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ALBRIGHT: Crusaderettes aren’t guaranteed a spot in 2022 state title game

The Parkersburg Catholic girls basketball team faces a few hurdles going into next season.

Not any problems with in-fighting or squabbles over playing time. By all accounts, those issues have never been concerns.

Picture, instead, a pie chart with 11 pieces.

Now, take out the chunks labeled Aaliyah Brunny, Jenna Boice, and Madison Ross.

What remains are disproportionate amounts of space. How the Crusaderettes fill those gaps means everything.

Obviously, everyone’s focusing on what’s lost after Brunny walks across the graduation stage, and we will get there. But, Boice and Ross are just as big of losses as their teammate as they also prepare to graduate.

In these two players, head coach Marty Vierheller says goodbye to a pair of warriors perpetually ready for battle. They’re a duo that performed each and every task asked of them and some that weren’t.

Heck, it is quite possible the Crusaderettes don’t play for the 2019 Class A state title without Boice’s heroics in a sectional championship win over Williamstown.

Had they lost, PC would have seen St. Joe much earlier than expected. Plus, with Brunny and Madeline Huffman struggling from the field, not to mention Mara Rinehart carving up the Crusaderettes’ D for 26 points, something was going to have to give.

Or not.

Boice stepped up and willed the Crusaderettes to a win with 20 points, including the game-winner with 20 seconds left in the contest.

But, that is just one example of her value.

Vierheller and company also need to find someone willing to put their body on the line and average nearly a charge taken per game.

That simple act, Boice’s calling card — really — got them maybe one or two extra possessions per game, which in tight contests can make a difference.

That brings us to Ross, who handled much of the heavy lifting down low. With Vierheller depending on her to fight for rebounds and hold in check some of the more lethal post players, there’s just no easy replacement.

She also put up a few big scoring games similiar to Boice.

And then, of course, there is Brunny.

With her departure, the Crusaderettes lose one of their chief engineers of the group’s will to dominate. It may not seem like such a big loss, but there were certainly more than a handful of times where her refusal to quit greatly benefitted the team.

Look no further than the opening round of the 2020 state tournament for just a small glimpse:

Against Tucker County, the then-junior poured in 30 points and played an all-around great game.

Then in the 2021 Little Kanawha Conference Championship game, the now senior took command and basically ended the game with her personal 7-0 third quarter run. After the Crusaderettes took the lead, they never relinquished it again.

Of course, that is a lot of talking about scoring, which she did plenty of, but her defensive intensity never dropped below “Maximum” in those or any games. It stayed as blistering as ever even until the very end against Wyoming East on Saturday.

In fact, all three girls went out exactly how fans would expect. By putting everything they brough the last four years together, it is enough to make anyone panic.

Thankfully for the Crusaderettes, Leslie Huffman and the newly-emerging Lainie Ross help in filling some of those duties.

But, if Catholic can’t fully meet all of the lost production then the group could be sitting at home come Championship Saturday 2022.

Contact Joe Albright at jalbright@newsandsentinel.com.

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