ST. MARYS — The Elk County Catholic boys basketball team took control of the game early on its way to a resounding 78-55 Senior Night victory over St. Marys Friday night.
Six Crusaders seniors were recognized in front of a capacity crowd prior to the game, as Alex Breindel, Alec Wehler, Bryce O’Leary, Brennen Klawuhn, Brady Schneider and Josh Bauer were all honored.
“We are very proud of our six seniors, they’ve worked hard and given so much to the basketball program,” ECC head coach Aaron Straub said.
In the opening quarter, it was a trio of those seniors in Breindel, Wehler and O’Leary who sparked the team on both ends in the early going.
Breindel gave the Crusaders the lead at the 6:57 mark of the opening quarter, which they held the remainder of the night, as he finished with nine of the team’s 15 points in the opening frame.
Wehler followed with a basket to put ECC (20-0) up 4-0, before Nick Catalone got St. Marys on the board with a free throw at the 6:15 mark of the first.
On the defensive end, O’Leary drew a charge in the early going, which seemed to spark his teammates.
“I thought Bryce’s (O’Leary) play set a really good tone early on,” Straub said.
The head coach added that his team’s previous game, a 57-53 overtime win over Brookville on the road Tuesday, opened their eyes a bit.
“We can’t just show up, we are good when we play hard and hustle,” Straub said. “There is a huge difference between 90 percent and 100 percent.”
After a bucket by Briendel and a pair of free throws from Regis Wortman, Catalone followed with a three-pointer to bring the score to 8-4 with 3:01 left in the quarter.
The trey proved to be the Dutchmen’s only made field goal of the frame, as they trailed 15-4 after the first.
Breindel responded with a three of his own on the following trip down the court and added another basket in the closing minutes along with a bucket by Wortman as the Crusaders closed out the quarter on a 7-0 run to take an 11-point lead into the second.
In the second quarter, ECC got hot from behind the arc, as it hit five three-pointers in the quarter, four of which coming from Breindel.
Catalone got the scoring started in the frame with a three of his own to cut the deficit to single digits momentarily, before Breindel hit a three on the next trip down to stretch the Crusaders lead back out to double figures for good.
After a basket by Anthony Cortina for St. Marys (7-11), Breindel responded with back-to-back threes to put ECC in front 24-9 at the 5:20 mark of the second quarter.
Luke Lasko followed with a three for the Dutch, then on the next trip down the court Breindel hit his fourth three-pointer of the quarter, as the senior finished the half with 21 points on his way to a game-high 26.
A three-pointer from Wortman with four seconds left in the half sent ECC into the break with a 34-18 lead.
The teams went back-and-forth in the third quarter, with the Crusaders adding to their lead slightly in the end to take a 52-30 lead into the final quarter of play.
Last time the two teams met, Jan. 11 at St. Marys, the Crusaders held a double digit lead in the fourth quarter before the Dutch used a 10-0 run late to cut within two before ECC came away with a 45-35 win.
Straub noted that is team did everything they could to prevent the Dutch from going on a rally to get back into the game this time out.
Both offenses got hot in the fourth quarter, as it was ECC who opened the final frame on a 10-3 lead to take its largest lead of the night at 62-33 with 5:30 left to play.
The Dutch responded with an 11-4 run of their own to cut into the deficit slightly, but in the end the Crusaders held a 26-24 edge in the quarter to close out the 78-55 victory.
Cahil Parrish scored nine points in the fourth quarter for the Dutch and finished with at team-high 19, while Catalone added 12 points in the loss.
“I’m proud of the guys for fighting til the end,” St. Marys head coach Shad Boschert said. “We’re looking forward to the final few games of the season and hopefully we can finish strong.”
On the other side, Straub noted that he felt his team’s performance defensively was up-and-down throughout the game, as he felt they played well in the first and third quarters, but not so well in the second and fourth.
“Obviously in the fourth quarter we didn’t get many stops, so we are going to have to take a look at that and see how we could’ve played a little better there,” Straub said.
Along with Breindel’s game-high 26 points, Wortman and Carter Lindemuth also finished in double figures with 11 points apiece for the Crusaders.
Will Uberti added six and O’Leary finished with five points as 12 players, including all six seniors, contributed on the scoreboard for the Crusaders.
Schneider and Wehler finished with four points apiece, while Klawuhn added three and Bauer had two on their senior night.
Both teams are back in action Tuesday, as Elk County Catholic travels to face Bradford, while St. Marys plays host to Bellefonte.