Crusaderettes fall in Class A state championship

JOE ALBRIGHT The Marietta Times Parkersburg Catholic’s Leslie Huffman (11) looks to pass as Huntington St. Joe’s Dena Jarrells defends during Saturday’s Class A state title game in Charleston, W.Va.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — No. 1 and No. 2.

With the exception of one week when Magnolia took over the second-ranked spot in W.Va. Class A, the Huntington St. Joe Irish and Parkersburg Catholic Crusaderettes held tall as the best two teams in the classification.

Numbers indifferent to the fact postseason play began in late February. Shannon Lewis’ Irish (1) and Marty Vierheller’s Crusaderettes (2) entered this week’s state tournament as the top two seeds following dominant regional victories.

Those rankings held all the same after the Irish’s 71-46 win in the Class A title game. Paige Shy’s new single-game all-classification record of eight made 3s put an emphatic statement on the celebration. She scored a game-high 28 points in her final high-school game as the Irish captured their 10th title in 12 seasons.

The win proved especially sweet after Wheeling Central felled St. Joe in last year’s championship game.

“Yes, for sure it is a double-dip of success. I am just extremely happy that we won I am going to miss this team on and off the court,” said Shy of the accomplishments.

The entire bench celebrated as she hit the record-breaking shot with 2:22 left in the fourth quarter.

Three of her triples during a 13-2 run at the beginning of the third quarter finished off the Crusaderettes.

The run stretched the Irish lead to 20 points. Overall, Shy scored 12 of St. Joe’s 20 points in the quarter.

This came one quarter after she assisted on or scored every point for the Irish.

Vierheller considered calling a timeout in the middle of St. Joe’s scoring stretch. His team managed just four shots as the Irish pulled away for good.

“The thing is we had talked about it multiple times and we trust our girls,” said Vierheller. “When they come over to the bench for a timeout to regroup … well the girls know the job they have to do. They understand that. I could have called a timeout and I didn’t.”

Catholic just managed to pull within nine, 33-24, before the streak on Madeline Huffman’s jumper 45 seconds out of halftime.

Bailee Adkins caused the turnover responsible for setting up Shy’s first triple. The junior along with Dionna Gray combined for an excellent defensive performance against Huffman.

Adkins, who dealt with foul trouble in the same game one season ago, posed problems for the Crusaderettes’ first-team all-state guard in one of the toughest matchups for her all season. Facilitating the offense proved difficult all afternoon.

“I just had to back off a little bit and still put in a lot of pressure,” said Adkins on her adjustment after her second foul just minutes into the contest. “My teammates made my head stay high and told me ‘We need you, we need you,’ and I could not let them down.”

Defensive adjustments by the Irish after Catholic stormed out to a 7-2 lead limited or altered several scoring opportunities.

Crusaderette shots just didn’t fall after Catholic hit five of its first 10 attempts.

“We got the tempo up in the first quarter and decided they were getting some easy buckets off our full court pressure,” said Lewis on the defensive switch. “We wanted to make them work for some shots and when we did that we felt like we would wear on them.”

Irish players Dena Jarrells and Hannah Roberts put the Irish ahead for the remainder of the first half after the adjustments with five points each in a 10-0 run.

Huffman’s 999th and 1,000th points on a pair of free throws stopped the bleeding.

Her layup off an Emma Garner defensive rebound with 5:50 left in the second quarter then drew them the closest they would be the rest of the game.

Aaliyah Brunny joined her teammate in double digits with 15 points. Leslie Huffman tallied 11 markers with six assists and three steals.

Parkersburg Catholic finished the season 24-2.

“St. Joe just made more shots than we did,” Vierheller said. “They are a really good team. Don’t take anything away from them. You pick your poison with them honestly you do.”

Huffman, Brunny, Shy, Adkins and Jarrells were joined on the all-tournament team by Trinity’s Reagan Sharp, Magnolia’s Mady Winters and Eden Gainer of Wheeling Central.

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