PARKERSBURG -Williamstown resembled a mountain climber trying to reach the peak but never discovering what's on the other side.
At Parkersburg Catholic High School on Friday night, the Crusaders led wire-to-wire against Williamstown and pushed the gap to as many as 15 points in the first half before holding off numerous Yellowjacket surges for a 59-55 victory.
"The first half probably won the game for us," PCHS coach Rob Strcula said after his sixth-ranked Crusaders improved to 6-3 and 4-0 in the Little Kanawha Conference's North Division. "We came out with a lot of energy and a lot of intensity. And that was big."
Photo by?Michael Uhl
Williamstown ballhandler Hunter Neely, right, tries to create space between him and Parkersburg Catholic defender Peyton Sturm. The Crusaders defeated the Yellowjackets, 59-55, on Friday night.
"In the second half when it came down to crunch time, we got stops."
Williamstown (5-2, 3-1 LKC North) felt like it was fighting from behind the entire way, but had an opportunity to win the game in the final 10 seconds. Trailing 57-55, Gage Wix took a few steps back behind the 3-point arc but missed the shot attempt .
The Crusaders' Joe Padden was fouled after grabbing the defensive rebound then made both free throws to ice the game with 2.7 seconds showing on the clock.
"We didn't get to draw up a play at all because we didn't have any timeouts," Williamstown coach Scott Sauro said. "Without a timeout it's tough to get organized. Gage is a good shooter and I thought his shot there at the end had a chance.
"We see him make them all the time in practice, so we were not upset with that play at all."
Three players on each side scored in double figures. Padden and Jake Ullman both led PCHS with 14 points, while Brady Kurucz pitched in 10 points. Normally starters, Ullman and Kurucz were designated as bench players for a reason coach Strcula did not want to comment on.
Williamstown's point production was sparked by Landon Travis, who kept his team from disappearing after scoring nine of his team-high 17 points in the second quarter. Teammate Hunter Neely scored all 16 of his points after intermission, while Gage Wix shrugged off first-half foul trouble and finished with 11 points and 11 rebounds.
"For a sophomore to do what he is doing, Landon is having a great year - he is very versatile," Sauro said. "Hunter struggled at the beginning of the game, but he bounced back from it well."
PCHS took command at the outset with a 10-0 run which left Williamstown trailing 13-2. Back-to-back steals by Payton Sturm played a part in four Yellowjacket turnovers in the first three minutes of the game. Williamstown's ball-handling improved as the game wore on and the team finished with just 10 for the game.
"We battled, but that initial run they made in the first quarter we never recovered from," Sauro said. "We came out a little tentative, but in the second half I thought we outplayed them."
With PCHS nursing a 15-11 lead early in the second quarter, the Crusaders reeled off 13 of the next 15 points to take their largest lead at 28-13 with 4 1/2 minutes remaining before halftime. The defensive catalyst during that span was Jake Boice, who drew charges on consecutive Williamstown possessions.
A 10-2 run just before halftime by Williamstown closed the gap to 30-23.
A pair of 3-pointers from Ullman and Padden to start the second half increased the advantage to 36-23, but the Yellowjackets erased most of that with an 8-0 spurt.
The Crusaders led by eight at one juncture at 39-31, while Williamstown closed to within one at 52-51 by the 3:45 mark of the fourth quarter. One of Sturm's game-high five assists gave PCHS a 56-51 on Padden's bucket with 51 seconds to go.
Williamstown rallied behind a field goal from Travis followed by Neely's 3-pointer with 24 ticks on the clock. PCHS moved ahead 57-55 on an Ullman free throw. That set up the game-winning attempt by Wix.
"I thought the ball was in," Strcula said. "Gage has a nice soft touch from just about anywhere on the floor. I just about swallowed my stomach.
"There is a chance we could play these guys two more times and we're expecting a dogfight both times. This isn't over, and we just have to make sure we come out and play better than we did tonight."