By Kyle Lovern
CHARLESTON – Huntington St. Joe showed why they are the No. 1 team in Class A as they used a smothering defense to defeat Tug Valley 73-30 in the first round of the W.Va. Girl’s State High School Basketball Tourney held at the Charleston Civic Center.
The Lady Panthers (9-13) actually took a 2-0 lead when junior point guard Adreana Vance hit two free throws on a technical for St. Joe having a wrong number in the scorebook to start the game.
But then it was all St. Joe.
The Irish (21-3) jumped out in a smothering defense and forced the Lady Panthers into six quick turnovers in the early minutes of play. St. Joe then scored the next 20 points of the game.
St. Joe set a state-tournament single-game record, forcing 34 turnovers as they rolled to the easy victory on Thursday evening.
Coach Shannon Lewis’ Irish are going after their sixth consecutive Class A title.
“We worked on their pressure all week,” first year TVHS head coach Maxine Colegrove said. “It’s pressure like you’ve never seen. It was tough. They panicked at times but did the best they could with it.”
Huntington St. Joe broke its own record for single-game steals by one. The Irish had 33 steals in the 2009 state tournament against Fayetteville and also against Midland Trail in the 2012 state tournament.
Sophomore Mychelle Johnson had 10 of St. Joseph’s steals, while seniors Mychal Johnson and Griffin Dempsey had nine and eight, respectively. Several other players had steals for the Irish.
“We just pressured the ball and created a lot of turnovers,” said Lewis, who is in his 11th season guiding the Irish. “Mychelle has been our defensive presence all year, creating a lot of havoc.”
“We told them all week, treat it like any other game,” said Colegrove, whose team lost five of its first six games this season but won six of its last eight. “We told them if you go in with the mindset that you’re beat and then you’re beat.”
Tug Valley’s Hannah Armstrong finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Armstrong is a senior, so this finished her career for the Panthers.
Vance finished with six and Taylor Parsley 5 for TVHS.
Senior shooting guard Griffin Dempsey had 20 points to lead St. Joseph, while adding seven of its 49 rebounds. Notre Dame recruit Mychal Johnson — who was making her 101st consecutive high school varsity start — had nine points, 11 rebounds, nine steals and four assists. Rachel Lee added 19 points and nine rebounds.
The victory was the 50th straight win for St. Joe against West Virginia Class A opponents. The Irish’s last loss to an in-state foe was to Wheeling Central in the 2008 Class A state championship game.
Several of St. Joe’s players have already signed or committed to Division college. Michal Johnson will be playing for Notre Dame next year.
Score by quarters:
Tug Valley - 9 6 4 11 - 30
Hunt. St. Joe - 22 22 19 10 - 73
Tug Valley - Armstrong 14, Robinson 1, Vance 6, Parsley 5, Baisden 2, Wilson 2.
St. Joe - Dempsey 20, Lee 19, Mychelle Johnson 9, Mychal Johnson 9, Taylor 4, Petitte 9, Di. Disu 3.
(Editor’s Note: Thanks to Rich Stevens of the Charleston Gazette for information used in this article.)
(Kyle Lovern is the Sports Editor for the Williamson Daily News. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 304-235-4242, ext. 33)