CLARION — The Johnsonburg boys basketball team has completed their unlikely run through the District 9 Class A tournament.
After stunning top-seeded North Clarion on Wednesday, the No. 4 Rams completed a second upset. This time, Johnsonburg dumped perennial power No. 2 Elk County Catholic, 36-30, at Tippin Gymnasium at Clarion University.
It was the third times a charm for Johnsonburg (19-7), who lost to the Crusaders twice this season. ECC (22-5) won, 55-38, on Dec. 12 and 43-36 on Jan. 26.
It is Johnsonburg’s first title in five years when the Rams beat Ridgway in the 2013 Class A championship game.
“I feel good for the kids. They earned it,” said Johnsonburg coach Bill Shuey. “They really worked hard all year. More importantly, they hustled tonight. It could’ve went either way. It was a well-played game by both teams. We just had to make some shots when it was necessary.”
Elk County Catholic never really got in a groove the whole afternoon offensively and didn’t score any more than nine points in a quarter.
“I think it’s really simple,” said ECC coach Aaron Straub. “We got out-coached and out-played.
“We got very few second shots. They completely owned the paint. They pushed our offense.
“Johnsonburg played very well defensively. That’s not a surprise.”
Elk County Catholic’s defensive effort was also strong at the beginning as the Rams did not get on the board until 2:33 left in the first quarter on a Trevor Lobaugh layup.
The Crusaders scored the first four points, but the Rams put together a 9-0 run. ECC’s Ryan Newton hit a three-pointer, his second of the period to end the first quarter with Johnsonburg up 9-7.
“Ryan Newton is a great player,” said Shuey. “Any minute, a five-point lead can be a one-point lead for them.”
ECC battled it to a 10-10 tie by the middle of the second quarter, but Johnsonburg took a 14-13 lead to halftime.
Elk County Catholic took their final lead of the game in the third quarter on a Logan Hoffman layup, but Johnsonburg quickly responded with five points from Austin Green, who led the Rams with nine points on the day.
The Crusaders kept it as close as a two-point deficit with 2:10 remaining in the game on a Newton free throw.
A Kacey Raubenstrauch layup with under a minute left gave Johnsonburg a 33-27 lead, which sealed the game for the Rams.
They also got a pair of free throws from Green and one from Ben Freeburg in the final minute.
Johnsonburg will now play the sixth place team out of District 7 in the first round of the PIAA Class A Tournament on Friday.
“We’re going to go back and enjoy this one. I think I’ll give them off tomorrow,” said Shuey with a laugh.
Elk County Catholic will face the second place team out of District 10 on Friday.