For The Independent
The difference between success and failure is often minimal. Monday night it could be broken down into a simple fraction — 10/2.
Trailing by two early in the third quarter, Huntington St. Joseph used a 10-2 scoring spurt to take a six-point lead, a lead that only swelled thanks to the Irish’s other 10-2 advantage — the number of 3-pointers made.
St. Joe knocked down five triples over the last eight-and-a-half minutes of action, turning a hotly contested game into a comfortable 60-41 Irish victory.
“Both teams were just really playing hard and getting after it, and at times it was sloppy,” said St. Joe coach Shannon Lewis. “But it seemed with our experience and the games that we have been in that our kids just started making shots, and they didn’t in the second half.”
One sequence in particular highlighted the ability of St. Joe to hit the big shot, according to Kittens coach Bill Bradley.
“It was 38-35 and we had a three to tie it,” he said. “We missed and went for the rebound and didn’t get it. Then they come down and hit a three, and really the game was over at that point.”
It was Griffin Dempsey who connected on that three that gave the Irish a six-point lead going into the final stanza. Dempsey was 4 of 8 on 3-point attempts.
While the Irish made 50 percent of their looks from the outside in the second half, Ashland struggled to score from anywhere, let alone from the perimeter. The Kittens were just 1 of 9 from outside in the final 16 minutes.
Despite the 2-for-21 overall 3-point shooting performance, Bradley is confident that his team will break out of its recent offensive slump.
“We will, we will,” he said. “Kaylyn (Gambill) and Alexis (Robinson) have been struggling from the outside and they are our two best shooters, and with the zone they were playing we got really good looks. We just couldn’t knock them down.”
The duo combined for six points on 2-of-25 shooting, including 0 for 12 from long distance.
While he wished his team would have looked inside more in the second half, Bradley had no problem with the shot selection.
“Kaylyn is one of the very best shooters around, I will never tell her not to shoot it,” he said. “Alexis is shooting 34 percent from three, and when she gets an open look she has to take it.”
Robinson was the focus of the Irish defense all night, but a slight change made by Lewis late in the first quarter proved to be very effective.
“We were chasing early, and we decided to shadow Alexis with Mychelle (Johnson) and then close out to Gambill, and that really seemed to affect them, because they were getting good looks early,” Lewis said.
While Robinson’s offense struggled, the talented sophomore continued to play hard, especially on the glass, where she grabbed 16 rebounds.
Ashland (19-6) led 18-13 after the first quarter, thanks to eight points from Haley Sue Foutch. Foutch scored a team-high 15 points, even though Bradley said he felt his team didn’t get her the ball enough.
“I think she was five of six in the first half,” he said. “Then in the second half, I think we went away from the flash across the middle, where she was getting her shots.”
Mychal Johnson, who is committed to Notre Dame, recorded a double-double for St. Joe with a game-high 22 points and 12 rebounds.
Several Division-I schools had coaching representation in the stands.