ST. MARYS — It was another classic crosstown game between the Elk County Catholic and St. Marys boys basketball teams on Friday evening in the nightcap of the Elk County Tournament.
Once again playing in front of a packed gymnasium at St. Marys Area High School, the Crusaders used a second half run to pull away for a 64-56 win over the Dutchmen.
With the win, the Crusaders improved to 5-0 on the year entering Saturday night’s championship game against Ridgway (6-0). Ridgway beat ECC, 45-32, in the title game. The Elkers defeated Johnsonburg, 43-26, before the ECC-St. Marys game.
St. Marys (3-3) faced off against Johnsonburg (4-3) in the consolation game on Saturday, winning 63-47.
The Dutchmen had a six-point lead as late as 3:40 remaining in the third quarter, but watched the lead turn into a tie game by the end of the third quarter before the Crusaders went on a 7-0 run to begin the fourth quarter.
“We tried to attack. We just weren’t successful in doing what we wanted,” said St. Marys coach Shad Boschert.
“I’m just really proud of my guys for playing hard the whole game.”
Despite coming out on the short end on the night, the Dutchmen gave ECC everything it could handle, especially from an outside shooting standpoint. St. Marys drilled 10 three-pointers in the game, including four from Jared Groll and three from Nathan Schneider.
“It came down to an offensive run,” said ECC coach Aaron Straub. “We made an offensive run, they missed some shots. They’re a very good three-point shooting team. You’re going to win a lot of games when you make 10 threes. Next time we play them, we have to do a better job guarding those threes.
“I don’t think anything happened that we didn’t think was going to happen. Nathan Schneider is one of the best players in the area. We wanted to make him a priority.”
Elk County Catholic led by as much as seven in the first half with a 24-17 lead after an Alec Wehler three-pointer with 2:30 remaining in the first half. However, the Dutchmen closed the last 2:30 with a 9-2 run that gave them a 26-25 lead at the half.
Groll started the run with a layin before drilling a three. After a Schneider layup to tie the game, ECC’s Ryan Newton converted a free throw.
Groll made a layup with two seconds left in the half to give his team the lead.
“We felt Groll was their second best offensive player,” said Straub. “We knew we needed to get out on him. The first half, we did. When we closed out on him, he got to the basket.”
A Schneider trey two minutes into the second half gave St. Marys a 31-28 lead to get things going, while another bucket from the senior and another trey gave St. Marys a 36-28 lead.
“When they made their run, we got out of whack with turning the ball over in the middle of the floor and not attacking,” said Straub.
ECC climbed their way back in it to a tie game as Leo Gregory’s bucket with 24 seconds left knotted it at 42.
ECC’s Alex Breindel led off the fourth quarter with a three-pointer before Brady Schneider’s layin and a Carter Lindemuth layin off a turnover gave ECC a quick seven-point lead at 49-42 with 6:45 to go in the game.
A Groll three with 5:15 left got the game to 51-47 ECC, but the Crusaders pulled away from there down the stretch.
“They did exactly what we thought they were going to do,” said Straub. “They came in playing well and they certainly played well tonight.”
In the Ridgway-Johnsonburg game, there wasn’t much scoring involved in the first half as the Elkers went to the break up 15-8.
The Elkers led just 5-4 at the end of the first quarter after Johnny Mitchell’s layup with two seconds left.
Daunte Allegretto hit a three-pointer on Ridgway’s first possession of the game.
“I thought we played very well against a very good, well-coached team,” said Ridgway coach Tony Allegretto. “That 3-2 zone gives people fits. It gave us fits there for the first half. (Johnsonburg’s) Coach (Bill) Shuey decided to speed the game up in the second half, and I thought we did very well attacking that other than missing layups. We attacked it properly, we just need to make some shots.”
The Rams got themselves back in the game in the second quarter after a Ben Freeburg layin and an Austin Green layup gave them an 8-7 lead with four minutes to play in the first half.
However, Ridgway finished the half on an 8-0 run thanks to a three from Josh Thorwart, a free throw from Neil MacDonald, and a couple layups from Mitchell.
Still, it was Ridgway’s defense that gave the Rams fits throughout the game.
“Johnsonburg shot a very low percentage and I’d like to think the defense did that,” said Allegretto. “I’ve seen them shoot. You can’t rely on them shooting as poorly as they did. They have good shooters. They just weren’t falling for them.”
Ridgway led the third quarter, 11-10, before outscoring the Rams, 17-8, in the final period.
Allegretto and Mitchell had 10 points apiece to lead the Elkers, while MacDonald and Andy Breier each had nine.
Freeburg paced Johnsonburg with 11 points.
St. Marys, ECC and Ridgway are all back in action on Wednesday, while Johnsonburg hits the court again on Friday. St. Marys visits Bradford, while ECC hosts Kane and Ridgway entertains Curwensville. Johnsonburg is on the road at Brookville.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The Elk County Tournament was not covered on Saturday due to press time on Saturday night.