MORRISTOWN - The Catholic Central boys basketball team survived a scare from Austin Simms and Strasburg to claim a 56-44 win in the first round of the Ohio Division IV sectional Friday at Union Local High School. The Crusaders have now beaten the Tigers two straight times since their double overtime loss to Fort Frye in the OVAC finals.
"It feels good," said Central head coach Sean Tucker. "The thing that concerns us is the wind being taken out of our sails losing the OVAC championship. You can see it in some of our players. We've got to be able to shake that. It's always a fear coming in. When you're in the tournament everyone is 0-0. The records don't matter. You're going to get everyone's best.
"Strasburg did a great job taking us out of a lot of things. We had a lot of moments where we stepped up at the right times. Our defense played pretty well. Their big kid hurt us and that's one thing that's been hurting us lately is big guys."
Despite Simms' 22-point, 13-rebound effort, the Crusaders were able to survive a run that saw a 17-point three-quarter lead turn to a seven-point lead with 1:35 left in the game.
Off a Tigers' timeout following Landry Hostetler's put back that made it a seven-point game, Central's Ryan Fletcher converted a hoop and harm opportunity to make the game 52-42. After another Starsburg bucket Brenton Colabella was intentionally fouled, knocked down both free throws and then Matt Martello was fouled on the ensuing inbounds play and knocked down both as well to make the final 56-44.
"One thing we said in the locker room is we're getting away from our roles," said Tucker. "We can't live and die by the three-point shot. We're getting away from our roles and I don't know why. The reason we've hit 137 threes this year is not because we sit behind the three-point line, run, and shoot.
Central 56, Strasburg 44
Strasburg 9 8 10 17 - 44
Central 14 10 20 12 - 56
STRASBURG: Hostetler 5 1-2 11; Bryan 3 0-0 6; Malcuit 1 0-0 3; Bitlkofer 0 0-0 0; Froman 0 0-0 0; Potopsky 0 0-0 0; Burnworth 1 0-1 3; Colombo 0 0-0 0; Seward 0 0-0 0; Simms 8 6-7 22. TOTALS: 18 7-10 44. 3-POINTERS: 1 (Malcuit). REBOUNDS: 27 (Simms 13, Hostetler 9). TURNOVERS: 21.
CENTRAL: M. Barber 7 1-2 17; Colabella 2 3-4 7; T. Barber 2 4-4 9; Manfresca 3 3-4 9; Fletcher 5 1-2 12; Martello 0 2-2 2; Dombrowski 0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 19 14-18 56. 3-POINTERS: 4 (M. Barber 2, T. Barber 1, Fletcher 1). REBOUNDS: 21 (Fletcher 9, M. Barber 4, Manfresca 4). TURNOVERS: 4.
"We run our offense and right now we had a lot of guys out of their role. We wanted to pound the ball inside today and go after them at the rim. I can probably count on one hand how many times we got the ball to the rim.
"We wanted to do that and we couldn't do it. That goes back to roles. We have to follow through with it. This is a great win for our seniors, it's a great win for our school, and hopefully this is a wakeup call to get us back on track."
Michael Barber stayed consistent throughout the evening leading the way with 17 points for the Crusaders.
Fletcher, who was held scoreless in the first half, awoke with a vengeance in the second half with all 12 of his points while pulling down nine rebounds to lead Central on the glass.
"We're playing for a sectional title next Friday and the last time our school won a sectional title was a long time ago," said Tucker. "The OVAC championship is gone, can't get it back, but we can still win a sectional title and I think our kids realize that."
The No. 2 seed Crusaders advance to face No. 8 seed Zanesville Rosecrans 7 p.m. next Friday at Union Local.