Irish roll past Wheeling Central

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. By Greg Carey in High School Sports
In the third quarter of Friday’s Class A semifinal against No. 4 Wheeling Central, top-seeded Saint Joseph Central looked every bit like the most daunting team in the state.

Basketball hoop, Photo Date: 12/30/08 / Photo: Stuart Seeger / CC BY 2.0 / (MGN)

The Irish outscored the Maroon Knights 30-7 coming out of the half, turning a six-point lead into a comfortable advantage in a 75-47 victory.

“We’ve been doing it all year — fouling in the first half and letting teams hang around and then wearing them down,” Saint Joseph coach Shannon Lewis said. “That’s kind of how today went.”

The win puts Saint Joseph into the Class A title game against Parkersburg Catholic at noon Saturday. It also allowed the Irish to avenge last year’s loss to Wheeling Central in the championship, which prevented Saint Joseph from winning a ninth title in 10 years.

“We were all in the gym after that game and we do not want that feeling again,” said Saint Joseph junior Bailee Adkins.

Friday’s semifinal looked as though it would hardly be competitive after the Irish (22-4) scored the first 16 points. During that stretch, Paige Shy made two 3-pointers and Dena Jarrells and Dionna Gray added one triple apiece.

Central (16-10) settled in somewhat and faced a 22-7 deficit entering the second quarter, where it put together its best stretch of the game.

Eden Gainer Gainer led all players with 26 points for Wheeling Central. She scored 11 points in the second period, making 8-of-9 at the free-throw line, including a 3-of-3 effort with 33 seconds left in the half to bring the Maroon Knights to within 32-26.

“They came out on fire and were making a lot of shots,” Central coach Penn Kurtz said. “We couldn’t make anything in the first quarter, but we weathered the storm and got back in the game.”

While Central’s deficit stayed at six until the second half, Gainer picked up her third foul late in the first half.

“It kind of frustrated me, because I couldn’t play defense to my potential,” Gainer said. “I had to lay off.”

Kaylee Reinbeau started the second-half scoring with two free throws to cut the Irish lead to four, but by the next time Central scored it was trailing 55-29 at the 3:04 mark of the third quarter.

During Saint Joseph’s decisive 23-0 run, Bailee Adkins scored eight points, Shy had five and Dionna Gray added four.

“They switched up their press, we didn’t handle it well and the game got out of hand quick,” Kurtz said.

Hannah Roberts made a pair of field goals late in the third quarter that allowed Saint Joseph to hold a 62-33 lead ahead of the fourth.

Of the Irish’s 30 points in the third quarter, 20 came in the paint and 17 were scored off Central turnovers.

“We like to pressure this year. Today we were in huge foul trouble, but we had all eight of our top players still functioning,” Lewis said. “We can keep running kids at them and that’s what we’ve been doing all year.”

All five Irish starters scored in double figures led by Roberts’ 15 points.

“I knew I had to step up in the post, make my layups and make my shots to hold the team down,” Roberts said.

The freshman Gray added 14 points on 5-of-7 shooting, while Adkins scored 12, and Shy and Jarrells finished with 11 apiece.

Saint Joseph also made 9-of-19 3s, including 7-of-14 in the first half.

Gainer high-scoring game was offset by nine turnovers.

“She scored 26, but I just wanted us to make her work for it and we turned her over some,” Lewis said.

Reinbeau added 14 points and 11 rebounds in defeat.

Central finished with 27 turnovers compared to 12 for Saint Joseph.

“Once they get turnovers and easy baskets they just feed off of that,” Kurtz said, “and it’s like a snowball coming down a mountain.”