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Catholic’s Leslie Huffman prioritizing team success

Times file photo Parkersburg Catholic’s Leslie Huffman shoots over Parkersburg South’s Erin Williams in a 2019-20 regular-season game.

PARKERSBURG — Parkersburg Catholic junior Leslie Huffman isn’t stressing out about her prospects of earning a second-straight Little Kanawha Conference girls basketball player of the year award.

She’s not even a little worried about the opportunity to become the first player since St. Marys’ Kelsie Fickeisen to repeat as the award winner.

“If it happens, it happens, great,” she said. “I honestly forgot about it as the season went on last year and really didn’t pay attention until I heard I won the award.”

The Crusaderettes have been the team to beat in the LKC for a while under head coach Marty Vierheller thanks to a team-oriented approach. She believes the cohesion that has carried them to four-straight state tournament appearances and three consecutive league titles is the most important thing to focus on as they begin life without sister Madeline at point guard.

“It is all about looking at who is next to you, it is a big sisterhood really, and it is about your teammates and making them proud,” she said. “No one can be single-minded. It has to be 100 percent from everyone. It can’t be 90 or 95 or there’s the door.”

Indeed, this outlook is going to help as six of the Crusaderettes’ 11 players are sophomores or freshmen. But it isn’t because those members are young, rather it is because of what they immediately bring to the table.

“I really believe all 11 of our kids can contribute to us and there are rookies who will contribute on a major basis early on. That is how much confidence I have in them and I attribute that to the work they have put in individually,” Vierheller said.

“It will take us some time to figure out how to best utilize them but I will take that problem wherever I can get it.”

And the responsibility of getting the ball to all of them, in addition to returning players Madison Ross, Lainie Ross, Jenna Boice, Tiana Tabor, and Debra Hardberger likely falls in the laps of Aaliyah Brunny and herself.

Though both are talented scorers, each also handled the ball more than any other teammate over the last three seasons. So there’s a comfort between coach and players when it comes to handling the ball.

But she also has extra motivation to throw out the individual accolade chase in the form of the ending to last season.

More specifically, her reaction to how the quest for consecutive state title game appearance number two being thwarted by COVID hit home.

“I know you can’t keep living in the past but we got robbed,” she said.

Catholic begins their path back to Charleston with a trip to Ravenswood on March 3.

Huffman and Vierheller expect she will be ready to go as soon as the ball goes up against the Red Devils.

“To some kids the leadership role is just a natural thing and for Leslie it is even as a junior and I think it is wonderful that she is handling the role so well also knowing the seniors in front of her are sharing the leadership responsibility.

“I love the fact that Leslie is vocal without overdoing it, she doesn’t overstep her bounds and it is a coach’s dream to watch them share responsibilities. It is amazing,” Coach V said.

“For Leslie is it all about team success, some coaches can say that about their players but that is the way she is and if this (winning the award) were to happen to her again that would be wonderful but I can tell you without team success is it going to be shallow for her. That is not what she is after.”

“This year is about focusing on my teammates. Honestly, it is pretty exciting because as a team we are going to be pretty competitive and that makes it more fun,” Huffman said.

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