Parkersburg Big Reds Girls Basketball: Current News: Big Red Title 13 years in the making
Big Red Title 13 years in the making
PARKERSBURG — Fans of the Parkersburg High School girls’ basketball program witnessed the culmination of a 13-year journey designed to bring the program back to the top of the state after the Big Reds captured the Class AAA state title last Saturday.
Many people were along for the ride in the middle and the end, but not many know the beginning and all the hard work put in years ahead of time.
Countless connections and communications were set up with the goal of banner number six in mind.
As a matter of fact, if Kenny DeMoss had been selected to replace legendary PHS boys’ basketball coach Clyde Brewer after his retirement in 2005 the celebration might not have happened at all.
“Parkersburg High Athletic Director Jim Hamric told me I didn’t get the job because I didn’t have any head coaching experience,” said DeMoss. “He told me I should go coach and then come back later.”
The opportunity to acquire said knowledge came the very next day when Warren AD Dan Leffingwell called him about the Warriors’ girls basketball position.
No one had any idea at the time what effect a simple dialing of a few digits would have down the road.
DeMoss interviewed and ultimately accepted the position, which set the wheels spinning in motion.
He fully intended to return to the Big Reds after his stop in Vincent.
A dash of fate accompanied his new title as a young lady by the name of Kristen Cozzens was part of the Warriors’ program. It was during this time he would meet her father Scott Cozzens.
“I didn’t have any idea who this guy was,” said DeMoss. “I just knew they didn’t want any parents on the staff and being the new guy I had to go along with it.”
“Back then I was just excited to see him come in and watch the job he did at Warren and see my daughter progress,” said Cozzens, who was a part of the Warren staff dismissed before DeMoss took over. “At the time I couldn’t even imagine the journey I was going to have.”
Success followed Warren in the two years DeMoss was in command, which didn’t go unnoticed.
PHS girls basketball coach Don Stansberry retired before the 2006-07 season and DeMoss, who had assisted Stansberry for 14 years, came back home shortly afterward.
He inherited a program on hard times, which hadn’t had a winning season since 2002 and no trips to the state tournament since 1997. Youth programs weren’t strong, which is where the newly-minted PHS coach went to strengthen first.
“Coach Stansberry used to always reload and said ‘We are great … Come on in,” said DeMoss well aware of the traditions and expectations on the program. “We had to go out and get the little kids excited about playing again.”
The creation of the Red Storm AAU basketball program proved the key needed to open the gate of talent. Coaches from Hugh Byers to Jim Kurucz, Phil Wilson to Bob Dudley and Curtis Hayes and beyond lined up to coach the youngsters.
“It helped us prepare to play together as a team,” said state champion point guard Maddi Leggett, who played on the Red Storm while at Hamilton from 2013-2016 alongside a large number of girls who would become her PHS teammates. “We played higher-level competition and got better from it.”
Losses came in bunches while the Red Storm program unlocked the tumbler to the gate. Win totals of 4, 6, and 9 were the marks for DeMoss’ first three years at the head of the program.
Year 4 proved a breakthrough season as the Big Reds captured 14 victories, including two over South, with the arrival of a group led by the first Torie Wilson.
One team PHS didn’t beat that season was a loaded Marietta program led by Cozzens, who continued to give DeMoss advice and help out in a few places when needed.
“I was goaded into applying for the job,” said Cozzens.
“I had a few friends who said I should put in for it and I did to get them off my back. I had no prior head coaching experience but inherited a really good group of seniors, led by Erica Dawson, and a good group coming in behind them. We had a lot of success and beat Kenny three times, though he doesn’t want to remember those games.
“I had the utmost respect for him,” said DeMoss. “But I hated playing him because his defense was just that good.”
Cozzens stayed three years at Marietta before stepping down to devote time to his family. Kristen had moved to California and he would later become a grandfather.
This wouldn’t be the last DeMoss saw of his former rival.
PHS continued to improve as the talent level got higher and higher for the program. Girls like Megan Morrison, Imani Ward, Kennedy Walker and Precious Ramsey kept improving their game, but the talent around the state was really stellar and the Big Reds couldn’t get over the hump.
DeMoss thought back to those dog fights he had with Cozzens and decided it was time to offer him a place on his staff. The coach had earned a reputation for defensive intensity and DeMoss wanted the energy Cozzens brought on his team.
“Kenny called me the next summer and said ‘I have a really talented group (Brooke Kurucz, Kam Snyder and the second Torie Wilson were among them) here and you should come help me see if we can get over the hump,” said Cozzens, right before the 2014-15 season. “I said yeah I can volunteer when I can be there. I was there a fair amount the last two to three years. I saw the program move in the right direction.”
Kurucz, Snyder and Wilson’s group continued to build on the progress and eventually handed the program off to a group of freshman that featured Madi Mace, Bre Wilson, Maggie Richards and Leggett among others.
Defense had become the calling card PHS hung its hat on by this point with the freshman not missing a beat. The 2016-17 team captured section and regional titles on the way to the program’s first state tournament appearance in 20 years. A South Charleston team led by Xavier commit Aaliyah Dunham sent the Big Reds home after one game, while the loss was tough another goal was ticked off the list.
Halfway through the season, DeMoss accepted the vacant principal position at the high school and resigned his post shortly before the beginning of the 2017-18 school year.
Jeff Kisner and Wilson immediately applied for the job, but Cozzens took a little longer to decide. He had hoped either of the other applicants would get the job and then ask him to stay on to do what he had been the last three seasons. He finally applied for the position in the summer and accepted shortly after his interview.
“I remember when Chris Way (PHS AD) called and offered me the job,” said Cozzens. “I asked him if he was sure and gave him a chance to reconsider but Way said they thought I was the guy.”
“I reminded him that when I took over the program I got a 77 Volkswagen Beetle,” said DeMoss. “And that I was handing him the keys to a Maserati.”
Cozzens took the steering wheel and with the help from his staff and the players completed a dream dreamt up almost 15 years earlier after a 49-47 win over Buckhannon-Upshur at the Charleston Civic Center.
“I was just lucky enough to step in at the right time,” said Cozzens. “Kenny put so much work into the program and all the credit goes to the staff and the kids. I don’t get to play any minutes. The coaches just try to stay out of their (the kids) way.”