CLARION — Elk County Catholic saw its fourth-quarter rally come up short as it suffered a season-ending 53-44 loss to Cornell in the PIAA Class A second round at Clarion University’s Tippin Gymnasium Tuesday night.
“They (Cornell) were very good and they came in with a really good plan,” ECC head coach Aaron Straub said. “We’re a really good team when we’re in our element and this year our element was playing against a man (defense) more than against the zone.”
The District 9 champion Crusaders trailed by 12 heading into the final quarter, as that deficit quickly grew to 15 when Cornell’s Zaier Harrison drained his third three-pointer of the night 40 seconds into the fourth.pi
Elk County Catholic (27-2) then began to battle back, as it started the comeback efforts with a 10-2 run over the span of 2:53 as a trey from Will Uberti capped the run and brought the score to 43-36 with 3:47 left to play.
Carter Lindemuth sparked the run by converting on a floater in the lane before a corner three and a bucket on the inside from Mark Kraus kept the momentum going in ECC’s favor.
After a bucket from Harrison on the other end, Lindemuth added a trey of his own to make it a six-point game (45-39) with 2:43 remaining.
A Raiders turnover on the ensuing possession gave the Crusaders a chance to continue to cut into the lead.
However, Uberti saw his corner three-pointer roll all the way around the rim and out, but a loose ball was knocked out of bounds by Cornell, as ECC retained possession.
The sequence eventually led to Lindemuth drawing a foul on the inside, but the senior was unable to convert either foul shot as the margin remained six.
The Raiders then went 3-of-4 from the line on their next two trips down the court to begin to close out the win.
Elk County Catholic’s final gasp came with 62 seconds left in the game, as Lindemuth was fouled going up for a three.
Lindemuth, who appeared shaken up on the play, missed the first attempt before exiting the game with an injury, as Charlie Breindel took the line and was able to convert the final two foul shots to bring the score to 48-41.
Kraus hit a three with 25 seconds left before Isiah Langston closed out the scoring for Cornell by going 1-of-2 at the line with 22.8 ticks remaining to bring the final score to 53-44.
The WPIAL (District 7) runner-up led from start to finish, as it needed just nine seconds to take the lead in the opening quarter thanks to a three-pointer by Blaine Sams.
The Raiders eventually led 11-8 after eight minutes of play, as Regis Wortman kept ECC close early by scoring six of his team-high 13 in the frame.
Cornell then opened the second quarter on a 13-4 run, as it doubled up ECC (24-12) at the 3:04 mark of the quarter.
The Crusaders then recaptured some of the momentum heading into the locker room, as they closed the first half on a 5-0 run to get back within seven (24-17) at the half.
Wortman scored the first two points of the run from the foul line, before Lindemuth added a bucket on the inside off a turnover.
Then, with 22.4 seconds left, a technical foul was assessed on the Cornell bench, as ECC got a pair of foul shots and the ball.
The Crusaders were not able to capitalize however, as Wortman converted 1-of-2 at the line before a shot was of the mark in the closing seconds.
Cornell used a 9-0 run in the late portions of the third quarter to stretch its lead to 38-26 heading into the fourth, before the Crusaders’ rally fell short in the fourth.
The game was the final one in an ECC uniform for seniors Regis Wortman, Lindemuth, Leo Gregory, Will Uberti, Ben Hoffman and Isaac Wortman.
“We had six seniors that you could set your watch to, because they are scrappy and they gave everything that they could to the program,” Straub said.
Cornell will now take on District 6 champion Bishop Carroll in the quarterfinals Friday at a site and time to be determined.