Single-A boys teams seek spots at state

Parkersburg Catholic’s Cade Ullman tries to drive past Webster County’s Tyler Gray during the Little Kanawha Conference championship game at Glenville State College’s Waco Center. Photo by Jay W. Bennett

PARKERSBURG — Before tonight is over, the field for next week’s Class A state basketball tournament in Charleston will be set.

Five Little Kanawha Conference programs will do battle starting at 7 p.m. today in co-regional finals with only Tyler Consolidated and Williamstown going on the road.

LKC champ Webster County will put its 24-0 record on the line when the Highlanders play host to Greater Beckley Christian. The 18-6 Crusaders gave the Highlanders their toughest game of the campaign, falling 65-64 on Feb. 12 in Upper Glade.

Parkersburg Catholic, which fended off Williamstown for a sectional crown, will play host to Tug Valley. The youthful Panthers will make the road trip sporting a 13-12 record.

“Our season is on the line and we got to come out and play with an urgency to put us in a position to make plays and come out with a victory,” said PCHS head coach Rob Strcula of his 16-7 Crusaders, who are trying to reach state for the first time since 2016 when Cade Ullman and Ty Sturm were freshmen.

“The two most important things are we’ve got to defend the paint and the lane. (Caleb) May does a great job of getting to the paint and kicking it out. We really got our work cut out for us.”

Coach Strcula also felt the victory against the rival Yellowjackets was a character builder for his club, noting “I was really impressed with how our guys kept their poise and composure.

“They didn’t panic. They could’ve easily done that and they showed a lot of maturity.”

Williamstown will carry a 19-6 record into the state quarterfinals if head coach Scott Sauro’s club can survive the 16-7 Rebels of Tolsia.

“They have a couple of really good shooters we have to make sure we address,” Sauro stated.

“We can’t give them a bunch of open looks. They shoot the ball as well as anyone we’ve played all year. We have to contest a fair share of those shots.”

As far as the 28-27 sectional final setback to the Crusaders, the coach added, “it wasn’t popular, but I don’t care. People who don’t understand the game are thinking we are just holding the ball.

“We were trying to get them to come guard us at 40 feet so we could go by them. It wasn’t that we were holding the ball to shorten the game.”

Nonetheless, Sauro knows that game is in the past and his team has to prepare for a near three hour bus ride to Tolsia.

“We have a charter bus,” Sauro said with a sense of relief. “We’re playing in a regional final and we’re happy to do it. It could go either way. Tolsia has a lot of good kids and it will be tough.

“The environment down there is going to be crazy. We want to embrace it and enjoy it and make sure it’s fun. I don’t want them to fear anything. I want them to embrace the opportunity.”

The 15-9 Silver Knights of Tyler Consolidated will have the tall task of going on the road to face 19-4 Wheeling Central. The past two seasons, it was St. Marys making the trek to the home of the Maroon Knights.

However, SMHS head coach Mark Barnhart isn’t taking anything for granted when Cameron (17-6) invades.

“They have two kids who play inside and they are a handful, do a nice job and they are both long,” Barnhart noted of the Dragons’ 6-5 pivot Dillon Meintel and 6-3 forward Travis Mickey.

“I saw them earlier in the year, but they were coming off the football playoffs. They’ve progressed quite a bit and got a lot better.”

St. Marys is attempting to qualify for the big dance for the first time since 2012 and enters the fray with a 15-8 record.

“We’ve got to defend and I think we can matchup with one of their two bigs. The question is how will we matchup with the second,” admitted Barnhart, who starts big man Cameron Ekas and brings Dakota Sampson and his 55 blocks off the bench.

“The way we normally start, Richard Dornon may have to play him or it could be one or two different guys off the bench. Isaak Mooney might end up having him (Mickey). We’ve got to take care of them on the boards.”

This will mark the first regional tilt for the SMHS boys since the new school was built, but Barnhart knows the task at hand isn’t going to be an easy one.

“The word was at our sectional championship everyone said it was the biggest crowed they’ve seen at the new school,” added the coach.

“Our last home regional game was in 2013 and we played Central. It’s been six years. We’ve had a good year at home, but the flip side is most of the games we played weren’t against teams who won 17 games.”

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