George Washington and coach Jamie LaMaster hoped that, away from home, Parkersburg might not shoot quite as well as it did in the teams’ regular-season matchup, a game in which the Big Reds canned 13 3-pointers en route to a 24-point win.
Parkersburg hit just eight of them on Saturday, but no matter where the Big Reds go, they bring their defense with them.
And defense was the difference on Saturday as the Big Reds (17-5) held the Patriots to just three field goals across the second and third quarters and ran away with a 64-42 win in the Mountain State Athletic Conference Night of Champions girls basketball title game at the South Charleston Community Center.
With length and depth in spades, Parkersburg’s unrelenting press squeezed 27 turnovers out of GW and the Big Reds outrebounded the Patriots 31-17.
“I don’t want to sound arrogant, but until you face it, it’s hard to simulate it,” Parkersburg coach Scott Cozzens said. “We’ve got great length, we’re pretty athletic and we rotate things a little different than other people might do and that might cause some people problems. To be honest, I’m not even sure where they’re going to rotate. We have reads and if they read it different than me, there they go. But it’s worked pretty well all year.”
It certainly did on Saturday, especially after a first quarter in which GW (13-9) was able to keep pace and trail only by five points at 21-16.
The Patriots were forced into eight turnovers in the opening period but survived thanks to a 7-for-11 start from the field.
That changed in the second quarter, however, as the Patriots mustered just 1-of-10 shooting and Parkersburg won the frame 15-6, led 36-22 at the break and was well on its way.
“I felt we went really cold and they stayed steady,” LaMaster said. “We can’t hit three field goals against a team like that. They’re ability to score the 3 ball, their length, their ability to share the ball inside — they’re long and lean and can go up and get it.
Parkersburg kept its foot to the floor, scoring the first six points of the third quarter to stretch the lead to 20 at 42-22.
Madi Mace, Bre Wilson and Shay-Lee Kirby, all listed at 5-foot-10 and all players who are as comfortable shooting a 3 as they are driving to the rim, combined to score 45 of Parkersburg’s 64 points, with Mace and Wilson scoring 16 each and Kirby adding 13. Aleea Crites grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds to go with eight points.
The Big Reds, who do not start a senior, made the MSAC title game a year ago and were bested by eventual state champion Huntington. But Parkersburg left no doubt this season, running through its conference slate and Saturday’s championship game without a loss. Four of Parkersburg’s five losses heading into the postseason are to current No. 1 or No. 2 teams (No. 1 Buckhannon-Upshur, No. 2 Parkersburg South, Class AA No. 1 Wyoming East and Class A No. 1 St. Joseph).
“I think it meant a lot to them,” Cozzens said. “They’re pretty excited. I explained to them, it’s very important to win that league and represent that league. To win every game in this league says a lot.”
The Big Reds will enter Region 4 Section 1 as the No. 2 seed and will play No. 3 Ripley on Wednesday for the right to travel to No. 1 Parkersburg South in the sectional final.
“Historically, there’s a lot of state championships in our region,” Cozzens said. “But all year we’ve tried to play the best competition we could find. We played East twice, picked a game up against St. Joe out of the blue.
“We’ve done everything we can to prepare them, we’ll find out now if it worked or not.”
Katy Darnell finished with 15 points for GW followed by Kalissa Lacy with 12 and Dee McMillan with 10. The rest of the Patriots combined for four points.