CLARION – The big floor at Clarion University isn't always rough on the Johnsonburg Rams.
Less than one week removed from losing the district title game at Tippin Gymnasium against rival Ridgway, the Rams bounced back in the first round of the Class A state basketball playoffs with a 57-47 win over Bishop Carroll.
The Huskies (14-13) were able to control the game early on but a late rally in the second quarter gave the Rams (23-5) the halftime lead; they extended their advantage in the third quarter and held off a late Bishop Carroll rally for a 10-point win.
"It was quite a game and Bishop Carroll is a young team but a good team, and they'll be back next year," Johnsonburg head boys varsity basketball coach Bill Shuey said. "We were similar as we both play a lot of sophomores."
Cradling a 4-point lead going into the fourth quarter, the Rams extended their advantage as sophomore Cole Peterson, who paced all scorers with 19 points on the night, drove in for a layup 50 seconds into the final quarter for a 46-40 lead. Johnsonburg senior Michael Shuey added to the lead less than a minute later with a layup for an 8-point lead.
Bishop Carroll junior Scott Ranck and Shuey were fouled on consecutive possessions but missed their tries; Bishop Carroll senior Ryan Lauer, who led his team with 12 points, hit two free throws with 5:25 remaining in the game to cut the deficit to 48-42. Teammate sophomore Mitchell Madonna was fouled on the Huskies' next possession and calmly drained both of his attempts as Bishop Carroll pulled to within four points of a tie.
After Shuey was fouled on the other end and hit the first try, Lauer was grabbed inside and was sent to the line again. The Bishop Carroll senior replicated his effort earlier by hitting both attempts to make it a one-possession game at 49-46.
Johnsonburg sophomore Cameron Grumley, who was right behind Peterson with a 15-point night, turned in a 1-for-2 showing from the free throw line to extend Johnsonburg's lead to 50-46. The Huskies had their opportunities to cut the margin down the stretch but were turned away after being stymied by consecutive turnovers.
The mishandling of the ball by the Huskies put Peterson on the line on both possessions as he hit three of his four tries to give the Rams a 53-46 lead. On the other end, a shot from Bishop Carroll freshman Brandon Martinazzi went in and out and he was later sent to the line but whiffed both times.
Peterson added a free throw down the stretch and both Johnsonburg junior Mitchell Holmberg and Madonna traded free throws with 27.4 seconds to go after a technical foul.
Johnsonburg senior Bill Bliss, who missed a large portion of the season to deal with injuries, cruised in for a layup with 13 seconds on the clock to cap the Rams' night in a 57-47 win.
"We turned the ball over 10 times in the first half and we still have that problem of controlling the tempo of the game when it needs to be slowed down," coach Shuey said. "We'll get there, hopefully, but it was a good win. The nerves were there early but we played very good defense but [Bishop Carroll] was a very good shooting team. They had a high percentage."
Bishop Carroll had the hometown faithful worried early in the game as the Huskies suddenly had a 12-6 lead. The Rams started with a jumper in the paint from Peterson and a layup off a turnover from Grumley for a 4-0 lead two minutes into the game before the Huskies came to life. Bishop Carroll sophomore Marcus Lee was fouled on a successful layup and hit the free throw to cut the lead to one point. He came back 27 seconds later and broke through under the basket again to take a 5-4 lead.
After another miss on the other end, Lauer drained an NBA-length 3-pointer for an early 8-4 advantage. Bishop Carroll would cushion that lead 34 seconds later as Ranck came through for a layup and a 10-4 lead.
Johnsonburg junior Quinn Luhr halted the streak on a layup and was fouled but failed to hit the extra shot; the Huskies regrouped as Madonna found the hoop on a short jumper for a 12-6 advantage. Peterson brought himself back into the mix with a 3-pointer with 2:04 on the clock in the first quarter but Ranck answered with an easy layup with 38 seconds to burn.
Grumley would complete a 3-point play on the other end after being fouled on a successful layup but Lauer saved the best for last with another 3-pointer, this one with two seconds on the clock, for a 17-12 lead. Unbeknownst to Lauer, it would be his last successful shot from the field all night.
Despite a 5-point deficit entering the second quarter, the Rams outscored Bishop Carroll 17-10 to take the lead for good.
Shuey and Bishop Carroll freshman Nik Suckinos traded baskets to 19-14 before a Luhr layup pulled Johnsonburg to within three points. Ranck would hit a midrange jumper with 6:06 on the clock before the Rams rattled off a 6-0 run to retake the lead.
A Grumley layup went in with 4:31 remaining and junior Kyle Sheldon and Grumley both hit free throws for the Rams on their next two possessions to cut the lead to one point. Peterson then flipped the switch as he scored a layup off a turnover with 3:29 to play in the first half for a 22-21 lead.
Pick up a copy of the Saturday, March 10, 2012 edition of The Ridgway Record for more.