HUNTINGTON - With less than a minute remaining in the Class A state championship game, Huntington St. Joseph was clinging for dear life to a lead on Wheeling Central that had slowly evaporated as the Irish struggled in the fourth quarter. The Irish were reeling and in need of a big play.
As Wheeling Central looked to tie the ballgame, St. Joe's Mychal Johnson stepped in front of a pass and turned it into a 3-point play that clinched the fourth-straight Class A championship for the Irish.
Those veteran plays have Johnson among the ranks of the nation's top sophomores and are a big reason why she was named captain of the 2011-12 Class A All-State Team, as voted on by the West Virginia Sports Writers Association.
"She's always played above her years," said St. Joseph coach Shannon Lewis. "Her knowledge of the game is pretty high and she makes plays. I was confident with this group that we were going to make plays to win it."
Johnson was joined on the first team by sophomore teammate Griffin Dempsey, who was a 3-point specialist and poured in 52 points in a game early in the year against Charleston Catholic.
This year's first team saw a balance of class with three seniors, three juniors and the pair of St. Joe sophomores.
The trio of seniors includes Williamstown's Liz Flowers and Pocahontas County's Chloe Bland - a pair of first-team returnees - and Trinity's Tara Neely.
St. Marys junior Audra Clark also returned to the first-team for the second-straight year while Wheeling Central's Emily Bucon drew first-team honors after leading the Maroon Knights to the title contest and Parkersburg Catholic's Leah Hughes rounded out the first team. Both Bucon and Hughes were second-team selections last year.
Having five first-team selections returning for the 2012-13 season foreshadows a bright future for girls basketball in the Mountain State.
"It sounds like there are going to be a bunch of solid girls back at the state tournament next year," Lewis said. "I'm sure everyone is going to work hard and get better. It'll make for an exciting year."
Wheeling Central's Colleen McCormick was named captain of the second-team while Notre Dame's Molly Angotti returned to the second-team for the second-straight year.
Seniors on the second-team included Tucker County's Caitlin Maxwell, Madonna's Isabella Anile and Chelsea Rush of Tygarts Valley.
In addition to Angotti and McCormick, juniors included Fayetteville's Jessica Brown and Valley-Fayette's Alexis Payne. Trinity's Jackie Halapy was the lone sophomore named to the second team.
St. Marys senior Dani Renner returned to the third team for the second-consecutive year and was named captain.
Third-team members included the St. Joe sophomore tandem of Asia Petitte and Rachel Lee, Midland Trail senior Allison Syner, Meadow Bridge junior Chandra Harrah, Buffalo sophomore Chelsea Parkins, Williamstown junior Kenzie Smith and Pocahontas County senior Miranda McNabb.