MASON, W.Va. — It’d be tough for anyone to beat a start like that.
The Huntington St. Joseph boys basketball team hit 21-of-38 first half field goal attempts, Tuesday night in Mason County, and the visiting Fighting Irish rolled to a 82-59 victory on Gary Clark Court.
St. Joe (16-6) scored the first four points of the night, but the White Falcons (8-13) sank back-to-back baskets to tie the game at four with 5:40 left in the opening period. However, WHS was held scoreless for the next two minutes, while SJHS built a 13-4 lead.
Wahama ended its cold spell with four straight points, but the guests answered with a 9-2 run that included three trifectas. Trailing 22-10, the Red and White outscored the Fighting Irish 6-to-3 over the remainder of the first period, as Mason Hicks and Ryan Thomas each connected from three-point range.
The 25-16 St. Joe lead grew to 52-18, five minutes into the second canto, but Wahama ended the half with a 7-0 run. The Fighting Irish — who forced 10 turnovers in the second quarter alone — led 52-25 at the half. The Blue and Gold held a 22-17 rebounding edge in the first half, and hit 55.3 percent of their field goal attempts, compared to Wahama, which made 29.4 percent of its first half field goal tires.
A 14-to-4 St. Joe run to start the second half, gave the Fighting Irish their largest lead of the night at 66-29, with 4:30 left in the third quarter. Wahama outscored its guest 12-to-4 over the remainder of the period and trailed 70-41 with eight minutes remaining.
St. Joe — which pulled its starters from the game midway through the third period — was outscored by a 18-to-12 clip in the final stanza, but claimed the 82-59 win.
“I thought we played harder in the second half,” Wahama head coach Ron Bradley said. “One of the things we stressed at halftime was ‘don’t go out there and quit, keep playing hard’. We had a lot of shots blocked because of their athleticism, but you just have to keep taking it at them. We did some good things in the second half, we got the ball where it needed to be and got some shots to drop.”
For the game, the Fighting Irish held a 40-to-36 rebounding advantage, with a 13-to-11 edge on the offensive glass. St. Joe’s 16 turnovers were five fewer than the hosts committed.
Wahama made 6-of-11 (54.5 percent) free throw attempts and 24-of-68 (35.3 percent) field goal attempts, including 5-of-19 (26.3 percent) three-point tries, while St. Joe shot 5-of-9 (55.6 percent) from the charity stripe, 34-of-74 (45.9 percent) from the field and 9-of-23 (39.1 percent) from beyond the arc.
As a team, the White Falcons marked 18 assists, 10 steals, and two blocks, while SJHS finished with 18 assists, 15 steals and six blocks.
WHS senior Mason Hicks led the home squad with 15 points, seven rebounds and five assists, while Nolan Pierce added 13 points and a team-high eight boards. Philip Hoffman recorded nine points, six rebounds and three assists, Travis Kearns chipped in with six points and seven boards, while Noah Litchfield finished with six points and a pair of assists.
Ryan Thomas came away with five points and four assists, Mason Hildreth added four points and three helpers, while Bryton Grate rounded out the WHS offense with one point.
Hicks also led the White Falcon defense, recording three steals and one block, while Pierce had one steal and one block. Hoffman and Thomas each posted two steals for the hosts.
“They’re a quality basketball team and they have a lot of great athletes,” Bradley said of St. Joe. “They have no weaknesses out there, they can run, handle the ball, play defense and rebound. When you’re facing that kind of quickness with long, lankey guys, it makes it tough. They get in the passing lanes very well and they run the floor.”
SJHS was led by the junior trio of Deaundra Murphy, Keith Clemons and John Dawson. Murphy recorded 27 points and five rebounds, Clemons added 19 points, seven rebounds and five assists, while Dawson marked 14 points, nine rebounds and six assists.
St. Joe senior center Jacob Strieter had eight points and seven rebounds, while leading the defense with four blocks and two steals. Dawson had three steals and two blocks in the win, while Murphy and Owen Huffman each posted three steals.
Rounding out the Fighting Irish offense were Issac Bias with five points, Garrick Hopkins with four, Charles Bailey with three and Noah Bolten with two points.
This game was the regular season finale for Huntington St. Joe. Wahama will wrap up its regular season on Thursday when Point Pleasant makes its way to Mason for a non-conference clash.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.