ALBRIGHT: PHS girls’ hoops won’t be defined by losses

Windows of opportunity for success when special teams emerge don’t stay open long in high school sports. If a talented team hopes to make their mark on history, panes of glass must shatter early to signal a group’s matter-of-fact arrival.

One of those windows currently stands paneless, with a sweet aroma blowing in, for Parkersburg High’s girls’ basketball team. A year after winning the program’s sixth state title, the entire nucleus of the championship team returns with a chance to again celebrate in Charleston.

Division I commits in senior Shay-Lee Kirby (Austin Peay) and junior Madi Mace (Ohio University) along with juniors Aleea Crites and Bre Wilson command in possession of few equals if they come to play during any contest. A stifling, physical defense slowly wears down the opposition, while a multi-headed offensive attack creates additional headaches.

Opposing teams won’t be the only recipients of said headaches this season.

One of the beautiful twists in prep hoops in the Mountain State comes in the playoff format where everyone qualifies for the postseason. Teams aren’t punished for scheduling the hardest slate of games possible in an effort to better itself for late February and early March.

What is the use of being the best team on your schedule night in and night out?

Opportunities for growth are severly limited.

Mistakes and weakness are invisible until you play those top teams at a time where corrections aren’t easy to implement — Namely in the postseason.

Buckhannon-Upshur delivered the lesson in a painful way during the I.O.G.A Tournament at Glenville State College one year ago. Jeremy Maxwell’s top-ranked Bucs steamrolled the Big Reds by 27 points. Most of the remaining Big Reds’ opponents then guarded players in a similar way forcing adjustments for the better.

PHS’ head coach Scott Cozzens revved up to the maximum this philosophy then mixed in nitrous on the 2018-19 schedule. “I texted (assistant coach) Phil Wilson and told him we may have to get to the state tournament just to get to .500,” said Cozzens with a chuckle when asked about the schedule.

Qualifying for the state tournament already may be a done deal for both PHS and Parkersburg South in Region IV, Section II, the opposite side of the bracket, doesn’t have the highest amount of competition. Huntington struggled last season in the first campaign without Jordyn Dawson. Spring Valley lost their two best players. Hurricane lost their best player and the MSAC player of the year Mary Rogoszewski, and Cabell Midland continues to struggle during a rebuilding effort.

Although a nice trump card to have, Cozzens knows his girls don’t want to play the best only at the end of the season, most already play top AAU ball in the summer, and so they won’t:

* Fairmont Senior, featuring a healthy D-I recruit Anysa Jordan, marks the first opponent. The Polar Bears have morphed into a Class AA power with three trips to the title game under their belt in the last four seasons.

* Each Class A title game representative appears on the docket too. Don’t be fooled by the classification. Wheeling Central and Huntington St. Joe own two of the best lineups in the state. St. Joe might posses the best five after several transfers in the offseason. The Irish beat the Big Reds by 18 last season. Guard Dena Jarrells is among the short list of Mary Ostrowski Award possibles.

The Irish make the trip to Parkersburg, while the Maroon Knights are the day 2 opponent at the Fairmont tournament at the beginning of the season.

* Parkersburg South’s hard-nosed defense isn’t going away anytime soon under head coach Ed Davis. The rivals battled to a 2-2 tie in the season series last year. Many pieces of a zone defense keeping PHS’ offense in check for three of those four games returning for revenge after elimination in a state semifinal.

South also possesses a trump-card in Rod Oldham Athletic Center. PHS hasn’t won in the building once in the last 18 tries.

* Woodrow Wilson returns the core of its team who tested Parkersburg South in the state quarterfinals. Brian Nabors squad is young but talented. Guard Liz Cadle could be one of the best players in the state come tournament time this season.

* MSAC rival George Washington returns four of their starting five, plus the top bench player. Patriot head coach Jamie LaMaster also boasts he possessess the best group of freshman in the state.

* PHS makes the trip to Fairland, Kentucky to face a battle-hardened Boyd County, Kentucky group highlighted by Marshall-commit Savannah Wheeler.

* Class AA state title participants North Marion (champion) and Wyoming East had no open days left or they would have been on the schedule as well. North Marion, however, scrimmages the Big Reds on Nov. 23.

The Big Reds certainly won’t lose all of these games, but an undefeated season isn’t happening by design.

If PHS does go undefeated, it would be one of the best seasons in state history.

Parkersburg High’s season begins Nov. 30.

Contact at Joe Albright at jalbright@newsandsentinel.com.

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