Heathwood Hall’s A’ja Wilson made sure that she left her mark on the record book of the CresCom Bank Holiday Invitational, even though it came in a losing effort. St. Joseph (Huntington, WV) spoiled Wilson’s party with an 85-82 victory to take home the fifth place trophy.
Wilson, ranked by ESPN as the #1 player in the nation, scored 56 points to break Ivory Latta’s record of 53. Latta, now an assistant coach at the University of North Carolina and member of the WNBA’s Washington Mystic, set the mark while playing for York (SC) High School in the 2002 tournament. Wilson also set four-game tournament records with 167 points and 83 rebounds.
While Wilson’s time on the floor was obviously fruitful, it was her time off of the floor that may have cost Heathwood Hall the game. The Highlanders held a commanding 60-39 lead with 8:05 to play when an alarm clock went off in the heads of the St. Joseph players and they came storming back. In less than three minutes, St. Joseph closed the gap to just one at 63-62 with 5:40 on the clock with an amazing 23-3 run.
Heathwood Hall continued to hold a small lead when Wilson was fouled with 3:41 on the clock. She went to the ground, hitting the back of her head, and was taken out for the first time all day. Cami Phillips entered the game and stepped to the free throw line and hit one of two free throws to give the Highlanders a 70-68 lead. Wilson would return at the 1:55 mark but left with 1:12 on the clock for good.
While Wilson was on the bench, St. Joseph’s Griffin Dempsey capped an 8-3 spurt with a 3-pointer to give the Fighting Irish a 76-75 advantage with 2:08 to play. St. Joseph’s built a five-point lead at 84-79 with just 13 seconds remaining before Heathwood Hall’s Erin Ress drilled a long 3-point basket to close the gap to just two points. Mychelle Johnson then hit one of two free throws for the Fighting Irish to leave the door open with four seconds to play. Chelsea Joseph’s halfcourt heave at the buzzer grazed the front of the rim to end the contest.
St. Joseph’s was led by Mychal Johnson’s 34 points while Dempsey chipped in 23 points and six rebounds. In addition to her 56 points, Wilson grabbed 21 rebounds and connected on 19-of 22 from the field and 18-of-22 from the free throw line.