PARKERSBURG - Elimination is an evil word that several area school basketball programs don't want to consider for tonight's playoff games.
On the southside at the Rod Oldham Athletic Center, defending state champion Parkersburg South puts its perfect 22-0 record on the line when it meets University in a Class AAA, Region I contest. The winner advances to the state tournament.
The top-ranked Patriots have three regular-season victories in as many attempts against third-ranked University (19-4) to their credit, but the past two games have been decided by single digits.
Photo by Jeff Baughan
Parkersburg South’s Anna Hayton, right, pulls down a rebound during a game against Wheeling Park. The defending state champion Patriots host University in a Class AAA regional at 7 p.m. today at the Rod Oldham Athletic Center with the winner advancing to next week’s state tournament.
Photo by Jeff Baughan
Williamstown’s Gage Wix, right, shoots over Parkersburg Catholic’s Payton Sturm during a game played earlier this season at Williamstown High School. The same two teams meet in a Class A sectional semifinal tonight at Parkersburg Catholic High School.
"Every game is getting a little tougher," South coach Scott Stephens said. "They have nine seniors on their team and that group hasn't been to Charleston. They will come in hungry and ready to play."
Also in Parkersburg, arrive early to get a parking space at Parkersburg Catholic High School as Williamstown (17-6) and Parkersburg Catholic (13-8) clash for the third time this season in a Class A, Region IV, Section 1 semifinal. The Crusaders have won the first two games by a total of five points.
"In Class A, you would be hard-pressed to find a better rivalry," Williamstown coach Scott Sauro said. "I know you have Parkersburg South and Parkersburg, and you look at other great rivalries in other classes throughout the state - there is going to be a lot of energy.
"Neither coach has to talk to their kids about effort. I know Parkersburg Catholic has beat us twice. They have a really good team, but in a rivalry game, you never know what is going to happen."
University at South
Parkersburg South advanced to the regionals with a 90-50 win last Friday against Wheeling Park. Anna Hayton scored a career-high 32 points to go with seven rebounds, while Keya Bartlett added 18 points, six assists and four steals.
"Anna just played well - she has been building toward this and is capable of doing that any night," Stephens said.
Before last Friday's 36-35 defeat to Morgantown in a sectional final, University was averaging 68 points during a five-game winning streak. The Hawks are led by Mariah Callen, who became the program's all-time leading scorer earlier this season.
"Mariah is a quick point guard who can pull-up and shoot jump shots," Stephens said. "They also have a couple of nice post players in Mckenley Meadows and Shelby Boyle. They are both physical. Shae Chico is another excellent shooter who generally makes about three 3-pointers per game."
When the two teams first met on Dec. 17 in Morgantown, Carlie Wilson enjoyed a huge night with 16 points and 18 rebounds. Bartlett scored a game-high 19 points, while Katelyn Byrd pitched in 17 points.
Taryn McCutcheon emerged with a team-high 20 points in Game No. 2 on Jan. 16 in Parkersburg, while Hayton finished with 17 points, 15 rebounds and five blocks.
McCutcheon struck again in an OVAC championship game played Feb. 8 on the campus of Ohio University-Eastern and turned in 22 points, five assists and four rebounds. Byrd added 11 points, five rebounds and six steals.
"We definitely have to find their shooters and guard the basketball," Stephens said. "So far, we have been able to do that."
Williamstown at PCHS
Neither team has been at full strength for their two previous meetings along with tonight's contest.
Williamstown's Josh Palmer was recovering from a broken arm when the Crusaders claimed a 59-55 win on Jan. 10. Three weeks later, Parkersburg Catholic was a man down because of Jake Ullman's broken vertebrae when teammate Payton Sturm's last-second 3-pointer defeated the Yellowjackets 52-51.
Tonight, Williamstown will be without one of its starters after Chandler Weber suffered a severe ankle injury nearly two weeks ago.
"Losing Chandler Weber will be very difficult for them," PCHS coach Rob Strcula said. "They lose another big body and a good defender. But they don't drop off with Josh Palmer who is just as much a threat shooting the ball and handling the ball like Weber."
Regardless of what transpires, Williamstown has made a dramatic improvement from last season when it won just seven games during the regular-season.
"If you look at Parkersburg Catholic's body of work over the past seasons, they have a very good team," Sauro said. "But we've made leaps and bounds from last season. The kids have put in a lot of work to make themselves better and improve."
The Crusaders won't dazzle anyone with their current record, but that was by design as they played the likes of Charleston Catholic, Notre Dame and Wheeling Central.
They also suffered two losses to Gilmer County, which hosts Wirt County in the other Region IV, Section 1 semifinal.
"When we set up the schedule, we knew it would be a difficult one," Strcula said.
Seating at Parkersburg Catholic High School will be at a premium.
"In terms of atmosphere, the fan base for both schools will be awesome," Strcula said. "It will be a lot like the last two games, only more is at stake."