PHS fans, jot down these dates

One year after an energetic run to the Class AAA state tournament, the Parkersburg High School girls basketball team is set up for even more success with the return of experienced players all over the floor for first-year head man Scott Cozzens.

Expectations are high for the Big Reds, but chances to catch the squad at home are low this season.

Fans need to clear a few hours out of six nights if they want see a dynamic team play inside Memorial Fieldhouse.

Good competition drips from the matchups as former state champions, several 2017 state tournament participants, and Mountain State Athletic Conference foes take on the Big Reds.

One of those past state champions begins the PHS campaign with a bang, when a squad who played in the past three Ohio Division IV state tournaments arrives for a 7:30 p.m. matchup Dec. 2.

Waterford won a title in 2016 and finished as runner-up last season.

Jerry Close’s Wildcats just lost one player off last year’s team, and welcome back plenty of talent.

Megan Ball and Alli Kern lead the green and white into battle. Both already have signed to play Division II college ball for the next four years. Ball chose Ohio Dominican, while Kern is going to Walsh University.

Winning comes second nature to this program as led by the pair of 2016-17 Ohio Division IV first-team honorees the ‘Cats own an 80-7 hardwood mark the past three seasons.

“We are looking forward to playing Parkersburg,” said Close. “They are a very good and athletic team. This game will be one of the biggest challenges on our schedule this year. Sometimes scheduling doesn’t work out this way, but fortunately it did for us this season.”

This is a game I don’t want to miss, but the Super Six also is the same weekend.

Class AA’s 2016 state champion Wyoming East makes the almost three-hour drive from New Richmond for a 7:30 p.m. matchup Jan. 13.

Injuries derailed a bid at a repeat last year, but Warriors’ head coach Angie Boninsegna added to her depth by playing new girls. “We go 10-11 deep this year. Our kids got a lot of valuable playing time and we are excited to get started.”

One of the injured is junior guard and 2016 all-state first-team captain Gabby Lupardus, who returns after tearing her ACL and missing all of last season. When healthy she is easily one of the best 1s in the state. I saw her at the state championship game two years ago and she runs the floor well and possesses excellent court vision.

The Warriors won’t be complete strangers to the Big Reds as their 6-foot-5 center Emily Saunders plays summer ball with PHS’ Shay-Lee Kirby on the West Virginia Thunder.

“I think this game will give us good experience against a high-quality team for further down the road,” said Boninsegna. “We saw them play last year at the Big Atlantic Classic and they have an aggressive defense.”

No home slate would be complete without crosstown rival Parkersburg South, which visits for a 7:30 p.m. battle Dec. 30. Competition is sure to be fierce as Ed Davis’ team brings back experience hungry to repay in full the Big Reds after a tough sectional-final loss last season. Bre Wilson nailed a trey with 14 seconds left to give PHS a 51-49 win and a home game in a regional co-final.

Fresh off a surprising trip to the state tournament one year ago, St. Albans and first-year head coach Scott Twiddy mark the final regular-season home game of the campaign for the Big Reds on Feb. 8.

The Red Dragons lost their top and third leading scorers, but bring back No. 2 point producer in senior Jaden McDaniels (12.7 points per game). McDaniels is the only elder classmen on the team, along with three juniors and six sophomores.

George Washington comes to town for a 7:30 p.m. tip-off Dec. 18. Katy Darnell, a 2016-17 Class AAA All-State second-team selection, leads her squad in an upset bid. Overall, Jamie LaMaster’s girls are looking for a rebound year after a down season.

Cabell Midland takes its best shot on Jan. 23.

“He (PHS principal Kenny DeMoss) didn’t do us any favors,” said Cozzens.

If you think this is tough, check out the rest of the Big Reds schedule when the Winter Tab comes out Dec. 15.

In the meantime, don’t forget to get these dates in the book to come out and support PHS.

Contact Joe Albright at jalbright@newsandsentinel.com.

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