Crusaderettes will take on Summer County at state
PARKERSBURG — It may have taken a while — since 2009 — to accomplish, but the Parkersburg Catholic Crusaderettes are finally back in the state girls basketball tournament.
That takes place for PCHS at 9 p.m. Thursday versus Summers County in a first-round Class A quarterfinal game at the Charleston Civic Center Coliseum, pitting the No. 4 seed Crusaderettes against the fifth-seeded 17-7 Bobcats.
Catholic is sporting an unblemished 24-0 record after capturing the Little Kanawha Conference championship over Class AA Roane County, then two sectional wins including a 73-60 victory over Wood County arch-rival Williamstown and finally an 84-35 romp over visiting Sherman in a regional co-final last Wednesday night to gain a berth in “the big dance.”
Never mind that the Marty Vierheller’s Crusaderettes somehow got a mid-range tourney seeding despite forging a perfect season thus far, which none of the other seven Class A state teams bring to Charleston.
But for sure, all that is on Vierheller’s mind right now is not only his team’s first tourney foe, Summers County, but also hopefully after Thursday on which other state contenders loom for Catholic in Friday’s semifinals and then possibly in the state championship finale come Saturday.
Vierheller had his team out practicing last Thursday afternoon already, less than 24 hours after romping past the Tide, because “we are far from being satisfied yet,” he said.
“These girls want to have the opportunity to play three games in Charleston, not just one. And the only way that you can do that is to have your legs under you.
“If you’re a running in-your-face kind of team, which is what we like to do, you better stay in shape — whether it’s the day after the regional finale or not. And we run hard; we work ’em hard.
“As far as our girls, they are so elated with this opportunity and so excited for this chance to go to state. And I’m not in the least bit concerned about them going down there and the moment being too big for them. They are going to be ready to go when the ball is thrown up for the tip-off against Summers.”
PCHS never has played Summers County before, but Vierheller knows about the Bobcats
“Summers will remind you a lot of Parkersburg Catholic in terms of style,” he said. “They love to run and they love to press, so that’s an issue right off the bat.
“Summers, though, does not have a ton of size. Their tallest player is listed at 5-10, but you talk about a really good player that makes them go and she’s it, their spark plug, in senior guard Hannah Taylor. She’s long and athletic.”
Vierheller compared Taylor to Roane County’s Lucille Westfall “in the sense that she will go wherever they need her to go, whether handling the ball or someplace else. And they have good players around her, but Taylor is where their story begins for sure.”
Supporting Taylor in the Bobcats’ two-guard, three-forward starting lineup are 5-5 freshman guard Taylor Issac, their second-leading scorer behind Taylor; 5-4 senior guard Tiffani Cline, a “left-hander who loves to take the ball baseline and create, doesn’t take any time to get rid of her shot, a good shooter and if she’s open in that left corner, she’s going to let it fly,” noted Vierheller; and another freshman in 5-9 forward Gavin Pivont. “But they mostly only go about seven deep,” added Vierheller.
A factor in Summers’ favor however, said Vierheller, is that “they do have state-tournament experience; they’re used to going down there and playing.”
In fact, the Bobcats were at state last year, besting Charleston Catholic before falling to Huntington St. Joe.
Not having gotten to state for nine years, said Vierheller, who took over the Crusaderette reins from Dick Wildt for the 2006-07 season, “has certainly been a drought for us. We’ve had a lot of success in that time, not a bunch of losing seasons, with a lot of good players on good teams.”
And Vierheller stressed that this season’s team “is a coach’s dream. They’re a joy; they’ve been a pleasure to coach. And they play like they’re not satisfied yet,” with hopefully just three wins to go to do just that.
For Catholic this season, it’s truly been a team effort, beginning with the starters, but with every player included.
Sophomore 5-1 point guard Madeline Huffman, who leads the Mid-Ohio Valley in assists with 8.2 per game; her 5-8 backcourt running mate Olivia Ullman, PCHS’ top scorer with a 16.2 ppg average; and a mere 5-11 freshman in Aaliyah Brunny, who is among the top-10 area stats leaders in scoring (14.5 ppg), assists (3.7 per game), steals (No. 1 at 5.7 per game) and blocks (42 total) may get more of the headlines.
But talk about using all of his resources, Vierheller pretty much on a regular basis employs from eight to 10 or 11 players a game. So after other starters he’s used in Mikayla Alkire, Emma Pfeiffer, Madison Ross and Emma Gardner come Jenna Boice, Julia Ambrozy, Beth Lowther and Kiah Eastwood as well as sometimes seeing Hannah Sprout, Mina Spencer, Carolyn Dailey, Kamraia Robinson and Micaela Bowersock.