Irish Mine Double Gold

Updated 26 weeks ago by Ed McCarnes

Periodically expectations and reality match. Sometimes expectations exceed what reality produces. And on occasion reality surpasses expectations. Such was the bottom line for 2018-2019 St. Joseph Lady Irish (LI) basketball.

The Irish approached the season under a two-spoke umbrella of should and could. The “should” spoke read the team should compete for a Class A championship. The “could” spoke read could win it all. What remained hidden was how excessive reality over expectations would be.

Subdued hope blended with concern as pre-season scrimmages began. The concern factor proved to be unnecessary.

In two sessions of four 1-quarter mini games St. Joe emerged 8-0. The alarm bell of portent sounded but no one fully focused on the implication of first time program success.

Head Coach Shannon Lewis shook off the feat with a modest “We played well,” as he prepped for the season opener.

The Lady Irish opened to a five game sprint of success. Included were wins over AAA Martinsburg (by 84-34) and Morgantown (by 74-30) and AA power Wyoming East (80-53).

Westbridge Academy, a national elite program, ended the streak. St. Joe responded with an 11-game win streak that extended into the last week of the regular season.

But in that final week Factor X, player injury times three, occurred. Two full-time starters and one part-time starter went to the injured reserve list with various hurts. Could St. Joe survive and succeed in a six game grind to a ninth title?

Lewis responded by adjusting duties and responsibilities of his health-qualified roster.

The results were noteworthy. The Irish defeated six opponents en route to a Class A championship.

The 13th sectional title came after a semifinal win over Sherman (90-57) and a final win over Tug Valley (81-43). With a victory over Williamstown (78-38) the Irish earned their 13th consecutive Regional title.

Decisive wins over Midland Trail (74-29) in quarterfinals, Wheeling Central (75-47) in semis and Parkersburg Catholic (71-46) in finals play completed the championship feat.

The bottom line read 23-4. The losses were to nationally ranked elite teams. The Irish competed in those games.

The quest for gold had been finalized. What was learned later was the Irish had struck another vein of yellow glitter.

In 2006 Parkersburg Catholic won its ninth championship. AAA Morgantown matched that feat in 2016. With its victory St Joe stepped up into that elite success class.

Getting to the top is difficult, Staying on top is multiply so. But 13 of this year’s St. Joe 16-player roster have eligibility remaining. The challenge for the tenth title should make interesting watching as it unfolds down the turnpike of intermediate time.

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