Big Red girls play for MSAC title Saturday

Parkersburg will face Woodrow Wilson for second time this season

Parkersburg High’s Maggie Richards navigates a Parkersburg South double-team of Erin Williams (20) and Lauren Pelfrey (34) during a 2018 regular-season game. Richards and the Big Reds face Woodrow Wilson for the Mountain State Athletic Conference title Saturday at the South Charleston Community Center. Photo by Joe Albright

PARKERSBURG — So, what is the message from Parkersburg High School head coach Scott Cozzens to his girls’ basketball team about the Mountain State Athletic Conference title game against Woodrow Wilson at 6 p.m. Saturday inside the South Charleston Community Center?

How can he pump up his young ladies for the Flying Eagles, who they beat by 30 not even a month ago?

Simple — Remind them of what is at stake with some praise mixed in.

“Monday I had a quick talk with them and told them how proud I was of them and that we have had a great season to this point,” said Cozzens, whose team is riding a 12-game winning streak. “But these next two or three weeks when we are in here practicing there are championships on the line. We play for a conference title Saturday which is very important to this program and then we start the tournament.

“Everyone knows our ultimate goal there so there is no motivation needed. The girls are ready to go. I told the girls it is time to turn it up to another level people haven’t seen.”

PHS certainly cranked up the intensity during the first meeting between the two programs back on Jan. 24.

Big Reds’ shooters connected on 22 of 35 shots in the first half and PHS jumped out to a 54-30 halftime lead. Defensively, Cozzens’ group caused chaos in the half court and full court with unrelenting pressure.

A 19-6 run generated by eight turnovers in the opening three-and-a-half minutes of the game put the Big Reds in command.

Woodrow Wilson’s lack of depth allowed PHS to tire Eagles’ starters out quickly as well.

Something Cozzens plans to try and do again.

“We are going to try and run them,” said Cozzens. “We are not going to change anything that hasn’t been successful all year. We have done a good job of putting pressure on teams in half-court and full-court defense. There are no special game plans. Our strategy will either be good enough that night or it won’t.”

Woodrow Wilson head coach Brian Nabors’ team comes into the contest 4-2 in the last six games. Two of the top clubs in the state handed the Eagles the only setbacks in Class AA top-ranked Wyoming East (56-49) and Class AAA No. 2 Greenbrier East (46-44). However, the Eagles avenged the loss to Wyoming East in the Big Atlantic Classic a week later and also beat ranked Morgantown a game earlier.

Cozzens expects Nabors’ group to be more prepared for the pressure after it ran a limited number of offensive sets against the Big Reds.

“I know he will make some changes and we will have to see what those are as we go along and adjust on the fly,” he said.

“We cannot let the get into a slow-down, grind-it-out game,” he continued. “They are just too big and strong for us. We have to speed them up and take their legs away and create mismatches out on the open floor.”

Big Reds fans in attendance can expect to see the usual starting five of Maddi Leggett, Bre Wilson, Shay-Lee Kirby, Aleea Crites and Madi Mace.