JOHNSONBURG –The Ramettes (9-5) found their groove Thursday night as underclassmen Chelsea Benson and Brittany Watts accounted for 39 of the team's 56 points as Johnsonburg stretched their winning streak to seven games with a 56-40 win over DuBois Central Catholic (5-10).
Sophomore Chelsea Benson paced all scorers with 21 points while junior Brittany Watts followed with 18 on the night. Watts scored all of her points in the first half on nine 2-point field goals before succumbing to foul trouble in the second half.
Watts picked up her fourth foul with 52 seconds on the clock in the third quarter and was ousted with 7:16 to go in the fourth quarter. Johnsonburg head girls varsity basketball coach Mike Zilkofski picked up a technical foul for disputing the call after Watts fouled out but the Ramettes still had a 17-point lead to fall back on.
"It was tough since [Watts] fouled out and we wanted to hold the ball in the fourth quarter," Zilkofski said. "Some of our younger players aren't used to that spread and going to the foul line, that's how [DCC] got it close."
Watts jumped out of the gate sprinting early with 12 points in the first quarter alone. She scored the first two points of the game and later hit a layup for a 5-2 lead early on. DCC held an 8-5 advantage near the midway point of the first quarter before Watts hit a fancy hook shot in the paint to cut the lead to one point.
A resilient DCC offense continued to plod away and extended their lead to four points despite another Watts 2-pointer.
"They moved the ball well early on and we weren't getting to the ball fast enough," Zilkofski said. "That's where the anticipation factor comes in. We all have to learn that and we have to realize who the shooters are, and we want a foot closer on them, that's how the defense is supposed to run."
But with a 13-9 lead, Benson got in the action by converting a 3-point play after being fouled on a layup to close the gap to 13-12.
DCC pressed the issue on the other end of the floor as sophomore Kylee Schaffer hit two free throws to extend the lead to 15-12 before Johnsonburg's duo turned it up a notch.
Watts hit a layup with 1:51 on the clock to inch closer, down by only one point. Benson then came up with a steal and won a half-court foot race for a 16-15 advantage, a lead that the home team would not give up.
Benson hit another layup, this one with 39 seconds on the clock, then followed up with another steal and rumbled down the court for another easy basket and a 20-15 lead.
After DCC missed on the other end with time winding down, Watts hit a second-effort layup at the buzzer for a 22-15 lead after the first quarter.
"Chelsea [Benson] has been stepping it up since playing as a freshman last year," Zilkofski said. "She anticipates the ball and this was her best varsity game, and I hope it carries over against Elk County Catholic [tonight]. She anticipates passes and I've been trying to preach that, but she anticipates better than anybody.
"She may get burned a couple times on it but the way she played [Thursday], she looked good."
DCC tried to inch closer with consecutive scores from senior Alyssa Marchioni but Watts answered right back with two layups in a 36-second stretch to keep the lead at seven points. DCC junior Aundrea Snyder finally put in a score after two straight Lady Cardinal air balls to cut the lead to five points at the midway point of the second quarter.
The evaporating lead again woke up Zilkofski's underclassmen duo; Benson was sent to the line on a foul and hit one shot with 3:40 remaining for a 6-point lead. She hit a layup a minute later for a 29-21 lead before Watts and Benson went back-to-back on 2-point field goals for a 33-21 lead with 1:25 to play in the half.
Watts hit her third foul to send DCC senior Julie Fitzer to the line with a minute to go and the Lady Cardinal senior converted one try for an 11-point deficit.
Benson would add one more free throw down the stretch and after a DCC offensive try came up short, Johnsonburg junior Rhianon Fowler hit a long range shot just inside the 3-point line with a hand in her face at the buzzer for a 36-22 halftime lead.
Snyder hit a long 2-pointer to open the third quarter before an 8-point Ramette spurt put the game away for good. Senior Danie Jo Dwyer hit two 3-pointers and Benson managed a steal and a layup in between Dwyer's long-range shots as Johnsonburg had a 20-point lead midway through the third quarter.
Watts would later pick up her fourth foul after Benson and fellow sophomore Kathryn Polaski put in consecutive layups for a 48-26 lead.
The Ramettes took a 20-point advantage into the fourth quarter and after a Fowler layup, Watts fouled out on a successful layup from Marchioni.
"[Watts] has such a soft shot and since [DCC] doesn't have a lot of height, she dominated in the paint," Zilkofski said. "It's just a mental thing trying to stay out of foul trouble. We had a complete game from the five starters until she fouled out."
With Watts on the bench and the Zilkofski technical foul, DCC inched closer as senior Lauresa Gulvas hit the two free throws from the technical and Marchioni followed with her attempt for a 6-point swing to cut the lead to 50-33 with seven minutes remaining in the game.
Marchioni, who led DCC with 16 points, followed with a pair of free throws at the 6-minute mark and hit a layup 30 seconds later but the damage was already done.
Benson put an exclamation point on her night with a short jumper with 3:22 on the clock to cap her 21-point performance and give Johnsonburg a 52-37 lead.
The Ramettes cleaned up shop down the stretch with a layup from sophomore Kassa Kocjancic with 1:26 left on the clock and a Polaski layup a minute later for a 56-40 Johnsonburg win.
"It's been nice to win seven in a row, and get the seventh win over a very good DCC team," Zilkofski said. "We have Elk County Catholic and Kane next, and we'll go from there. To win, it's going to take 100-percent effort, fire in our eyes, and we need the layups and foul shots.
"It's going to come down to foul shots because if it's anywhere near close, we're holding the ball and going to the line. I hope we come out ready to play."