South girls off to an unexpected 9-2 start

Photo by Joe Albright Parkersburg South’s Devin Hefner battles for the opening tipoff against Fort Frye’s Makayla Liedtk during the Patriots’ 48-39 win over the Cadets earlier this season.

PARKERSBURG — Eyebrow raising.

This is the response you would get from Parkersburg South head girls basketball coach Ed Davis if you told him before the year his Patriots would be 9-2 just past the halfway point of the 2016-17 regular season.

No one knew what to expect as South said goodbye to head coach Scott Stephens and one of the most successful senior classes in school history. It was going to be a fresh start with only a handful of returning players possessing any varsity experience for Davis and his staff.

Scoring, rebounding, defense and leadership … All of those issues bubbled to the top as key for the Patriots to figure out as they headed into the campaign.

Those questions have been answered and then some through the first eleven games of the season for the blue and white.

Almost every contest has featured two or more Patriot cagers going over double-digits in the points column. In the biggest win of the year for South so far, an 82-80 win over currently top-ranked Huntington, four players scored in double-digits on the night to help lead the Patriots to a big upset. Devin Hefner (29) and Lexi Moore (24) combined for 53 of the Patriots points in the win.

“We were really excited to play Huntington,” said senior Jordan Johnson. “And Devin (Hefner) had an awesome game.”

Johnson also has stepped to the forefront when her team has needed her the most this season. Against PHS in the fourth quarter, the Patriot leader led the way to victory after the Big Reds had trimmed a 17-point South lead down to two.

Johnson constantly found a way to get to the free throw line in the final stanza and hit all 12 free throw attempts during a 31-point performance in the Patriots’ 78-69 rivalry game win.

“I give credit to the girls,” said Davis. “They have bought into the fact anyone can lead us in scoring on any given night. It is a great kind of balance to have to know anyone can pick us up on a night when as a team we might be down shooting-wise. On the other side, it really makes us hard to scout and opponents can’t formulate a game plan to shut down our top scorer.”

When South isn’t scoring big, the team has utilized a stifling defense to hinder its opponents. Davis and company forced Morgantown to commit 29 turnovers, 21 of those off steals, en route to a 46-37 road win over the No. 6 Mohigans. It isn’t just the Morgantown game either. The Patriots have had their hands in opponents passing lanes all season long. They have swiped 10 or more passes in every game this season.

Multi-sport athlete Cassie Whitlatch has down a great job providing a constant flow of defensive energy when out on the floor. She will dive for a loose ball or do her best to at least secure a jump ball call to get the rock back to South. The senior fights hard for rebounds and is unrelenting.

Being small hasn’t stopped South from doing a great job of rebounding in the early part of the season. A particular area of worry for the Patriots head man, his team has done an excellent job of crashing the boards to limit opponents’ second chance opportunities and generate their own. Allie Taylor and Lauren Hannah have been instrumental in pulling down caroms (they are the two tallest girls on the team) and their tenacity has spread throughout the lineup.

In other words, teams better watch out because this South team isn’t backing down from anyone.

“I am extremely happy with our season,” said Johnson. “A lot of people expected us not to do very well because we lost so many girls but we have really showed them we can play well.”