20170317-ce-sp MacDonald rebound battle

Ridgway’s Neil MacDonald (20) pulls down a rebound over Brockway’s Jarrett Esposito (13) during a District 9 Class AA semifinal game. MacDonald scored a game-high 14 points Thursday in a 42-28 win over Berlin that clinched the Elkers a spot in the state quarterfinals.

File photo by Chris Wechtenhiser

ALTOONA — Ridgway used its size advantage to jump out to a quick 8-0 lead in the second round of the Class 2A state playoffs and never looked back, as the Elkers worked the clock and defeated Berlin 42-28 at the Altoona Fieldhouse Thursday night.

“We were able to get that 8-0 lead, and then everyone could be like, ‘okay now we can just play basketball,’” Ridgway head coach Anthony Allegretto said. “That’s always big when you’re in a big gym like this and it’s a pressure game.”

Ridgway held Berlin to only three points and a single field goal in each of the first two quarters, and by the half, the Elkers held a firm 14-6 lead after two quarters.

“They do a great job of running their motion offense,” Berlin coach Tanner Prosser said. “They’re very patient, and then when you make a mistake they convert.”

Ridgway forced Berlin to pick its poison defensively. The Mountaineers attempted to clog the paint to combat the Elkers’ size advantage, but Ridgway appeared content to run the clock when Berlin did not pressure the ball.

“We want you to have to come out and guard,” Allegretto said. “At the beginning of the game, they were dropping off of us quite a bit and packing it in. We’re going to run long possessions if you’re going to allow us to do that.”

When Berlin adjusted, so did the Elkers.

“In the second half, they came out and pressured us, and they had a little bit more success, but we were able to open the game up,” Allegretto said. “We were able to get to the basket and get it to the big guys a little bit more.”

Ridgway’s big three —Neil MacDonald, Andy Breier and Justin Kasmierski—did the majority of the Elkers’ scoring. MacDonald led the way with 14, Breier tallied 10 and Kasmierski finished with eight.

The trio averaged double digits entering the state playoffs, and all three rose to the occasion.

“They’ve been our leaders all along,” Allegretti said of the senior and two juniors. “We know that they need to score, and if we can get Josh (Thorwart) and my son Daunte to give us a basket here and there and make some foul shots, then we’re in good shape.”

MacDonald scored the first four points of the game in the paint, and tallied six of Ridgway’s 10 first quarter points.

Ridgway held for the final shot of the third quarter, and with time ticking down, Thorwart launched a three that hit the front iron, bounced high, and then dropped to provide the Elkers a 25-14 lead.

Early in the fourth, MacDonald collected his own miss, put it back, and drew a foul for a three-point play. The free throw put the Elkers up, 32-17, and drew a fist pump from coach Allegretto.

Nick Gooden and Nate Thomas led Berlin with nine points each. Ridgway dominated the time of possession, which prevented Berlin from settling into an offensive rhythm.

“I’d love for there to be a shot clock in high school basketball,” Prosser said. “I think it would make the game a lot better, but there’s not and they fully take advantage of that.”

Ridgway will play the winner of Friday’s contest between Constitution and Holy Cross.

“Whoever is next, we’ll give it our best,” Allegretto said. “We’re happy to be where we are, but we’re not satisfied.”

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