CHARLESTON — Huntington St. Joe, in its drive for five straight championships, showed why they might be the best girls’ basketball team in the state regardless of classification.
Move over Westside.
Move over Spring Valley.
Class A No. 1-ranked and top-seeded St. Joe rolled to an easy 60-point win over Man on Wednesday evening in the opening round of the Class A state tournament at the Charleston Civic Center as the Irish won 89-29.
St. Joe, led by dynamic junior star Mychal Johnson, who has already committed to Notre Dame, led Man 29-0 after one quarter and never looked back. The Irish then outscored the Lady Billies 22-13 in the second to take a commanding 51-13 lead. In the third, a 33-6 advantage by St. Joe made it an 84-19 ballgame.
It looked like the Irish might break 100 but St. Joe, the four-time defending state champs, finally emptied the bench.
The game was essentially over from the opening tip, however, the Irish dribbled down court after gaining control of the tip and missed a layup.
It didn’t matter as St. Joe scored virtually at will throughout the game.
Johnson nearly had an ultra-rare quadruple-double in the game as she finished with 17 points, a state-record 14 assists, 10 rebounds and nine steals. She was just one steal away from getting the quad double. The triple-double, however, will do.
Her 14 assists broke the Class A state record of 12 set by Montcalm’s Stephanie Davis in 1987.
St. Joe, which has just one loss this season to a Webb, Tenn., a powerhouse in the Volunteer State, improved to 23-1.
The Lady Billies closed out with a 15-11 record.
Man, which won at Fayetteville in overtime in the Class A regional co-championship game, was playing in its first state tournament game in five years.
The Lady Billies, the Class A No. 8 seed, got 13 points and seven rebounds from senior Summer Sword and 10 points from senior Taylor Whited. Sword became Man’s all-time leading scorer in girls’ basketball history this season as she surpassed Sarah Caserta.
St. Joe was led by juinor Griffin Dempsey, who led all scorers with 27 points in the mismatch. She was 5-of-9 shooting from 3-point range and also had six steals and five assists.
Mychal Johnson’s sister, freshman Mychelle Johnson, added 16 points, including 12 in the first half. Junior Asia Petitte added a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Irish, which forced 30 turnovers by the Lady Billies.
That’s just what St. Joe coach Shannon Lewis was looking for.
“In some of the earlier games it looked like some teams had struggled early in the game,” Lewis said. “So our focus was to come out and be focused and do what we do early in the game. It seemed like we got off to a good start with the run in the first quarter, and I thought the kids were focused and played really well. I am really proud of them.”
Man was held without a point for 8:34 to start the game.
Down 32-0, Sword finally put the Lady Billies on the board with a 3-pointer with 7:26 left until the half. Man had committed 14 turnovers before scoring its first hoop.
Whited later had two 15-footers and Sword had a three-point play but the Irish led by 38 at the half.
By then the blowout was already in full swing.
Despite the loss, Man coach Tonia Ward said she’s proud of her team for making it to the state tournament.
“I think a lot of people take these young ladies for granted,” Ward said. “They’re fighters. They don’t quit. They’ve done everything we’ve asked them to do. Every time we’ve gotten them on the court, they’ve tried their hardest and that’s all we can ask from anybody. They’ve got a lot of spirit and a lot of heart and I’m really proud of them for the effort they’ve made.”
Mika McCoy added six points for Man.
St. Joe is scheduled to play the winner of No. 4 Tucker County and No. 5 Williamstown at 1 p.m. on Friday in one of the two semifinals.
* In other girls’ state tournament games on Wednesday Class AAA No. 2 Morgantown won 45-31 over Martinsburg in the Triple-A division.
Morgantown (20-5) got 11 points from Leah Taylor.
Class AAA No. 1 Spring Valley won 84-60 over No. 8 seed Capital on Wednesday night.
Spring Valley (23-3) is scheduled to play in Friday’s 5:30 p.m. semifinals against the winner of Thursday’s first-round contest between Logan and Princeton.
Spring Valley, 23-1 in its last 24 games, got 27 points and 15 rebounds from Madison Morris. Point guard Sarah Kelly set a Class AAA state tournament record with 10 steals. She had a triple-double as she also had 20 points and 12 assists, which was just one shy of the 3A state tourney record.
* All four Class A state tourney games were played on Wednesday. No. 2 Wheeling Central routed Valley Fayette 66-27. No. 4 Tucker County outlasted No. 5 Williamstown 61-53 in the best game of the day.
In the other Class A state tourney game, St. Marys coasted to a 52-24 win over Tygarts Valley behind 28 points and 11 boards from Audra Clark.
All four Class AA state quarterfinal games were slated to be played on Thursday as well as two 3A games, including Logan and Princeton and Parkersburg South and Hedgesville.