Rams down Crusaders 42-36 to reach 9-A championship game

ECC will meet Clarion-Limestone in consolation gameCLARION - The Johnsonburg Rams advanced to the District 9-A championship game by defeating the Elk County Catholic Crusaders by a 42-36 score last night at Clarion University’s Waldo Tippin Gymnasium in the 9-A semifinals.Johnsonburg will meet the Ridgway Elkers for the District 9-A championship on Saturday at Clarion University at a time to be announced by the District 9 committee. Ridgway defeated the Clarion-Limestone Lions by a 57-40 score in the other semifinal played at Clarion.Elk Catholic will meet Clarion-Limestone in the consolation game at a date, site and time to be announced.All four teams advance to the PIAA Class A tournament, which begins on Friday, March 9.In last night’s game, the Rams used a 15-2 run in the third period to turn an eight-point deficit into a five-point lead, 31-26 at the end of the third quarter.“The kids played smart and took care of the ball a lot better tonight,” said Johnsonburg coach Bill Shuey. “We didn’t panic when they (Elk Catholic) went up by six at the end of the first half. The momentum-changer was the run in the third quarter. “Elk played a diamond and one on him (Grumley). We had some good looks in the first half but couldn’t hit them. We switched defenses at halftime and made some buckets and Peterson had some key shots in the second half. “They (ECC) are a good team. We lost sight of their shooter (Housler) in the first half when they went on the 11-0 run. But we had some good looks in the first half.”“Now we can sit back and watch the next game,” added Shuey.The Rams were led offensively by Cole Peterson with 15 points on three twos, two threes and a three-for-nine night from the foul line. Cameron Grumley and Quinn Luhr each added seven points.For the Crusaders, Clayton Housler led the way with 17 points on four twos, two threes and a three-for-four night from the foul line. Brock McCullough was next with seven points.“I thought we had a very good game plan. I didn’t do a good job of coaching at the end of the first half,” said ECCHS coach Aaron Straub. “Johnsonburg is a good team. They are well-coached and play hard. I thought our kids played very hard.”“Only taking 12 shots in the second half and only getting to the foul line 14 times doesn’t make it. We’re not getting enough shots,” said Straub. “The coaching in preparation for the game was good, our game coaching wasn’t very good.” Straub noted that the Rams shot 50 percent for the game (16 of 32) while his squad shot 34 percent (12 of 35). In all four games against Elk Catholic, Johnsonburg has shot 50 percent and Elk only 34-35 percent.Housler and Peterson traded buckets to open the game. Shuey gave the Rams the 4-2 lead. The lead went back and forth the rest of the quarter. Mitch Holmberg and Housler traded field goals. A three by Holmberg gave the Rams the 9-7 lead. McCullough tied the game at 9-all at the end of the first quarter on a buzzer-beater.Housler and Luhr traded buckets to open the second period. A two by Brandon Schlimm and a three by Housler gave Elk the 16-11 lead. Cappiello, Housler and McCullough scored as Elk went up 22-11 at the 2:07 mark. Cameron Grumley scored a two with 53 seconds left and then hit a three with 15 seconds left to cut Elk’s halftime lead to 22-16.Housler sank two foul shots to open the third period. Peterson then scored off a steal and connected on two threes as the Rams tied the game at 24. McCullough gave ECC the 26-24 lead. A bucket by Frank Kocjancic of the Rams tied the score at 26. Grumley scored off a steal and Luhr hit a three with three seconds left as the Rams took the 31-26 lead with eight minutes remaining.McCullough hit a foul shot and Ben Wortman connected on a three for ECC to open the fourth period to cut the Rams’ lead to 31-30. A foul shot by Peterson and a field goal by Luhr made it 34-30. Housler sank a foul shot, with Cappiello adding two more, 34-33, with 4:21 left. Neither team scored again until the 1:46 mark when Shuey scored, 36-33. Peterson made the score 38-33 before Wortman sank one of two foul shots, 38-34. Schlimm made it 38-35 with 29 seconds remaining. At the 24-second mark, Peterson sank one of two foul shots, 39-35. Elk turned the ball over. Peterson sank one of two foul shots again, 40-35, with 14 seconds remaining. ECC’s Alex Herzing sank one of two foul shots with seven seconds left to make it 40-36. Shuey was able to get the rebound of the missed foul shot and was fouled. He converted both foul shots with four seconds left to seal the 42-36 victory for the Rams.Game notesThe Rams are now 23-4 on the year while the Crusaders slipped to 15-12.Both teams will be in action Saturday. The times will be announced later today by the District 9 Committee.ECC had 10 turnovers to 13 for Johnsonburg. The Rams outrebounded ECC 30-19. Holmberg led Johnsonburg with seven, while Wortman led Elk with six.ECCHS 36Clayton Housler 4-2-3-4-17, Mitchell Vallone 0-0-0-0-0, Brandon Schlimm 1-0-1-2-3, Ben Wortman 0-1-1-2-4, Brock McCullough 3-0-1-2-7, Alex Herzing 0-0-1-2-1, Hank Cappiello 1-0-2-2-4. Totals 9-3-9-14-36.Johnsonburg 42Cameron Grumley 2-1-0-1-7, Kyle Sheldon 0-0-0-0-0, Quinn Luhr 2-1-0-0-7, Cole Peterson 3-2-3-9-15, Mitch Holmberg 1-1-0-0-5, Frank Kocjancic 1-0-0-0-2, Michael Shuey 2-0-2-3-6. Totals 11-5-5-14-42Score by quartersElk Catholic 9 13 4 10 36Johnsonburg 9 7 15 11 42