Crusaderettes conquer W.Va. Class A champs

WHEELING — Sometimes great comebacks don’t have a happy conclusion.

Wheeling Central painfully discovered that Saturday afternoon, courtesy of undefeated Parkersburg Catholic on Skip Prosser Court.

The Maroon Knights found themselves down by 16 points after three quarters. The reigning Class A state champs mounted a furious comeback, climbing to within three at 63-60 with 24 seconds remaining.

A Maroon victory wasn’t meant to be, however, as Parkersburg Catholic junior Madeline Huffman meshed two free throws with seven seconds left, sealing a 65-60 victory for the hard-playing Wood Countians.

Central’s late-game rush took on an even more amazing look as the hosts were forced to do so minus the services of Hannah White. The junior star guard left in the third quarter with a knee injury and did not return. White, a 5-7 dynamo, was working on a huge game with 12 points and a handful of steals before her premature departure.

“Our kids played hard and made a good run at the end but we had too big a hole to dig out of,” Wheeling Central head coach Penn Kurtz said. “We missed too many easy shots and we are a good foul-shooting team that struggled at the line today (6-of-17).

“We must do a better job defensively. They got too many easy buckets,” he added. “Give Parkersburg Catholic credit. They are a talented and well-coached team. They played extremely well today.”

Junior dandies Eden Gainer and Kaylee Reinbeau turned in sparkling performances for Central and were catalysts in the ill-fated comeback bid. Gainer poured in a game-high 22 counters while Reinbeau added 14 points and 17 rebounds.

Gainer ignited the Maroon rally, burying successive treys. A Reinbeau steal and layup made it a 10-point margin. Two more Gainer buckets and a Reinbeau charity toss brought the hosts back to within 56-52 with 3:21 showing.

Parkersburg Catholic (5-0) regained its composure as well as the momentum thanks to a five-point spurt, capped by a free throw from Madeline Huffman, for a 61-52 advantage with 1:36 to play.

Central, however, refused to quit.

Knight sophomore Marissa Horan’s free throw cut the deficit to eight. Two straight Crusader turnovers were followed by Reinbeau hoops, the second making it 61-57 with 52 seconds to play.

Leslie Huffman buried two free throws for Parkersburg Catholic to push the lead back to six before Gainer drained yet another trey with 24 ticks left, drawing the hosts to within 63-60. That would be as close as Central would get as Leslie Huffman’s two freebies iced the Crusader win.

“I am very humbled with this win. I have the utmost respect for Coach Kurtz and the Wheeling Central program,” Parkersburg Catholic coach Marty Vierheller said. “We knew this would be an awesome test and our kids responded well.

“We are inexperienced in some areas and those young kids really grew up today against a great team in a tough environment,” he continued. “They made a super run at us but I am proud of how our girls weathered the storm.”

Crusader sophomore Aaliyah Brunny was exceptional inside and out offensively, finishing with a game-high 23 points, including five treys. Madeline Huffman, a savvy junior point guard, was next with 13 tallies while solid Leslie Huffman added 12 markers.

Central was up 14-13 after one quarter. The teams were deadlocked at 32-all at halftime before the Crusaders took a 53-37 lead entering the final session.

The win keeps Catholic undefeated (5-0) on the young season with a visit from Notre Dame at 7 p.m. Thursday.