HUNTINGTON -- With so many outstanding girls basketball players in Class AAA this year, it was often hard to differentiate who stood above everyone else.
Ironically, the girl that always rose to the top was smaller than most everyone on the list.
Parkersburg South 5-foot5 point guard Taryn McCutcheon, who led the Patriots to a 25-1 mark on the season, earned captaincy of the Class AAA All-State first team as selected by the West Virginia Sports Writers Association.
While her leadership shined through in the 25 wins, it might have been following the lone loss of the season -- a 46-39 loss to Morgantown in the Class AAA state championship game -- where her intangibles as a leader shined through the most.
She was disappointed with the loss, but she saw the bigger picture, which has been the team’s success over the last two years.
“I’m just thankful that God gave us another opportunity to be here,” McCutcheon said while fighting off tears. “It hurts to lose in the championship game, but it was really a true blessing to be here again.”
McCutcheon, who committed to Michigan State prior to her sophomore season, averaged 13.7 points, 7.2 assists and 3.9 steals per game.
She was joined on the first team by fellow Patriot Keya Bartlett, who added 15.5 points to give Parkersburg South a formidable tandem.
Parkersburg South was one of two teams in the state to have a pair of first-team selections on the year. The other was Spring Valley, which placed Maddie Morris (21.3 points, 11 rebounds) and Sarah Kelly (13.1 points, eight assists, six rebounds, five steals) on the first-team.
Like McCutcheon, the junior Morris was a returning first-team selection and one of four on the first team. Other returning first-team selections included University senior Mariah Callen (17 points, 6.6 assists, 4.2 steals) and Logan junior Shayna Gore, who averaged 21.7 points, 6.8 assists and 6.2 rebounds per game.
Morgantown point guard Olivia Seggie represented the state champion Mohigans on the first team, possessing an all-around game that focused more on defensive pressure and taking care of the basketball than scoring.
That defense was never more evident than the championship game when she went for 14 points, including a pair of hard-driving layups to push the Mohigans to the lead while also leading a defense that kept Parkersburg South to 11 second-half points.
Much of that was a credit to Seggie’s defense as she limited McCutcheon down the stretch. Seggie and McCutcheon faced off four times and the Morgantown junior said she looked forward to each meeting.
“I enjoy it because I like to get better, and I think when I play somebody that’s better than me, I do get better,” Seggie said. “We do compete against each other, but I consider her more like a friend or someone who helps me because she makes me better every time I play her.”
Hurricane’s Abby Watson was one of the state’s top overall scorers, averaging 24.7 points and 12.5 rebounds to lead the Redskins.
Watson rounded out the talented Class AAA first team, which features just one senior (Callen), six juniors (Watson, Gore, Morris, Kelly, Seggie, Bartlett) and the sophomore McCutcheon.
Brooke’s Angela Staffileno was captain of the second team for the second-consecutive year.
Greenbrier East, who fell to Morgantown in the state semifinals, had a pair of second-team selections in senior Chaunte McDowell and junior Sydney Nunley.
Three sophomores were also on the second team: Huntington High’s Dazha Congleton, John Marshall’s Tori Derrow and Logan post player Monica Mitchell.
Hedgesville senior Carly Elliott and Martinsburg junior Kristen Nunn rounded out the second team.
Cabell Midland’s Sierra Jordan was named captain of the third team and was joined by teammate Emily Pitkin as they led the Knights to their first state tournament berth in two decades. They were the lone seniors on the third team.
Juniors Morgan Hilton of Shady Spring and Winfield’s Haylea Roberson were also third-team members while four sophomores rounded out the team.
Those sophomores were Parkersburg South’s Anna Hayton, St. Albans’ Torri Wilson, University’s Shelby Boyle and Morgantown’s Sydney Holloway.