Catholic, Williamstown, St. Marys in loaded single-A field at state

PARKERSBURG — Although few are predicting it, there’s a chance sectional rivals Parkersburg Catholic and Williamstown could play in the Class A state semifinals on Friday in Charleston.

Up first, though, the No. 6 seed Crusaders of head coach Rob Strcula will have to improve to 18-7 by upending third-seeded Notre Dame. The 21-4 Irish, who will be out for a third straight victory versus the Crusaders, will open up quarterfinal play at 9:30 a.m. today.

Notre Dame lost its sectional title, 36-34, to fifth-seeded Trinity after sweeping the Warriors in the regular season. Parkersburg Catholic will try to do the same in the postseason after falling at home to the Irish 76-59 early in the year and coming up short, 70-69, in mid-January at Clarksburg.

PCHS all-time leading scorer Cade Ullman continued his stellar senior campaign in the regional co-final. He amassed a new career-high of 44 points as the Crusaders punched their ticket to the big dance for the first time since 2016 following a 59-53 triumph against Tug Valley.

“We’re looking for him to be Cade Ullman and we need other guys to step up and play a little bit,” admitted Crusader boss Rob Strcula. “We’re not looking to go yet. What Cade did was nothing short of great in the regional. He missed like eight shots the entire game.

“He was feeling it in practice and we were confident where he was at. We’re here and we’re not going to be satisfied with just being here, but I think there was a lot of pressure for us to go out and win that regional game.”

Tyler Hardesty, who is averaging nine points, went off for 26 markers in Notre Dame’s first win against PCHS. In the second tilt, the Crusaders had the ball at the end of the contest, but couldn’t get off a potential game-winning shot.

“The guys seem pretty confident we can put ourselves in a position to win,” added Strcula, whose squad will have to deal with Gabe Zummo (20 ppg) and Jaidyn West (15 ppg). “We’ve got to do a lot of the little things we feel we can do to put is in that position.

“It will be a tough task, but we are up for any challenge right now. It’s going to come down to two things, how well can we defend and how well can we rebound, which is what we didn’t do the first half of both games when we played them this year.”

Williamstown vs. Wheeling Central

WILLIAMSTOWN — At 1 p.m. today, Williamstown High School will be in search of win No. 20 as head coach Scott Sauro’s six-loss and seventh-seeded Yellowjackets take on No. 2 seed and defending state champion Wheeling Central.

The Maroon Knights, who are led in scoring by Ryan Reasbeck (13.0), J.C. Maxwell (12.7) and Anthony Robbins (12.3), are riding a 15-game winning streak for head coach Mel Stephens. The Maroon Knights own an 88-56 victory versus the Yellowjackets back on Jan. 26 in New Martinsville at Magnolia’s Rotary Classic.

“We came out kind of slow and a little bit worried in the beginning and by the second half we played a lot stronger and a lot better,” said ‘Jacket senior Boston Caruthers. “It’s (state) been a goal for us the whole season and I’m glad we finally get to go.”

Caruthers played a key defensive role in Williamstown’s 64-59 regional co-final triumph at Tolsia. Fellow senior Cullen Cutright joined teammate Eli Inman with 18 points.

“We’ve got to lock down on defense, take care of the ball and limit turnovers,” said Cutright, a third team all-state selection as a junior who surpassed 1,000 career points this season. “We’ve got to rebound the ball and every 50-50 ball has to be ours. It’s been a great season for all of us.”

Coach Sauro would agree to that, but knows just getting to March and to the state tournament isn’t the goal.

“We have to show up and play really well,” Sauro said. “Right now we are playing our best basketball. Even with that, we’re going to have to play really, really well to beat Wheeling Central, but we believe that we can do it.

“You see things like that happen all the time. We have the utmost respect for Wheeling Central, but we’re not going to be afraid to go down there and play them.”

With a fairly young but deep team to prepare for, coach Sauro replied when asked what Central’s biggest weakness was “probably youth. Isn’t that a good problem to have.

“They can play a lot of different ways. They share the ball well. They’ve got good guards off the bench who would start for most teams in single-A.”

ST. MARYS — Underdogs are what gives sports that unpredictable presence. Will the underdog be able to score the upset? What will it take to make that happen?

Those are the questions the eight-seed St. Marys Blue Devils (16-8) will try to positively answer, as they take on the undefeated Webster County Highlanders (25-0) in the opening round of the Class A basketball tournament. Once tonight’s 5:30 tip-off takes place inside the Charleston Civic Center, it will be time for the Blue Devils to prove their doubters wrong.

In order to accomplish its goal, St. Marys plans to look past the unbeaten record of the top-seeded Highlanders. What they don’t plan on doing is looking past the Highlanders, themselves.

“Well, first and foremost, we talked about the fact that we’re excited to be there. It’s an opportunity for us,” SMHS head coach Mark Barnhart said. “There was excitement throughout the sectional and regional (co-final win vs Cameron), but now we have to channel that in a different direction.”

That starts with drawing attention to the variety of scorers that grace the floor for Webster County. The offense flows through Dorian Groggs, as he is averaging 20 points a game. Groggs leads a group of five seniors who are all leading the way in scoring for the Highlanders. Tyler Gray helps highlight the Groggs-led backcourt, as he’s putting up 16 tallies per game.

Webster has more than just an effective backcourt. They have an equally potent inside game led by 6-foot-4 senior, Cole Taylor.

If the Devils wish to pull off the upset in their first tournament appearance since 2012, they’ll need to get early production from their own trio.

William Steele will look to be St. Marys’ answer to the impact Groggs makes in the scoring column, as he put together a solid junior season with more than 14 points per game. Grant Barnhart ends his freshman year with a trip to Charleston, and he could be another x-factor needed for his team to succeed. Matching up with the 6-4 Taylor is a challenge, but Richard Dornon will take him on in spite of a five-inch height differential. For coach Barnhart, he is focused on his team getting into the routine of playing in this evening’s tournament game.

“We have to leave school,” Barnhart started. “We have to take a bus, travel an hour and a half, watch a game or two. Then, we have to play at the Civic Center against a team with a bunch of talent. It’s exciting that we’re fortunate enough to have that challenge.”

The winner of this game will play the winner of Greenbrier West and Trinity in the tournament semifinals Friday.