ALBRIGHT: Parkersburg Catholic girls’ basketball team responds well to success

While Parkersburg Catholic girls’ basketball team’s recent win over reigning Class A state champion Wheeling Central two Saturdays ago was impressive, it was not the main game of Marty Vierheller’s squad I eyed during the past nine days.

Interest turned immediately to the follow-up home contests against undefeated Notre Dame (Thursday) and a 2017 state-tournament qualifying Trinity squad (Saturday) featuring a five senior lineup. Two teams, like Central, who were not intimidated by the Crusaderettes’ nine state title banners.

How would Coach V’s squad handle the 65-60 Central win where the Crusaderettes led by as many as 16 points? Would they take time to enjoy the victory by maybe taking a game or two off? Or would they quickly process the information in the back of their collective mind as an experience they could draw on immediately?

After all, great teams are not measured by their successes, but by the response to and handling of those successes.

And this Catholic group certainly has on the brain the achievement of some big accomplishments. Chief among those being a state championship which means PC has to re-focus quickly three different times in as many days in March inside the Civic Center.

As I expected with any squad featuring Madeline Huffman and Aaliyah Brunny as leaders, PCHS wanted to finish the toughest three-game stretch of its regular-season schedule with an unblemished mark.

Hope not answered as Catholic could only overcome one of two slow starts, the win coming in the matchup against Notre Dame, to finish with a 2-1 mark before the bulk of their Little Kanawha Conference games.

However, the reigning LKC champs proved up to the challenge after trailing early in both games.

The Fighting Irish fell victim to a 20-4 streak in the third quarter where everything went right for the Crusaderettes in a 11-point win. Irish defenders couldn’t shut down penetrating guards and forwards. Catholic also played well around the basket in the second half.

This coming after ND led 17-11 after one period of play.

Scoring streaks are something the Crusaderettes feast on when they get the opportunity. The offense explodes and beats back an opponent’s advances for good in a lot of the games this particular version of the team has played together.

Trinity though had the height and length to cause problems, altered shots and avoid said blistering offensive streaks. Catholic’s defensive intensity coupled with an ability to draw fouls in the second half kept the Crusaderettes close until the end.

One of the biggest problems in each game proved to be the inability of the home team to cover late on open 3-point shooters.

Consistent outside shooting allowed Notre Dame an early lead, while Trinity’s shots from downtown answered every haymaker Catholic could muster in the second half.

Each shot was taking the air out of the home crowd each time, and Catholic does feed on its home audience.

Foul trouble also caused Vierheller to shuffle his lineup around. Rarely did he have his top unit on the floor as Brunny spent time in monster foul trouble against the Warriors were she ultimately fouled out and against the Irish. Despite this fact Brunny still scored a sneaky 19 and 15 points respectively.

Leslie Huffman also spent time in foul trouble against Trinity but rarely left the game as she handled the scoring burden well with 24 points.

Most encouraging was the fact the young freshmen stepped up to the plate when Madeline and Brunny couldn’t score. After a month of constantly missing a chance to watch practice, I got to see the freshmen play in person twice and they impressed.

Paige Stotts, Leslie Huffman, and Lainie Ross played a few big minutes for the powder blue and white.

Depth visibly caused problems as Trinity finished with three different players with four fouls or more at the end of the game.

Overall, I liked what I saw from the Crusaderettes from their resourcefulness to depth and a never-give-up attitude to come-at-me-bro mindset.

Contact Joe Albright at jalbright@newsandsentinel.com.

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