DuBOIS — Behind the hot hand of senior Jonathan Cruz, DuBois defeated visiting Johnsonburg 63-53 Monday night.
The Beavers scored the win despite only getting scoring contributions from four players on the night, all starters, as they led the entire night on their way to the victory.
Cruz led the way for DuBois (14-7) with a game-high 27 points on eight made three-pointers and a 3 for 3 night at the free-throw line.
The senior got the scoring started 47 seconds into the game with his first trey of the night.
Gabe Watts got Johnsonburg (15-7) on the board with a bucket at the 6:38 mark of the first quarter.
After the teams made three baskets inside the arc apiece over the next three minutes, the Beavers held a slim 9-8 lead inside of two minutes to play in the opening frame.
The Beavers then went on 7-2 run to take a 16-10 lead into the second, as Alex Beers got the run started with a basket on the inside, followed by Cruz’s second three-pointer of the quarter.
Then, after Austin Green scored on the other end for the Rams, Chase Husted closed out the scoring in the first with a basket inside the paint to send DuBois into the second quarter up six.
Green got the scoring started in the second quarter with a three for Johnsonburg as the 5:52 mark, as both offenses got off to slow starts in the second quarter.
Cruz would later hit his third and fourth three-pointers of the night to give DuBois a 24-17 advantage with 2:27 left in the half.
Later in the quarter, Green went 2 of 2 at the foul line to cap a 5-2 run for the Rams, which trimmed the Beavers lead to 26-22 with 1:13 left in the half.
After DuBois was unable to convert on the other end, Johnsonburg had a chance to cut into the lead further in the closing seconds.
Instead, with just under 10 seconds to play, the Rams lost possession with a bad pass out the end line to turn the ball back over to the Beavers.
Cruz then took a pass in the corner, pump faked on a three in the corner and then went up for another just as the buzzer sounded, as he drew a foul on the play.
The senior drained all three free throws to send DuBois into the half up 29-22.
“I thought to keep us in the game and give us a lead early Cruz was outstanding,” DuBois head coach Dave Bennett said. “He shot the ball so well and that’s what he’s capable of doing and he definitely fueled us.”
Cruz’s shooting from deep was huge for the Beavers since Johnsonburg went to a zone defense and kept DuBois from dominating inside the paint.
“We had our plan of attack where we were going to try to get the ball inside and if we couldn’t then we knew something had to be open,” Bennett said.
The head coach said he felt Johnsonburg played very well in the first half and did well crashing the boards, saying he emphasized the importance of rebounding and boxing out to his team at the half.
The Beavers carried that momentum over into the second half, as they opened the second half on a 6-0 run to stretch their lead to 35-22.
Husted got the scoring started by going 1 of 2 at the line, then Justin Manduley followed with a three to stretch the lead to double digits for the first time.
After a Rams’ turnover on the other end, Manduley finished off a 2 on 1 breakout on an assist from Franco DeSantis to push the advantage to 13 points.
Johnsonburg responded right away with a 5-0 run of its own on a pair of free throws and a three-pointer from Green.
Cruz responded with back-to-back threes of his own, the second of which ending a nearly two minute scoreless drought for both teams.
After a three-point play from Green, a 6-0 run by DuBois on a pair of free throws from Husted and Beers then a bucket by Husted gave it a 47-30 edge with 1:23 left in the third.
Isaac Schloder closed out the scoring in the third with a pair of free throws, as the Beavers entered the final quarter of play with a 15-point lead.
“I thought our defense really picked up, we got a lot of defections, created some turnovers and got in transition,” Bennett said.
Cruz hit his seventh and eighth three-pointers of the night on back-to-back possessions early in the fourth quarter to give DuBois its largest lead of the night at 55-36 with six minutes left in the game.
Watts and Green followed with threes on the Rams’ following two possessions as they begin to cut into the deficit.
Green finished the a team-high 22 points for Johnsonburg, while Schloder added 11 and Watts finished with nine points.
The Rams later went on a 7-0 run to cut DuBois’ lead to 10 at 61-51 with 48 seconds left.
Schloder and Watts each went 2 of 2 at the line during the run while Gino Gregory capped the run with a three.
After Beers hit a pair of free throws on the other end, a bucket by Watts closed out the scoring as DuBois secured the 10-point win.
Beers finished with 14 points for DuBois, while Husted added 13 points and pulled down 11 boards to finish with a double-double.
Manduley was the only other Beavers player to score in the victory, finishing with nine points.
“We just lost number five (Cruz) and that killed us,” Johnsonburg head coach Bill Shuey said. “Our zone was doing okay on the inside, but they were setting some screens down low and we just didn’t match their physicality.”
While the Rams finished with a slim edge (29-28) on the boards, Shuey said his team gave up offensive rebounds in key situations, which also hurt their chances of winning the game.
The head coach added that the game was a good learning experience and said his team could learn a lot from the loss, but was proud of their effort until the final buzzer.
“We didn’t quit and that’s a tribute to these guys,” Shuey said. “Now we go into the AML playoffs and I think they know they took some bad shots when the game was still within reach and we need to learn from that.”
DuBois hosts Brookville Friday, while Johnsonburg travels to Ridgway in the AML Semifinals Thursday.