NEW PHILADELPHIA - Torrid shooting combined with a solid defensive effort helped Steubenville Catholic Central pass its initial Division IV sectional test Wednesday.
The third-seeded Crusaders nailed 23 of their 37 field goal tries (68 percent) in rolling to a 59-40 victory over Strasburg. Sean Tucker's 17-6 club advances to face second-seeded Malvern at 1 p.m. Saturday at New Philadelphia High School.
"It was a great team win," Tucker said. "It was a good way for our seniors to start tournament play. I'm really proud of our top nine guys. Our guys off the bench played key roles, particularly on the defensive end. Not everyone played great tonight, but we played great as a team."
The Crusaders struggled early, hitting just three of nine floor attempts, and trailed 9-6 after one. The Tigers grabbed the advantage when Marek Walczak nailed a triple.
Central put the pedal to the metal in the second, hitting seven of nine to take the lead for good. Ryan Fletcher got things going when he scored off a Michael Manfresca feed. Zach Herrington followed to make it 11-9.
Michael Barber swished a three-ball, then assisted on a deuce by Aleks Porreca. Barber, who hit his first four shots, scored again just before the buzzer to give Central a 26-21 lead.
Tucker's crew was even more amazing from the floor in the third, knocking down seven of eight. Baskets by Barber and Fletcher (his came after one of his four steals on the defensive end) stretched the advantage to 13 (42-29) late in the stanza. Six Michael Carapellotti markers in the final period put the game out of reach. Steve Kotur finished Central's superb shooting performance by canning a jumper late.
"We shot the ball extremely well when we had the shots we wanted," Tucker noted. "If we don't force up a few, it would have been an even better night.
"When it comes to shot selection, we have to be patient. We have to know when it is a good shot to take or not. If we keep doing that, we have a great chance to advance in the tournament."
Fletcher paced the Crusaders in scoring with 12. Carapellotti added 10. Barber, Herrington and Porreca all had nine.
"We preached to the kids at the beginning of the season that anyone on this team can score, 10, 10, 10 across the board," Tucker added. "Tonight we proved that with a very balanced offense. We have to play that way from here on out. If we can, teams can't target just one person. They'll have to play five-man basketball."
Central grabbed 24 rebounds to 18 for the Tigers (4-19). Herrington and Fletcher collected six apiece.
Walczak, who entered the game averaging 27, paced Strasburg with 16. The Tigers were 16 of 47 in the shooting department.
"We played really good defensive," Tucker continued. "We only had a couple of breakdowns. Our goal tonight was to shut down Walczak. To hold a kid like that to the points we held him too (the Strasburg leader was six for 21 from the floor), that's an outstanding job. We guarded him as a team.
"The defensive effort we put forth tonight is something we have to do against Malvern."
Saturday's meeting will be the second of the season between the Crusaders and the Hornets. Malvern earned a 62-46 win on its home floor.
"It's great that we get an opportunity to play them again," Tucker said. "We were not very patent offensively during the first game and defensively, we let them do whatever they wanted. Our guys realize it is now survive and advance and we'll have to stick to our game plan. We will need to play 32 minutes of defense to beat a team like Malvern. We'll have to play solid man to man under their chin. If we do that, we should be able to fare well."
Catholic Central 59, Strasburg 40
Catholic Central 6 20 16 17 - 59
Strasburg 9 12 10 9 - 40
CENTRAL (17-6): M. Barber 4 0-1 9; Colabella 3 0-0 6; T. Barber 0 0-0 0; Carapellotti 3 4-5 10; Manfresca 1 0-0 2; Fletcher 6 0-2 12; Herrington 4 1-3 9; Martello 0 0-1 0; Porreca 3 3-4 9; Kotur 1 0-0 2; Dombrowski 0 0-3 0; Howard 0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 25 8-19 59. 3-pointers: M. Barber; Rebounds: 24 (Herrington, Fletcher 6); Turnovers: 17.
STRASBURG (4-19): Kanouff 0 2-2 2; Bryan 2 0-0 4; Eckhardt 2 0-0 4; Colombo 3 0-0 6; Bitikofer 2 2-2 6; Neidenthal 0 0-0 0; Turek 0 0-0 0; Walczak 6 2-3 16; Palek 1 0-0 2; Fisher 0 0-0 0; Seward 0 0-0 0; Spinell 0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 16 6-7 40. 3-pointers: Walczak (2); Rebounds 18 (Bitikofer 6); Turnovers 18.