ST. MARYS — Ridgway used a strong defensive effort, and an offensive surge in the fourth, to capture a huge 46-36 road win at Elk County Catholic Friday for its second double-digit win over the Crusaders this season.
Ridgway, which held a slim 26-23 lead after three quarters, got a pair of key 3-pointers from Andy Breier and Josh Thorwart in the fourth to spark a 20-13 run to end the game. That fourth-quarter outburst, which nearly matched the Elkers’ scoring through three quarters, helped seal the first win by a road team at ECC since 2013.
The Crusaders had won 53 straight games on their home floor inside Aaron Straub Gymnasium. Bradford was the last opponent to leave ECC with a victory, edging the Crusaders, 42-39, way back on Jan. 23, 2013. Elk’s last home AML loss also came during the 2012-13 season, as Johnsonburg topped the Crusaders, 47-37, in the season-opener that year.
Friday’s streak-buster was led the duo of Johnny Mitchell and Andy Breier, who scored 14 and 12, respectively. Those 26 combined points were just five more than the 21 ECC’s Ryan Newton scored, but Ridgway limited the remainder of the ECC roster to just 15 points. And, 11 of those came from reserves Leo Gregory (7) and Brady Schneider (4).
Meanwhile, Ridgway got all of its points from its starting five. Thorwart and Neil MacDonald each finished with seven points, while Daunte Allegretto had six in support of Mitchell and Breier. The Elkers also controlled the boards for most of the game and won the turnover battle, forcing ECC into 18 while committing just 10 themselves.
Ridgway (11-0) notched a 13-point win (45-32) over the Crusaders (11-2) a couple weeks ago in the championship game at the Elk County Holiday Tournament.
“Any time you can come in here and get a win it’s big,” said Ridgway coach Tony Allegretto. “Right now, our league is pretty tough and there’s no gimmies in the schedule other than maybe a couple teams. It’s a battle every night and you have to be focused. In a game like this, you have to stay focused for every possession, because every possession is so important.
“They (ECC) sped up a couple times, like when they got it to 19-18. But, they played great defense and we played great defense, and it was a battle. I thought Andy Breier really battled tonight, and Johnny Mitchell did a great job on both ends for us.
The first quarter was a low scoring one.
Newton scored the game’s first three points before Ridgway outscored the Crusaders 8-1 over the final 6:14 to take an 8-4 lead. Mitchell, MacDonald, Thorwart and Allegretto each had baskets in the opening eight minutes.
Ridgway pushed the lead to as many as eight points twice in the second quarter at 14-6 and 16-8 before ECC cut it to five (17-11) by the half thanks to three points from Schneider.
Mitchell opened the scoring in the third to make it 19-11, but ECC responded with an 8-0 run to get within a point just before the midway point of the quarter.
Newton and Greogry each went 2 of 2 at the line during that spurt, while Alec Wehler completed a three-point play.
Elk County couldn’t pull even though, as Ridgway countered with a 7-2 spurt to back up six at 26-20. Mitchell had five points in that run and scored seven of his 14 in the third.
Newton drained a 3-pointer in the final minute to cut it to a three-point lead (26-23) after three quarters.
Ridgway then seized control of the game.
Breier scoring the first five points of the fourth, including a three-pointer, while Thorwart hit a trey of his own to put the Elkers up 10 (34-24) with 4:43 to play.
“Those were two bigs shots,” said Allegretto. “I told both of them I didn’t really like the shot at the time, but as long as you make them, I’ll take them.”
Elk County got no closer than six points (40-34) the rest of the way despite Newton scoring nine points over the final 3:37. Breier had seven of his 12 poins in the fourth for the Elkers.
“They were more physical than us and pushed us around,” said ECC coach Aaron Straub. “We did not match them in the first half with their physical play. They grabbed miss free throws on us, offensive rebounds on us and kept us out of the lane.
“I felt we did a much better job in the second half and got to the basket much better and made some better decisions. If we could have made a couple layups, we could have taken the lead. Ridgway is a team that you have to play against with a lead, and we weren’t able to do that tonight.
“I don’t think we came up with a good enough scheme to allow the best player in the district (Newton) to be the best player in the district. A lot of that is on us (coaches) for not putting Ryan in a spot to utilize his full game, but part of it is on for not going and getting the ball off the boards when he could have.
“We certainly allowed a team to come into our gym tonight on both the JV and varsity level and do what they wanted to do. When that happens, you really have take a look at what you’re doing and make some changes.”
Ridgway travels to Curwensville Tuesday, while ECC is at Kane on Monday.