PARKERSBURG, W.Va. -- Coach Chuck Elkins and his Buffalo High boys basketball team have heard the claims that the Bison's 2012-13 schedule was short on tough competition.
Those claims were drowned out Thursday night by the cheers of the team's fans, celebrating its first trip to the state tournament since 2008.
Five Bison scored in double figures to propel the Class A's eighth-ranked team to a 65-61 win over No. 5 Parkersburg Catholic in their Class A Region 4 co-final.
"People have been saying all year we don't play anybody," Elkins said. "We've won 21 ball games. We had to have something."
What the Bison (21-4) had Thursday night was a defense that forced 23 turnovers by clogging the passing lanes, negating a 31-point performance by Crusaders junior Jake Ullman. Parkersburg Catholic (21-4) had a chance to cut Buffalo's lead to three with about 20 seconds to go, but Joe Padden's 3-pointer missed the mark and Levi Jordan hit three of his next four free throws to put the game away.
Jordan and Laythen Good each scored 12 points for Buffalo, while Isaiah Robinson and Dylan Rich each scored 13 to lead the Bison. Aaron Lewis scored 11.
"We have a great work ethic," said Good, who scored seven of his points in the fourth quarter. "We work hard every day and don't let anything come between us. This is their home court in a big game, but we wanted to play great and finally make our goal of going to states."
The Crusaders stayed close in the first quarter on the back of Ullman. Buffalo's student section chanted "ball hog" every time he touched it, but the junior showed why Parkersburg Catholic trusted him with the ball. Ullman scored 11 of the Crusaders' 14 first quarter points.
The Bison employed a more even-handed approach to its first-quarter scoring, with Aaron Lewis leading the team with four, and Buffalo led 16-14 after one period. Parkersburg Catholic was able to take a 24-21 lead with 3:53 left in the half after Padden finally warmed up. Padden missed his first six shots, but scored six straight points in the second, his 3-pointer breaking a 21-all tie.
The Crusaders went cold after that, getting outscored 12-1 in the final 2:50 of the first half. Parkersburg Catholic went four for 11 in the second quarter and committed 12 first-half turnovers.
"We had five keys to the game and one of them was to take care of the basketball and limit our turnovers," Parkersburg Catholic Coach Rob Strcula said. "Obviously, that was kind of the backbreaker in that first half."
Padden was the only other Crusader in double figures, scoring 15 points.