St. Joseph too much for Tucker

CHARLESTON – Tucker County gave top-seeded St. Joseph all it could handle for nearly 1 1/2 quarters in Friday’s Class A semifinal matchup at the Civic Center.

But the Lady Irish went on an 18-0 run to finish the second quarter en route to a 63-31 victory.

St. Joseph (24-1) will look for its fifth straight title at noon today against St. Marys, which advanced with a 45-43 victory over Wheeling Central in Friday’s other semifinal contest.

The Lady Mountain Lions trailed 21-19 before the Lady Irish took control, scoring 18 unanswered points over the final 4:34 of the first half.

“That’s a great basketball team,” Tucker County first-year coach Jim Ambrose said of St. Joseph. “We played hard, but to keep up that intensity for four quarters is tough.”

Leading 39-19 at intermission, the Lady Irish scored the first six points of the third quarter on their way to moving the lead to 59-34 after three quarters.

“Once the score started to run up a little, I think we let the pressure get to us,” Tucker County junior center Savannah Ambrose said. “When they’re up on you, it’s really nerve-racking.”

Junior guard Mychal Johnson, who has committed to play at Notre Dame, had 23 points, six assists and six steals for St. Joseph. Younger sister Mychelle Johnson chipped in 12 points and 10 steals, while Griffith Dempsey 12 points and three assists.

“Throughout the season we’ve picked up our intensity at certain times,” Lady Irish coach Shannon Lewis said. “That’s what we did in the second quarter.

“I give Tucker County a lot of credit. They’re well-coached and played hard.”

Tucker County, which was plagued by 32 turnovers, was led by senior guard Amber Evans with nine points and nine rebounds.

Evans picked up her third foul in the second quarter, forcing her to the bench.

Ambrose added eight points, while Stephanie Betler tallied six points and three assists.

“They were playing really, really good defense on me,” Betler said. “I tried to dribble up the court and they would just keep stealing it. Every time I passed it, they’d take it.”

Tucker County ends the season 20-6.

The Lady Mountain Lions were attempting to reach a championship game for the first time since winning three straight Class AA titles from 1996-98.