by Ed McCarnes

A TV sports commentator was talking and a sports reporter was listening.

“It’s not a matter of what conference you’re in. It’s not a matter of what conference the other team is in. It’s not a matter of either team by itself. What matters is how the teams match up.”

The commentator was speaking about the upcoming gane at that time. He could have been talking about the recently completed girls basketball championships match between Hunting St. Joseph and Wheeling Central.

St. Joe Head Coach Shannon Lewis had given that pairing consideration over the 12 months before reality. He concluded his team could win. He thought there was razor blade thickness in the difference between the total strength of the two teams. He knew his squad would need to play their A game to win.

The A game didn’t happen. Two factors, each with two parts, combined to derail the Lady Irish dream.

On offense the problems was two scoring droughts. On defense, Lewis noted, the problem was missed assignments.

In the first half Wheeling Central broke out of a 17-17 tie and concluded the half with a 12-2 run. In the second half the Maroon Knights erased a 51-55 disadvantage with a game ending 16-7 surge.

On defense in the first half the Lady Irish fell victim to the dribble drive, the drive and dish and the kick out pass off the drive.

In the second half the Knights took 3-point advantage against a defense that failed to step out and challenge some shots, or was compacted around the basket and couldn’t recover to guard the

3-points arch.

For the game Wheeling Central shot 51% on all attempts and 53% on 3-point tries. The 67-point yield was the highest of the 2017-18 season. The Irish were 0-8 in games where the defense yielded 61 or more points.

The championship game was a marked contrast to St. Joe’s first five games. At the state the Irish won their semifinal by 40 and their quarterfinal by 49.

The regional co-final win was by 48 and the sectional triumphs were by 46 and 64.

The regular season was a mix of success and step back as a young team matured. Winning streaks included surges of 2, 4, 6, and 2. Step backs included slips of 2, 3, 1, and 1.

The good news from the season’s mixture of plus and minus is that a solid foundation for 2018-2019 is in place.

All-State First Team selectees Dena Jarrells, Paige Shy and Bailee Adkins return, as does All-State Honorable Mention Hannah Roberts.

Decisive wins, especially in the post season, provided young players with valuable game minutes. Abby Lee, Laney Whitmore, Errin Kay, and McKenzie Moran logged crucial experience time.

Griffyn Ellison and Ava Lee flashed late season skills growth. The off season provides Kaitlin Huffman and Xintong Chen with time to heal injuries that slowed their first year development. The impact of transfers, if any, remains an X (unknown) factor until the fall semester begins.

So don’t be surprised if the Lady Irish renew their business at the Charleston Civic Center through a March Saturday about noon. And don’t be shocked if the uniforms at the other end of the floor look very familiar.