BEVERLY - The Fort Frye Lady Cadets gave the four-time defending West Virginia state champion and visiting Huntington St. Joseph Central Lady Irish all they wanted and then some before dropping a hard-fought 63-52 decision Saturday night.
The Lady Cadets held the Irish at bay for most of the first 24 minutes and led by six points heading to the final quarter before St. Joe used a relentless pressing defense and some red-hot shooting to score the come-from-behind victory.
"When you play a caliber team like this, you have to use everything you've worked on and every girl has got to step up,' said Fort Frye head coach Dan Liedtke. "I thought every girl that stepped on that floor did a nice job."
The Irish came into the game with a record of 9-1, largely due to the play of all-state junior Mychal Johnson, who came into the game averaging over 24 points, five assists, and seven rebounds a game.
The Lady Cadets did an outstanding job on Johnson in the first half, limiting her to just a pair of free throws.
Huntington St. Joseph came out firing from long range in the first quarter as the Lady Irish connected on three treys in the game's first four minutes to claim the early 11-5 lead.
HUNTINGTON ST. JOSEPH 63,
FORT FRYE 52
Huntington St. Joseph 15 2 17 29 - 63
Fort Frye 12 13 15 12 - 52
ST. JOSEPH (10-1)
Griffin Dempsey 7-17 2-2 20, Mychal Johnson 6-17 6-9 22, Mychelle Johnson 2-4 2-4 6, Rachel Lee 1-3 0-0 3, Asia Petite 5-12 0-0 12. TOTALS: 21-53 10-15 63.
FORT FRYE (12-3)
Michelle Adkins 0-0 0-0 0, Shawntell Parsons 2-4 2-3 7, Brooke Borich 2-5 0-0 6, Micayla Hupp 1-4 0-1 2, Morgan Liedtke 4-7 0-0 10, Taylor Buchanan 10-15 1-2 21, Deidra Combs 2-7 0-0 4, Megan Liedtke 1-1 0-0 2. TOTALS: 22-43 3-6 52.
Shooting: HSJ: 21-53 (39.6 %), FF: 22-43 (51.6%). 3-Point Shooting: HSJ: 11-35 (31.4%), Dempsey 4, Mychal Johnson 4, Petite 2, Lee 1); FF: 5-12 (41.7) (Borich 2, Morgan Liedtke 2, Parsons 1). Rebounding: HSJ: 19 (Petite 5), FF: 29 (Morgan Liedtke 8), Assists: HSJ: 12 (Mychal Johnson 5), FF: 12 (Morgan Liedtke 4). Turnovers: HSJ: 6, FF: 16. Team Fouls: HSJ: 13, FF: 12.
JV game: Fort Frye 55 Huntington St. Joseph 22
Huntington St. Joseph JV scoring: Catherine Jenkins 12, Kara Jeffrey 4, Chelsea Gale 3, Kelci Parker 2, Becca Lake 1.
Fort Frye JV scoring: Natalie Hart 19, Megan Hesson 9, Alexis Enochs 9 Jackie Pawloski 8, Lexi Skinner 6, Rachael Sebring 2, Ashley Gerber 2.
Next game: Fort Frye at Caldwell Thursday
The Fort answered with back-to-back field goals by Morgan Liedtke and Taylor Buchanan to pull within a pair at 11-9.
Johnson's free-throws pushed the lead back to four for HSJ, but Brooke Borich answered for Fort Frye with a long three-ball to close the gap to 13-12.
Griffin Dempsey closed out the first half for the Irish with a driving score to make it a 15-12 game at the end of quarter.
The second quarter belonged to the Lady Cadets as they outscored St. Joe 13-2, limiting the Lady Irish to a dismal on-of-15 shooting from the floor.
Buchanan scored seven points in the quarter, including six in a row at one point, and the red, white and blue left the court to a standing ovation from the Fort Frye crowd and a 25-17 lead at intermission.
"We had to fight through some adversity tonight," said Irish head coach Shannon Lewis, whose team's first victory of the season came against Africentric Early College, the same team that eliminated the Cadets from the state tournament a season ago. "That second quarter we couldn't get anything to fall."
Buchanan kicked off the second half for the Fort with another field goal and the lead jumped to double digits for the first time in the game at 27-17.
Johnson began to come to life for HSJ as she scored all nine points in a 9-2 Irish run to cut the lead to three at 29-26 with six minutes to play in the third.
Fort Frye came right back on back-to-back scores once again by Buchanan and a Morgan Liedtke bucket to increase the lead back to 35-26 with under four minutes left in the third.
Johnson's younger sister Mychelle connected on a pair of free-throws, but Fort Frye junior Shawntell Parsons drilled a triple to push the lead back to 10 at 38-28.
Dempsey's three-pointer cut the lead to seven, and Megan Liedtke and Mychal Johnson traded scores to send the Cadets to the final quarter clinging to a 40-34 lead.
All game long, the Lady Cadets had managed the pressing Irish defense masterfully, but right from the start in the final quarter it finally began to pay dividends for St. Joe.
In the first minute of the final quarter, the Lady Irish forced three Lady Cadet turnovers that translated into an 8-0 run and a 42-40 HSJ lead.
Buchanan tied the game back up for the Cadets with a driving score and Asia Petite and Borich traded trifectas to knot the score at 45-45 with under six minutes to play.
Mychal Johnson, who has already signed a letter of intent to play her collegiate basketball at Notre Dame, drilled a three-ball that sparked a 16-2 Irish barrage that ultimately spelled doom for the Lady Cadets.
The Irish hit on 10-of-13 field goal attempts in the final period, including four of six from long range.
Mychal Johnson paced the Irish in scoring with 22 points, while Dempsey and Petitte chipped in with 20 and 12 points respectively.
Buchanan's 21 points paced the Lady Cadets while Morgan Liedtke added 10 points, eight rebounds and four assists.
"They (Fort Frye) played very well tonight," said Lewis. "We had to put a little pressure on there in the fourth quarter and were able to make a couple of runs on them."
Coach Liedtke hopes that a game against an opponent such as Huntington St. Joseph will prove beneficial later on when his girls begin tournament play.
"We hung right in there with this team tonight," said Liedtke. "We wanted to come out tonight and compete with them and have a chance at winning. I think our girls will look back and say if we can play with them (St. Joe) we can beat a lot of teams."
The Lady Irish improved to 10-1 on the season with the win, while Fort Frye dropped to 12-3 with the loss.
The Lady Cadets are scheduled to return to Pioneer Valley Conference play Thursday night when they travel to Noble County to take on the Caldwell Lady Redskins.