CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — St. Marys boys basketball coach Mark Barnhart knows with the makeup of his team, the Blue Devils will often be reliant on three-point shooting.
The quality of shot Barnhart’s team attempts from behind the arc goes a long way in determining how successful it is.
In Saturday’s West Virginia Hometown Invitational Tournament Division 1 title game, the Blue Devils made 13 three-pointers en route to a 77-44 victory against Ritchie County at Robert C. Byrd High School.
“What we’re concerned about is how we get them and I thought we established early we were going to get them from the inside-out,” Barnhart said. “That was big. As the game wore on, our confidence got better.”
William Steele, who connected on six triples and led all players with 27 points, had the hot hand throughout. Steeler’s first three gave St. Marys (14-5) the lead for good at 9-6, and he added five more points in the opening period to help the Blue Devils build a 17-10 lead.
SMHS scored the first seven points of the second quarter, with Steeler’s third three upping the lead to 24-10.
In addition to the hot shooting, the Blue Devils were strong defensively and limited the Rebels (10-10) to six second-quarter points for a 39-16 halftime lead.
Ritchie County, which lost twice to St. Marys earlier this season by a combined four points, scored 73 and 53 points, respectively, in those setbacks.
“RItchie’s got a good team and they’ve had a tough stretch where they’ve played three games this week,” Barnhart said. “We had the week off because the weather has been so good we’ve gotten our games in.”
The Blue Devils picked up where they left off to start the second half, with Peyton Auxier and Steele each making a three for the first six points out of the break.
Auxier added a second triple during his 10-point period and St. Marys took a 60-29 lead into the fourth quarter.
“I feared we’d come out complacent, but I didn’t think we were,” Barnhart said. “We were still making shots and that makes a big difference and gives you a little more step when you have to go back and play defense.“
Steele made 10-of-17 shots in the win, while Auxier added 18 points on 8-of-13 shooting. Grant Barnhart also had a strong showing in the victory, finishing with 14 points, 10 rebounds and six assists.
The Blue Devils shot nearly 53 percent (30-of-57) in their ninth consecutive win.
Joey James led the Rebels with 21 points on 10-of-13 shooting, but the rest of the Rebels were 11-for-34 from the field.