Ridgway twice had the opportunity to win the game with the last possession but both times the Elkers were unable to find the hoop as DuBois Central Catholic exploded in the second overtime period Friday night for a 68-59 win in the quarterfinal round of the Class A District 9 playoffs.
Down by 10 points at halftime, the Elkers were able to claw their way back into the game to force overtime at 50-all at the end of regulation.
"I saw two teams play their guts out," said Ridgway boys varsity basketball coach Anthony Allegretto following the loss. "It's a shame that somebody has to lose and that game should be a Final Four game, and both teams should be moving on.
"I don't care what anyone says, you saw two of the best teams in the district playing [Friday night]."
The Elkers spent most of the second half facing a 10-point margin before some of Ridgway's shots began to fall; a 3-pointer from Dom Aiello to open up the fourth quarter cut the lead to six. On the other end, the Cardinals' clutch foul shooting by Chris Marshall, who finished with 12-of-15 from the charity stripe while pacing all scorers with 24 points, continued to keep the Elkers at bay.
A layup from Ridgway's Josh Mitchell at the 4:56 mark of the fourth quarter following by a Jesse Reynolds trey cut the margin in half to five points and prompted a Cardinal timeout. The two teams traded baskets before Mitchell hit another layup to cut the lead to 47-44 with less than three minutes to go.
After Marshall converted one free throw, Ridgway junior Eric Matheson, who needed 23 points to reach 1,000 for his career, hit a 3-pointer with 2:26 to play in the fourth quarter to cut the lead to one, prompting another DCC timeout.
After the restart, Marshall hit a layup near the 2-minute mark but Mitchell responded 10 seconds later with a huge trey to knot the game at 50-all.
With the Cardinals unable to convert on the other end, Ridgway junior Jordan Lundin drove the hoop but missed with Marshall grabbing the rebound; DCC had the ball with 1:23 on the clock but again could not retake the lead from the field. DCC's Brad Gallagher was eventually fouled with 16 seconds to go on the one-and-one but missed his try. With 15 seconds left on the clock, Matheson tried a jumper just outside the paint but the shot was short and left, forcing the first overtime.
Lundin was fouled with 2:36 to go in the first overtime, the fifth foul on DCC's Dan Fitzpatrick, who finished with nine points. Lundin would convert both shots to give Ridgway its first lead of the night. The Elkers sent Jake Krause to the foul line on the other end 21 seconds later and the Cardinal calmly sank both shots to knot the score at 52-52. Matheson was later fouled on a layup attempt with 1:03 on the clock and sank both shots to take a 2-point advantage; Marshall was again fouled just 10 seconds later and made both shots to give Ridgway the last possession again, this time with 53 seconds on the clock and a 54-54 tie.
This time, Mitchell had a chance with the last shot beyond the arc but his 3-point attempt was just wide left.
"[Mitchell] hit the big three near the end of regulation and tried another one at the end of the first overtime," Allegretto said. "It was a little bit my fault, we had a miscommunication-- that was the second option-- the first option was Eric [Matheson] going to the basket.
"Eric thought I wanted the 3-pointer for the first option, I'd much rather have the ball in Eric's hands going to the basket with time winding down like that-- I was hoping he'd get a call, go to the foul line and win the game there."
Instead the two teams played their way into the second overtime but DCC was able to grab the early advantage. DCC's Dan O'Connor was fouled early by Matheson, his fourth foul of the night, and sank both shots. On the other end, a layup from Mitchell went in and out, and Marshall put in another layup on the other end to extend the lead to four points. Matheson later penetrated inside on the next possession but his layup try spun out of the hoop. Marshall again delivered for the visitors to give the Cardinals a 56-54 lead with 1:53 to go in the second overtime.
"Chris Marshall just had a bigger body than our guys but despite 20 or so points, a lot of them were foul shots at the end of the game," Allegretto said. "I felt that Mitch [Josh Mitchell], Dom [Aiello] and Oak [Alex Oknefski] all did a pretty solid job defending [Marshall].
"The teams are familiar with each other so we knew what to expect from each other. It's a bunch of kids out there playing hard basketball."
