PHS girls open state tournament play today

Courtesy photo Parkersburg High’s Shay-Lee Kirby, left, and Tavien Clark celebrate their regional co-final victory against Cabell Midland last week.

PARKERSBURG — Neither No. 3 seed Parkersburg nor No. 4 seed Martinsburg girls’ basketball teams hoisted the Class AAA state championship trophy after the title game was over last season.

Instead, each team went out in the first round of the tournament.

PHS lost to South Charleston, while MHS fell to Wheeling Park.

Tears streamed down the faces of Parkersburg’s Madi Mace, Bre Wilson and Alex Delozier as they sat in the press conference after the game.

Once back in the locker room, Mace asked a question that stuck with then-assistant coach Scott Cozzens.

“Ms. Mace asked, ‘Is that all there is? Is that it?’ “ said the newly-minted head coach. “And I think it drove home how sudden things can happen down there (in Charleston). One minute you have all this happiness and joy about being down there and then it is over.”

Mace’s inquiry helped propel the Big Reds to a 19-6 record and the third-seed in the state tournament this season.

“We feel good heading into tonight’s game,” said Cozzens, whose team faces Martinsburg at 7:15 p.m. “We had a little bit of expectations put on us this year and pressure. But now that we are back to where we wanted to be, we have had two or three practices since the Midland game and they seem really loose … like the weight of the world is off their shoulders. We will see how it goes down there.”

PHS faces a relatively-experienced bunch in the Bulldogs’ head coach Kyle Triggs’ team. Four girls have seen time on the Civic Center floor in past tournaments, but the rest of the team is pretty new to the experience.

Past experience or not Cozzens said his team is giving Martinsburg “more respect than they have given a lot of teams this year.” He cited his group’s desire to be in a semifinal game Friday night and see what happens.

One thing the Big Reds don’t want to do is let Bulldog junior guard Amelia Jenkins (7.7 points per game) get going because then the entire Martinsburg team begins to roll.

“Jenkins is our motor,” said Triggs. “She plays with a ton of energy and is very physical. Once she gets rolling, she is our catalyst.”

Fortunately, the Big Reds have a pretty good press system they have utilized to slow down some of the better guards in the state this season.

So good in fact the Martinsburg head man listed it as one of his major concerns during the interview.

“I think any time you play a team that presses the way they do to try and create as many possessions as as possibly, just your ability to play your game and keep your pace and not get caught up in a track meet is important,” he said. “We have to control the pace and handle their press.”

Triggs’ team certainly plans to be the team moving on to the second round. They bring a great defense with them to the matchup and a fiery, motivated mindset.

“The girls don’t want to be the team that wins the section and region and comes down here and doesn’t play very well, which has happened the last two years,” said Triggs. “It is going to be interesting to see how this group does on the floor.”

Triggs has Jenkins along with Deaira Hairston, Kylie Roberts, Kyaira Paige and Morganne Andrews in the starting five. Cozzens, meanwhile, will run out Maddi Leggett, Madi Mace, Bre Wilson, Shay-Lee Kirby and Aleea Crites to counter the Bulldogs. Emily Kupfner, Tavien Clark and Maggie Richards are the usual subs for the Big Reds.