ST. MARYS — Two minutes may not seem all that long in the grand scheme of a basketball game, but that short period of time proved to be the difference for Elk County Catholic Friday night against in a 66-42 victory against visiting DuBois Central Catholic.
And, they came at the end of the first quarter with ECC holding a slim 7-6 lead in what had been a back-and-forth battle to that point. The Crusaders promptly changed the complexion of the game though, as they outscored the Cardinals 11-0 over the final two minutes of the quarter to seize control of the game 18-6.
That 12-point advantage proved too much for DCC to overcome in the always tough to play in Aaron J. Straub Gymnasium at ECC. The Crusaders proceeded to win each of the final three quarters by four points to methodically pull away for the 24-point victory to remain undefeated on the season at 9-0.
The win came on the heels of a hard-fought 59-58 win at Kane Wednesday night and was fueled by its bench. The ECC reserves outscored the starters, 35-31, Friday night — and tallied seven of the 11 points in the decisive stretch to end the first quarter.
Bryce O’Leary (13) and Will Uberti (12) led that effort as they combined to score 25 of the 35 points by the ECC reserves. Starter Alex Breindel led the way as he tied DCC’s Justin Miknis for a game-high 15 points.
“We came in tonight off a game Wednesday (at Kane) were on paper it looked like we should have had our way, and nothing could be farther from the truth,” said ECC coach Aaron Straub. “We were fortunate to come out with the win Wednesday, and I don’t want to say we played any better tonight. We just seemed to have a different flow.
“When we evaluated Wednesday’s game, the two areas we were really deficient in where turning turnovers into points, which is key, and getting some second chance shots. We did a better job of that tonight. (DCC) is a god team with a great player Miknis. We knew were our focus needed to try to slow him down because their offense goes through him. I thought we did a fairly decent job playing him tonight.”
“I’m pleased with with the win and pleased with the little things we did that often go unnoticed.”
Miknis opened the scoring with a hoop just 13 seconds into the game, but ECC quickly countered with a 3-pointer by Breindel and layup by Regis Wortman on a fast break to go up 5-2. Wortman had eight points in the night.
Central Catholic (3-6) answered back with baskets by Jonathan Kurtz and Miknis to regain the lead at 6-5. That proved to be the Cardinals’ last lead of the night. Kurtz had nine points on the night.
Reserve Brady Schneider scored on ECC’s next possession to put the Crusaders back on top 7-6 with 3:32 left in the quarter.
Neither team scored for more than a minute, then Uberti went 2-for-2 at the foul line with exactly 2:00 on the clock. Those free throws sparked ECC’s quarter-closing run.
Breindel and Lindemuth made baskets before O’Leary scored five points in the final 53 seconds — including a corner 3-pointer at the buzzer on an out-of-bounds play — to make it 18-6 after one.
Wortman scored just 10 seconds into the second quarter for ECC’s 15th straight point before Miknis and Kurtz countered with back-to-back baskets to pull the Cardinals back within 10 (20-10) with 6:39 left in the half.
The Cardinals got no closer the rest of the night, as ECC promptly put together a 6-0 spurt (4 points by Wortman) to extend its lead back to 16 points with just under four minutes on the clock.
The teams then traded 3-pointers over the final three minutes, with Miknis and Parker Meholick each hitting treys around a pair by Uberti as ECC took a 32-16 lead into the break. Meholick gave DCC a nice lift off the beach, hitting two 3-pointers en route to scoring eight points.
Elk County pushed its lead to as many as 24 points in the third quarter when O’Leary hit a 3-pointer with 2:45 left in the period, but four straight points by Miknis cut DCC’s deficit to 20 (48-28) after three quarters.
Miknis had six points in the third, while Breindel had seven of his 15 points in the quarter for ECC.
Meholick and Breindel traded 3-pointers in the opening minute of the fourth. Central Catholic got as close as 17 on a trey by Harrison Starr with 6:13 left, while ECC took its largest lead of the night at 25 points (62-37) on a hoop by Leo Gregory with 1:50 remaining before eventually winning by 24.
“We played really good basketball for the first five minutes or so, and I think it was like7-6,” said DCC coach Dom Varacallo. “Then we lost focus, and part of that is they (ECC) come after you, and hat one-point deficit ballooned rather quickly in about two minutes.
“That’s were for us a point of emphasis is playing 32 minutes. I actually thought the second quarter we played pretty good as well. But, those two minutes (in first quarter) proved to be the difference. You can’t give Elk 13 straight points like that on their home floor, because it’s already tough enough to play in this place.
“I thought we played hard in the second half, but when you get down 16 at half you’re playing right into their hands. We aren’t taking moral victories, but there were some brights spots like Parker Meholick stepping up his first real minutes at the varsity level. We played hard, just not hard enough to win tonight.”
Elk County Catholic travels to Sheffeld Monday, while DCC hosts Curwensville Tuesday.