St. Anne’s-Belfield girls basketball’s Jovia Winkey just sat down on the bench while most of her teammates quickly and happily filed back to the locker room in the wake of a 59-51 win over Bishop Ireton in the VISAA Division I state semifinals.
Winkey was wiped out, with nothing left in the tank.
“They were a run and gun team, fastbreaks, pushing the ball every chance they could get,” Winkey said. “We had to really make sure we sprinted back on defense and limit their points that way. They really made us work.”
Her exhaustion was understandable. She didn’t come out for 32 minutes in an up-tempo game, scoring 18 points, grabbing seven rebounds and dishing out five assists in a gutty, gritty effort by the senior point guard. Along with Kymora Johnson notching her first double double as a high schooler with 17 points and 10 rebounds, Winkey’s effort helped put her and her classmates like Vanessa Woodfolk, Jada Bennett and Alex Greer back in the state championship game for the second time in four years.
“This is what (we’ve) wanted and finally getting there and getting the opportunity is incredible,” Woodfolk said.
Woodfolk faced the difficult task of marking Bishop Ireton’s Boston College-bound Akunna Konkwo in the matchup with the Cardinal, and Woodfolk threw everything she could at senior center. She opened the STAB scoring with a three and played tough defense throughout the game with help from a gameplan that focused on quickly trapping and collapsing on on Konkwo in the post. Woodfolk, Sallie Vick and the rest of the Saints’ post players were successful, holding Konkwo to just 11 points on the night and just two in the second half as STAB pulled away.
“It’s hard, she’s going places, we all had to just work as a team going in focused and ready to play,” said Woodfolk, who finished with nine points of her own.
Johnson, meanwhile, was a critical part of an incredible stretch of play in the second quarter where both teams were making shots all over the floor. Johnson buried two threes, including one from near NBA range shortly after she got knocked to the floor on a steal attempt by Ireton. The eighth grader channeled her frustration and buried the long three, helping STAB match a flurry by Ireton on the other end.
Johnson then followed that second quarter spurt with nine points in the third as STAB transformed a narrow 30-28 lead at halftime into a 46-34 advantage heading into the fourth quarter.
Winkey iced the ame at the line from there, hitting 10-for-12 at the charity stripe in the game including a 6-for-6 stretch in the fourth quarter. Her and Johnson’s ball-handling were also critical to the win as despite pressure defense from the Cardinals, the Saints committed just three turnovers a team with Winkey dishing out five assists without a single turnover. She also snagged seven rebounds.
Scottie Hull, Jada Bennett and Vick all buried critical first half 3-pointers and Daija Bennett chipped in four points. Lauren Mingo led Bishop Ireton with 12 points.
One last hurdle remains now for the Saints in Paul VI, the owners of 12-straight state titles. The Panthers, who beat Bishop O’Connell in the other semifinal, haven’t lost a state title game winning in 2007. The Saints will take their shot at the program’s first state title since 2005 at 5 p.m. at the Steward School in Richmond.
“This is exactly where we wanted to be,” Winkey said. “We just have to leave it all on the court, it’s our last game win or lose. It’s my last game of my high school career, so I just want to let it all out.”