Mimicking the dominance of the Huskies from the University of Connecticut, the Huskies from North Marion High School have solidified themselves as “top dog” among girl’s basketball programs in West Virginia.
Over the last two seasons the North Marion girls basketball team has won consecutive state titles while racking up a 49-2 record. Only one of their two losses came at the hands of an in-state opponent; the Huskies fell to Parkersburg South on January 23, 2009.
This season the Huskies have already buried Parkersburg South 74-54 in their season opener, and have beaten three other schools seated in the top 10; George Washington, Huntington and Morgantown, with an average margin of victory of 16+ points.
With last season’s success comes this season’s expectations, and the bar is set at an all-time high for the Huskies. If the Class AAA high school located on the outskirts of Fairmont in Marion County can win a third state championship this season, they will become one of only three girls basketball teams to pull off the three-peat in over 20 years (George Washington 1978-80, Parkersburg 1987-89).
Prior to the beginning of the season the Huskies found themselves at the top of the West Virginia Associated Press poll and 18th in the East Region of the PowerAde Fab 50 Regional Girls Rankings.
When asked about the added pressure to win, North Marion Coach Mike Parrish prefers to downplay the hype rather than use it as a motivational tool. “We don’t even talk about it too much,” said the veteran Husky coach, “We just go out, play as hard as we can and take it one game at a time.”
The Huskies seem to be unaffected by outside distractions thus far, due in large part to the on-the-court leadership of senior guard, and University of Ohio commit Mariah Byard. “Mariah has been a leader for us since her freshman year,” said Coach Parrish. “She is very vocal on the court and has the ability to dictate the flow of the game.”
Byard, who has already given a verbal commitment to play at Ohio University next season, earned numerous post-season accolades last year including Gatorade Player of the Year, first team all-state, and first team all-state tournament. This year should be nothing less than a curtain call for Byard who is already averaging a triple-double this season (16 ppg, 12 rpg) despite suffering a stress fracture in her right foot weeks before the start of the season.
Mariah Byard isn’t the only Husky to gain attention from college coaches over the last two seasons. Current North Marion players Hailey Garrett and Courtney Swiger have already committed to WVIAC powerhouse Fairmont State where they will join four of their former teammates from a year ago who are already on the Falcon roster (Kaitlyn Antolock, Tiffany Nicholson, Kelsi Wright, and Jessica Parsons). The eighth Husky in the last two years to go on to play at the collegiate level is Brittany Hall, who is currently a redshirt freshman at Glenville State.
Garrett, a second team all-state selection last year, will be asked to become more aggressive on the offensive end this season while the Huskies await the return of forwards MacKenzie Mullenax and Gabby Webber who are sidelined indefinitely with ACL injuries. “Hailey has been solid for us so far,” says Parrish. Her athleticism allows her to rebound well and score on the offensive end.”
Parrish says that Swinger’s all-around style of play will be critical for the Huskies this season. “She (Swiger) brings a little bit of everything to the table. She can score, play defense, handle the ball and rebound for us.”
One of North Marion’s best shooters from beyond the arc is Alexis Steele. “She can get hot from outside, and when she does watch out,” says Parrish. “Her quickness benefits us in our transition offense and also in the press on the defense side.”
Other Huskies that will see significant action this season are Paige Tuttle, Tannay Daniels, Anna Moscufo, Danielle Fluharty and Audia Bartlett.
There is no doubt that “3” is a magic number for Mike Parrish and the Huskies this season, and the mission statement is clear at North Marion. “There’s only one thing we want to accomplish this year – win a state championship,”