ST. CLAIRSVILLE - The Cathlolic Central and Fort Frye basketball teams have a lot in common.
The main one is their defensive intensity and pleasure in stopping the other team.
"I know we have a team who loves to play defense - every single one of my players," said Cadets coach Eric Henniger said. "They set personal goals to try to hold teams under.
"On the offensive end, we really do like to get it out. It's just that sometimes we make teams play offense too long and it kind of keeps the scores low."
The Cadets and Crusaders are the opening act in today's Wheeling Hospital OVAC Basketball Championships at Ohio University-Eastern. Their 10 a.m. Class 3A tip begins the quintupleheader.
"The Linsly game (a 65-55 semifinal win) was back-and-forth, back-and-forth and I was pretty happy with the way we controled the tempo of the game," said Henniger. "We held a high-scoring team to 55 points and we were really proud of that. For a 65-55 game, it was a pretty fast-paced game.
"Both teams played pretty good defense.
"It's going to be a battle Saturday. You have two good, fundamentally sound teams going right at each other and playing defense. Saturday will be my first time seeing them in person.
"I'm looking forward to it.
"Monroe Central is very good at defending its home court. They are a good shooting team and to go in there and get a win says a lot about a team. That is a quality win."
Catholic Central is making its second straight trip to the finals, although last year it was in Class 2A.
"It's a great feeling to be here," said Crusaders mentor Sean Tucker. "It's a great accomplishment by our boys to go from 2A to 3A and return. It speaks volumes about the hard work and effort our kids have put in. It was really tough to make the top four in this 3A class. I think the top six teams are really great teams (Buckeye Trail finished fifth and Magnolia sixth).
"For us to break into the top four and make the championship in 3A is phenomenal and says a lot about our program and our kids."
The Crusaders made it back thanks to a 61-59 victory at Monroe Central.
"An hour-and-a-half driving in the bus is a long time and, by far, Monroe Central was not an easy place to play," said Tucker. "Their crowd really gets into it and their crowd was into it during pre-game warmups.
"It was getting pretty intense during warmups.
"Our kids did a great job in getting us back to OUE.
"Our schedule this year is the most brutal schedule we have had in my six years here. And, with that schedule, you're going to see our kids being able to overcome adversity and that happened at Monroe Central.
"We've had games with Big Red and Madonna twice, came back to beat Malvern and had heartbreakers with Wheeling Central at the Undo's tournament and lost by one at East Liverpool.
"Our kids have shown great character through all these games. I don't think anything that's going to happen to us from here on out that our kids can't overcome.
"We've seen Fort Frye play twice and we have a lot of information on them," said Tucker. "They are a good basketball team and beat a very good Linsly basketball team.
"Look at the history of that school and its stellar basketball program. Their coach played in a state tournament game back in the day. You are taking your program to another level when you're competing against a great program like Fort Frye.
"It's going to be a great Saturday. We're grateful to be here."