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ALBRIGHT: PC’s Leslie Huffman may be one of the best players in the state and on a special path

Parkersburg Catholic’s Leslie Huffman fires a pass to an open teammate while defended by Magnolia’s Audrey Cross during a Mary ‘O’ Classic game at Parkersburg Catholic High School. Huffman is one of the most improved players in the state even though she is the reigning LKC Player of the Year and an All-State first-team player. Photo by Joe Albright

You really have to hand it to Parkersburg Catholic guard Leslie Huffman.

Just when you think she’s shown you everything with yet-again improved scoring and defense, she whips out some new things.

She really is taking her title as reigning Little Kanawha Conference Player of the Year seriously. And she may just be one of the best players in the state.

To those who think she’s benefiting from playing in the LKC and therefore wouldn’t be excelling in Class AAA or Class AAAA, Williamstown head coach Fred Sauro has some words for you.

“Leslie Huffman can play at all the levels, she is very, very good,” he said.

Her latest additions may not scream glorious or highlight-reel material, but they prove her continued growth as a player. After all, anytime anyone channels sister Madeline, it isn’t a bad thing.

Of course, the first word that comes to mind with the older Huffman happens to be assist. How could it not be? She owns the Class A state tournament record in that category and it was basically her calling card during her four years with the Crusaderettes. So, the designation is kind of stuck on her.

Again, that’s not a horrible trademark.

So clearly, it isn’t a terrible hallmark for Leslie to have picked up, either. Anything making her more dangerous fits as another feather in Parkersburg Catholic coach Marty Vierheller’s and her caps. In fact her ability to find her teammates stood out in the 7-0 start, especially in two of the Crusaderettes’ last three games, but for different reasons.

On an off shooting night against St. Marys, in place of her usual 19 points per game the junior tallied just 10 but also used her ability to penetrate into the lane as bait in getting her teammates open looks.

Several times, Blue Devils players were sucked into the lane only to see Huffman dump off to a teammate and then they promptly hit a 7-foot jumper. Every shot proved crucial as Catholic finally pulled away from St. Marys in the fourth quarter.

Then in a comfortable victory over Williamstown, even though she had 28 points through three quarters, Huffman again got her teammates involved. This time Sauro’s Yellowjackets quite frankly were forced into accounting for every PC player on the floor at all times. How did that work out for them? By the time the game was over, all but one Crusaderette had scored and Leslie was on the bench for the fourth period.

Don’t think for a moment she would have thought about pouring on the points if she had stayed on the hardwood.

“She would never do it. She isn’t wired that way. It is more important for her to involve her teammates and she has done a great job of not trying to force anything,” Vierheller said.

But her willingness to help teammates isn’t the only ability that received an upgrade, which brings us to her rebounding.

In a basketball world where she was probably going to get to protecting the rim with her height sooner rather than later, her skills have been a major success. It isn’t easy to have a feel for rebounding. But she sure is making it look easy. Her reaction time and instincts put her in the right place more often than not. When she pulls down a board it goes one of two things every time: 1.) Offensive boards usually end with an and one as she immediately goes back up only to be fouled. 2.) Defensive rebounds allow a jump start to the fast break.

Yeah, yeah, that last bit is true for a number of players on PCHS, but Leslie has the freedom to either set up a Vierheller play or do her own thing. In case this wasn’t immediately apparent, that can cause trouble for all opponents.

By the way, all three of those games ended with PC wins.

So why is this all such a big deal?

Remember, this is a win-now campaign for the Crusaderettes. Even with a lot of new blood, PC believes it can capture a state championship and if one of their best players is willing to do whatever it takes, that sends a great vibe to the others.

Blessed with these improvements along with her stellar defense and scoring ability, she’s received praise from Vierheller after their Monday night contest with Wahama, and rightfully so.

“I think she is one of the most special players around and in the state. Whatever college is lucky enough to get her they are going to be very fortunate, but in the meantime she has some very specific goals she wants to reach,” Vierheller said.

While the Mary Ostrowski award isn’t one of those — well not one that she has come out and stated publicly anyway — her improvements have certainly set her on the path to be among the candidates for that award at the end of the year.

It is no secret that Class AA and A players need all the help they can get.

Thankfully for her, the numbers and her impact across several areas of the game make her stand out from the competition — whether she likes it or not.

Contact Joe Albright at jalbright@newsandsentinel.com.

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