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Irish knock off Big Reds in battle of No. 1 teams

January 4, 2019

PARKERSBURG — Class AAA No. 1 Parkersburg High and Class A No. 1 Huntington St. Joe girls’ basketball clubs, two teams familiar with playing on a big stage, stepped into the spotlight together Thursday night inside PHS Memorial Fieldhouse.

Shannon Lewis’ Irish (9-1) sought their third win over a AAA club this season and got it in impressive fashion, 73-56.

Scott Cozzens’ Big Reds (8-1) played for another big victory not at full strength in a match up between arguably the top two teams in the Mountain State. Two-time all-state first-team forward Madi Mace was absent due to a high-ankle sprain suffered against George Washington on Dec. 15. PHS could have used her.

Parkersburg’s visitors forced their hosts into an awful opening half shooting the ball, 6 of 25 from the field, as they built a 16-point halftime lead. Irish defenders closed out on the explosive Big Reds’ shooters when they were beyond the arc to stifle any come-back attempt, although, the Big Reds managed to hang around thanks to 18 St. Joe fouls.

“That has been our biggest focus probably from last year to this year is closeouts and defense,” said Lewis after the game. “I feel we are a bit more athletic this year with Diona Gray and Imani Hickman coming off the bench and keeping fresh. We hit some shots and they hit some and we like to foul so we are going to get teams to the foul line and let them hang around a little bit but overall I was pleased with our effort.”

Parkersburg won the rebounding battle 33-29, but was never comfortable in its own building. There were flashes of the top-ranked team in the state, but every step forward followed with two steps back. PHS turned the ball over 21 times with many giveways resulting in Irish points.

“All the credit goes to them,” Cozzens said. “I thought they outplayed us in every facet of the game. I thought their energy level was way more than ours and that is a little disappointing especially at home but we have to learn from this. We are still a young team and like I told the girls before the game, ‘If we win we have to learn something, if we lose we have to learn something.’ Nobody likes to lose but it is not the end of the world.”

Class A all-state first-team forward and Marshall University recruit Paige Shy led all scorers with 21 points, including four 3-pointers, as the Irish raced to a 10-point lead after the first quarter. Shay-Lee Kirby led PHS with 21 points. She was the only Big Red to score in double-digits.

Lewis’ squad hit on 9 of 17 shots from the field in the opening quarter including four 3s. All-State first-team point guard and Chattanooga signee Dena Jarrells connected twice from behind the arc for 6 of her 8 points. One of Shy’s triples also came in the period.

Taylor Miller’s two free throws with 4:15 left until halftime cut the lead to 26-20. St. Joe then took command after the charity stripe tosses with a 10-3 run for a 39-23 lead at the break.

The Irish advantage never shrunk below 14 in the second half. Maggie Richards’ inside bucket with seconds left in the third period sliced the margin to 58-44. St. Joe, though, closed out the game in the fourth period with a 7-for-8 effort from the foul line in the last four minutes.

HUNTINGTON ST. JOE 22 17 19 15 — 73: Adkins 4 6-8 15, Hickman 2 0-2 4, Jarrells 2 2-2 8, Ab. Lee2 2-2 8, Gray 1 3-4 6, Roberts 5 1-2 11, Shy 6 5-7 21.Totals: 22 19-28 73.

PARKERSBURG 12 11 21 12 — 56: Miller 0 4-4 4, Lowers 2 2-2 6, Leggett 3 0-0 6, Crites 1 0-2 2, Kirby 5 9-13 21, Clark 1 1-2 3, Wilson 22-2 7, Richards 3 0-0 7. Totals: 17 18-25 56.

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