JOHNSONBURG — The old saying “patience is a virtue” couldn’t have rung more true for the Johnsonburg boys basketball team Friday night as the Rams displayed more poise, particularly on the defensive end, as they knocked off rival Ridgway in overtime, 37-31.
Johnsonburg (7-2) never trailed in the low-scoring affair as the Rams used a strong defensive effort to play from ahead most of the night. Ridgway pulled even just four times in the game — twice in the first quarter (2-2 and 7-7) and once each in the third (20-20) and fourth (29-29) quarters.
That final tie in the fourth came on a basket by Elker Will Thompson that made it 29-29 with 3:16 to play. Ridgway then forced a Johnsonburg turnover on its full-court press before running three minutes off the clock on ensuing possession.
Ridgway coach Tony Allegretto called timeout with four seconds left in the game, and the Elkers got a good look on its inbounds play. However, a 3-pointer by Jake Reynolds clanged off the rim as the game went to overtime. Reynolds had hit two treys in the game to to that point.
Ridgway (10-2) won the tip in OT and again went to its deliberate offensive set, taking more than two and half minutes off the clock in the 5-minute overtime period. The Elkers never got a shot off though, as Johnsonburg’s Austin Green came up with a huge steal.
Green slipped a quick pass to teammate Isaac Schloder who was fouled driving to the basket on the other end with 2:12 remaining in overtime. Schloder calmly hit both free throws to put the Rams up 31-29.
Green struck again on the defensive end on the Elkers’ ensuing possession as he came up with his second straight steal. This time Green took it all the way in for a layup to make it 33-29 Rams with 1:19 left to play.
The game became a free throw contest from there for the Rams as Ridgway couldn’t find the hoop and was forced to foul after rebounds.
Johnsonburg’s Nick Bliss, Schloder and Gabe Watts each went 1 of 2 at the line in the final minute to push the Rams’ lead to seven at 36-29. Watts’ attempts came after he pulled down an a big offensive rebound on Schloder’s missed free throw. The Rams’ rebounding played a vital role in the game.
The Elkers finally found the scoreboard in OT when Thompson scored inside with 21 seconds remaining. But, it proved to be too little, too late as Green helped seal the six-point win with another 1 of 2 trip to the final line in the closing seconds.
Green led the Rams with a game-high 15 points, while Schloder added 12 to help Johnsonburg avenge a 19-point loss (45-26) to the Elkers on the opening night of the Elk County Holiday Tournament Dec. 28.
“That (game) was well-played by both sides,” said Johnsonburg coach Bill Shuey. “It was hard fought and could have went either way. We got some breaks down the stretch and had some opportunities and missed. But, our rebounding was probably a key in the win and we were hustling after 50-50 balls. We were primed to play our best tonight.
Our defense in the first game was pretty passive, but tonight we were aggressive. And offensively, we didn’t take as many dumb shots (as 1st meeting). Ridgway is a sound team, and it was a good win for the boys.”
Green opened the scoring with a hoop just 20 seconds into the game, then Thompson countered for Ridgway just before the 6-minute mark of the first quarter to make. Thompson led the Elkers with 10 points.
The game remained tied 2-2 past the midway point of the quarter before Gabe Watts hit a 3-pointer for the Rams. After Thompson and Green traded scores, Reynolds hit a trey for the Elkers to pull Ridgway even at 7-7 at the 2:10 mark.
Johnsonburg then put together a 7-2 spurt to close the quarter, with a trey by Green in the final seconds giving the Rams a 14-9 lead after one. The Rams’ 14 points proved to be the lone time in the game a team reached double figures in a quarter.
The Rams pushed their lead to nine in the second quarter as Green hit two free throws and Schloder scored on a putback just past the 6-minute mark. However, the Rams then went scoreless for more than four minutes — allowing the Elkers to put together a 7-0 spurt off a couple turnovers to get back within two at 18-16.
Schloder finally ended the Rams scoring drought on a basket with 1:43 left in the half, and Johnsonburg eventually took the 20-16 lead into the break.
Ridgway ate up large chucks od the third quarter with its deliberate offensive sets and managed to pull even at 20-20 on a 3-pointer by Daunte Allegretto with 3:46 left in the period. Allegretto finished with nine points in the game.
Green answered right back with a trey of his own though to put the Rams back on top 23-20. Johnsonburg would take a 25-22 lead into the fourth.
The Rams pushed their lead to five (29-24) midway through the final quarter on a Watts bucket and free throws by Schloder and Garret Gregori. However, Ridgway made one final push to tie game.
Parker Rohr drained a 3-pointer with 3:47 to play, then Thompson scored inside with 3:16 to go to knot things at 29-29. That set the stage for the Elkers’ last-second shot at the win and the Rams’ subsequent victory in overtime.
“You have to make some threes against their zone (defense), and we didn’t shoot a very high percentage tonight,” said Elkers coach Tony Allegretto. “We’ve been shooting it pretty well most of the year, but you’re going to have a bad night shooting.
“That allowed them to cheat a little bit, and we had a lot of unforced turnovers. But, you only play against this defense three or four teams a year, and it’s when we play them. And, we got our butts kicked on the boards. Johnsonburg and Coach Shuey did a great job and they outhustled.
Both teams are back in action Tuesday. Johnsonburg travels to Brockway, while Ridgway hosts DuBois Central Catholic.