Catholic beats ’Jackets for title

PARKERSBURG — The Parkersburg Catholic Crusaders battled through a deliberately slow Williamstown Yellowjacket attack to win 28-27 in the Class A, Region IV, Section I championship game on Friday.

The game’s score, which sounds like more of a football score, featured gridiron-style intensity in the final moments.

With 3:20 left in the contest, the Crusaders led 27-20 and took a page out of their opposition’s playbook. Throughout the majority of the game, the ‘Jackets took more than a minute off the clock on a majority of their possessions.

With that in mind, Catholic moved the ball around the perimeter and played keep away as time ticked away. Coming out of a timeout, they kept up the methodical pace with the Yellowjackets itching for a turnover.

Williamstown initially decided to foul to extend the game, but then, they got the break they so desperately needed.

With 1:39 to go, they got the ball back courtesy of a Baylor Haught steal. That’s when business picked up.

A regular scoring tandem in the game for Williamstown was the combination of Eli Inman feeding leading-scorer Cullen Cutright under the basket. Inman assisted on eight of Cutright’s 10 points, and the two had their biggest connection with 90 seconds remaining.

Inman found Cutright underneath the basket, as he scored a layup with the harm to cut the deficit down to four. He would miss the and-1 free throw attempt, but the basket gave the ‘Jackets life. Moments later, Boston Caruthers picked Jeb Boice’s pocket and was fouled racing down to the other end. Two made free throws later, and it was a one-score game. Following another Catholic turnover, Caruthers was fouled again and nailed the game-tying free throws with 51.4 seconds left.

Williamstown’s decision to extend the game through fouling came back to haunt them, in hindsight. With the game knotted at 27, Ty Sturm was fouled on a reach-in by a Yellowjacket defender and ended up hitting the go-ahead freebie that proved to be the difference-maker. However, this game was far from over.

Although 24.8 seconds stood between the Crusaders and victory, they had to ward off Williamstown one last time. The slow-moving tempo of the WHS offense was back at it, as Cutright had the ball on a drive from the baseline. Boice poked the ball free, and managed to scoop it up in bliss.

A 1-and-1 opportunity presented itself at the charity stripe, but Boice missed the front end. With just 6.5 ticks left, Cutright corralled the rebound and attempted to forge ahead with the ball. Everything he had in mind was ruined, as Patrick Copen had a knock-away steal to teammate Cade Ullman to rip the game-winning opportunity away from the Yellowjackets.

“I knew I needed to make plays for my team,” Boice said. “It would have been nice to make the foul shots, but the steals were good enough to get the job done. They (Williamstown) played tough. They played hard, so we needed to make the plays to get the W.”

That “W” sets up Catholic in a position to host a final game of the year in a regional co-final matchup versus Tug Valley at 7 p.m. on Thursday. Tug fell to the Tolsia Rebels later in the night and now have the duty of facing a Crusader team which dug down deep to maintain homecourt advantage.

Williamstown will play at the same time in a co-final game against the victorious Rebels. In the two previous meetings between the Crusaders and Yellowjackets, it was Catholic which won both contests by double-figures.

That is why WHS coach Scott Sauro decided to slow the game down to a crawl, and it helped get his team in a position to win.

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