Prep boys basketball: St. Marys secures sectional title

WEST UNION, W.Va. – For a program which prides itself on defense, St. Marys boys basketball buried Clay-Battelle on the offensive end and defeated the Cee-Bees, 64-51, in a Class A, Region I, Section 2 final Friday night at Doddridge County High School.

At the start of the second half, the Blue Devils hit their first six shots from the floor while building a 16-point lead then had to hold off a pesky Clay-Battelle unit which narrowed the deficit to as few as four points midway in the fourth quarter.

St. Marys improved to 19-4 after converting 59 percent (22-of-37) from the floor and held Clay-Battelle to its lowest scoring output of the season. The previous low was 52 points in the Cee-Bees’ loss at St. Marys more than three weeks ago during the West Virginia Hometown Invitational Tournament.

Last night, St. Marys made just two field goals during a nine-minute span in the second half, but sank nine free throws in the fourth quarter to secure the victory.

“Give Clay-Battelle some credit – they jumped into some pressure,” St. Marys coach Mark Barnhart said. “Late in the game we did a better job getting to the ball then we hit a couple of free throws and that made a world of difference.”

The Blue Devils’ reward from last night earned them a home game with Wheeling Central Catholic in a regional contest slated for a 7 p.m. tipoff on Thursday. The Cee-Bees’ season continues as well, but they will have their hands full in a regional contest Thursday at Magnolia.

“When you are in Region I, you better treasure a sectional title,” Barnhart said. “It means a lot because Region I year in and year out is very difficult to contend with.”

Clay-Battelle’s largest lead of the game occurred in the opening stages of the first quarter at 5-2. The Cee-Bees’ moved in front for the final time at 11-10 when Logan Opyoke’s drained his only 3-pointer of the game. The senior missed only three of his 15 field-goal attempts and finished with a game-high 28 points.

“(Opyoke) is a nice player,” Barnhart said. “You didn’t see it tonight, but he is a very good perimeter shooter. He drove the ball to the basket exceptionally well. He’s hard to stop.”

Jessy Moore’s only assist resulted in a bucket by Connor Lancaster to put St. Marys in front to stay at 12-11. The final minute of the opening period belonged to Blue Devil reserve Dylan Hupp, who accounted for all eight of St. Marys’ scoring output in the final 52 seconds of the opening period.

Hupp’s 3-pointer with one second left on the clock gave St. Marys a 20-15 advantage. The Blue Devils then carried the momentum into the second quarter as Drew Cosper canned two buckets, including a 3-pointer which left Clay-Battelle trailing 26-15. Cosper finished with a team-high 23 points.

The Cee-Bees managed to close the gap to 34-27 by intermission and kept the margin at seven after both teams traded baskets to open the second half. But in the next 3-1/2 minutes, St. Marys couldn’t miss from the field as Cosper accounted for five points and Austin Bayless added four of his 12 points as part of an 11-2 run which extended the advantage to 47-31 at the 3:17 mark of the third quarter.

Backed into a corner, the Cee-Bees began to increase the pressure and behind Opyoke’s 11 third-quarter points they narrowed the gap to 49-42 with one quarter remaining. With just under four minutes left in regulation, the difference was four at 55-51 but Cosper hit both ends of a two-shot foul and made a three-point play the old fashioned way to put the game on ice at 60-51 with less than two minutes to go.

“Compared to the first meeting with Clay-Battelle, we had to play a little closer to the vest tonight,” Barnhart said. “They made it tougher on us this time.”