Is South building a dynasty?
CHARLESTON-Even after capturing his third Class AAA state girls basketball title since 2006 with a team dominated by underclassmen, veteran Parkersburg South head coach Scott Stephens was hesitant to use the ‘dynasty’ word when describing his program’s future.
“There are a lot of very good, very young basketball teams out there,” Stephens said moments following the Patriots’ 58-34 victory over Logan.
“Logan is one of those teams and it wouldn’t surprise me if they aren’t back here next year.”
To the nearly 5,000 viewers of Saturday night’s championship game, it wouldn’t surprise the majority of them if it wasn’t Stephens’ Patriots playing for a second consecutive state crown.
“These girls have done some amazing things this season,” continued the coach. “But, a lot of people forget that we didn’t begin the season very well. What these kids did do was continued to improve, continued to work hard and continued to believe in one another.
“That process showed out there tonight.”
Showed may be an understatement.
It began on Thursday night when the youthful red, white and blue took to the hardwood at the Civic Center and blasted a Hedgesville team that had won 18 games on the season, 67-39. All, but 10 of those 69 points were scored by freshmen team members or sophomore Keya Bartlett, who had a game-high 30.
Next up came the third meeting of the year with Two Rivers Athletic Conference rival Morgantown, which had rolled to a 76-50 victory in their first clash of the season and then came to the Rod Oldham Athletic Center and registered a 50-44 victory over the Patriots.
The showdown went nearly as expected as the game was a nail-biter down to the wire, but it was the Patriots who prevailed thanks to a game-high 23 points from freshman Taryn McCutcheon and 14 more by Bartlett.
“It’s hard to say,” said Stephens when asked to explain how his team went from an 0-3 start to state champions.
“I think a lot of it was because we didn’t panic. Even after we lost to a very good Fort Frye team, I was telling the kids that we had a chance to be a pretty good team before everything was said and done.
“Then, we began doing some different things in practice. Fun things. Things that were meant to help bond the girls into a family. And, that is what we have become…. a family.”
To prove his point Stephens, had the three girls sitting on the media podium with him following his team’s victory-Bartlett, McCutcheon and freshman Katelyn Byrd-raise their hands up to show all in attendance that they were holding hands.
“This is what I mean. This group is a very, very special group because they truly care about one another. They are the first ones to pick each other up after something bad happens and they are the first to congratulate one another after something good happens.”
And, the best thing that could have happened on Saturday night was for the Patriots to come away as state champions.
“It feels really good,” said McCutcheon. “What makes it even better is that I get to share it with my teammates, who are my best friends.”
Now, comes the task of preparing to defend the title they just brought back to Parkersburg. But, before that work begins, they will take this week off to join hundreds of other Parkersburg South fans in cheering on Mike Fallon’s boys team when it opens state tournament play at 11:15 a.m. on Thursday against Washington.
“Oh, yeah,” said the trio on the media stand as well as their teammates, who stood in the back of the media room during the interview session. “We’re going to be up there yelling like all the rest.”
They will also take some time to let their male counterparts understand what they can expect.
“What will I tell our boys?”, said McCutcheon. “I’d tell them to enjoy every minute. This is a very special event and you can’t get so hung up about things that you don’t take time to enjoy it.”
Bartlett, who finished with a total of 70 points during her first trip to the state tournament and added her named to the record books with 14 triples in three games and seven in the win over the Wildcats, went one step further.
“We’ve got ours, now it’s time for them to get theirs and continue the tradition of Parkersburg South basketball.”
A tradition that may very well become a dynasty before this group departs.