I pulled out the 2014-15 Girls Basketball Coaches Association preseason poll and looked at the Class A rankings to see how well they predicted the results of the just completed 2015 state tournament. Huntington St. Joseph Central and Wheeling Central Catholic were voted 1-2 in the preseason poll. And exactly as predicted St. Joe would win its record seventh straight state championship with a 40-37 victory over Wheeling Central. The come-from-behind win by St. Joe was not as dominant this year, and Wheeling had two chances in the final seconds to send the game into overtime. Wheeling missed a three pointer and then a pass under the basket was wide as they turned the ball over out of bounds. St. Joe’s last loss to an in-state team was to Wheeling Central in the 2008 state championship, a string of 85 in a row. If St. Joe wins again next year, they tie North Fork’s boys team for the West Virginia’s record of eight consecutive championships (1974-1981).
Other teams in the preseason poll who made it to states with their eventual state seeding in parenthesis were: 3 – St. Marys (No. 6 seed), 4 – Charleston Cath-olic (No. 5), 5 – Tucker Co-unty (No. 3), 7 – Pocahontas County (No. 4).
Of the 24 schools who made it to states in all classes this year, only Charleston Catholic did so with a losing record (9-11 including regionals). Most coaches probably voted the Irish lower in the polls and seeding, not realizing what a tough Class AA and AAA schedule they played to get ready for states.
Charleston Catholic beat Pocahontas County in the quarter-finals Wednesday 57-28, and then advanced to the Friday semi-finals where St. Joe beat Catholic 51-27. CCHS second-year head coach Josh Bogan stated in the press conference after that St. Joe game: “We got good looks; we just couldn’t convert. For us, we just couldn’t make any shots. It was like there was a lid on the basket.”
Those words could have come right out of the mouth of PCHS head coach Mike Kane on Wednesday about the Lady Warriors versus Charleston Catholic game. PCHS had three of its best games of the season leading up to the game in Charleston. The 2002 Lady Warriors pulled off one of the biggest upsets in state history over #2 ranked Gilmer County in regionals and then froze in their first ever game at states vs Mercer Christian Academy, a 31-point loss.
The best of teams have bad shooting days for various reasons, and the Lady Warriors and their coaches should be proud of all the girls have accomplished this season. CCHS shot 14.8 percent of it shots from the field in the first half and finished at 18.4 percent in its loss to St. Joe. PCHS shot 13 percent (three of 23) of its first half shots from the field and finished at 22 percent (9 of 41) in its loss to Charleston. As PCHS head coach Mike Kane stated after the game: “If a couple of the early Pocahontas three-point shot attempts had fallen for us, it all would probably have been different.”
Senior Tristin Day was team high scorer with eight points, five rebounds, four steals and one assist. Next was sophomore Mary Kelley off-the-bench with seven points, two rebounds and one steal. Sophomore Sarah Rider tallied seven rebounds, five points, one steal and one assist. Senior Bobbie McNabb contributed four points, three rebounds, two blocks and one steal. Senior Natalie Hartzell added three points, three rebounds and one steal. Junior Melissa Murphy finished with two rebounds, one point and one steal. Junior Michelle Murphy grabbed three rebounds and had one assist and one steal off-the-bench. Senior Olivia Knisely tallied one rebound and one steal off-the-bench.Sophomore Tiffany Hoover grabbed one rebound off-the-bench. All 13 Lady Warriors saw action in the game.
Charleston Catholic was led by senior Catherine Bandak with 11 points and seven rebounds, and sophomore Vida Imani tallied 15 points, six rebounds, four steals and three assists. Eleven of the Irish scored in the game.
Charleston won the points battle over PCHS in the following five categories: in paint 34-10, off turnovers 19-12, 2nd chance 16-4, fast break 12-2 and bench 15-7. Each team had four blocks, and PCHS hit four threes to two for CCHS. Catholic won the following stats: rebounds 45-32, assists 16-4, turnovers 19-24, and steals 20-11. PCHS hit six of 16 free throws (37.5 percent), and Catholic made five of 9 (55.6 percent). Charleston’s lead increased each quarter to the following number of points : first quarter – 8 points, second – 19, third – 21, and fourth – 29.
If you look at the many game photos on the Metro News Sports web site, you can see how hard these players fought in the game. Catholic has a huge athletic complex near the airport, so playing in the Civic Center down the street from their school is not as much of an adjustment as it is for PCHS. Catholic had an adjustment when they had to play in our smaller gym in regular season. CCHS is also a private school in a metropolitan area with a large population of possible students. Many of the Irish players have won state championships in other sports.
PCHS ends its season at 17-5, and CCHS finishes with a 10-12 record.
Charleston Catholic won the spirit award, and Wheeling Central won the sportsmanship award. All-tour- nament picks by the media were: Mychelle Johnson, Alexis Hall, and Destiny Sims of St. Joseph Central; Lindsey Baker and Regan Blaha of Wheeling Central Catholic; Aiyana Kachmarek of Tucker County; Ashley Hall of St. Marys, and Vida Imani of Charleston Catholic.
Four Lady Warriors played their last game Wednesday for PCHS and will be missed for their dedication, leadership and contributions to the team: Tristin Day, Bobbie McNabb, Natalie Hartzell and Olivia Knisely. When you get to regionals for 14 straight years and to states in nine of those years. the pressure on coaches and players grows each year. The pain of just one loss at states will fade, and the memory of the total experience and collective accomplishments will grow.
Congratulations to the Lady Warriors, Coaches Mike Kane, Mike Murphy and Phil Anderson, Athletic Director Kay Wiley, their fans and parents and the many volunteers on a record-breaking year of girls basketball.