By Rich Stevens
Magnolia senior Preston Boswell is the state’s leading scorer who hoped to save his best for last.
Boswell would have to settle for next to last.
The 2,000-point career scorer poured in a tournament-high 41 points, but didn’t have a field goal past 4:07 of the fourth period as the fifth-seeded Irish stunned the Blue Eagles 70-62 in Friday’s Class A semifinal of the state high school boys basketball tournament at the Charleston Civic Center.
The Blue Eagles (22-3) wouldn’t get the opportunity to face Wheeling Central for the eighth time in the last 24 months.
Instead, St. Joseph will play for the championship in only its second trip to the tournament, becoming only the second Class A No. 5 seed to reach the final. Bishop Donahue accomplished the feat in 2007, losing to Charleston Catholic 83-40. Additionally, single-A won’t have a repeat champion for the seventh consecutive year. Wheeling Central won in 2008 and 2009.
“I’m proud of my team,” said St. Joseph guard John Morrison, who had 17 points and five steals for the Irish. “When we get down, we don’t give up.”
The Irish (21-6) found itself in a tight spot with 2:15 remaining, but just like the quarterfinal against Notre Dame, St. Joseph found a way.
Coach Ross Scaggs’ team trailed 50-45 with 2:15 left in the quarters before going on a 9-0 run to wrap up the school’s first state tournament victory.
The Irish was down 62-61 to Magnolia with 2:15 left and scored the game’s final nine points to finish off its second.
“I wouldn’t want to make a living doing this,” Scaggs said.
In the meantime, St. Joseph clamped down on Boswell, who didn’t score the first 3:20 of the game, then had 17 points the next six minutes. He left the final 1:16 of the second quarter because he was bleeding, giving him 41 points in 27:31 minutes. He returned to start the second half.
“They didn’t do anything we haven’t seen,” Boswell said. “It was very similar to what Wheeling Central does. The uptempo, I think that sped us up a little and we had some bad passes and they had some easy buckets.”
Keith Clemons led the way for the Irish with 24 points, while adding seven rebounds, four assists and two of his team’s nine steals. Deaundra Murphy had 14 points and five rebounds and John Dawson added 13 points, seven rebounds and four assists.
Mitch Winters had nine rebounds for Magnolia, but no other Blue Eagle player scored more than nine points while its bench was outscored by Morrison’s 17