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ALBRIGHT: Aaliyah Brunny, Leslie Huffman keep Catholic’s state title window open

In the wake of Madeline Huffman’s recent arrival on the Fairmont State women’s basketball team, whispers have started being spoken that Parkersburg Catholic girl’s basketball’s state championship window has closed.

Don’t be one of the nonbelievers.

Don’t listen to any of the haters, don’t give any of the rhetoric a second thought, and certainly don’t go spouting off any of it to anyone else.

“As fantastic as Madeline was, she would be the first to admit she wasn’t our entire team and that we weren’t a one-pony show. She helped the coaching staff truly implement a team atmosphere in the program as a result and because of her unbelievable unselfishness. And success breeds success. With the Catholic players we have back, people better take another look,” Parkersburg Catholic head coach Marty Vierheller said in a recent interview.

This glance should be quite quick for anyone looking to see what they missed.

Aaliyah Brunny and Leslie Huffman are already shining under an obvious spotlight, after all.

Sure, Lainie and Madison Ross, Paige Stotts, Jenna Boice and Debra Hardbarger have been huge contributors, too. But there exists no better starting point to soothe all doubt than the Crusaderettes’ all-state caliber duo.

No 11 and No. 13.

One is a senior who has no choice but to put it all on the line this season. Seriously. She won’t get another chance to compete for a state championship, claim a much-deserved LKC Player of the Year Award, or reclaim her rightful spot on an all-state first team. The other is a junior and the reigning LKC player of the year.

With her quick pop-and-go three-point shot, her ability to get under someone’s skin on the defensive side of the floor, and overall warrior attitude, she perfectly complements her teammate.

Together, they are the iron will that command the most out of their teammates, similar to the way Madeline once did. They are the two players that coaches talk about when they say a team needs two really good players to succeed at a high level on the hardwood. Even if they come at it from different places.

While Aaliyah’s status was cemented as soon as she stepped on the floor as a freshman, Leslie’s wasn’t fully crystallized until she revealed a more versatile game last season.

Now, the leadership and the direction of the Crusaderettes undoubtedly falls on their shoulders. Whether they want it or not.

Hint for those who haven’t been paying attention: They want it. They embrace it. They, almost daily, are stepping up asking for more of it. Anything either of them can do to help their team will be done.

Vierheller needs one of them to shut down an opposing team’s leading scorer? No problem.

He requires someone to create a last second game-winning shot opportunity? Piece of cake.

Girls are goofing off in practice and need a reminder to get back on track? Instant silence.

Yet, maybe some people still have doubts. Inquiring minds might be wondering if the duo is capable of all of this without the help of the departed Madeline. Admittedly, her presence made everything easier for all of her teammates the last four years. So, there may be some who need to see it on the floor before they truly believe it.

Not to worry…

Vierheller feels like they are already on the same page with him and that the adjustment won’t be nearly as daunting for anyone. “When the game starts to slow down for you like it has done for Aaliyah and Leslie then you don’t have to think about what you are doing. You just go out and understand what needs to be done at either end of the floor,” he said.

“If a coach has to go on without Madeline Huffman then what a wonderful position to be in knowing they have two players in the caliber of Leslie and Aaliyah. I don’t know of any coach in the state or in the class who wouldn’t lick their chops to have those two coming back,” he added. “As a coach, when your hardest working players are your most talented players than you have something.”

Well said, Coach V.

Contact Joe Albright at jalbright@newsandsentinel.com.

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