JOHNSONBURG – Behind the white-hot trio of Cameron Grumley, Quinn Luhr and Cole Peterson, the Johnsonburg Rams never trailed Tuesday night in a 52-35 runaway victory over visiting Elk County Catholic.
The Rams used a quick 10-2 start to open the game and kept at least a double-digit lead since the 5:55 mark of the second quarter en route to an unblemished 2-0 start.
“It’s a good start for us but we have a ways to go and since it’s early, every team is going to improve,” said Johnsonburg head boys varsity basketball coach Bill Shuey. “The next time we play ECC they’re going to be much better, and we have to recognize that we need to improve as well.”
The Rams grabbed an early 10-0 lead against a listless Crusader defense in the first quarter; ECC didn’t get on the board until ECC junior Clayton Housler scored two free throws past the midway point of the first quarter to cut the lead to eight points. Housler followed with a layup 20 seconds later but the Rams closed out the first quarter with two free throws from Grumley, a three-point play from Luhr on a layup and subsequent foul shot, and a layup from senior Michael Shuey with 15 seconds on the clock for a 17-4 lead.
ECC regrouped in the second quarter and cut the lead to 11 points after a Housler basket was followed by a Ben Wortman steal and score, trimming the deficit to 19-8. Peterson’s jumper with 5:19 on the clock set the lead to 21-8 but Brock McCullough followed with a layup 22 seconds later.
Grumley, who paced all scorers with 16 points, scored a layup after junior Kyle Sheldon’s try caromed off the rim; McCullough put another shot in to match the opposition but junior Frank Kocjancic scored on an easy layup at the 2:38 mark to increase the lead to 13 points.
On the next possession, the towering Shuey came up with two huge blocks under the basket and Grumley dusted the ball off on the other end for a 3-pointer and 28-12 lead.
“Cameron [Grumley] was all over the court and Cole [Peterson] had a couple fouls early on that made him sit in the second quarter but they handled the ball very well, made some quick decisions and were able to disrupt the other team, and played good defense,” coach Shuey said.
After another missed ECC opportunity, Shuey tipped in a shot on a third effort for a 30-12 advantage.
Housler drained a trey with 52 seconds on the clock to set the halftime score at 30-15.
The Crusaders were able to cut the lead in the second half as things began to open up but they were never able to break the double-digit deficit barrier.
ECC junior Hank Cappiello and Wortman tallied back-to-back layups early in the third quarter but Grumley responded with a jumper, followed by a Luhr layup for a 35-19 lead.
The Crusaders closed out the third quarter with an 8-2 run but still trailed by 12 points after consecutive Wortman layups.
“If it wasn’t for our good start I’m not so sure that we would’ve been on the winning end of this game,” coach Shuey said. “We got sloppy and ECC was playing good defense, and we passed up too many easy shots to try to get a foot or two closer.
“We made bad passes also but we’ll get there.”
After trading field goals to open the fourth quarter, Peterson snagged and steal and hit an uncontested layup for a 43-29 lead with 4:29 on the clock but Wortman came up with a huge 3-pointer to cut the lead to 11 points.
Luhr immediately responded on the other end with a back-door layup under the hoop but he was outdone by ECC senior Kevin Kraus behind the 3-point line to cut the lead to 45-35. Hoping to stymie the comeback bid, Grumley drained a 3-pointer of his own just 17 seconds later to slam the door shut.
“Obviously Johnsonburg is playing well, shooting the ball well, handling the ball well, and they really made us look silly at times [Tuesday night],” said ECC head boys varsity basketball coach Aaron Straub. “I know improvements have to be made on our team but you have to give a lot of credit to coach [Bill] Shuey and the job he’s doing, and the whole Johnsonburg staff, the kids look good and they played well.
“I don’t think anything went well for us. Our defense was really poor, we broke down off the dribble, our help at the block was very poor and Johnsonburg was able to dribble-penetrate and get a lot of easy shots because of our lack of cover-down.”
Straub said it was difficult to mount any kind of a comeback after being down by 18 points early in the third quarter with Johnsonburg continuing to pile on the pressure.
“Our start was poor and when you’re outscored while losing contact with a good team, you’re going to have difficulties,” Straub said. “We did a poor job defending from the start and that probably set the tone for the game. We knew going into the game that offensively we were not where we wanted to be. I just did not think we would be that far behind defensively.
“I think they’re one of the best teams in the area, they’re good athletes who play hard and they’re basketball players. I’m not surprised by anything [Johnsonburg] did; I was surprised by how poor we were on both ends of the floor.”
Wortman paced the Crusaders with 11 points but was outdone by Grumley (16), Peterson (13), and Luhr (11).
“I thought ECC in the second half played a much more methodical game against us and they got some baskets, and we fell asleep on defense,” coach Shuey said. “All in all, I thought it was a team effort and I thought our players hustled from the beginning to the end.
“It’s a good start for us but we have a ways to go and since it’s early, every team is going to improve. The next time we play ECC they’re going to be much better, and we have to recognize that we need to improve as well.”