DuBOIS — The Elk County Catholic boys basketball team led by 15 at halftime and ultimately defeated DuBois Central Catholic, 62-43, on Thursday evening.
But the final score wasn’t an indicator of how close the game really was, despite the Crusaders getting 30 points from big man Ryan Newton.
Down 33-18 at halftime, the Cardinals cut it all the way to 43-39 with 6:30 to play in the game and 46-41 with 4:30 remaining.
But the Crusaders finished the final four minutes on a 16-2 run, including a perfect 10-for-10 from the foul line down the stretch.
“We’re not surprised at all that they made a big run,” said ECC coach Aaron Straub. “We knew they would play hard, and they did.”
Although at times it didn’t seem like it was DCC’s Justin Miknis’ best night, the junior still finished the night with a team-high 20 points, including four three-pointers.
“We knew Miknis was one of the best players in the district and he showed it tonight,” Straub said. “He made some really tough shots. We probably could’ve defended him a little bit better. He created a lot on his own.”
ECC led 43-28 with 2:35 left in the third quarter after a Newton hook shot, but Miknis had a layin and a three-pointer before Jonathan Kurtz’s trey pushed the ECC lead to just seven by the end of the third quarter.
Miknis started off the fourth quarter with a bank-shot three-pointer to put the score at 43-39 in favor of ECC.
“Our kids really fought back,” said DCC coach Dom Varacallo. “We decided we were going to dictate the pace. We were going to fight for every inch on the basketball court and just make it a game.
“Our next progression is to win that game. We had an opportunity, and I think our kids are starting to believe in themselves that they can play with anybody and beat anybody. That’s all you can ask for.
“I’m really proud of a lot of the guys that stepped up today.”
However, the Crusaders started to pick it up from there as Newton drained his second three-pointer of the night to get the ECC lead back to seven.
After Central’s Peter Downer’s layin to get it to five points with 4:37 left, DCC didn’t score again until the final minute of the game.
The Crusaders needed just two minutes of game time to get the lead back up to 15 points, thanks to clutch free throw shooting and a couple easy baskets.
Out of 17 free throws attempted for ECC, they missed just one.
“I was happy that we came out and played a strong fourth quarter,” said Straub. “It was a good win.”
The two teams came out even for about halfway through the first quarter.
The score was 4-4 just under four minutes into the contest, but the Crusaders finished the first quarter on a 12-4 run, which was a jumpstart to a big advantage by halftime.
A Newton hook shot gave the Crusaders the lead for good before the senior hit a pair of free throws and put in a layin.
Later in the first quarter, Alex Breindel hit a trey, while Newton hit another from long distance to give ECC a 16-8 lead after one. Newton had 11 of the Crusaders’ first 16 points.
Although the game already had a wide margin, the ECC lead never grew larger than 15 points in the first half.
Elk County got their first 15-point lead at 26-11 after a basket from Brennen Klawuhn, but Miknis got it back to 12 on the next possession a corner three.
Logan Hoffman got the lead back to 15 in the final minute of the first half with a corner three-pointer of his own to get the score to 33-18 at the break.
In addition to Newton’s 30 points, Hoffman had 11, and Breindel had seven.
Kurtz chipped in six points for DCC, including the only other three-pointer for Central to go with Miknis’ four.
Both teams are back in action this evening. The Crusaders host Ridgway, while Central entertains Sheffield.