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ALBRIGHT: Tough choices make up 2019’s top sports moments

Decisions, decisions … Wow, there were a lot of hard decisions.

This past year in sports provided the Mid-Ohio Valley plenty of great moments. Winter, spring, fall you name it and something big happened in every season. There were state champions. There were major award winners. There were great last-minute relays to win state championships. There were some great comeback stories.

All accomplishments make the selection of the cream of the crop harder every year. But there are no complaints here, it is a huge blessing and big credit to the athletes in the MOV. We have determined young people coached by strong, talented leaders who all have major fan support anywhere in the state. This fact also makes the process a joy to review all the worthy moments.

As I said there were some big ones, but after much deliberation five stood out more than the rest. These are the moments where you don’t need to wait for the jack-in-the-box to fully crank before the payoff. All five were capable of being the top moment, but one pinned you to the ground about as well as a world-class wrestler can dominate on the mat.

Yes, PHS and South dominated this list. More so in the winter sports, but the AAA school in Jackson County made a sunny sprint to the finish in the selection process:

No. 1: Braxton Amos captures the Robert Dutton Award

One word accurately sums up Braxton Amos’ time on the mat in the Mountain State – dominant. Parkersburg South’s 220-pound wrestler makes history, plain and simple. Zero offensive points allowed on him and a state championship is the standard he established his sophomore season. More of the same came his junior year.

His performance, in turn, brought a senior exclusive award to his trophy case after the voting. He bucked the voting trend as hard as an angry bronco at a rodeo.

Kids refused to face this young man. Then the only way to push him into a third period was stall long enough, which very few did. Most kids either left the mat after not even a period via pin, or were tech falled out of the matchup.

No. 2: Shay-Lee Kirby brings the Mary Ostrowski honor home

OK, you got me. Kirby didn’t play for Parkersburg Catholic, but the award returned to Mary O’s birth city for the first time in four years.

Taryn McCutcheon dazzled at the point guard position for Parkersburg South in her winning season.

Kirby brought a much different set of skills to her award year. The now NCAA Division I Austin Peay player was a menace on the defensive end of the floor. Then in transition and in the half-court, she was never afraid to take the big shot for the Big Reds on offense. Her leadership and bulldog attitude led the way to back-to-back state titles for PHS.

No. 3: Ripley girls’ track and field and PHS girls’ swimming repeat as state champions on final event of meet

Talk about cutting it close.

Win the final relay or give up the title of state champion. The choice was crystal clear, so how would these eight young ladies respond to the task? Blowing away the field was how each quartet of young ladies responded to the thought about that prospect.

The Viking group set a new state record in the 4×400, while the Big Red girls finished an astounding six seconds ahead of runner-up George Washington in the 400 Free.

No. 4: Bre Wilson’s triumphant return from an ACL tear

Pure joy. This was the feeling of seeing Wilson back on the basketball court. Her journey back after an injury where the sport can be unforgivable was a positive one. There was zero rust.

She hit 3s. She played defense. She smiled and enjoyed the game, especially in the biggest moment on the brightest stage.

There would not be a three-peat attempt this season without her seven treys in the state title game.

It was a moment that brought her to the top of the mountain on the court, instead of on the bench.

No. 5: Brandon Penn came, saw, and largely conquered

Some will tell you the Parkersburg South quarterback’s offensive explosion came out of nowhere. Patriot head coach Nate Tanner will tell you it was in Penn all along.

Missing a South home game this season, or any game for that matter, was ill advised to fans of the team. Penn produced “Wow” moments with the ball in his hands in every outing. The bigger the game, the better he played. Martinsburg’s dynasty and an unlikely injury were the only real obstacles in his path. This didn’t stop him from being named the top quarterback in the state. Not too shabby for a young man who had 40 career snaps at signal caller over his first three years.

Honorable Mention – Williamstown girls’ cross country three-peat, PHS girls basketball repeats, Doddridge County football’s run to Wheeling, South wrestling wins sixth consecutive state title, Wirt County volleyball passes PHS for most state titles, and Parkersburg Catholic basketball gets dual runs to state title games.

Contact Joe Albright at jalbright@newsandsentinel.com.

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