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ALBRIGHT: Postseason Aaliyah Brunny is back and better than ever for Parkersburg Catholic

Photo by Joe Albright Parkersburg Catholic’s Aaliyah Brunny spins around Gilmer County defender Eve Mohr during the Crusaderettes’ 64-51 victory over the Titans Saturday at Glenville State’s Waco Center.

West Virginia, welcome back postseason Aaliyah Brunny.

Three years after her first appearance, she’s taking a final curtain call.

In her senior year draped in powder blue and white, Brunny’s showing everyone exactly what all the fuss was about.

When the games mean more, she delivers more. When the stakes are high, she soars.

And on Saturday night when Parkersburg Catholic needed her the most in a 64-51 Little Kanawha Conference Championship game victory, she showed up by doing exactly what a captain does.

In a game that meant a lot, Leslie Huffman played big for Catholic. Carrah Ferguson put it all on the line for Gilmer County. Both Catholic coach Marty Vierheller and Gilmer County head coach Amy Chapman threw everything plus the kitchen sink at each other.

But, this night started and ended with Brunny, who reminded everyone exactly why she is one of the most feared players in the Mountain State. Blessed with ungodly athleticism, she turned the league’s marquee event into her own personal showcase — complete with not just a scoring clinic, but everything else that makes her such a great player. Largely quiet throughout the first half, she gracefully danced all over the court in a ballet of athletic moves for steals, points, blocks and fast break layups in the second half. This all not only helped Catholic finally pull away from a solid Gilmer group, but it helped get her teammates revved up. When everything was said and done, she compiled 25 points, eight rebounds, five assists and a block.

“She relishes this stage, not that it is all about her but she just doesn’t back down to the moment,” Vierheller said. “The best players are made for big moments and this was proof of her ability for sure.

“She certainly came through huge.”

It was that willingness to step up that her team really needed. With Gilmer County putting up a good fight, the team was facing just its second real challenge of the season.

OK, so maybe she played a great opening half, too, especially in the second quarter. She took a Madison Ross assist and put the Crusaderettes in the lead. She fired from the top of the key for a sweet trey just minutes later. Those five points were big in keeping Gilmer County from pulling away while Catholic had trouble getting baskets to fall.

But, her true impact came in the second half.

From the outset, it was clear there were no answers for the Crusaderette. She scored when she wanted to. She pulled down rebounds and opened up the fast breaks for her teammates. Everything was clicking between her and Huffman.

Huffman came up in crunch time, too. Her points along with Brunny’s kept the Crusaderettes within arms reach of their foes.

Fittingly though, Brunny finished off the Titans with her own 7-0 run near the end of the third quarter. Thanks to a trey, her rebound and a put back, and a fast break layup after her own steal, the Titans entered dangerous territory. As it happened, that streak alone erased Gilmer’s last advantage and set the stage for the Catholic push in the fourth quarter.

Maybe, she wasn’t the main or even secondary source of scoring in the final period, but her actions and abilities in the third quarter jump started everything that led to the win.

“That is who she is,” Huffman said. “She saw we were getting down and she knew no one could match up with her defensively and everyone else saw that and saw their captain stepping up and realized ‘Hey, we are cracking down, this is the end of the season and we can’t keep making mistakes.'”

As it turns out, they didn’t commit many more errors.

But this is just the beginning, oh yes. We aren’t even close to seeing the end of her full strength. Catholic’s not about to be a one-and-done team in the sectional tournament. They have much bigger goals than just an LKC title. To achieve everything they want, they will need Brunny to be at her best.

“You certainly don’t replace an Aaliyah,” Coach V said.

She proved that as she got her final high school postseason off to a good start.

Contact Joe Albright at jalbright@newsandsentinel.com.

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