ST. MARYS – The Elk County Catholic Crusader boys' basketball squad faced off against the Johnsonburg Rams for the third time this season Friday evening, and for the third time they came away with a loss. Unlike their three-point loss in the opening-round contest of the Elk County Boys' Basketball Holiday Tournament, though, the Rams outplayed the Crusaders on Friday, outscoring them 45-23 over the final three quarters to take a 58-36 victory.
"I think we're maturing as a team," said Johnsonburg coach Bill Shuey. "Some of our younger players are maturing as players. It's always a big win when you can come and beat Elk County Catholic on their own court. I'd be lying to you if I didn't have my doubts coming into this game. I knew it was going to be a tough game, but I thought of course it was a good team effort. Our kids hustled from the beginning to the end."
"Johnsonburg has a very nice team," said ECC coach Aaron Straub. "They played extremely well tonight. We didn't have many answers tonight for what they tried to do to us and we will be much better prepared for our next meeting."
The score was knotted at 13-all after a back-and-forth first quarter. Johnsonburg took a 26-18 lead into the half, and led 38-22 at the end of three quarters.
"They (the Crusaders) hit some shots [early on] that I was hoping they wouldn't hit any longer, and they kind of got cold in the second half on their outside shooting," Shuey said. "I think our defense picked it up a bit and then our offense, we got some steals and some easy buckets, and that tends to switch the momentum very quickly."
According to Straub, both second-chance points and turnovers hurt his squad throughout the game.
"I thought we played hard the entire game, but I think two things really hurt us tonight. One is second-chance points that Johnsonburg had. I don't know exactly how many they had, but they had quite a few. The other thing was our turnovers really hurt us," Straub said. "We battled the entire night. We just were able to maintain contact there during the first quarter and then they went on that run in the second quarter and got an eight- or 10-point lead on us and we just didn't handle their defense very well at all."
The Crusaders were led offensively by Clayton Housler with 11 points on a two, two threes, and a 3-for-3 night from the foul line. Brock McCullough added 7 points on three twos and a 1-for-2 night from the line.
The top scorer for the Rams was Cameron Grumley with 16 points on eight twos. Michael Shuey added 14 points on five twos and a 4-for-4 night from the line.
Elk Catholic started the game off strong with Housler sinking a three in the opening minute of play. Shuey answered with a bucket for the Rams. Housler made another three and was fouled on the play. He made the foul shot to give the Crusaders a 7-2 lead, their largest of the game. The Rams then eliminated that advantage as Grumley hit back-to-back buckets and Cole Peterson sank a three to put Johnsonburg on top, 9-7. Foul shots by Housler tied things up at 9-all and the Crusaders briefly pulled back in front on a bucket by Mitchell Vallone. Grumley made two more buckets to give the Rams a 13-11 lead with under 10 seconds remaining in the opening period and Ben Wortman tied things up at 13-all with a bucket as time ran out.
Elk Catholic was unable to keep their momentum going in the second quarter. McCullough made a bucket to give the Crusaders their final lead of the game and then Johnsonburg took over. Grumley and Peterson both made buckets to give the Rams back the lead, 17-15. McCullough made a foul shot to keep the Crusaders within a point of the lead, but then the Rams went on a 9-point run on buckets by Grumley, Peterson, and Shuey, along with a three by Quinn Luhr, to take a 26-16 advantage with just over two minutes remaining in the half. Michael Jacob scored the final points of the half as he made a basket for the Crusaders with 1:49 left on the clock, sending the game into halftime with Johnsonburg up 26-18.
Shuey and ECC's Hank Cappiello traded buckets to open the second half. The Rams then extended their advantage by six points on a pair of buckets by Frank Kocjancic and a two by Grumley to make their lead 34-22. McCullough scored the final points of the quarter for the Crusaders with 4:25 left on the clock. Luhr added two more buckets for the Rams in the final minute to send the game into the final period of play with Johnsonburg up 38-22.
Shuey made the first four points of the fourth quarter. McCullough added another bucket for the Crusaders and then Shuey and Grumley each had buckets for the Rams. Kevin Kraus made a bucket for ECC, Mitch Holmberg sank a pair of foul shots for Johnsonburg, and then Housler and Holmberg traded buckets to make the score 50-28 in favor of the Rams with 3:40 left to play. Jack Herzing hit a two for ECC, but then Holmberg and Luhr each added a basket for the Rams. Shea Meyer made back-to-back baskets for ECC with about a minute remaining on the clock. Christian Cherry scored the final bucket for the Rams and Meyer added two more points for the Crusaders with about 10 seconds left, giving Johnsonburg a 58-36 victory.
The Elk Catholic junior varsity squad picked up a 55-15 victory over the Rams in the preliminary contest.
ECC took a 23-4 lead in the first period. The Crusaders added 7 more points in the second quarter while holding the Rams scoreless to take a 27-4 halftime lead.
In the third quarter the Crusaders tallied up 19 more points, while the Rams only had 8. ECC outscored Johnsonburg 6-3 in the fourth quarter to come away with the 55-15 win.
ECC scoring: Vincent Jacob 7, Elliott Struble 3, Colton Lecker 7, Ivan Wortman 7, Luke Kraus 6, Ben Reuscher 5, Andy Gebauer 6, Matt Jerko 4, Nick Werner 2, Corey Huff 8.
Johnsonburg scoring: Christian Cherry 2, Nathan Field 6, Jesse Tucker 1, Mason Walters 2, Brian Feronti 4.