Catholic girls play for LKC title Saturday

Times file photo Parkersburg Catholic’s Leslie Huffman, left, handles the ball during a high school girls basketball game against Trinity earlier this season in Parkersburg.

PARKERSBURG — Winners of the last two Little Kanawha Conference girls’ basketball championships face each other this evening for the 2019 league crown.

Gilmer County, the 2017 victors, and Parkersburg Catholic, the 2018 queens, battle at 7:30 p.m. today inside Glenville State College’s Waco Center. The meeting is a rematch of a regular-season game Catholic won 63-32 on Jan. 23.

Despite the lopsided score, Gilmer showed it was not intimidated by the Crusaderettes. Titan players battled to an 11-11 tie after the first period, and trailed 29-18 at halftime, before Catholic pulled away. Gilmer giveaways aided Catholic’s effort in the win. Ball protection being the top area of concern for Gilmer in the second matchup according to Titans’ head coach Amy Chapman.

“We have to cut down on our turnovers,” she said. “One of the things Catholic does so well is put pressure on the ballhandlers and they get in passing lanes and anticipate passes well. We have to get our heads up and make smart decisions with the basketball. We have to eliminate those unforced errors.”

Catholic head coach Marty Vierheller’s team walked away with the 31-point victory, but he was not completely satisfied with his team’s performance. Slow starts are not in the nature of this Crusaderette team but they certainly had one with the 11-point first quarter. Coach V knows a quick start will be imperative, especially against a state-championship coach like Chapman.

“They have quick guards with a lot of hustlers and are a very blue collar team,” said Vierheller. “You have to work very hard and not take plays off if you play for Chapman. They won’t care one bit what happened a couple of weeks ago. They are playing for a championship just like we are and will come ready to play. The home crowd also will be with them and we must be alert to that.”

Both coaches were adamant new wrinkles would be in the mix during the second meeting. Vierheller and Chapman thought they might see each other again in this exact matchup.

The Catholic head coach perhaps is a little more confident. Vierheller’s team dismantled the rest of the LKC West, winning pod games by an average of 34.8 points per contest on the way to an undefeated mark.

“We take the LKC and the opportunity to win the LKC very seriously,” said Vierheller. “Many teams, perhaps most teams don’t have a chance to play in a conference like this and don’t have the honor of playing in an event like the Night of Champions. It (the LKC title) is a very big deal to us.”

Gilmer needed a win over Roane County Wednesday night to cement its spot. The Titans won a tiebreaker between Braxton County and themselves by virture of a better regular-season record. Gilmer split the season series with the Eagles.

The accomplishment brought to reality a goal Chapman set for her team at the beginning of the season. “I thought we had the potential to get to the championship game,” she said during a Sunday night interview. “We had some challenges along the way in Braxton and Clay but we are definitely dialed in now.

“My players love having another shot at Parkersburg Catholic. They know how good they are and how Marty runs his program. We are going to benefit from this game no matter the outcome.”

The projected starting lineup for the Titans is Carrah Ferguson, Taylor McHenry, Lindsay Chapman, Hannah Gibson and Grace Wellings. Countering the Gilmer quintet for the Crusaderettes is Madeline Huffman, Aaliyah Brunny, Jenna Boice, Leslie Huffman and Madison Ross or Emma Gardner.

Prior to the title bout, Williamstown faces Braxton County in the third-place game at 6 p.m. in the only meeting between the teams this season.