DuBOIS — Ridgway seized control of its District 9 Class AA semifinal game against Clarion in the first quarter Tuesday night, and the Bobcats were never able to recover as the Elkers reached the championship game with a 44-24 victory at DuBois Area High School.
The teams traded scores in the first three minutes, with Ridgway holding a 6-4 lead after that opening stretch. However, the Bobcats didn’t score in the final 5:30 of the quarter, and Ridgway took advantage with an 11-0 run to lead 17-4 after eight minutes.
Ridgway junior Daunte Allegretto hit two key 3-pointers during that closing stretch, while senior Josh Thorwart drained a trey of his own at the buzzer to put the Elkers up 13 points.
The Elkers struggled at times offensively over the final three quarters, but Clarion was unable to battle its way back into the game due in large part to the Elker defense.
Ridgway (25-0) limited the Bobcats’ top two scorers — Cam Craig and Austin Hummell — to a combined 16 points with Craig scoring 14 of those. The duo combined averaged just over 32 points a game (Craig 18.2, Hummell 14.0) in the regular season.
Seniors Neil MacDonald and Thorwart proved to be a steadying force in the second half for Ridgway. MacDonald scored 11 of his game-high 15 points after halftime, while Thorwart had five of his his eight points in the third quarter. Allegretto also added eight points.
“We’ve finally had some practice time and got some of our man-to-man stuff together, and we got some easy looks early and buried some shots,” said Ridgway coach Tony Allegretto. “Daunte made a couple early threes and Josh had another one to give us the lead. From there, I think we shot too many threes, and then they went into a zone and it took us some time to get comfortable with that.
“Neil did a great job on the the Craig kid, who is a nice ball player, and Andy (Breier) did a good job on the Hummell kid. They drove them nuts. I felt if we controlled those two, the other guys couldn’t carry them.”
After Ridgway built its big lead after one quarter, both teams struggled to find the basket in the second with Clarion outscoring Ridgway, 8-5, to trail by 10 (22-12) at the break. Bobcat Nick Frederick scored just over two minutes in to end a 7:34 scoring drought for Clarion.
Ridgway all but put the game away with a 13-5 third-quarter that put the Elkers up 35-17 entering the fourth. Ridgway had just one basket in the fourth (by MacDonald) but went 7 of 9 at the foul line to seal the win. The Elkers were 10 of 13 overall at the stripe, while Clarion was 3 of 3.
The Elkers will now battle second-seeded Coudersport for the title at a site to be determined this weekend. Ridgway edged the Falcons, 59-57, at home on Feb. 3. Coudy pulled out a 72-67 win over Brockway in the other semifinal Tuesday.
Clarion (17-7) will play Brockway for the third D-9 AA berth to the state tournament.