RIDGWAY — An old sports cliche says, “It’s hard to beat a team three times in the same season.”

That adage often has some truth to it, but the Elk County Catholic girls basketball team proved it wrong Thursday as it scored its third double-digit win against Ridgway this season.

The Lady Crusaders’ 40-28 victory was the closest game of the season between the two Elk County rivals, but it was more than enough to send ECC back to the Allegheny Mountain League championship. Elk County had already scored victories of 51-32 and 57-37 over the Lady Elkers.

And, for the second time in those three meetings, ECC held Ridgway senior standout Emily Fullem in check. Fullem, who came in averaging just over 20 points a game, scored just 10 — six of which came in the fourth quarter. She only had seven in the first meeting, but did score 20 in the second matchup.

As for ECC, it didn’t have one of its best shooting nights but fed off its defense to score enough to win. Taylor Newton led the Lady Crusaders with a game-high 14 points while pulling down 13 rebounds. McKayla Wilson added eight points, while Mackenzie Cashmer and Gabbi Rohr had six and five, respectively.

Elk County (15-8) now has an opportunity to defend its AML crown Saturday night against Kane, which beat DuBois Central Catholic, 57-33, Thursday night. The Lady Wolves (22-1) have already beaten ECC twice this season (51-32 and 45-38).

“We didn’t shoot the ball particularly well tonight, but boy we played well on the defensive side,” said ECC coach Ken Pistner. “To hold Fullem to 10, and a lot of those were late, we did a heck of a job. Obviously, she’s the focus of our attention, and I thought the whole team did well to limit her touches.”

Elk County jumped out to an early 8-0 lead, with Newton scoring two baskets in that stretch, but four points by Alyssa Kasmierski helped Ridgway battle back within five points (11-6) after one quarter.

The Lady Crusaders countered with a 9-0 spurt to start the second quarter to quickly push its lead to 20-6, and the Lady Elkers were never able to recovery. Gabbi Rohr had five points in that run and Newton four.

Elk County, which led 24-11 at the break, pushed its lead to as many as 18 points — 36-18 after three quarter and 38-20 early in the fourth. Both times Wilson scored to give ECC the 18-point leads before Pistner started to empty his bench.

Ridgway ended the game on an 8-2 run, with six of those points coning from Fullem, to set the final.

“We spent a lot of time preparing for ECC defensively, and offensively we just didn’t have it tonight,” said Ridgway coach Kyle Gordon. “I think we forced a lot of turnovers and got steals, but offensively we just couldn’t execute and had we, it would have been a closer game if not a win.”

Ridgway (12-10) now awaits its opponent for the District 9 Class AA playoffs.

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