DuBOIS — Although no Johnsonburg player scored more than a dozen points in their first game of the season on Friday evening, it wasn’t because of their lack of good shooting.
The Rams’ lights-out shooting in the first 10 minutes of the game resulted in a 29-8 lead, and Johnsonburg coasted from there as they defeated hosting DuBois Central Catholic, 57-41, in the first round of the DCC Tip-Off Tournament.
Despite coming out on the losing end, Central still had some bright spots, including a double-double performance from junior Justin Miknis going for 21 points and 11 rebounds.
“We took some ill-advised shots, but they went in,” said Johnsonburg coach Bill Shuey. “I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. This team, DuBois Central didn’t quit, and Miknis is a great player.”
“They went on a big run,” said DCC coach Dom Varacallo. “From that standpoint, we need to find a way in that situation to get a bucket and I think everybody will relax and start playing their game.
“It snowballed a little bit on us. We regrouped. I’m really proud of the way, at 29-8, we could’ve sat back and said ‘Poor us.’ I think that shows the way our season is going to go. They really want to be successful and they want to give everything they have. We really grinded our way back into the game. When you’re down 21, it’s hard to make that up in two and a half quarters.”
The host team actually started off the game with a 6-5 lead, thanks to a a couple of buckets from Miknis and a layin from Anthony Kness just over two minutes into the game.
But Johnsonburg took over from there with an 18-2 run through the rest of the quarter. The Rams hit five three-pointers in the opening eight minutes, including two off the bench from Isaac Schloder.
Kacey Raubenstrauch, Tyler Singer, and Dilen Surra also had a trey each for Johnsonburg in the first quarter.
The hot shooting from downtown continued right away into the second quarter, as well. Raubenstrauch and Singer both hit shots from long distance in the Rams’ first two possessions of the second quarter, giving Johnsonburg a 29-8 lead at the 6:11 mark.
But the Cardinals clawed their way back into the game from there, only allowing six more points for the rest of the period for the Rams.
DCC senior Thomas Grecco sparked the climb back into the game with a bucket followed by one of his team’s two three-pointers on the night to get the game to 29-14 midway through the second quarter.
DCC also came through at the foul line in the second quarter as Miknis hit two free throws on two different occassions, while Kness also knocked down a pair from the line to get DCC within nine.
But Johnsonburg still got a pair of baskets in the final minute on a Gavin Elmquist layin and Surra dropped one in on the final possession of the half to send Johnsonburg to the locker room with a 35-22 lead.
Out of the Rams’ 35 first half points, 12 of them came off the bench, including eight from Schloder.
“I think we have kids that can come in (for the starters) and we won’t even skip a beat,” said Shuey. “Our bench kids did an outstanding job.”
The second half started with a quiet couple minutes, but Singer went back to the three-ball again to get the Rams started.
The Johnsonburg defense also came through in the third quarter, allowing only six DCC points, with all of them coming from the foul line.
The Rams led 48-28 with a quarter to play.
Jonathan Kurtz hit Central’s other three to start the fourth quarter from the corner, while Peter Downer also had a bucket in the opening couple minutes to get the deficit down to 15.
The two teams traded baskets for the next couple minutes before Miknis got the Cardinals a big play, drawing a foul on his way in for a layup.
“He’s definitely a workhorse,” said Varacallo of Miknis. “His effort in the third quarter, even when he wasn’t scoring, he just gives everything he has. That’s what a leader does. They leave it all out on the floor. He’s definitely one of our leaders. I’m really proud of the way he played. I want the rest of the team to feed off that energy and continue to play hard, which they did.”
Grecco and Kurtz each had five points for DCC.
Surra led Johnsonburg with 12 points on the night, while Singer had 11. Raubenstrauch and Schloder finished with eight apiece.
Punxsutawney defeated Marion Center, 59-51, in the early game to open the tournament. In Saturday’s action, DCC played Marion Center in the consolation game, while Johnsonburg played Punxsy in the championship.
More on Saturday’s action in the DCC Tip-Off Tournament can be found in Monday’s edition of the Courier Express.