PARKERSBURG — Rivalry games can be beautifully unpredictable. Seldom if ever do you see one not be competitive down to the wire.
A good case in point was the first matchup between Parkersburg and Parkersburg South’s girls basketball teams Saturday night inside PHS Memorial Fieldhouse.
The Patriots were missing several key players as well in Makenna Winans and Allyssa Wilson.
Though many in attendance couldn’t have predicted the Big Reds having to hang on for a 55-52 win over the Patriots after a 22-9 first period, PHS head coach Scott Cozzens sure did.
“Oh yeah,” said Cozzens. “That is us this year. We are sophomores. We play really good and then we play really, really bad. You could see the momentum swing in the middle of the second quarter. We just went “Eh …. We are done playing.”
To his point … The Big Reds led by 20 after Shay-Lee Kirby tallied two of her 14 points with 3:05 left until halftime. South proceeded to cut the margin down to 14 before the clock hit zeroes. Allie Taylor led the way with six of her team-high 14 points.
It appeared the home team may pull away in the beginning of the third quarter. Breanna Wilson’s spin move shot in the lane set the lead at 17 points. But Parkersburg South switched to a man-to-man defense, which caused the Big Reds some problems.
PHS turned the ball over four times in the quarter, and hit just five shots from the field.
Meanwhile, the Patriots offense whittled the lead down to 11. Taylor again got things started with a bit of trickery to go along with an old-fashioned three-point play. The senior bounced the ball off the back of the Big Reds’ Madi Mace and went up for a bucket and the foul.
Devin Hefner, who PHS did a wonderful job of keeping in check most of the evening, capped the streak with a trey with 23 seconds left in the period.
“We were over at Waterford last night and the one thing Waterford did to PHS was keep up the defensive intensity each possession,” said South head man Ed Davis. “We were able to do that every possession in the second half. And the girls have really worked hard on their defense and that wasn’t our strong point at the beginning of the season. The did a good job of practicing and paying attention to detail.”
South’s defensive intensity continued into the final period of play and coupled with some baffling 3-point shot selections from the Big Reds helped make things a little closer.
Hefner’s deuce at the 6-minute mark brought the visitors within seven before Lauren Pelfrey nailed a jumper to cut the lead to 53-48. The South faithful got louder and louder as each shot went in too.
Cozzens, who had seen and heard enough, called a timeout with 4:21 left in the game.
The break didn’t seem to help much as Hefner hit two free throws to bring her team within three with 90 seconds left. A Taylor block gave South a chance to get closer but an errant pass from Sierra Hays to Hefner soared out-of-bounds with 56.4 ticks remaining in the contest.
PHS’ lead hit a single-digit when Hefner nailed a deuce with seconds to play, but Mace iced the game with two free throw hits in the closing 10 seconds.
“I am glad we got out of here with the win,” said Mace, who fell a rebound shy of a double-double after tallying a game-high 23 points. “Even though we got the win there are still a few things we have to work on.”
Though the win was close, Cozzens was happy with the way his team bounced back from a 63-49 loss to Waterford two days earlier.
“Yeah,” said Cozzens. “We are out there playing in a very tough environment and then you have to turn around and play your rival. Rivalry games there are never blowouts. We were fortunate to have a big lead and if we didn’t there was a good chance we would have lost this game.”
Both teams have long layoffs before they return to the court again. Each is in action Jan. 8 with PHS traveling to Eastern and Parkersburg South welcoming in Huntington, start time for both is 7:30 p.m.