CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Although Parkersburg’s girls basketball program has won consecutive Class AAA state championships, Big Reds’ coach Scott Cozzens knows every experience in Charleston is far from the same.
So Cozzens wasn’t exactly surprised to see his top-seeded team somewhat struggle throughout the first half of Wednesday’s quarterfinal against Spring Mills.
In the second half, however, the Big Reds had their way as they outscored the Cardinals by 26 points to claim a 72-38 victory at the Charleston Coliseum.
“They loosened up a little bit,” Cozzens said. “No matter how many times you’ve been here, it’s different each time and they know what’s at stake.”
Spring Mills (11-15) had a lot of positives throughout the first half and its defense was a big reason it prevented the Big Reds from gaining much separation.
Parkersburg, which led 11-7 after one quarter and 28-20 at halftime, made only 1-of-13 three-pointers and had 12 turnovers at the intermission.
“Our girls played really strong to start the game,” Spring Mills coach George Gosk said. “We were fortunate Parkersburg came out pretty cold, but that helped us stay in the game.”
The Big Reds (20-5) were able to maintain a lead thanks in large part to forcing 16 first-half turnovers and getting 10 points and eight rebounds from Aleea Crites.
Parkersburg turned it up a notch and reeled off the first 14 points of the third quarter to take complete control. Maggie Richards and Maddi Leggett combined to go 4-of-4 on free throws early in the third, before Crites and Bre Wilson sank consecutive triples.
After Kristen Lowers and Richards each made baskets, the lead was up to 42-20 with 5:10 to play in the quarter.
“We turned the pressure up a little bit,” Cozzens said. “Took advantage of the very talented athletes we have and let them get out and play.”
The Cardinals cut the deficit to 17 at the end of the period, but never got closer.
PHS forced Spring Mills into 34 turnovers, which the Big Reds turned into 46 points.
“It was an eight-point game at halftime and I thought we had a legitimate shot until they turned up the heat and we turned the ball over,” Gosk said.
Crites had a game-high 18 points to go with 11 rebounds. Leggett scored 12 in the win.
Eight different Parkersburg players made at least one basket, while the Big Reds also finished 16-of-18 on free throws.
“I’ll take 72 points every game and see if we lose,” Cozzens said.
Jada Brooks led SMHS with 16 points and 11 rebounds.