Crusaderette earns top honor for second straight year

Parkersburg Catholic’s Leslie Huffman looks to score against a Magnolia defender during a 2021 regular-season game with the Blue Eagles. Huffman was named the Little Kanawha Conference Player of the Year by the league coaches. (Photo by Joe Albright)

PARKERSBURG — The Huffman streak continues.

One year after claiming the award as a sophomore, Leslie Huffman once again earned the Little Kanawha Conference Player of the Year honor from league coaches. This is the third year in a row the accolade goes to the family after sister Madeline started the line in 2019.

Leslie finished on top of a race that included impressive seasons from Calhoun County’s Josie Montgomery, Webster County’s Sydney Baird and Ravenswood’s Annie Hunt.

“It is amazing,” she said. “It is an honor to be selected for the award one year let alone back-to-back seasons. That is crazy.”

What is more out of this world is how she achieved the feat.

Huffman helped the Crusaderettes to a fourth straight league title. Along the way, she averaged 19.9 points, 6.8 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 3.6 steals per game. All of those totals increased from one season ago, but she is especially proud of her tally of helps per contest.

“Team success comes over everything. We had to keep our heads up as we lost some big players,” she said. “Being a captain this year I really had to set an example for the younger players. There were nerves and people were worried about their performances and I knew I couldn’t let my own worries or ambitions get in the way of theirs. Their needs needed to come first.”

The result were plain to see. Everything came together and the Crusaderettes largely flew untouched through a shortened schedule due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The closest margins of victory in league play came against St. Marys in the regular season (49-37) and Gilmer County in the league championship game (64-51).

In both games, she made vastly different impacts. Still, all contributions were just as important.

Against Howie Meeks and the Blue Devils, she was held to a season-low 10 points, but used her ability to drive into the lane and create a distraction for her opponent as an advantage. When defenders closed in, she simply found the open teammate and more often than not, they connected on a shot.

Against the Titans, she played a critical role in keeping the LKC East team discombublated and just far enough at arms length for the Crusaderettes to finally pull away in the fourth quarter.

Yet, her best game of the season came against rival Williamstown in a state semifinal. Fueled on by the thought of being one victory shy of the state championship game, Huffman went off. In the big game, she poured in 22 points, dished out 10 assists, grabbed eight rebounds and had seven steals.

“It is an understatement to say that Leslie had a fantastic junior season and the fact she’s won two LKC Player of the Year awards on the heels of her sister having won it is incredibly special. Not just for the Huffman family, but it makes me very, very proud as her coach,” Parkersburg Catholic head coach Marty Vierheller said.

“Leslie is the type to always give credit to others and to not want credit for herself. I thought the award was very well deserved in a very deep field of candidates.”

The victory now sets up her chance at earning the honor for a third straight season. And she said there isn’t anything about her game that will look the same in 2022.

“I can improve in every category. There is always something I can do to improve. Certain shot selections, communication as a whole, defense, there isn’t a category I am content with,” she said.

Fellow first-team members Montgomery (20.3 ppg), Baird (30.9 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 6.2 apg and 7.3 spg) and Hunt (16 ppg, 5 apg, 4.8 spg, and 6 rpg) helped their respective teams to a state tournament appearance as well.

Joining her teammate on the squad is Calhoun’s Savanah Cunningham (16.2 ppg). The point guard consistently revved the Red Devils engine all season long, and often slashed down the lane to draw layups or easy outside shots for her teammates. She and Montogmery both return next season for head coach Kevin Boak.

Crusaderette senior Aaliyah Brunny found herself on the top team for the third season in a row. The senior averaged 18 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 4.8 spg and joined Leslie Huffman as one of the key pieces of the puzzle.

The final pair of teammates on the top team are Kylie Wright and Josey Moore. Wright led the Blue Devils with 14.1 ppg and 7.4 rpg. Moore held the spot-up shooter role for Meeks and drained quite a few big shots as the season progressed.

The last LKC East player on the top squad is Gilmer County’s Carrah Ferguson. Amy Chapman’s point guard led the Titans on a long reign as the top team in Class A for most of the season. Her ability to find her teammates and score when needed to proved invauable. Overall, Ferguson tallied 15 ppg, 3 apg, and 4 rpg.

Reynolds earned first team honors after she piloted one of the most drastic midseason turnarounds of the league year. Where the group once set in the crushing depths of a 2-3 record, the Yellowjackets advanced all the way to the state semifinals by going 13-3 the rest of the way.

Ritchie County’s Rebekah Rupert grabbed her second first-team nod with numbers of 14.1 ppg and 10.8 rpg.

Rounding out the top squad is Wirt County’s Emma Wyer. Though the Tigers struggled in the uber-competitive LKC West, she managed a double-double over 18 games.


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