PC, Roane County face off in title tilt

PARKERSBURG-Parkersburg Catholic’s recent run of success in the boys’ Little Kanawha Conference Night of Champions is eye-catching.

The Crusaders will be looking for their fourth championship in the last five years when they take on South Division champion Roane County at 8 p.m. today at the Parkersburg Catholic gym.

“I wouldn’t call it a domination,” second-year PC head coach Robbie Strcula said. “I just think we have had a good stretch run. You know the old saying, ‘Success breeds success’.”

No one can argue that the Columbia blue and white has not been successful. The Crusaders won three in a row from 2009-11, beating Gilmer County in the first game by a 52-28 margin and then knocking off Braxton County twice by scores of 54-40 and 58-45.

Strcula was an assistant under then-head coach Joe Garrett during those three victories and was the team’s head coach last year when PC knocked off Roane County in the third place game by a score of 66-54.

“They (Roane County) are a very athletic team,” said the Crusaders’ coach.

“They do a lot of things very well and I am sure they are going to want to come in here and take the home crowd out of the game as quickly as possible so we’ve talked to our kids about being mentally prepared for them to make a run to start the game.”

Parkersburg Catholic (16-3) has been on quite a run throughout the season as the Crusaders have won their last two contests and five of their last six with their only loss coming at No. 1 ranked Charleston Catholic (78-48).

The Raiders (14-5) have been on a roll of their own, winning three of their last four.

Both teams feature high octane offenses led by hot-shooting guards. The Crusaders are led by juniors Jake Ullman and Joe Padden, who are pouring points in at a 21.6 and 16.6 points per game norm, respectively, while Roane County is paced by juniors Jacob Neal (19.5 ppg) and Tyler Harper (12.8).

Roane County, which is making its first appearance in the championship game since a 64-25 loss to Ravenswood in 1997, will be looking to break a five-game losing streak in the LKC’s premier tournament. The last time the Raiders came out on the winning side occurred when they knocked off Doddridge County by an 81-74 score in the 1995 third place game.

Opening the evening’s events will be the Top Gun Competition at 4:30 p.m. Ravenswood’s Zack Martin won the league’s title as its best 3-point shooter last year. Warm-up for the third place game will begin following the conclusion of that competition.

In the third place game, Clay County (10-9), who last appeared in the Night of Champions in 2006, will meet Ritchie County (14-5) at 5:40 p.m.

Both teams needed to win big games down the stretch to reach the game as the Rebels, who are on on a seven game winning streak, needed wins over Tyler Consolidated and Williamstown this week to overtake defending North Division champion St. Marys for the No. 2 spot in the North while the Panthers needed wins over Roane County (Monday), Braxton County (Tuesday) and South Harrison (Wednesday) to edge out Gilmer County for the No. 2 slot in the South.

Just like the championship game, the third place contest will feature a lot of offense as Ritchie County’s Andrew Davis (18.9 ppg) and D.J. Burgess (16.4) are among the league’s top scorers while the Titans are paced by the scoring of senior Anthony Aviles and junior Austin Cunningham.

“As a player, this is one of those games you really looked forward to playing in because of the atmosphere that will be there,” said Strcula. “But, as coaches, we understand that this is just one game and the real postseason begins next week with the sectionals.”