Prep girls basketball: Resiliency lifts Jackets past Crusaderettes

WILLIAMSTOWN – Williamstown’s senior class on the girls basketball team is commonly known as the “Magnificent 7.”

However, for one evening during a Class A sectional championship Brooke Cieslewski emerged as the “Magnificent 1” after pouring in a game-high 35 points as the Yellowjackets defeated Parkersburg Catholic 63-53 Thursday in a Region IV, Section 1 matchup at Ritchie County High School.

Only two days earlier, Cieslewski experienced perhaps one of her more dismal performances of the season in a win against Gilmer County after missing all seven 3-point attempts and fouling out without scoring a point.

Against Parkersburg Catholic, she shot out of the gate with 15 first-quarter points despite being absent from the starting five. The shooting guard finished the game with seven 3-pointers and pulled down a team-high five rebounds.

“The Gilmer County game weighed pretty heavily on my mind – I definitely didn’t want to make the same mistakes I made in that game,” Cieslewski said. “Tonight, my teammates were there for me along with my dad and my coach. They just told me to forget about it and play your game. They told me not to dwell on something that was in the past.

“That was frustrating sitting on the bench against Gilmer, but when you play with the girls you’ve been playing with since forever you learn to trust them.”

Williamstown improved to 13-9 and earned the right to play a regional game on its home floor next Thursday, while Parkersburg Catholic will have to play on the road in order to possibly secure a berth at the state tournament.

The Yellowjackets led by as many as 17 points at 59-42 with five minutes remaining in regulation and went into delay mode. Playing without one of their starters in Leah Hughes, who had fouled out at the 2?-minute mark of the fourth quarter, the Crusaderettes parlayed several steals by Media Roedersheimer into layups and trailed 61-53 when PCHS coach Marty Vierheller called his final timeout with 43 ticks left on the clock.

“The time wasn’t winding down fast enough (there in the fourth quarter),” Williamstown coach Fred Sauro said. “The one thing I was happy about is that the game finally ended. We were getting kind of squirrelly with the ball. We will get better at that.”

PCHS never scored again as Cieslewski knocked down both ends of a two-shot foul with 4.3 seconds to go.

“At the beginning of the season, Brooke was one of our point guards,” Sauro said. “I thought she might be better as a shooter – she could make some shots in practice. She wanted to play point, and every day she would come in early and stay late – and she would shoot.

“You see what has happened. She has become our most prolific 3-point shooter.”

PCHS slipped to 15-7 after losing to Williamstown for the second time in three meetings this season. Roedersheimer finished with a team-high 15 points and 19 rebounds, while teammate Alex Schaffer tossed in 15 points.

Hughes scored all 13 of her points in the first half, while point guard Rachel Nill contributed 10 points.

“Brooke played the game of her life, and she picked a heck of a time to do it,” Vierheller said. “She had a rough night against Gremlin and I think she more than made up for it against Parkersburg Catholic.

“You are trying your best to guard the basketball, and trying your best to get to each of the shooters – and Brooke just absolutely caught fire. We didn’t do a good job of closing her out and she put the ball in the basket.”

With the game tied at 8, Williamstown hit a rhythm and opened a 22-10 lead with 1:15 remaining in the first quarter on the strength of three Kenzie Smith assists. The Yellowjacket shooting guard finished the game with 12 points and three steals.

Hughes scored seven points as PCHS sliced the deficit to 23-21 three minutes into the second quarter.

Williamstown’s advantage was three when bench player Allie Robinson’s putback beat the buzzer and put the Yellowjackets in front 32-27 at intermission.

PCHS was still within striking distance at 46-40 late in the third quarter when Williamstown ripped off 10 straight points in a two-minute span for a 56-40 lead and 6:52 left in the fourth quarter. From there, the Crusaderettes had to fight from behind the rest of the night.

“Those runs are what you have to watch out for,” Vierheller said. “When our all-stater (Hughes) is on the bench, that doesn’t help either.”