NITRO, W.Va. — Offense in abundance.
The fourth-seeded Wahama boys basketball team combined with top-seeded Huntington St. Joseph for 155 field goal attempts Thursday night, and the Fighting Irish topped the White Falcons by an 88-63 count in the Class A, Region 4, Section 2 semifinal at Nitro High School.
The Fighting Irish (17-6) — who finished sixth in the final Associated Press Class A Poll — jumped out to a 6-2 lead, 2:30 into play, but the White Falcons (9-15) hit a pair of three-pointers over the next two minutes and tied the game at 8.
St. Joe briefly reestablished its advantage, but back-to-back buckets gave Wahama a 12-10 lead with 2:00 left in the first quarter. WHS was held scoreless over the remainder of the period, however, as the Fighting Irish scored eight points and led 18-12 headed into the second quarter.
“We came out and did the things that we wanted to do,” third-year Wahama head coach Ron Bradley said. “We were very disciplined and as a result we were in the game. They chased us and double teamed us a little bit and we were getting some easy looks. We weren’t able to get them in all the time and that led to some transition looks for them.”
The White Falcons began the second stanza with a 10-7 run, that cut the deficit to 25-22 with six minutes left in the first half. However, St. Joe ended the half with a 26-8 run and a 51-30 lead.
“We kind of got out of our game there in latter part of the second quarter,” Bradley said. “You can’t do that against a team like that and they were able to make a run.”
St. Joe held a 26-to-20 rebounding edge in the opening stanza, while hitting 51.2 percent of its 43 field goal attempts. The Red and White shot 30.7 percent from the field in the first half and committed seven turnovers, six more than SJHS did.
The Fighting Irish outscored the White Falcons 24-to-18 in a fast paced third period, making the SJHS advantage 75-48 with eight minutes remaining.
Wahama outscored SJHS 15-to-13 in the fourth quarter, but it was too little, too late and the Fighting Irish claimed the 88-63 victory.
St. Joe — which has won seven of its last eight games — will face Charleston Catholic in the Class A, Region 4, Section 2 final. Charleston Catholic defeated Buffalo by a 70-61 count in the second semifinal game, on Thursday at NHS.
“That’s a quality team,” Bradley said of St. Joe. “They have five quality starters that can all do really good things, then they have three or four kids that can come of the bench and they don’t lose anything. They’re a very good team and I wish them the best of luck.”
For the game, St. Joe outrebounded the White Falcons by a 48-41 clip, including 19-to-16 on the offensive glass. The White Falcons held a 20-to-19 edge in assists, but SJHS held a 14-to-5 advantage in turnovers, a 13-to-2 advantage in steals and a 8-to-2 edge in blocked shots.
Wahama shot 6-of-9 (66.7 percent) from the free throw line and 26-of-71 (36.6 percent) from the field, including 5-of-18 (27.8 percent) from beyond the arc. The Fighting Irish made 7-of-11 (63.6 percent) free throw attempts and 38-of-84 (45.2 percent) field goal attempts, including just 5-of-29 (17.2 percent) three-point tries.
The White Falcons were led by junior Philip Hoffman with 19 points, six rebounds and six assists, followed by Ryan Thomas with 10 points and three assists. Noah Litchfield recorded nine points and six rebounds, Travis Kearns added eight points and six rebounds, while Mason Hicks finished with six points, eight rebounds and three assists.
Nolan Pierce recorded four points, seven rebounds and three assists for the White Falcons, while Mason Hildreth scored four points and Jacob Lloyd scored three to round out the WHS scoring. Pierce and Bryton Grate each came away with a steal for the Red and White, while Hicks and Thomas both blocked a shot.
Wahama lost nine of its’ final 11 games with both wins coming over in-county foe Hannan.
Deaundra Murphy led the Fighting Irish 28 points, seven rebounds and three assists, followed by Keith Clemons with 25 points. John Dawson recorded 12 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists for the Blue and Gold, while Travis McNeil scored seven points and dished out four assists.
John Morrison scored five points for the victors, Jacob Strieter added four points and 10 rebounds, while Charlie Bailey chipped in with three points. Issac Bias and Gabriel Giompalo rounded out the SJHS scoring with two points apiece.
Dawson led St. Joe’s defense with four steals and two blocks, while Strieter added five blocks and one steal. Murphy posted three steals in the win, while Clemons had two steals and one block.
This marks the final game in the careers of Wahama seniors Ryan Thomas, Mason Hicks and Nolan Pierce.
“Three quality young men there,” Bradley said of his senior trio. “I know they’re going to be successful in whatever they do. They’re good kids, they’re hard workers and they do the right things. I’ve enjoyed having them for the three years that I’ve been here.”
St. Joseph also defeated Wahama on February 23, in Mason by an 82-59 final.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.