CLARION — The Brockway Rovers are headed back to the District 9 Class AA championship game following a convincing 50-37 win over Ridgway Wednesday night at Clarion University’s Tippin Gymnasium.
The title-game appearance will be the second straight for Brockway, which will play Coudersport Saturday at 7:15 p.m. back at Clarion University. The Rovers, who lost to Kane (38-31) in last year’s AA finals, will be searching for their first D-9 title since 2013 when they topped Cranberry, 45-38, in the AA finals.
Wednesday was Brockway’s second straight lopsided upset — at least according to seed — with the sixth-seeded Rovers (16-8) having beaten third-seeded Keystone (46-28) before knocking off the second-seeded Elkers (19-4).
The meeting was the third of the season between the Rovers and Elkers, with Ridgway winning the first two — 53-52 at home on Jan. 16 and 47-37 at Brockway on Feb. 10.
Outside of a 10-0 Ridgway run that panned the end of the first quarter and the start of the second, Brockway pretty much controlled the tempo and the game for most of the night. The Rovers led by as many as 15 points (39-24) in the third quarter before eventually coming away with the 13-point victory.
Brockway’s defense held the Elkers to their second-lowest point total of the season — the Elkers scored just 26 points in a 41-26 loss to Elk County Catholic back on Jan. 20. Ridgway’s last lead of the game came at 14-13 with 6:12 left to play.
While its defense held Ridgway in check, Brockway used a balanced offensive attack that put together just the fourth 50-plus point game against the Ridgway defense all season. The Rovers also had one out of their previous three games.
Junior Carter Adams led the Rovers with a game-high 14 points. He also unoffically had eight assists in the game. Senior Quade Lundberg added 10 points, while fellow senior Jake Wineberg dropped in eight points off the bench.
“It’s huge. It’s been the goal since day one with this group,” said Brockway coach Rick Clark regarding the Rovers making it back to the title game in his first season. “They were there at the title game last year and came up a bit short, and we knew we had enough coming back that we had a great chance to make a run — even though this field (Class AA) was going to be loaded.
“That’s what we’ve worked for all offseason and all season, and goal No. 1 is to win a district title. I couldn’t be prouder of the guys.”
Clark was also appreciative of the spirited Brockway crowd that showed up for the game.
“The student bus was full coming down here and a lot of kids drove down, and we always get loud support from our parents,” said Clark. “There were a lot of other coaches and teachers here, and that’s what we all as coaching staffs try to do — support each other by going to each other’s playoff games.
“I tell our guys in the fall sports to support them (other teams) because when we make our run we want that support back. The atmosphere was tremendous and it seemed to give our guys a little more energy and an added lift tonight.”
Both teams took some time to get into a rhythm to start the game, and it was Brockway that managed to do that first as the Rovers built a 10-4 lead with 1:39 left in the opening eight minutes. Lundberg and Puhala each had four points in that opening stretch.
Ridgway finally came to life late in the quarter, as Neil MacDonald scored with 36 second left. Teammate Kyle Jordan then hit a 3-pointer and was fouled with one-tenth of a second left in the quarter. Jordan hit the free throw to complete the rare four-point play to even the score at 10-10 after one quarter.
Ridgway carried that momentum in to the second quarter, as Andy Breier and Daunte Allegretto each scored on strong drives to the basket in the first minute-plus to give Ridgway a 14-10 advantage.
That lead was short-lived though, as Wineberg quickly knocked down a 3-pointer to spark a 9-0 Rovers run. Adams, Lundberg and Hunter Miller each added baskets in the spurt, which gave Brockway a 19-14 lead with 3:48 left in the half.
Clark felt that run was key to his team’s success.
“It’s always big (to get the lead) on them because you know if they get the lead they are going to be awfully patient and awfully disciplined until they get the shot they want,” said Clark. “I thought the team that could get the tempo more in their favor would have the better advantage.
“I thought we controlled the tempo all night long and got things sped and we got some turnovers off the press that gave us some easy ones (baskets), and that helped our offense out tremendously.”
Allegretto momentarily halted the Rovers’ run with a bucket, but back-to-back scores from Adams and Lundberg put Brockway back up 23-16. Allegretto led Ridgway with 11 points.
Ridgway’s Justin Kasmierski scored arund the 1-minute mark to set the eventual halftime score at 23-18. Brockway held the Ridgway big-man to just six points — only two of which came in the second half.
Allegretto opened the second-half scoring with a hoop just 13 seconds in to make it a three-point game (23-20), but a hustle play by Miller sparked a strong second-half surge from Brockway.
Miller crashed the board hard from the weakside and pulled down a rebound off a missed shot. His momentum carried him out of bounds, but Miller made a diving pass back outside to Adams, who drilled a 3-pointer.
The all-around hustle play jump-started a 16-4 spurt by the Rovers that allowed them to seize control of the game. Lundberg, Zane Puhala and Jarrett Esposito each had hoops in that stretch, while Adams and Quenton Jackson knocked downk back-to-back treys 16 seconds apart to put the Rovers up 39-24 with 2:30 left in the third.
Jake Thorwart tried to answer with a 3-pointer of his own for Ridgway, but the Rovers still led 41-29 after three quarters.
Brockway tried to slowed down the tempo to open the fourth, but that approach appeared to get the Rovers out of sorts a bit. That allowed Ridgway to put together a 6-2 spurt that cut the Brockway lead to six at 41-35 with 4:48 to play. Allegretto and MacDoanld each had three points in the Elkers’ mini-run. MacDonald finished the night with nine points.
Ridgway could get no closer than 41-35 though, as Brockway ended the game on a 9-2 run to come away with the 13-point victory. Wineberg had five points in that closing stretch, while Adams had four.
“They beat us start to finish,” said Ridgway coach Tony Allegretto. “They had the big run in the first quarter, and they had the big run in the third quarter. But, we never really got any control of the game.
“I thought maybe when we got them back in the first quarter we might be okay, but we were out of gas right from the start. Early in the game there I saw we couldn’t even press because we were really sucking wind.
“But, credit to them (Brockway). They took it to us and beat us in every facet.”
Ridgway still has an opportunity to qualify for the state playoffs. The Elkers play Clarion-Limestone in the Class AA consolation game Saturday at 12:30 p.m. at Clarion University, with the winner grabbing the third and final state berth in Class AA from District 9.