ST. MARYS — Elk County Catholic led from start to finish, despite a 10-0 run by St. Marys to open the fourth quarter, as the Crusaders secured a 45-35 victory over their cross-town rivals on the road Friday night.
ECC held a 37-25 lead heading into the final quarter of play, as they had led the entire night and faced just one tie at 4-4 early in the first quarter.
The Dutch wouldn’t go down without a fight, as they opened the fourth quarter on a furious pace and used a 10-0 run over the first 1:32 of the quarter to cut the Crusaders’ lead to two at 37-35.
“We got a little too quick on offense and we hurried a little bit,” Elk County Catholic head coach Aaron Straub said. “They got us a little disjointed, but give our kids credit, they hung in there.”
The head coach noted he felt his team played very well outside of the stretch early in the fourth quarter.
While it appeared all of the momentum was with the home side, ECC buckled down and held St. Marys scoreless over the final 6:28 of the game, closing things out with a 8-0 run to secure the 10-point win.
The Crusaders used four free throws and baskets from Alex Wehler and Regis Wortman to close out the victory, while the Dutch were unable to get anything going offensively in the closing minutes of the game.
Elk County Catholic got the scoring started in the opening minute on a three-pointer by Alex Breindel, as a Carter Lindemuth free throw gave the Crusaders a 4-0 lead in the early going.
Back-to-back baskets for the Dutch from Anthony Cartina tied the game at four, as ECC’s Brady Schneider responded by draining a three-pointer to give the Crusaders the lead back, one they would hold on to for the remainder of the night.
After a pair of free throws from Dutchmen Tim Rusciolelli cut the away side’s lead to 9-6 inside of three minutes remaining in the opening frame, ECC used an 8-0 run to take a 17-6 lead after the first.
Breindel went 2 of 3 at the line after being fouled on a three-point shot, then Will Uberti followed with a basket and Leo Gregory closed out the quarter with a pair of made shots to push the Crusaders’ lead to double figures heading into the second quarter.
Both teams got off to strong shooting starts in the second quarter, as Cahil Parrish and Luke Lasko hit three-pointers for the Dutch and Uberti converted from deep for the Crusaders while Wortman added a basket inside.
After Uberti’s three, both offenses went cold, as neither side could get anything to drop and were both held scoreless for nearly five minutes to close out the first half as ECC maintained a 22-12 lead at the halftime break.
Both teams got back on track on the offensive end in the third quarter, as they traded baskets throughout the frame, as neither team was able to go on a run.
Alec Wehler opened the frame with a three-pointer for the Crusaders, as Parrish and Breindel traded threes late in the quarter.
Breindel finished the game tied for a game-high and leading ECC with 10 points behind a pair of three-pointers.
Uberti added nine points, while Wortman chipped in seven and Gregory added six.
Wehler and Schneider each added five points in the win for the Crusaders.
Parrish led the Dutch with 10 points on the night, also hitting a pair of threes, while Lasko added six points on two three-pointers.
Cartinia and Rusciolelli each added six points in the loss for St. Marys.
“I thought Tim (Rusciolelli) did a really nice job defensively and he really set the tone for us,” St. Marys head coach Shad Boschert said.
In the end, ECC had stretched its lead by two points and headed into the final quarter of play with a 37-25 advantage.
That is when the Dutch went on a 10-0 run to cut the deficit to two, but ECC responded with a 8-0 run of its own to secure the win and remain undefeated on the season.
“I thought we really battled and I think our lapse in the run that St. Marys made was not that we weren’t hustling,” Straub said. “We took some quick shots, we want to play fast, but we don’t want to play in a hurry.”
The Crusaders coach added that his team has to get used to playing in hard fought games and said the game was very similar to their contest against Kane Jan. 2, a game in which ECC held on for a 59-58 victory.
Boschert said he felt his team worked hard all night, but a couple mistakes hurt their chances to win the game.
“Our effort and our energy matched theirs the entire game,” Boschert said. “Turnovers down the stretch that was the game.”
Both teams return to action Tuesday on the road, as St. Marys travels to Punxsutawney and Elk County Catholic travels to face Curwensville.