St. Joe makes it five in a row
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- St. Joseph's Griffin Dempsey didn't realize she had set a state tournament record Saturday afternoon.
That was the kind of day it was for the Fighting Irish: business as usual.
Dempsey, a 5-foot-6 junior guard, gunned in 26 points behind a single-game tournament-record seven 3-pointers as top-seeded St. Joe cruised past No. 3 St. Marys 73-32 for their record-tying fifth straight Class A girls state basketball championship. A crowd of about 2,200 attended at the Charleston Civic Center.
The Irish (25-1) tied the all-classes consecutive title mark set by Summers County in AA from 2007-2011. St. Mary (25-2), which upset No. 2 Wheeling Central 45-43 in Friday's semifinals and carried a 16-game winning streak into the title game, lost for the third time in the last four years to St. Joe in the finals.
St. Joe's 41-point margin of victory was the second largest in any title matchup, trailing only Summers' 45-point win over Scott in the 2011 AA championship. The Irish haven't lost to an in-state school since falling to Wheeling Central in the 2008 title game.
"I think we wanted to make a statement to show how hard we've worked and how talented we are,'' said St. Joe coach Shannon Lewis, whose team closed out the season with 18 straight victories. "I thought our defense was excellent. Without even pressing them much, [we took St. Marys] out of anything they wanted to do.''
Dempsey tied the tourney record of six 3s late in the third quarter then canned her seventh about midway through the fourth. She also set the mark for most 3-point attempts in a single tournament game with 15. Alexis Fulton of Tucker County held the record for 3s with six in last year's state tourney while Angie Vickers of Hamlin set the mark for most 3-point attempts with 13 in 1990.
Dempsey was hip-checked hard to the floor on a 3-point attempt early in the opening quarter.
"It definitely made me realize it's not going to be a soft game,'' said Dempsey, who only took and made 3-point shots. "We came out very hard. They realized they were going to have to foul us in order for us to not make shots.''
St. Joe junior guard Mychal Johnson, who has verbally committed to Notre Dame, turned in a triple-double with 12 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists and six steals while junior forward Asia Petitte added 18 points on 6-of-7 shooting with five rebounds. Irish freshman guard Mychelle Johnson, Mychal's younger sister, contributed nine points, three boards and nine steals.
Dempsey, Mychal Johnson and Mychelle Johnson were all-tournament selections.
"They just play together so well,'' Lewis said. "When Asia can get the rebound and lead the break and all five can make the 3 and handle [the ball], it's tough to match up with them.''
The Irish feasted in the open court, turning 29 St. Marys turnovers into 4 points. The Blue Devils, who outrebounded St. Joe 36-32, could only muster 25.6 percent shooting, including 19.2 percent after halftime.
St. Marys pulled within three points (13-10) with 1:32 left in the opening quarter on senior forward Audra Clark's jump shot, but that would be as close as the Blue Devils would get.
St. Joe then buried St. Marys with a 20-0 run spanning the first two periods, and when it was over the Irish owned a commanding 33-10 advantage. St. Joe outscored St. Marys 43-10 from the end of the opening quarter to the end of the third period.
"I'm pretty sure they were triple-teaming me, but it was just one of those things [where the shots] wouldn't fall,'' said Clark, who earned all-tournament honors after finishing with 10 points and 11 rebounds. "I tried my best. Every girl tried her best. It just didn't happen.''
Clark and St. Marys 6-4 junior center Kendra Walker, who had six points and four boards Saturday, earned all-tournament honors.
Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at email@example.com or 304-348-4811.