HURRICANE — It’s difficult to remember sometimes that Parkersburg is still a young girls basketball team — that the team that made the Mountain State Athletic Conference title game and a state tournament appearance a year ago was comprised of mostly freshmen and sophomores.
The No. 3 Big Reds (9-2) at times play like a team that is still growing and maturing. At other times, it plays like what it has the potential to become.
Luckily for Parkersburg, those stretches are usually good enough to get the job done.
And so it was again on Friday night as the Big Reds used a 12-0 start and a 14-3 spurt in the fourth quarter to finally dispatch host Hurricane 63-44.
It was a hot start and a furious finish for Parkersburg, but in between, the Redskins found a way to hang around despite turning the ball over 34 times.
“I’ve had a pit in my stomach about this game since the schedule came out,” Parkersburg coach Scott Cozzens said. “It’s a well-coached team, they’ve got nice players and you cannot discount the home-court environment. Anytime we can sneak out a road win, oh yeah, we’re really happy with that.”
The Big Reds had a 12-0 lead in less than two minutes to start and led 16-6 after the first quarter. It was 9-0 before Hurricane got its first field goal attempt up, as the Parkersburg press squeezed out six turnovers during the opening spurt.
But Hurricane (5-6) somehow found a way to settle in and keep itself afloat even with all the miscues, closing within two points at 18-16 and within three at 24-21 in the second quarter.
After the Big Reds took a 30-23 lead into the break and Hurricane was able to hang within striking distance until Maggie Richards and Shay-Lee Kirby engineered the fourth-quarter run, turning turnovers into fast-break layups that finally put the game on ice.
“We started getting some easy run-out baskets there and that seemed to relax everyone,” Cozzens said.
The Big Reds scored in shifts, with Kirby scoring seven in both the second and fourth quarters and Bre Wilson scoring all 11 of Parkersburg’s third-quarter points. Both finished with 16, as did Madi Mace. Kirby added eight steals and Mace six rebounds.
“It’s kind of been that way for us all year,” Cozzens said. “I’m not sure we’ve had any 20-point scorers but we always have two, three or even four in the teens.”
The Big Reds knocked off Class AA No. 1 and nationally ranked Wyoming East 69-51 on Monday, and Friday’s win helped keep pace with Cabell Midland for a tie atop the MSAC standings. The Knights bested Woodrow Wilson 50-48 on Friday. Both teams are 5-0 in league play.
Hurricane, meanwhile, lost its fourth game in a row and fifth in the last six contests after a 4-0 start. Turnovers have been a common theme in each of those losses, and teams have continued to utilize pressure defense to create havoc and keep Mary Rogoszewski from getting open, easy looks.
Rogoszewski had 18 to lead Hurricane on Friday, but only had two field goal attempts in the second half as Parkersburg ratcheted up the pressure. She entered Friday with a league-best scoring average of 22.7 points per game.
“That was the key, could we handle their pressure, their trapping defense and not turn it over,” Hurricane coach Shawn Lucas said. “We’ve got to get better at that. You can’t win when you turn it over 34 times.
“We’ve tried to get better in practice, handling the pressure, getting better passes, learning to pass fake and getting more comfortable with the ball. We’re not actually seeing the court. We’re still turned sideways instead of turning and pivoting and seeing the court. They’ve got great length and they got in the passing lanes, created turnovers and created easy baskets for themselves. They were shooting layups.”
Kirby, Mace and Wilson are each listed at 5-foot-10, all three can shoot and handle the ball and all three flow effortlessly between positions, making the job both offensively and defensively even more difficult.
Cozzens knows the pieces are there for another deep run and said he’s just trying to get his team to do what it does well for longer stretches.
“We’re really just trying to get more consistent,” Cozzens said. “We’re just young. You saw it tonight. For four minutes, we play really well and then for another four minutes, we look like we’ve never played before. So it’s just building that consistency.”
Maddie Pifer added 10 points for Hurricane.