On the ensuing possession, DCC's Brad Gallagher made a clutch steal and fed the ball to O'Connor, who was swiftly fouled. He made both attempts to take an 8-point lead. Mitchell put up another 3-point try but was unable to convert before both teams started to send each other to the free-throw line. DCC converted 6-of-10 down the stretch while the Elkers made three out of six en route to the 9-point loss. Matheson would score a layup with 16 seconds to go to give him 18 points on the night before he fouled Marshall for his fifth of the night. Matheson's 18 points left him five shy of 1,000 for his career.
"He's a great player and there was a lot of talent on the court for both teams, and we have a lot of guys coming back," Allegretto said. "Now may not be the time to think about next year but Ridgway basketball is up and coming.
"But [Friday night] we had two shots to win the game and both times I'm hoping to get fouled, we're a pretty good foul shooting team but Eric missed two in the second overtime but Eric and Jordan [Lundin] were still shooting the ball well from the free throw line.
"We were thinking we'd get some fouls and we got down to the end of the clock, ran a set but we just didn't go to the basket, and that's what I wanted us to do. We missed both layups starting the second overtime and we had been missing layups the entire game. If we had made those layups, we might still be playing."
DCC jumped out to a quick 12-3 lead thanks to two 2-point field goals and a free throw from Marshall, a 3-pointer from Fitzpatrick and back-to-back shots from Taylor Pentz. Matheson had five points for Ridgway in the first quarter and Aaron Sorge added a 2-point field goal at the 1:58 mark as the Cardinals led 16-7 with one quarter in the books.
The second quarter was much closer as DCC outscored Ridgway 9-8 to go to the locker room with a 10-point lead. The Elkers continuously missed multiple layups throughout the game, many spinning out of the basket.
"Down 10 at halftime, we didn't make any shots in the half," Allegretto said. "We had open shots, short shots, we had layups but we just couldn't find a basket.
"[DCC] had balls bouncing in, falling in but we had nothing going in at all. That lead was built on [DCC] shooting pretty well and us not shooting well at all."
The Cardinals opened up the third quarter with a shot from Pentz to take a 12-point lead, the largest margin of the night but the Elkers responded immediately with a layup from departing senior Ben Jaques to cut it back down to 10. The teams traded baskets before a 3-pointer from Sorge trimmed the lead to 29-22 with 5:13 to go in the third quarter. DCC would later regroup with a tip-in from Pentz and baskets from Fitzpatrick and Gallagher.
O'Connor later hit a shot with nine seconds in the third quarter to take an 11-point lead but Matheson was fouled on the other end and converted both shots with two seconds left to cut the lead to 41-32.
"I told our players to never give up and these guys never do give up," Allegretto said. "We had to make sure we keep them around 10 points and we got it down to six once, it got back up to 10, and we got down a bit but I told them to keep plugging away because I knew we'd make some shots sooner or later.
"We got some shots and steals, and we made some plays and when you have some momentum going, it's hard to stop it. [DCC] had some trouble stopping us and with the game tied and us getting the ball back, we had chances to win the game but we just didn't execute at the end."
While Matheson must endure the offseason before he hits the court next December five points shy of 1,000, the program said goodbye to seniors Aiello and Jaques, who played their final basketball game in an Elker uniform.
"I want to thank Ben [Jaques] and Dom [Aiello], they put a lot of work into this and they were here during their sophomore year with a lot of playing time when we had 17 or 18 losses," Allegretto said. "It's a big turnaround for them to be a part of a team that won 21 games."
This was Ridgway's lone home loss of the season.
DCC 16 9 16 9 4 14 - 68
Ridgway 7 8 17 18 4 5 - 59
DCC – 68
Chris Marshall 6 12-15 24, Brad Gallagher 4 2-5 10, Taylor Pentz 5 0-0 10, Dan Fitzpatrick 4 0-1 9, Dan O'Connor 1 5-8 7, Jake Krause 2 2-2 6, A.J. Nesbitt 1 0-0 2. Totals: 23 21-31 68.
Ridgway – 59
Eric Matheson 6 5-7 18, Jordan Lundin 0 11-13 11, Dom Aiello 3 0-0 7, Josh Mitchell 3 0-0 7, Ben Jaques 2 1-2 5, Jesse Reynolds 2 0-0 5, Aaron Sorge 2 0-0 5, Alex Oknefski 0 1-2 1. Totals: 18 18-24 59.
3-point field goals: DCC 1 (Fitzpatrick). Ridgway 5 (Aiello, Matheson, Mitchell, Reynolds, Sorge).