CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Considered by many to be the best team in the state, Class A No. 1 Saint Joseph Central did nothing to dispel that notion Wednesday with a 74-29 win over No. 8 Midland Trail at the Charleston Coliseum & Convention Center.
The Irish (21-4) controlled play from start-to-finish, holding the Patriots (19-7) scoreless for the first quarter as they built a 14-0 lead.
“The start of the game, the moment got a little bit big for some of us,” Midland Trail coach Matt Harper said. “We just never could get going in the first quarter. There are some shots we usually hit in a game that got us here and we didn’t even take them. We got behind and had to play catch-up, and that’s not a team you want to play catch-up against.”
With the win, Saint Joseph advances to face No. 4 Wheeling Central in a semifinal at 1 p.m. Friday.
A Laurel Johnson jumper allowed Midland Trail get on the board four seconds into the second quarter, but the Irish picked up their offensive production in that frame as well.
Bailee Adkins made a pair of 3-pointers in the period, the second of which made it 22-3, while Paige Shy made three field goals for a six-point quarter.
“We were hustling and playing defense, but we had to get some ball movement and people touching the ball,” Saint Joseph coach Shannon Lewis said. “We have five good players out there, so let’s make them guard all five.”
Not until Kyleigh Jackson’s conventional three-point play with 1:12 left in the half did a Midland Trail player outside of Johnson score, and the Patriots faced a 36-8 halftime deficit.
Saint Joseph forced 19 first-half turnovers and scored 19 points off the Patriot miscues, which was key in the Irish making 15-of-25 two-point field-goal attempts. Jarrells made all six of her two-point attempts and Shy made 4-of-5 shots inside the 3-point line.
“This group likes to pressure the ball more than we have in the past and we’re a little more athletic,” Lewis said. “We’re trying to turn people over.”
The Irish were in cruise control throughout the second half, scoring 29 points in the third quarter to take a 65-18 lead into the fourth.
“I got on them about not losing our mind up here and doing what we’ve been doing all year,” Lewis said. “We had to make a few more passes up the floor to get some better shots and we came out in the third quarter and did that.”
Jarrells finished with 20 points on 9-of-13 shooting to go with seven steals and Adkins contributed 14 points, five assists and four steals in her return to the lineup from an injury.
“Playing without Bailee these past couple games, it didn’t really show, but it hurt our team,” Jarrells said. “We really depend on her. She proved tonight her defense really impacts the team no matter where she is on the floor.”
Shy made a pair of 3s as part of a 10-point second half to score 18 in the win.
Seven Saint Joseph players had at least four rebounds as the Irish controlled the glass, 53-28.
Johnson finished with team highs of 13 points and seven rebounds in defeat. The Patriots made 8-of-24 field-goal attempts after halftime as opposed to 3-of-21 over the first two quarters.
“None of us have been to the state tournament and it took us a while to get started,” Harper said. “We played better and hustled more in the second half.”