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ALBRIGHT: In a very different year, PHS girls just need to go to work

Despite enjoying a nearly perfect state champions’ existence over the past three years, the PHS girls’ basketball team isn’t immune to the passage of time.

Ask anyone inside the program if the good times could flow in perpetuity, and they’ll tell you that graduations still impact them.

It is why head coach Scott Cozzens made sure his junior varsity team played a defense capable of transferring over to the varsity level. It is why he made sure younger players like Taylor Miller, Kisten Roberts, Sierra Mason, and Hayley McCale got valuable varsity experience.

Because it was quite clear upon Bre Wilson, Aleea Crites, Maggie Richards, Emily Kupfner and Maddi Leggett leaving the program that everything was changing.

And not just a little bit.

But, quite a lot.

Going with them was their bulldog mentality, a good chunk of scoring, amazing leadership, and quite frankly one of the best wills to win you will ever see.

In other words, 2021 is going to be a very different year.

See, the returning PHS girls are not the biggest and baddest varsity group in Class AAAA. They don’t have the amazing chemistry of the 2020 class. They’re lacking the knowledge of each other’s preferences. They aren’t all versatile scorers, nor can they anticipate their teammates’ movements and get the ball exactly where everyone wants it. And they don’t have that killer instinct yet, either.

Not to mention, many other teams are coming for the Big Reds’ state crown. Morgantown, Wheeling Park, George Washington, Cabell Midland, and Huntington all want and are capable of claiming the biggest prize – something new for everyone. Only Park, Buckhannon-Upshur, and Parkersburg South have bested PHS in state during the last three years – in a whopping total of four games. So, it could be another shock to the system when the Patriots, Knights or Highlanders lay a hurting on PHS.

So, what can the Big Reds do?

Well, Roberts said it best during a recent interview.

“We have a lot of work to put in due to losing a lot, but also due to being very young with no seniors. We have big shoes to fill, but we have enough talent to accomplish anything. Most teams around the state don’t even think of us being a threat, so we are under the radar,” Roberts said.

Exactly.

No one should be concentrating on measuring up to their predecessor. That’s nearly impossible.

Instead, everyone should be focusing on being the best team they can be. Regardless of individual wants, individual needs, or any parents’ misguided beliefs. None of those things help at all. None. Instead, finding that team chemistry night and night out is paramount.

Why?

Well, there are going to be nights when the opposition just beats them up. But also, there are going to be nights when teams simply can’t match what the Big Reds put on the floor. The hope, of course, is the latter nights outweigh the former nights by the time the regional tournament rolls around.

Until that happens, everything isn’t going to be perfect. The girls simply aren’t going to have their best stuff — or be able to show their best stuff — every night. Hopefully it isn’t too often, because once they start down the path of self-doubt things could get bad in hurry. Yet, the hiccups are largely unavoidable because of the nature of what the Big Reds are going through.

Thankfully, Mason, Miller, Roberts and McCale all having stepped up to the plate at the varsity level helps. Each of them having carved out a role where they are needed the most.

Those four giving Cozzens and company a solid start to a starting five. They’re not just expected to set an example in practice and games, the areas PHS really needs some help in.

Their also charged with rallying a group unfamiliar with the varsity level of play into a motivated unit, eager to outwork the opponents over the length of a grueling season.

At least there is a silver lining, but still buckle in for a bumpy ride everyone.

But also keep something else in mind throughout all the twists and turns: “We can be just as good as we were if we put the time and the work in,” Roberts said.

Contact Joe Albright at jalbright@newsandsentinel.com.

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