Trinity’s Leighton Croft adds new element to Warriors girls’ basketball team

MORGANTOWN — As Trinity girls’ basketball senior Leighton Croft sprints down the floor, she knows the game could be won or lost with one mistake. She tries not to let herself think about it.
She positions herself on the right wing, as teammate Regan Sharp brings the ball down the court. The score sits tied at 35 apiece, and the clock shows less than 20 seconds to play in the third quarter. Suddenly, Sharp makes a quick move to the left, putting the ball onto the floor and looking to penetrate.
Croft’s matchup quickly slides into the paint, leaving Sharp with a window of opportunity. She catches sight of Croft as she cuts toward the rim on the backside of the play and dishes the ball inside. In the blink of an eye, Croft catches the ball, absorbs a foul and puts the ball off the backboard and through the net to take the lead.
“Honestly, what was going through my mind is that I have to put it in the basket. Any time a person on the team gets that sort of opportunity, that’s just their job. They have to do it. I had a job to accomplish and I did it,” Croft said.
It wasn’t the first time she had stepped up big for the Warriors during Friday’s 52-44 loss to sectional rival Notre Dame. Opening the night, she contributed four first-half points to help secure a 23-20 lead at the half. Then, Trinity fell behind, and Croft decided to take things into her own hands.
Notre Dame jumped to a seven-point lead to start the second half, and the Warriors had converted just one basket since the break. Just when it seemed as if no relief was coming, Croft provided a spark, draining back-to-back 3-pointers to pull her team within one. Just a few possessions later, she’d finish off the quarter in a big way.
“You can’t get scared. You just have to trust yourself and go for it,” she said. “You have to stay relaxed and not let everything get to you. You have to trust your teammates to set you up.”
Croft added a bucket on the first possession of the fourth, but fouled out with over three minutes to play in the game, and the Warriors failed to recover. She finished with a team-high 15 points — marking her as the leading scorer in both of the Warriors’ opening week games.
“Offensively, she’s fantastic. She’s someone we really think highly of, and she can play any position on the court,” coach Mike Baldy said. “She really brings an added element. She’s a spark. Even after she fouled out, she’s engaged on the bench. I’m really happy that she’s in our program.”
Croft, who spent her first three seasons on the hardwood at Morgantown, found herself at Trinity this year after deciding she wanted to pursue different options academically.
“It really was education. The education here is quality. I’m the youngest in my family and both of my siblings went to WVU and stayed home for school. My parents felt comfortable with them keeping their grades up,” she said.
“When I told them I wanted to play basketball in college someday, they came to terms with the fact that I would be away and they wouldn’t be able to get all the help I need. They wanted to make sure I was ready to handle the academic challenges of being on my own.”
While she chases her goals in the classroom, Croft’s impact on the court can’t be denied. Despite her disappointing end Friday night, she proved one thing for certain — she’s an upper-tier talent in Class A basketball.
“I learned how important she was tonight. Watching her foul out and the team fall apart without her — she was the offensive spark, and to see the way she carried herself on the bench,” Baldy said. “I already knew we had a good player, but tonight I knew Leighton was going to be one of the girls — she’s going to be a player.”

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