Saturday, Feb. 2, the Lady Irish will meet Bluefield at Spring Valley.
Eastern returns to action Saturday against Boyd County at Big Sandy Superstore Arena. Game time is 1:30 p.m. The game is part of the final day of action in the St. Joe Invitational. Snow and difficult travel conditions wiped out Friday's games in the SJI.
The Lady Eagles (14-3) got 20 points from senior Jenna Burdette, who's committed to the University of Dayton. She got all 10 of her team's points in the fourth period when St. Joe pulled away.
"We tried to shadow her and deny her the ball," Lewis said of having Mychelle Johnson guard her. "It worked well. The defense picked up from the middle of the third quarter on. We quit worrying about fouls. We were going to put pressure on if we weren't in foul trouble."
Eastern coach John Burdette knows what Mychal Johnson can create. The key is finding a way to slow her down and he said it's not easy.
"We know what she can do. We know what they can do," Burdette said. "She's going to get hers. When you get tired, you get mentally weak. We never kept anybody on her."
The game was a reunion of sorts as several players from the teams play AAU ball together.
Eastern's game Saturday is its third in three days. A game on Monday will make it four in five days.
"That's why we came to play," Burdette said.
Johnson and Lewis said St. Joe's burst in the fourth is a sign the Lady Irish can respond in tight situations.
"In games like this, when that situation comes up, we don't panic," Lewis said. "We responded. This is big for them, too. It gets them ready for their tournament run."
"Sometimes we slump in games," Johnson said. "We stay together and play our way out of it. We're in so many big games. It's an ongoing thing. The goal is to keep the focus on."
EASTERN 18 10 18 10 -- 56: Hawley 9, Parker 7, Burdetta 20, Keller 7, Rigsby 8, Swatzel 5.
HUNTINGTON ST. JOE 13 14 25 18 -- 70: Dempsey 11, Mychal Johnson 26, Mychelle Johnson 5, Gale 4, Lee 14, Petitte 10.