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Parkersburg knocks off South Charleston in Class AAA semifinal

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — There were plenty of positives for Class AAA No. 5 South Charleston in the first half of Friday’s semifinal against No. 1 Parkersburg.

The Black Eagles valued the ball, rebounded well and hit enough shots for a good portion of the half to hang around. When Maliha Witten made a 3-pointer at the 4:32 mark of the second quarter, South Charleston faced just a 25-20 deficit.

But the Big Reds went on one of their trademark runs over the remainder of the half, getting a jumper from Madi Mace and eight straight points from Bre Wilson to take a 15-point lead into the break. 

Parkersburg never looked back and knocked out the Black Eagles, 66-50, at the Charleston Coliseum & Convention Center.

“They knew us pretty well and we knew them pretty well, and I knew the character of those kids,” PHS coach Scott Cozzens said. “It was everything i expected in the first quarter.

“We made enough shots. Bre got hot and we found her and Shay (Kirby) hit some shots in the second half. Aleea (Crites) was a monster on the glass. That’s how you win; it’s not one person.”

The win gives the Big Reds (25-1) the opporunity to repeat as state champions in today’s title game at 7:15 p.m. They’ll face the winner of Greenbrier East/University.

“We worked hard to get here so it means a lot,” said Kirby, who scored 15 of her game-high 19 points in the second half.

Neither team led by more than three during the first quarter and South Charleston (21-6) hung tough thanks in large part to Lashae Watts’ four points and nine rebounds in the opening period.

However, with the game tied at 13, PHS guard Madi Leggett connected on a 3-pointer to give the Big Reds the lead at the end of the first quarter — and they’d stay in front the rest of the way.

Wilson was scoreless in the first quarter, but accounted for 13 points in the second, including consecutive 3s that turned a five-point lead into an 11-point advantage.

She then came up with a steal and converted a layup for what proved to be the final points of the first half.

“We didn’t take great care of the ball during that stretch,” SC coach Gary Greene said. “You have those Parkersburg athletes flying at you and it’s hard to take care of the ball with that.

“It kind of slipped away a little bit at the end of that second quarter.”

Witten had 12 of her team’s 20 points at the break, but the rest of SC made only 3-of-20 field-goal attempts.

South Charleston’s Maliha Witten is pressured by Parkersburg’s Bre Wilson (32) and Shay Kirby.

Parkersburg led by at least 13 throughout the second half and 16 over the course of the fourth quarter as it fed off the surge just before the intermission.

Kirby scored 14 of her team’s 19 points in the third quarter, including consecutive 3s that stretched a 43-26 lead to 23 points.

She made another moments before the frame ended, giving PHS a 54-32 lead.

“Shay is undoubtedly the best player in the state of West Virginia,” Cozzens said. “I get to see it every day.”

Wilson added 18 points in the win, while Big Reds’ point guard Maddi Leggett finished with 13 points, six assists, four steals and four rebounds without committing a turnover in 28 minutes.

“She had a great game and she’s picked us up when we’ve needed it,” Cozzens said. “She’s our floor leader. She just knows how to play the game.”

Madi Mace had 11 points and eight rebounds, while Crites grabbed 14 boards.

Witten’s 18 points led SC and Lavender Ward added 13 points in the loss.

Watts finished with nine points and 14 rebounds.

“I’ve had a lot of teams up here, but these kids are something to be proud of,” Greene said. “They overcame injuries to two starters in the preseason and their hearts are as big as this room. A lot of teams give in when (deficits) get into the twenties. We didn’t and that was against the best team in the state.”

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