ST. MARYS – Elk County Catholic overcame a slow start Wednesday in the opening round of the county tournament to overpower Johnsonburg, 35-29.
Despite an early 17-10 deficit, the Lady Crusaders stormed back to outscore the Ramettes 25-12 to end the game.
Holding a slim 17-14 advantage to start the third quarter, Crusader senior Karly Carnovale nailed the great equalizer from beyond the arc to knot the score with 7:03 on the clock. After two free throws from Johnsonburg senior Justis Myers gave the Ramettes the upper hand again, a Carnovale score with 5:46 left in the third quarter again knotted the score. A basket from Justis Myers at the 4:49 mark of the third quarter would be Johnsonburg's only field goal of the third quarter as they were outscored 16-7.
"We had a slow start again where we just couldn't get into the flow of the game so we went to a full court press, a full court man [defense] in the second half," said Elk County Catholic head girls' varsity basketball coach Ken Pistner following the win. "That seemed to work a little bit to create a few more turnovers and offensive opportunities than what we had in the first half."
Midway through the third quarter, ECC pulled off an 8-0 run to take a 28-21 lead with 2:02 remaining. A jumper from ECC's Kristie Hanes gave the Lady Crusaders a six-point lead going into the fourth quarter.
"[ECC] stepped up their defense and took [Johnsonburg sophomore point guard] Rhianon [Fowler] out, they pressured her and we didn't run the plays the way they're supposed to be run," said Johnsonburg head girls' varsity basketball coach Mike Zilkofski. "When the first option wasn't there, we panicked.
"We just didn't execute properly in the second half and we had too many turnovers."
A free throw from Johnsonburg senior Taylor Harvey cut the lead to five points early in the fourth quarter, but the Ramettes were unable to cash in on scoring opportunities down the stretch. Two field goals from Johnsonburg sophomore Brittany Watts set the final score at 35-29.
"We had them in the first half, but we fell apart in the second half," Zilkofski said. "We lost our composure, we don't know when to stop and we just plowed the [opposing players] over, we have to learn to stop and take a jump shot there, just knowing what to do in that situation."
ECC drew six offensive charges during the game, a statistic that Pistner said was a key part of the game.
"It was a really good effort," Pistner said. "One good thing about it, we kept plugging away when we could've been hanging our heads every time we missed a shot. We kept at it and our players worked hard.
"We'll gradually work through it and become a better offensive team."
ECC converted six of their 25 attempts from the field in the first half and followed up with a 5-for-27 showing in the second half, good enough for 21 percent from the field.
"We had a ton of good looks but our shooting percentage was in the low 20s," Pistner said. "Free throws was 12-for-24 and that's actually a bit better than what we have been shooting.
"We didn't have a very good shooting percentage but we had a lot of good looks, we just have to make them. Defensively, we're a very good basketball team but offensively, we need to keep making strides to become a good offensive team."
For Zilkofski, it was the Ramettes' second loss to ECC this year.
"We had the lead in the first half again, that's happened twice now when we played ECC so if we could just put two halves together and play a complete game, we'd have it and we wouldn't lose the game," Zilkofski said. "It's always a mental thing with [ECC] and there's no reason for it, there's just no keeping it calm. Our point guard should be our leader but she comes up the court and gets rid of the ball too quickly, and we just don't take advantage of those opportunities when we should be taking it to the basket. We just don't pick that up right away.
"You get the rebound under the basket, you take it right back out again. It seems like we never know what to do in certain situations. We were in the bonus and all we have to do is take the ball to the basket and take the foul. We're just not there yet and it is a mental thing with ECC but I don't know how to fix it. One of these days they will break it but I might not be here to see it."
On the winning side, poor shooting still remains a problem as the Lady Crusaders head into today's title game against St. Marys, who earned a 65-36 victory yesterday over Ridgway.
"We went to a full court press in the second half a bit and that seemed to create some opportunities," Pistner said. "We've used it throughout the year and it seems to work on and off.
"[Last night], we just needed to do something to get our players' offensive game to work a bit better. We seemed to be just standing around and we needed to pick up our defensive pressure too."
Johnsonburg will battle Ridgway today in the 3 p.m. consolation game.
Johnsonburg – 29
Justis Myers 3 6-9 12, Taylor Harvey 1 3-4 5, Kiana Myers 0 5-6 5, Brittany Watts 2 0-0 4, Kathryn Polaski 1 0-0 3. Totals: 7 14-19 29.
ECC – 35
Karly Carnovale 3 3-4 10, Abbi Petrosky 1 5-6 7, Lexie Meholic 2 1-4 5, Taylor DaCanal 2 0-2 4, Maggie Sorg 1 2-5 4, Emily Gregory 1 0-1 2, Kristie Hanes 1 0-0 2, Ellie Petrosky 0 1-2 1. Totals 11 12-24 35.
3-pointers: Johnsonburg 1 (Polaski); ECC 1 (Carnovale).
Score by quarters
Johnsonburg 10 7 7 5 29
ECC 8 6 16 5 35