CHARLESTON, W.Va. — With the short turnaround between contests at the state tournament, developing game plans for an opponent can be a difficult task.
Executing those game plans is often even tougher, which made Parkersburg Catholic’s 61-50 victory over Wheeling Central all the more impressive Friday morning at the Charleston Coliseum.
The sixth-seeded Crusaders were equally effective on both ends of the court and never trailed in knocking out the defending state champion and second-seeded Maroon Knights.
“Our attention to detail today was perfect,” PC coach Rob Strcula said. “We had a day and a half to put a scouting report in and these guys executed on both ends of the floor exactly what we wanted to do.”
Parkersburg Catholic (19-7) will face No. 1 Webster County in Saturday’s Class A title game at noon.
While the Crusaders led for the final 26:51 of the contest, they needed a strong finish to preserve the win.
PC took a 43-32 lead into the fourth and led 54-45 with 3:59 to play after a pair of free throws from Cade Ullman. Central (21-5) closed to within four over the next 1:19 after a Jalen Creighton 3-pointer and Ryan Reasbeck’s layup.
But out of a timeout, Ullman made a short pull-up jumper to stretch the lead to six.
“We have a ton of plays and a playbook the size of a football playbook,” Strcula said. “I was very impressed with how we executed. We set great screens. These guys do more talking in timeouts than I do. They’re all on the same page right now. I just have to send them in the right direction.”
The Crusaders’ defense took care of matters from there, holding the Maroon Knights scoreless down the stretch, while PC made 5-of-8 free throws over the final 1:01 to expand its lead and advance to the title game for the first time since it won the Class A championship in 2010.
“A ton of credit goes to Parkersburg Catholic,” Central coach Mel Stephens said. “They played a great game today. We didn’t play our best, but a lot of credit goes to them.”
Ullman made three 3s in the first quarter, including consecutive treys after his team trailed 7-4 to give the Crusaders the lead for good.
Ullman and guard Jeb Boice combined for all 12 of their team’s points in the opening quarter, and then scored PC’s first 15 points of the second period. Not until a Pat Copen made a 3 with 18 seconds remaining in the opening half did another Crusader score, but PC went into halftime with a 30-24 lead and 14-4 advantage in points in the paint.
“Boice and Ullman drive the ball really hard,” Stephens said, “and we had a tough time keeping the ball in front of us.”
Ullman and Boice picked up where they left off to start the second half and both scored inside to up the Crusaders’ lead to 34-25.
The Maroon Knights answered with a J.C. Maxwell 3 and Bray Price’s jumper, but PC ended the third on a 9-2 run that featured field goals from four different players that weren’t Ullman.
“Not everybody can be a star, but everybody can be a star within their role,” Strcula said.
Ullman scored 27 points, while Boice added 18 on 7-of-11 shooting to go with four assists and four steals.
“We stuck together and I’ll take these guys against anybody,” Ullman said. “We give it our all and it’s paying off for how hard we’ve worked. We’re just hoping we have one more in us.”
Creighton led Central with 16 points and Price scored 13.
The Maroon Knights, who beat PC 75-65 in the regular season, made 10 3s. However, Central connected on only 6-of-22 shots from inside the arc.
PC finished with a 28-8 advantage in points in the paint.