Gilmer County claims LKC crown

SPENCER – Gilmer County seniors Austin Ratliff and Austin Cunningham combined for 28 points here Saturday night at Roane County in the 60th annual Night of Champions title game as the Titans used a strong second half to defeat Parkersburg Catholic, 42-40.

Ratliff scored a game-high 15 points and Cunningham finished with 13 points and eight rebounds as the Class A, No. 9 Titans of head coach Steve Shuff improved to 17-4 by limiting the Crusaders (13-8) to just 15 second-half points.

PCHS scored the final five points of the first half thanks to a Joe Padden (10 points) 3-pointer and a Brady Kurucz lay-in to hold a comfortable 25-16 cushion at intermission. The Titans trailed by a dozen with 6:16 left in the third when Payton Sturm attacked the rim and converted a floater.

However, the Crusaders missed 16 of their final 19 shots and despite the Titans making only 5 of 12 foul shots in the final eight minutes it was just enough for Gilmer County to emerge victorious.

Cunningham, who beat out Ravenswood’s Jake Martin in the Top Gun competition, made the Titans’ lone 3-pointer with 2:21 remaining for a 41-36 advantage. The Crusaders answered with consecutive buckets from Jake Ullman and Austin Luther to close to within one.

The final point of the game came from Cunningham with 11.2 ticks remaining. Although Padden had an open look from 3 to win the game, the ball went off the iron and Cunningham grabbed it after the buzzer sounded to set off a frenzied celebration.

“It didn’t help out much,” Cunningham quipped of winning the Top Gun title as the Titans went 1 of 10 from downtown compared to the Crusaders’ showing of 1 of 16.

“We held them to 15 points in the second half. That really won us the game right there. This mean a lot and it’s coach Shuff’s first LKC championship.”

Padden missed a double-double by one rebound and PCHS teammate Ben Collie also finished with nine caroms. Luther scored nine points and Ullman had eight.

“Anytime you hold Parkersburg Catholic to 15 that’s a big-time defensive job,” said Shuff, whose squad received seven markers from Nathan Allison.

“I’m just so proud of our kids and our two seniors to finally get over the hump.”

In the first half, PCHS led 6-2 early before a Titan 8-0 run was started by a Zach Chapman putback to help the Titans to a 10-8 lead after one. When Ullman scored on a lay-in for a 31-21 Crusader lead with 3:30 to go in the third, PCHS didn’t score another field goal for a span of 9:21.

In the consolation game, Williamstown missed 12 of 16 free throws in the fourth quarter, but was able to eke out a 53-52 triumph against host Roane County (16-5).

The Yellowjackets (15-6) played the game without junior Chandler Weber, who is out for the season due to injury. Roane County’s homecourt advantage didn’t pay dividends as the Raiders missed 16 of 17 attempts from downtown and watched Ryan Errickson’s potential 16-foot game-winning baseline jumper go off the iron.

Landon Travis led WHS with 11 points and 15 rebounds. Gage Wix tallied 16 points while Hunter Neely (13) and Josh Palmer (11) also finished in double figures.

Raider Jacob Neal had the only other double-double, going for 14 points and a game-high 16 rebounds. He also joined teammate Issak Willmoth (13 points) in recording three blocked shots. Scotti Meadows led all scorers with 17 points for the Raiders, who shot just 31.6 percent (18 of 57) from the field.