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ALBRIGHT: Girl power rocked the hardwood in the 2010s

Can Mid-Ohio Valley sports fans please get another decade of high school girls’ basketball just like this one? No one needs a break from the constant barrage of talent. Enthusiasts like me being repeatedly punched in the face has never felt so good.

There was no hide-and-seek. One simply didn’t have time to put hands up to block the onslaught.

These annual eye-opening and blink-and-you-might-miss-them moments happened in Class AAA. They happened in Class AA. They happened in Class A, and they happened in Ohio.

Give us more Titans or anyone conquering Goliath, while the Charleston Coliseum rocks around them. Let the tears and cheers flow as an MOV team again upsets history. Hopefully the team makes sure all visitors to the state’s capital knows after they shocked the state. I still fondly remember Gilmer County’s Kylie Shuff’s, Riley Fitzwater’s, and their teammates’ screams echoing around downtown after they toppled St. Joe’s attempt at immortality.

And let’s have another group shoot 18% from the field and win a state championship. Sorry, Jerry Close. If there is a stat of the decade, this is probably it. Though, Waterford’s run to four straight state tournaments certainly sends running the money.

By the way, there would be no complaints watching another Parkersburg South 5-foot-4 dynamo or PHS contortionist win the Mary Ostrowski Award, either. Though Taryn McCutcheons and Shay-Lee Kirbys don’t just appear out of thin air, more speeches at the West Virginia Sports Writers awards dinner are never frowned upon.

Speaking of sad faces, more Erica Dawsons, Liz Flowerses, and Kelsea Fickiesens would be cause for just the opposite. Thunder and lightning of wicked storms had nothing on these three’s fear-inducing games.

Yes, there may have been no better decade for a sport in the MOV then girls’ basketball. Wrestling though certainly comes close as Parkersburg South (8) and Wirt County (1) claimed nine state team championships.

Girls on the hardwood produced four different state champions over two classes. PHS claimed two (2018, 19) then South (2013) and Gilmer County (2016) won one a piece. Five more might be on the books had St. Joe’s dynasty not gone on a seven-year run. Though I won’t claim them in the tally, Ravenswood’s own Jason White coached a team in Morgantown to another three banners.

There is just something special in this area. Something Williamstown head coach Fred Sauro’s words captured perfectly in an interview on Christmas Eve.

“I think the kids that work and worked at it just got better. That is what you are seeing and have seen. We have quality athletes who decided to tap their resources and see what they can do,” said Sauro, who has led the Yellowjacket girls for 35 years and seen more than just a fair share of hoops.

“Our area lends itself to great girls’ basketball with the Elite Center and schools in close proximity and it is pretty easy to get on a travel team and there is a big focus on hoops as well.”

This focus made the task of putting together an all-decade team more than fun. There were flashbacks. There were several games watched in the dead of night. There were several 4 a.m. ideas being typed into an iPhone note. There were a lot of text messages sent out in two weeks.

But the task at hand was completed even if it was just yesterday. Now, presented for your reading and reminiscing pleasure is the Mid-Ohio Valley All-Decade High School Girls’ Basketball team, including a bench:

Point guards

Taryn McCutcheon, Parkersburg South (first team); Kelsea Fickiesen, St. Marys (second team)

Everyone else considered were victims of this duo’s successes at not only the high school, but NCAA Division I college level. You want total packages with scoring, court vision, and floor awareness? Few players approach the level and blend of skill these two have on the hardwood. Also, you can put that look away South fans. Not including McCutcheon on this list is akin to madness.

Shooting guards

Erica Dawson, Marietta (first team); Liz Flowers, Williamstown (second team)

Think back through the decade and readers should reach the same conclusion. There weren’t two more exciting and gifted scorers in the area. Stories of each’s scoring feats are still told of in circles to this day. They racked up the points and opposing coaches ripped their hair out. Similar to McCutcheon and Fickiesen, each would go on to successful college stints, as if there were more reasons needed for their inclusions on this list.

Small forwards

Shay-Lee Kirby, Parkersburg High (first team); Katelyn Byrd, Parkersburg South (second team)

Controversy rose to the top for really the only time in these selections. It wasn’t so much on Kirby’s nomination. As mentioned above, she won the Mary O Award and is Parkersburg High’s all-time leading scorer. Katelyn Byrd, Brooke Kurucz’, and Aaliyah Brunny’s cases all screamed consideration for this spot. Brunny and Byrd’s defense set them apart. Byrd though was the very definition of what a small forward should be with her 3 and D style.

Power forwards

Madi Mace, Parkersburg High (first team); Lucille Westfall, Roane County (second team)

Versatility defined the career of both these young ladies. From the 2 through the 4 and maybe the 5 for Westfall, you would get maximum effort at any position from both these young ladies. Task them with whatever you need and they would get the job done. Both scored more than 1,000 points and only needed three years to do it. Westfall meanwhile is the all-time leading scorer (male or female) for Roane County as well as the only owner of 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds.

Centers

Anna Hayton, Parkersburg South (first team); Makenna Winans, Parkersburg South (second team)

The dying position saw few standouts in 10 years. These two though left a lasting memory each time you saw them play. On-the-block to the arc games made both of these young lady’s great post players in an ever-evolving basketball world. Riley Fitzwater nearly joined these young ladies off the bench. However, the rule of two kept her on the pine. Her defense and shot-blocking prowess went unmatched this decade.

Bench: Riley Fitzwater and Kylie Shuff, Gilmer County; Devin Hefner, Parkersburg South; Alli Kern and Megan Ball, Waterford; Bre Wilson and Brooke Kurucz, PHS; Madeline Huffman and Aaliyah Brunny, Parkersburg Catholic; Lexi Brookover, Frontier; Ashley Morris, Williamstown and Kendra Walker and Audra Clark, St. Marys.

Contact Joe Albright at jalbright@newsandsentinel.com.

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