Crusaders knock off second-seeded Wheeling Central, 61-50, in state semis

Photo by Jay W. Bennett Cade Ullman, right, hands the ball out to the ref prior to the final horn with teammate Ty Sturm during the Crusaders’ 61-50 win against Wheeling Central in the Class A state semifinals Friday in Charleston.

CHARLESTON — Parkersburg Catholic has no qualms about being the No. 6 seed.

Head coach Rob Strcula’s Crusaders got the job done early Friday morning in the Class A state semifinals as PCHS sent defending state champion Wheeling Central and its 16-game winning streak packing following a 61-50 triumph.

The second-seeded Maroon Knights (21-5) never scored a point on the fastbreak and were dominated in the paint, 28-6.

“Mainly, the whole season all we’ve talked about is Charleston and a state championship is our goal,” said senior Ty Sturm, who had seven points, four rebounds and a steal while limiting Central’s Anthony Robbins to just two points.

“Now that we are here and have a chance to do it you can’t really put words to it, but we are ready.”

Cade Ullman was his usual solid self.

The PCHS senior had a game-high 27 points and drained 8 of 9 from the charity stripe.

“It’s definitely a grind going out here against these tough teams,” admitted Ullman.

“This team, we’ve been through a lot and stuck together and we’re a pretty close team.

“I’ll take them against anybody. They take a lot off my back. Coming down here our freshman year it didn’t pan out like we wanted it to and we’re just hoping we got one more in us.”

Central held a 19-2 advantage in bench points for head coach Mel Stephens, but the Crusaders (19-7) took the lead for good at 23-21 with 3:47 left in the half on a Jeb Boice lay-in.

Boice had quite the game to compliment Ullman. The junior point guard broke down the Central defense all morning en route to hitting 7 of 11 field goals. Along with his 18 points, Boice chipped in a game-high four steals and also had a quartet of dimes and as many rebounds.

“Yesterday (Wednesday) Jaidyn West (of Notre Dame) was guarding me, best defender in single-A, maybe the state, and today I just knew I could take the guy every time,” said Boice, whose assist to Patrick Copen for a 3 gave PCHS a 30-22 cushion late in the second before a C.J. Maxwell lay-in cut it to 30-24 at intermission.

“Every time we made a run they had an answer,” said Stephens, whose squad was limited to 33.3 percent shooting (16 of 48) while the Crusaders shot 50 percent (21 of 42).

“They had 30 at halftime and those two guys (Boice and Ullman) had 27 of them. We made some 3s and made a decent run. We just couldn’t guard them on the other end.”

Bray Price, who had 13 points and seven rebounds, scored on a driving runner at 4:18 of the third to cut the deficit to 34-30, but PCHS led 43-32 entering the fourth thanks in part to a Copen triple and a Boice 6-foot jumper in the paint. Copen had seven points, nine boards and two assists.

“I thought our attention to detail today was perfect,” said coach Strcula. “These guys had a day to put a scouting report in and they executed on both ends of the floor today. I thought we got great minutes out of Xavier Collie. Wednesday it was Pat with 12 points and nine rebounds and today it was Jeb Boice.

“Ty Sturm does so many little things out there to help us win. This morning you guys saw what a role player does. Ty held Robbins to two points. What he did in the second half defensively was awesome.”

The Maroon Knights trailed by 11 early in the fourth after Sturm converted a three-point play. Central cut it to 54-48 following a triple by Jalen Creighton, who had a team-high 16 points. At that point, Central was 10 of 21 from downtown, but just 5 of 21 from inside the arc.

Despite getting a deuce by Ryan Reasbeck to make it 54-50 with 2:38 remaining, Ullman answered just 25 ticks later with a 12-foot jumper in the paint and PCHS sealed today’s noon state title game appearance by hitting foul shots down the stretch.

Parkersburg Catholic, which was assessed a technical foul in the second quarter when Collie entered the game because he was listed with the wrong jersey number, is the first single-A No. 6 seed to reach the state finals.

“That was my fault,” Strcula explained of the technical. “I guess I just had a brain fart. I put Xavier down with the wrong number (2 instead of 1). It won’t happen tomorrow.”

The Crusaders avenged their 10-point loss to Wheeling Central earlier this year.

Now, coach Strcula’s squad will get a chance at revenge in the title game as the Crusaders were upended 58-42 by Webster County in the Little Kanawha Conference championship tilt at Glenville State’s Waco Center.

PCHS will look to even its all-time record in the state finals, having won it twice in 2010 and 1999 while finishing runner-up in 2003, 2002 and 1997.