ST. MARYS – Ridgway was spurred on by a 24-point performance from senior guard Eric Matheson as the Elkers won the Elk County Boys Holiday Basketball Tournament with a 45-38 victory over Johnsonburg Friday night at St. Marys Area High School.
Matheson had all 12 of Ridgway's points in the fourth quarter and Ridgway's last 14 points overall dating back to two made free throws at the end of the third quarter. He was selected to the All-Tournament teams as the Elkers won the tournament for the second time. Ridgway's other victory came in 1992. It's the first Elk County tournament victory for Elker coach Anthony Allegretto. Allegretto's sister, Sue Borrello, won the girls tournament as coach of the Lady Elkers in 2003.
"It feels good to finally get one," Allegretto said. "My sister Sue got one and now I got one. They put a lot of work into it and so did Johnsonburg. We got two programs that are on their way up in the single-A schools. What a great game to play. Anybody could have won this game. It was well-coached, a nail-biter the whole way. Kids made plays on both teams. We were able to make a few more at the end and take the lead."
Ridgway held a 33-29 lead entering the fourth quarter but the Rams were able to tie it up after the first three and a half minutes. Michael Shuey had two 2-point field goals to open the fourth quarter to tie the game at 33-all. Matheson then added a layup and then two field goals to put the lead to 37-33. Johnsonburg's Quinn Luhr scored on some second chance points for the Rams to cut the lead to 37-35 with 2:48 left.
Matheson hit 1-of-2 from the foul line on the next trip and then made a steal and raced down the floor for a layup to make the score 40-35 with just over two minutes left. Two more Matheson points upped the lead to seven at 42-35 with 1:10 left.
Cameron Grumley drained a trey for Johnsonburg to put the margin to 42-38 but three Matheson free throws down the stretch capped the tournament for the Elkers.
"I thought we turned the ball over at critical times of the game," Johnsonburg coach Bill Shuey said. "When we had an opportunity to go up by a couple points, on two trips down, we didn't even get a shot. We're a young team and I know they'll learn from this. It's going to come down the wire. The scoreboard said it's a 7-point game but you got to foul, you got to do some things to get back. We had opportunities and we didn't capitalize on our possessions but we'll take something from this. You always learn from a loss more than a win."
Matheson had 57 points in the two tournament games after a 33-point showing in the first round against St. Marys on Thursday. He was named as the MVP on offense for the tournament.
"He took over the game [Thursday] night. We didn't play great and St. Marys did some stuff to us," Allegretto said. "We had some more contributions from other people. I thought Jordan Lundin played his best game all year. Aaron Sorge played great. Jesse played great. Okie came in and played great. But when we needed a bucket, Eric was there."
The game was tightly contested throughout with neither team gaining much of an advantage. Cole Peterson opened the scoring with a transition bucket for the Rams and a 2-0 lead. Aaron Sorge and Matheson hit back-to-back 3-pointers to put the lead to 6-2. Grumley and Peterson hit two straight shots to tie the game at 6-all before a Matheson trey from around four feet beyond the 3-point line broke the tie.
Jordan Lundin had two free throws to put Ridgway ahead 11-6. A Frank Kocjancic layup for the Rams and a Luhr bucket had the Rams within one at 11-10. Alex Oknefski hit a free throw with one second left in the opening quarter as Ridgway led 12-10 after the first eight minutes.
Jesse Reynolds of Ridgway and Luhr exchanged baskets then Peterson hit a 3-pointer as the Rams led 15-14 near the midpoint of the second quarter. Two free throws from Grumley put the lead to three but a Lundin basket had the margin back to one. Kocjancic converted the front end of a 3-point play and then added another layup as Johnsonburg held a 21-16 advantage in the waning moments of the second quarter. Matheson added a hoop with two seconds left as the Rams took a 21-18 lead into halftime.
In the second half, Luhr provided a steal and score for the Rams to up the lead to 23-18 before two Matheson free throws and a Reynolds 3-pointer off an offensive rebound tied the game at 23-all. Two Grumley mid-range jumper sandwiched a hoop from Lundin as the Rams held a 27-25 lead with 3:30 left in the third quarter.
With center Josh Mitchell temporarily halted with an injury, Oknefski filled in with a 6-point burst for the Elkers. Oknefski first finished a 3-point play to edge Ridgway ahead by one point, 28-27. Oknefski duplicated the feat moments later as the Elkers took a 31-27 advantage.
"Josh got hurt and went into the locker room," Allegretto said. "Alex scored six points and gave us the lead. It was nice to see."
After two free throws from Luhr, Matheson had the final 14 points for the Elkers.
Sorge, Lundin and Matheson were named to the All-Tournament Team. Matheson was named as the MVP on offense. For Johnsonburg, Luhr and Grumley received plaques with Grumley named as the MVP on defense. Also selected were Clayton Housler of Elk County Catholic and Justin Quiggle of St. Marys.
Grumley led the Rams with 11 points and Luhr was one behind finishing with an even 10 points.
Ridgway (6-0) plays again next Friday in an AML South matchup at Brockway. Johnsonburg (5-1) is scheduled to play at Bradford (4-4) next Wednesday. Ridgway will host Johnsonburg on Friday, Jan. 20. Johnsonburg hosts Ridgway on Tuesday, Feb. 7.
"There's going to be some battles between us two throughout the year," Allegretto said. "We have at least two more and we may see each other in the playoffs."
Junior varsity action is slated for 6 p.m. in both contests with the varsity game to follow.