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Parkersburg Catholic girls down Gilmer County in title game, 64-51

Parkersburg Catholic’s Leslie Huffman, center, is guarded by Gilmer County’s Taylor McHenry, left, and Carrah Ferguson during Saturday’s LKC First-Place Game at Glenville State’s Waco Center. (Photo by Joe Albright)

GLENVILLE — Good things seem to happen for the Parkersburg Catholic girls basketball team inside Glenville State College’s WACO Center. Actually, they are more like really good things.

Three years ago, the Crusaderettes took down Roane County in the championship game. That win then kicked off a string of victories in the biggest game of the league’s season, which sat at three in a row, most of them comfortable wins, as of Saturday evening.

Yet, it took something fascinating for the Crusaderettes to keep the streak going: For the first time this entire season, they had to come back after trailing at halftime.

Oh yes. Faced with its first deficit at the break in 13 games, Marty Vierheller’s team needed to find a way to overcome a Titan squad more than capable of holding its own against its foes. Gilmer answered punch-for-punch with the Crusaderettes in the first half and entered the break brimming with confidence.

But, the good feelings didn’t last long.

Over the next 16 minutes, Catholic outrebounded, outhustled and outscored the Titans on the way to a 64-51 victory. Aaliyah Brunny and Leslie Huffman both scored 25 points, the Crusaderettes overcame an uncharacteristic 19 turnovers and they left Glenville as league champions for the fourth season in a row.

Carrah Ferguson led Gilmer County with 10 points while Taylor McHenry, Malaysia Morgan and Eve Mohr each chipped in 8 points.

Vierheller marveled at his team’s composure and ability to rise to the occassion on the biggest stage.

“The girls when they come in to the WACO Center it is not a feeling of awe, but more it is a feeling of “wow, we have done something special to get here and let’s take advantage of the opportunity,” Vierheller said.

“It does seem like we play well here though at times tonight we certainly didn’t play our best, but we will certainly take a result against a fantastic team.”

From the beginning of the game, it was clear this Gilmer group was not the same one Catholic had beaten by a combined 60 points the last two seasons. There was an edge to them, a steely will and belief that this was there time.

Bolstered by this strength, they threw the opening punch when Trinity Bancroft drained a jumper to give the Titans the opening lead. Ferguson’s trey later in the period then gave Gilmer a 9-2 advantage halfway through the opening quarter. But the Crusaderettes refused to be intimidated or shocked by the punch, behind Brunny and Huffman they battled back and took a 12-11 lead after one period of play on Huffman’s quick pop shot with 10 seconds left in the first.

The lead changed hands twice in the opening minutes of the second period. Two of McHenry’s free throws put Gilmer in front, 13-12, before Brunny’s jump shot off a Madison Ross assist found the bottom of the bucket and Catholic regained the lead, 14-13. They held on to it until a lay-up by McHenry with 3:45 left gave the Titans the lead 21-20. Buckets by Mohr and Taylor, along with two free throws by Mohr, then sat the halftime score at 27-22 Gilmer County.

The Titans made sure to capitalize after almost all of the Crusaderettes 10 turnovers.

“We were down a little bit, but that was the worst we have played all year. I certainly credit coach Chapman for that, but honestly we made some uncharactertic turnovers and sloppy mistakes and it wasn’t due to lack of preparation of anything like that, it is just that we weren’t playing very well early,” Vierheller said on what his group talked about in the locker room.

Both teams exited the break with a lot of confidence, thus leading to the advantage changing five different times in the period. Catholic pulled ahead only to see the Titans respond and vice versa. Brunny led the Crusaderettes attack with nine points, which wasn’t shocking consider how she felt coming out of the locker room.

“I wasn’t really taking shots in the first and second quarter and when I started driving my shots started falling,” she said.

That included a stretch where she scored seven straight points to tie the game after Gilmer County had opened up a 37-33 lead. However, it was the last lead of the game for the LKC East group.

Huffman gave her teammate big props for sensing her team needed a pick-me-up.

“That is who she is. She saw we were kind of getting down and she used that to her advantage and she knew no one could match up to her defensively and she took it to them when it mattered and everyone else saw their captain stepping up,” she said.

This included her as well, after she scored on a third-quarter buzzer beater, the Crusaderettes began the to pull away. Gilmer got within three points one final time, but a pair of Lainie Ross free throws kicked off a 11-0 run. Gilmer went cold at the worst possible time during the streak as they missed 10 straight shots. McHenry finally stopped the bleeding but by then the score was 60-46.

Catholic continues to be the bane of the Titans’ LKC existence. The Crusaderettes victory was the third straight over the East team in as many seasons.

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