CATHOLIC TO STATE: Crusaders edge St. Joe’s 57-56 to advance in tourney

PARKERSBURG – It’s now one down and three to go for Parkersburg Catholic.

Wednesday night, the host Crusaders won the game they had to get to advance to the state tournament next week in Charleston, using a 10-2 run to go from four down with 3:02 to play to four up with just 14.6 seconds remaining to post a stirring 57-56 victory over No. 2 Huntington St. Joseph in a Class A, Region IV contest.

In the late spurt, PC’s go-to-in-the-clutch senior guys, Joe Padden and Jake Ullman, either produced or were involved in every one of the final 11 points for the Crusaders, now 16-8.

After a close, tight first three quarters that saw Catholic lead throughout, St. Joe’s Payne Meadows started the fourth quarter with a hoop in the lane, followed by an inbounds steal for a layup and the Irish’s first lead of the game at 41-40 with 7:28 left.

But PC quickly retook the lead at 44-41 on an Ullman trey and a Padden free throw, only to see St. Joe go back in front, 46-44, on Meadows’ 3-ball at the 5:08 mark before an Ullman basket knotted the count at 46-all.

It was 50-46, though, in the Irish’s favor when the Crusaders came on strong with the outcome on the line.

Padden canned a trey at 2:24, then drove down the lane to feed Austin Luther inside on the baseline to lift PC into a 51-50 with 1:15 to go. But Anthony Rable put in a rebound bucket with 54.2 seconds left to give St. Joe a 53-51 advantage.

Ullman gunned in a trey from the right wing at 30.5 seconds, then converted a pair of foul shots with just 14.6 seconds left to forge a 56-52 lead for Catholic, and Padden added a free throw at 7.5 seconds for a four-point lead, 57-53, before the Irish’s Keith Clemons drilled in a 3-ball at the final buzzer.

Ullman finished with a game-high 27 points and Padden netted 19, while St. Joe, ending its season at 18-4, was led by Clemons with 22 and Meadows with 19.

“Jake and I are our scorers – our guys know that – and we weren’t letting us lose this game,” said Padden. “But we wouldn’t have done it without our teammates. They crashed the boards and helped us get the ball down the court so we could get our open shots.

“Our team has a lot of seniors, so we were sick of losing in regionals (0-3 the last three years). We knew we had to buckle down.”

For Luther, another PC senior, “it’s just an amazing feeling to actually win this for once, especially with it being our senior year. I’m glad to get it for Rob (Strcula); it’s his first state trip as our head coach. But this is just a big win for everybody.”

Ullman related that before the game, the team was watching a video of St. Joe, and “Rob was looking a little bit nervous. So I said, ‘Rob, do you trust me?’ He said, ‘Yes.’ And I said, ‘We’re going to win this one for you.’ “

Strcula stressed that “these guys didn’t get rattled when we got down by four with three minutes to go. They kept their composure and played like seniors should play. They stayed focused on what needed to be done. We got big plays at the end of the game.

“Everybody on this team knows their role, and we’ve really come along the last couple weeks. And they got over that regional hump tonight. But they’d all tell you that whatever they had to go through all year to get to where we are now (state bound), tonight made it all worthwhile.”