Prep boys basketball: Sturm’s last-second ‘3’ lifts Crusaders over Jackets
WILLIAMSTOWN – A shooter’s touch took on a whole new meaning Friday night at Williamstown High School.
With time winding down in the fourth quarter and Parkersburg Catholic trailing by two points, the Crusaders’ leading scorer Joe Padden passed up a chance to either tie or win the game and instead whipped a pass to teammate Payton Sturm alone at the top of the 3-point arc. The point guard knocked down the trey with three-tenths of a second remaining to give his club a 52-51 victory.
“We wanted to get the ball into Joe on that final out-of-bounds play,” PCHS coach Rob Strcula said. “We didn’t get the screen we wanted for him to hit the three. However, Joe saw an opportunity to drive the gap – and he wasn’t selfish. He could have made it all about him, but he took what the defense gave him.”
Sturm finished with nine points, seven assists and three steals, and helped Parkersburg Catholic (8-5, 6-0 Little Kanawha Conference North Division) rally from a 15-point deficit in the second quarter.
“The shot there at the end of the game felt pretty good coming off the hand,” Sturm said. “Everybody knows Joe is the best scorer on our team and they collapsed on him because they thought he was going to get the ball. He made a great look to me and I let it fly.”
Williamstown trailed 47-43 with four minutes remaining in regulation then scored five straight points. Gage Wix and Landon Travis exchanged assists on buckets by one another as the Yellowjackets moved in front 49-47 with less than a minute showing.
A steal by Brady Kurucz, one of three by the senior, resulted in a bucket by Austin Luther and the game was tied with 35 seconds left.
On the next Williamstown possession, Hunter Neely made one of two free throws to move Williamstown back in front 50-49 at 32.4 seconds. On the very next series, Yellowjacket Dakota Watson stole a pass near midcourt and was given a hard foul driving to the basket. Again, Williamstown had to settle for one of two free throws with 11.7 seconds showing.
For the game, the Yellowjackets made just 12-of-21 from the charity stripe.
Williamstown still had four team fouls to give and utilized two of them as Parkersburg Catholic finally crossed halfcourt, calling timeout at eight seconds.
After the timout, Padden made the inbounds pass from the sideline then received the ball back in the corner. He made a move toward the baseline then found Sturm wide open. After the shot fell, the final tenths ticked off the clock.
“I let the shot go and the first I thing I did was look up to see how much time was left on the clock,” Sturm said. “I didn’t know if Williamstown was going to have enough time to put a shot up, so I wasn’t celebrating yet. But then I heard the buzzer go off and then everything was a blur after that.”
Padden led PCHS with 17 points, while Kurucz and Nick Roedersheimer each pitched in 10 points. Roedersheimer scored eight points in the second quarter as the Crusaders charged back from a 27-12 deficit. Despite playing with the flu, Kurucz also contributed nine rebounds.
“When we were down 15 in the second quarter, I got the all the guys together and told them this isn’t how we are going out,” Sturm said. “We started pressuring the ball more and creating turnovers. Turning defense into offense.”
PCHS clawed back to within 31-29 by halftime and enjoyed its largest lead at 39-32 at the 3:07 mark of the third quarter. Williamstown negated that run with eight straight points and took a 40-39 advantage in the opening stages of the fourth quarter, which witnessed five lead changes
Wix scored a game-high 21 points, while Neely added 15 points for the Yellowjackets (10-4, 6-2 LKC North) which had their five-game win streak snapped.
“We went on a run early and they answered with a run,” Williamstown coach Scott Sauro said. “It wasn’t surprising because it’s a Williamstown-Parkersburg Catholic game and these are games of runs.
“At the end of the game, we thought they were going to Padden because he is a tremendous player. Unfortunately, we lost Sturm and he stepped up and did what a good senior does.”