Irish girls cruise by Man
CHARLESTON -- After seeing some other teams struggle throughout the early portion of the day, Huntington St. Joe coach Shannon Lewis stressed to his team the importance of getting off to a good start.
And the Irish players listened well.
Class A top-seed Huntington St. Joe set several record-breaking marks Wednesday evening en route to an 89-29 win over Man in the first round of the Girls Basketball State Tournament in the Charleston Civic Center.
"It looked like teams had struggled early so our focus was to come out, be focused and do what we do early," Lewis said. "Obviously, we got off to a good start and our kids were focused. I'm really proud of them."
The game was basically over from the onset as Huntington St. Joe kept Man without a point in the first quarter in the midst of putting in the first 32 points.
Man's Summer Sword finally got the Hillbillies on the board with 7:26 left in the first half, but the Irish answered with a 3-pointer from Griffin Dempsey, who had 21 points before halftime and finished with a game-high 27 while adding six steals and five assists.
Dempsey hit five 3-pointers, including one from around 23-feet out in the third quarter off a cross-court feed from Mychal Johnson.
For many people from around the state it was the first chance to see the No. 1-ranked Irish (23-1) up close and Mychal Johnson, a junior who has committed to play at Notre Dame, took full advantage of the opportunity to show why she's considered the state's best all-around player.
Johnson finished just one steal shy of a quadruple-double, ending the day with 17 points, 14 assists, 10 rebounds and nine steals.
The assist mark was a single-game record in the Class A tournament. She had 10 assists at halftime while attempting only five shots.
"I just go out and play," Johnson said. "I don't try to score first or pass first. Whatever is there, is there."
Lewis said that type of mentality is what makes his team special.
"They aren't counting points, they aren't counting assists, they aren't counting steals," Lewis said. "They just play. Like Mychal said, whatever is in front of them, or like Griff. She knows when to pull up."
Both Dempsey and Johnson said being familiar with the Civic Center was a bonus. The Irish have won the last four state championships.
"It's so much more comfortable than our freshman year," Dempsey said. "It's not as nervewracking. I remember freshman year coming out getting scared. Now, it's just another tournament."
Well, it was for everyone except Mychelle Johnson, Huntington St. Joe's lone freshman starter.
Undaunted by the surroundings, the younger Johnson finished with 16 points, five rebounds and five steals.
That included a 3-pointer to start the game scoring barrage.
"I was nervous, but I just pulled through," Mychelle Johnson said. "I needed that start to be good to help me get through so I wouldn't be nervous. It was fun."
Asia Petitte also finished with a double-double for the Irish, scoring 15 points and grabbing 10 rebounds with six being on the offensive side.
The Irish now await the winner of the Williamstown-Tucker County matchup for Friday's 1 p.m. Class A semifinal.
Summer Sword finished with 13 points to lead Man (15-11), who also got 10 points and nine rebounds from Taylor Whited.
MAN 0 13 6 10 -- 29: Sword 13, Whited 10, McCoy 6.
HUNTINGTON ST. JOE 29 22 33 5 -- 89: Dempsey 27, Mychal Johnson 17, Mychelle Johnson 16, Petitte 15, R. Lee 8, Jenkins 2, B. Lee 2, Ca. Gale 2.