ALBRIGHT: Every team needs a Jenna Boice

As an opposing player runs through a doublescreen from wing-to-wing in an effort to avoid her defender, frustration mounts on her face as the Parkersburg Catholic player assigned to her closely follows behind the drawn-up play route.

Quick backdoor cuts under the basket in a further effort to free herself prove futile.

Jenna Boice stays stuck like glue to her assignment with a hand in the passing lane.

The ill-advised bounce pass from the opposing point guard, who thought her teammate surely shook Boice after the sequence, deflects off the Crusaderette’s digits. One of Boice’s teammates corrals the ball. Madeline Huffman, Aaliyah Brunny, Leslie Huffman, Madison Ross or some combination of her teammates sprint to the other end of the floor for a transition layup.

Boice likely won’t be credited with an assist or the steal, though her hand generated the turnover. But a smile appears on her face nonetheless as someone on her team scored a bucket. Her sweat and a few seconds of heavy breathing from the effort of causing the takeaway are a worthwhile sacrifice.

Occurrences identical or similar to these take place every time Boice takes the floor for head coach Marty Vierheller.

They form a few of the reasons she joined thestarting lineup this season. Coach V openly relies on her to perform how he needs her to regardless of the game or situation.

“You always know what you are going to get from Jenna,” said Vierheller. “There is never a night she is not locked in on her defensive assignment or ready to hear her number called in a game.”

Take the battle against rival Williamstown in a Class A Region IV, Section 1 final on Feb. 23 at home as another example. The loser faces Class A power and top-ranked Huntington St. Joe in a regional co-final. Shannon Lewis’ Irish handed Class AAA top-ranked Parkersburg its only loss of the campaign.

Boice, not known for her scoring, donned a Superman cape and saved the Crusaderettes’ season. She gathered the courage in the spotlight for a 20-point evening, including the game-deciding lay-in with 20 seconds remaining, on a night where main scorers the Huffmans and Brunny could not get shots to fall.

Williamstown left her open and Boice made them pay. “I always shoot when I am open in practice,” said Boice when asked how she prepares for those scoring moments with a limited number of shots in other games because she isn’t the primary scoring option. “Those shots keep me prepared for those moments.”

This confidence aided her effort when the biggest moment of the season so far for Boice unexpectedly arrived against the Yellowjackets.

Catholic’s main scoring trio found their touch in the next game, a regional co-final against Tug Valley.

The Big Three poured in 52 of the 79 final-score points. Boice tallied seven markers and played her usual stellar brand of defense. Celebrations with teammates followed as the Crusaderettes’ win propelled them to the state tournament for a second consecutive season.

No reporters sought her out after the game for a quote like after the win over the Yellowjackets. She didn’t score in double figures again either.

She is fine with these events.

Only one stat matters to the Crusaderettes’ soft-spoken sophomore upon the conclusion of any game — the final score. If her team has a W and she contributed in any way, even small, it was a good day.

“I am not here to get my stats,” Boice said matter-of-factly during a one-on-one interview with me earlier this week. “I realize scoring isn’t what my team needs from me so I play great defense and get steals and create scoring opportunities for my teammates.”

Defense stands as her passion. Love learned watching oldest brother Jake take charges and defend during his time in the powder blue and white. He wasn’t much of a scorer either, instead largely know for his abilities son the baseball diamond.

She shares text messages with him after each charge she takes in a contest. “He is proud of me after every exchange,” she said with a smile.

Boice also feels the legacy of Jake and older brother Jeb in Crusaderette sports. Each young man laid a path of hard work and doing whatever it takes before she arrived at the high school.

“I couldn’t ruin the boys’ legacy,” she said with a chuckle, “I didn’t want to.”

Rest easy Jenna, you have only positively added to it.

Her intensity and refusal to take plays off filtered through the locker room. Vierheller and assistant coach Tom Carr see more of their team willing to put their bodies on the line in front of an offensive player now than at the beginning of the season.

Her personality shows through in her playstyle. She lights up a room and puts a smile on faces, but is the very definition of a blue-collar worker on the floor. Energy magnetically attracting others to emulate her when they are on floor.

She and Leslie Huffman also provide the backbone to a press many struggle bringing the ball up the floor against this season. Both young ladies can play four of the five spots well, according to Carr.

Boice’s overall approach to the game stands as a refreshing treat from the monotony of the AAU mentality dominating even the high-school level where scoring, rebounding, and flashy passes make defense look unappealing.

Every team could use a Jenna Boice.

Contact Joe Albright at jalbright@newsandsentinel.com.

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