South conquers PHS in the sectional final

Photo by Joe Albright Parkersburg High’s Madi Mace blocks out Parkersburg South’s Rylee Harner after a pass by the Patriot during South’s 68-59 Class AAA Region IV, Section 1 final victory over the Big Reds Friday night at Erickson All-Sports Facility.

PARKERSBURG — A strong defense.

Parkersburg South head coach Ed Davis has preached the need for a tough point-stopping unit all year long as there would be nights where shots weren’t falling and the Patriots had to get stops to stay in games.

One of those contests happened during the Patriots’ 68-59 Class AAA Region IV, Section 1 final win over rival Parkersburg Friday night inside the Rod Oldham Athletic Center.

Reeling after scoring just eight points on 2-of-9 shooting in the second quarter and trailing by 11 at the half, the Patriots, who host Spring Valley at 7 p.m. Tuesday night in a regional co-final, turned to their bread and butter to right things in the third period.

Davis’ team forced four Big Red turnovers in the first five possessions of the stanza to fuel a 10-1 run. A tenacious South press troubled the Big Reds and held them to 10 points in the period. The press also forced PHS into 11 turnovers after they committed just six in the first half.

Photo by Joe Albright Parkersburg South’s Makenna Winans tries to strip the ball from Parkersburg’s Bre Wilson during a drive to the basket in the Patriots’ 68-59 Class AAA Region IV, Section 1 final win over the Big Reds Friday night at Erickson All-Sports Facility.

Meanwhile, the Patriots offense, led by 10 markers from Makenna Winans, tallied 26 points to pull ahead by five, 48-43, after 24 minutes.

PHS fought through the pressure to take a 55-53 lead on a Bre Wilson bucket off a Madi Mace assist with 4:08 left in the fourth quarter, but those would be the last points the Big Reds scored until Aleea Crites connected on two foul shots with 46.7 seconds left in the game.

“We had been nervous all week,” said Allie Taylor, who hit two big 3s in the pivotal third period, on the game. “We all talked and I told them they would come out fired up. We beat them by 18 the last time, so they were going to come out ready to play. I told them in the locker room at halftime to just slow down and it was fine we could come back. I think it was our nerves at first … This is the first time a lot of them had played in a sectional final.”

Parkersburg High School, which travels to Cabell Midland at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the other regional co-final, rolled out with a lot of energy eager to grab a win in a gym they hadn’t conquered in 18 years.

Unlike in the first matchup at South, Scott Cozzen’s team came out driving the ball down the lane early and often to get the Patriots in early foul trouble.

Those drives helped open up Shay-Lee Kirby from behind the arc in the second quarter and she took advantage. The junior drained four of the Big Reds’ five downtown shots in the first half, which helped her team to a 33-22 halftime advantage.

“PHS came out with a really good game plan by cutting and driving hard at us and we got in four trouble,” said Davis. “We tried to go zone, that didn’t work. The little trap worked a little bit there, but if nothing else, it got us moving and that was (his wife) Suzie’s idea. The third and fourth quarter we were much more active on defense.”

Indeed, once South buckled down on defense, the drives to the basket dried up and PHS started settling for 3-point shots. While they may have been hot in the first half, the opposite was true in the second.

PHS connected on 2 of 11 shots from behind the arc in the final 16 minutes as South pulled away.

Something Cozzens wasn’t happy about and he feels cost them the game.

“We weren’t attacking the way we did in the first half,” said Cozzens. “If we go to the rim, they are going to call a foul and we just didn’t do it.”

Both teams made it into the double bonus in the first half, and PHS fell three fouls short of the mark in the second half, but South enjoyed the benefit from 5:55 in the fourth until the end of the game.

Foul trouble could have played a part in the lack of aggression from the Big Reds. PHS’ leading scorer Mace picked up three fouls in the first quarter, while several other players including Kirby, Wilson and Maggie Richards got in foul trouble in the second half.