Shay-Lee Kirby’s 33 paces PHS

Senior’s eruption helps Big Reds blast past foe GW

Photo by F. Brian Ferguson, The Gazette Mail Parkersburg's Kristen Lowers. at left, guards George Washington’s Vivian Ho during Monday evening action at GW.

CHARLESTON — Class AAA No. 1 Parkersburg brings with it a handful of things that are impossible to prepare for.

Among them are length, depth and hard-nosed tenacity. Another is Shay-Lee Kirby.

And all four were on full display in the Big Reds’ latest conquest on Monday night as Kirby sparked a 16-2 run in the third quarter with one of her seven 3-pointers and Parkersburg blew open a close contest en route to a 78-57 win over George Washington on the Hill.

Kirby drained 7 of 12 3-point attempts en route to season-high 33 points, scoring 15 of those in the deciding third period as the defending-state-champion Big Reds ran their record to 16-1 and strengthened their grip on the Mountain State Athletic Conference race.

“People around the state can talk all they want, she’s the best senior in the state,” Parkersburg coach Scott Cozzens said. “What she does on the defensive end, the offensive end, everything she does for us — she’s just a handful.”

She was certainly more than the Patriots (9-7) could handle on Monday despite keeping themselves in the thick of things for two and a half quarters.

GW entered the half down 38-32 and five times in the third, the Patriots cut the deficit to four.

But each time, Parkersburg, like it has most of the season, found answers with the last of which coming on a Kirby 3 to make the score 50-43. Two steals and ensuing run-out layups turned a four-point deficit into 11 and it would only get worse as accumulating turnovers became too plentiful for GW to overcome.

“I think our second half is always our strongest half,” Kirby said. “We come out and hit a couple of shots and I think that boosts our energy back up and makes us more focused for the second half.”

The Patriots turned the ball over 25 times including 15 times in the second half. There were bright spots for the host team with senior Katy Darnell scoring 16 points, Lauren Harmison coming up with 12 points and seven rebounds, Kalissa Lacy adding 11 points and Vivian Ho swishing a trio of big 3s to finish with nine.

But for a team that’s battled a bit of inconsistency this season, any crack will be magnified against the Big Reds and in the third quarter, those momentary lapses did the Patriots in.

“The makeup of their team and their athletic ability and depth allows them to get away with some things maybe we can’t get away with,” GW coach Jamie LaMaster said. “For two and a half quarters I thought we played really hard . . . if I can build on that effort from here, I like the direction we’re going.”

The loss stopped a five-game winning streak for GW, which peaked back into the top 10 for the first time on Monday since the preseason poll was released.

Bre Wilson kickstarted Parkersburg offensively, scoring eight of her 15 points in the first quarter with Kirby racking up 25 of her 33 tallies over the next two periods. Aleea Crites contributed 11 points for the Big Reds as well.

Parkersburg piled up 17 steals among GW’s 25 turnovers and made passing the ball a nightmare in general for the Patriots. Behind that is a full-court press Cozzens utilized at times, but in the half court, the Big Reds’ length and quickness cut down on open looks and sparked quick offense after turnovers as well.

“We’re a lot deeper than they are and eventually it’s going to wear on you mentally and physically,” Cozzens said. “They made some mistakes in the second half that they didn’t make in the first half.”

After storming to a state title from the No. 3 seed a year ago, Parkersburg entered the season ranked in the top spot among big schools and haven’t relinquished it, punishing in-state Class AAA competition by an average of 28.2 points per game.

Cozzens praised his team for handling the pressure so far and applauded his players’ work in the offseason for driving the team despite some early-season injuries and a tough schedule.

“They’ve been wonderful,” Cozzens said. “They came back so much more mature. We didn’t do anything in the offseason as a team, nothing. But they came back ready to play. A lot of the trouble teams gave us last year, we didn’t even work on it, they just came back more skilled so it hasn’t affected us. Winning lifted the pressure off and now we’re just playing, enjoying the game and they love to play with each other.”