Crusaders fight off Lions 77-66 in D9 consolation contest
CLARION – The Elk County Catholic Crusaders put in a strong performance on Saturday afternoon in the District 9 boys’ Class A consolation game at Clarion University’s Tippin Gymnasium, going up by 17 at one point early in the fourth quarter before fending off a late rally by Clarion-Limestone to come away with a 77-66 victory.Elk Catholic held a 20-9 lead at the end of the first period, was up 38-28 at the half, and led 56-43 at the end of the third quarter. With 1:24 left in the fourth quarter, the Lions were able to draw within three points of ECC; however, the Crusaders pulled away again with strong foul shooting.“We knew they (C-L) had a lot of offense, averaging 69 points a game, and we did lose them a few times. They made some tough shots. Certainly, when you are up whatever we were up, which was quite a bit, you would like to think you could maintain that but they made some shots,” said ECC coach Aaron Straub.“I thought we did a pretty good job with getting some takes to the basket. That probably was the difference in the game – getting the ball to the basket,” Straub added.Clayton Housler led the Crusaders on offense with 23 points on eight twos and a 7-for-10 night from the foul line. Brock McCullough added 22 points on nine twos and a 4-for-7 night from the line. Also in double figures for ECC was senior Ben Wortman with 12 points on three twos and a 6-for-6 night from the line.The Lions’ Billy Kelley led all scorers with 28 points on six twos, four threes, and a 4-for-4 night from the foul line. Adam Mellott added 13 points on six twos and a 1-for-2 night from the line.“I think it speaks highly of the Allegheny Mountain League. We had the first place, second place, and third place teams in the District 9 tournament. This year it was a very good District 9 Class A field. It’s nice to represent the Allegheny Mountain League. It’s nice to have three teams from the Allegheny Mountain League in the state tournament. Certainly, Johnsonburg and Ridgway are outstanding teams, and we beat a well-coached team (in Clarion-Limestone today). Coach (Joe) Ferguson does a nice job. They’re well disciplined. It was a nice win for us,” Straub said.The Lions got on the board first on a foul shot by Mellott; however, the Crusaders responded by running up six quick points on a bucket by Housler and a field goal and pair of foul shots by Wortman to take a 6-1 lead. C-L drew back to within a point of tying the score as Mellott hit a field goal and Kelley sank a pair of foul shots, but that was as close as the Lions would come for the rest of the contest. Alex Herzing hit a three and Michael Jacob made a field goal, padding the Crusaders’ lead. Kelley reduced that advantage slightly with a field goal; however, Herzing hit another three and Brandon Schlimm added a bucket to give ECC a 16-7 lead with just under two minutes to play in the first period. Mellott made a layup for the Lions, and Housler ended the quarter with a bucket and a pair of foul shots for ECC.Clarion-Limestone rallied slightly in the second quarter, outscoring ECC 19-18. Hank Cappiello and Kelley started things off by trading buckets. Ross Munsee hit a three for the Lions, but Herzing answered with a three of his own for the Crusaders. Tyler Stitt added a field goal for C-L, Housler sank a pair of foul shots for ECC, and Brent Slater sank a three for the Lions to make the score 27-19 in favor of the Crusaders about midway through the quarter. The teams continued their back-and-forth effort with Kelley hitting a three with just over a minute remaining in the half. McCullough was fouled making a layup and added the extra point. Housler made a field goal in the final seconds of the half to give ECC a 38-28 halftime lead.The second half started with a bucket by Housler followed quickly by a three by RJ Laugand. The Crusaders went on a six-point run, all on buckets by McCullough. Kelley hit a three for the Lions, and Cappiello and Housler answered with field goals for ECC. Kelley and McCullough traded buckets, as did Mellott and Wortman. Laugand was fouled making a layup and added the extra point. He sank two more foul shots on a subsequent trip to the line. Wortman ended the quarter with a field goal to give the Crusaders a 56-43 lead with one period remaining.The Crusaders made 13 trips to the foul line in the fourth quarter, and only eight of their 21 points came on field goals. Mellott and McCullough traded buckets to get things started. Housler added a pair of foul shots. After a bucket by Mellott, McCullough made a pair of layups for the Crusaders, giving them a 17-point lead, their biggest of the contest, with 5:44 remaining in the game. Mellott and Laugand each made field goals for the Lions, McCullough sank a foul shot for ECC, and C-L added five more points on a two and three by Kelley. Cappiello made a foul shot, Slater hit a three, and Wortman added two more free throws. Kelley brought the Lions to within six points of ECC’s lead with a three with 2:26 remaining. After Housler was fouled and came up empty on his trip to the line, Stitt hit a field goal to bring C-L to within four. Schlimm added to ECC’s advantage by making a foul shot; however, Kelley closed to gap to its closest point of the second half as he sank two free throws to cut the Crusaders’ lead to 69-66. Elk Catholic added six more points on six subsequent trips to the foul line, with Wortman and McCullough both contributing two while Cappiello and Housler each added one. Housler scored the Crusaders’ final points of the contest with a field goal with just seconds remaining on the clock to give ECC the 77-66 victory.Elk Catholic is now 15-11 on the season. The Crusaders will be back in action on Friday as take on District 5 champion Shade at 7:30 p.m. at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown.Clarion-Limestone will take on District 7 champion Lincoln Park at 7:30 p.m. at Ambridge High School.