Crusaders savor LKC North title

The overall record has its downfalls. That doesn’t mean the Parkersburg Catholic boys basketball team have diverted from the gameplan.

Two nights ago on their home court, the Crusaders extended their winning streak to three games by defeating Ravenswood after rallying from a 16-point, first-quarter deficit. In the process, they captured the Little Kanawha Conference’s North Division title.

Three games may seem unimpressive, but consider the opponents along the way. Two games against seventh-ranked Charleston Catholic, another to top-ranked Notre Dame and again at second-ranked Huntington St. Joe. Don’t forget seventh-ranked Wheeling Central and 10th-ranked Gilmer County.

On the plus side, Parkersburg Catholic is pursuing a feat no other boys basketball program in school history has accomplished. Entering last night’s home game with Ritchie County, the Crusaders were two games away from finishing undefeated for the first time in the LKC North.

“Our schedule was designed to challenge us,” PCHS point guard Payton Sturm said. “We’ve been able to fight through adversity and keep our composure. We’re just now getting into a rhythm.”

Sturm will complete his high school career playing on three LKC North Division regular season championships.

“With Payton, there are things that fans, and other coaches and teams don’t recognize that are hard to replace,” Strcula said.

Rarely, if ever, does Sturm take a breather. He played the full 32 minutes against Ravenswood and finished with nine assists.

“I have confidence in Jake Boice and Joe Padden to handle the ball, but at the same time Payton does a good job making sure everyone is engaged on defense and knowing where they are supposed to be on offense.”

Padden is catching fire when it counts. Against Ravenswood, he just missed recording his third straight game of 20 points or more. Still, the senior finished with 18 points and nine rebounds.

“Joe Padden is stepping up like he two to three three weeks ago,” Strcula said.

Padden and Sturm have a friendship that extends well beyond the basketball court. The duo became best friends at the age of 5.

“Payton is an engine – he keeps going and is a real leader on the court,” Padden said. “He keeps us in check.”

Sturm is responsible for gathering his teammates together when PCHS fell behind 20-4 against Ravenswood. Of course, he had to take out his trademark mouthpiece to deliver his instructions.

Another senior who responded was Jake Ullman, who played his first game since Jan. 10 when he suffered a broken vertebrae in a game against Williamstown. The plan was to play him approximately three minutes per quarter, but he surpassed that total and scored a team-high 22 points.

After the game, Ullman mentioned to the coaching staff his back felt fine.

“That was a huge lift getting Jake back,” Sturm said. “He gives you 20 points a night, plus he is a guy who will free up Joe.”

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