ST. MARYS, Pa. – Cory Huff willed Elk County Catholic to a come-from-behind 48-46 win over visiting Ridgway Friday night that clinched the AML North title for the Elkers and kept them in line for the top seed in the upcoming District 9 Class A playoffs.
Huff scored ECC’s final six points in the final 2 ½ minutes on a banked in 3-pointer and an old-school 3-pointer helped the Crusaders (19-2 overall, 9-1 AML North), winners of 14 straight, overcome a 45-40 deficit midway through the fourth quarter.
Ridgway (16-5, 7-3 AML South), who had already locked up the AML South title, actually led by as many as 13 three minutes into the second half before watching ECC go on an 11-0 run that helped the Crusaders pull within two, 39-37, going to the fourth quarter.
Ian Herzing then gave ECC its first lead since the first half, 40-39 on a deep 3-pointer early in the fourth quarter, before a 6-0 Ridgway run capped by a Ben MacDonald basket but the Elkers back in front by five, 45-40.
Huff, though, who finished 16 points, answered when he went old school twice – first banking home a 3-pointer with 2:38 to play to get the Crusaders within one, 46-45, then finishing off an old-school 3-point play after grabbing an offensive rebound and getting the put back with 1:08 left that gave ECC the lead for good, 48-46.
Ridgway had two chances in the final 15 seconds to tie or take the lead, but a pair of 3-pointers were off the mark – a held ball after the first gave the Elkers possession back – with Huff gathering in the rebound off the second miss.
Defense played a key role in the ECC comeback.
After Ridgway had used the second-half-opening 8-0 run fueled by four Jeremy Breier points to expand a 28-23 halftime lead to 36-23, three straight steals followed by layups by the Crusaders got them back in the game.
Mitchell Struble, who had a team-high 17 points, started the 11-0 run with a pair of steals and subsequent baskets, and Dan Singer followed with a steal and a layup to make it 36-29. Dan Singer then sunk a triple, and Huff followed with a layup to get ECC back within two, 36-34 with 1:43 left in the quarter, just three minutes after Ridgway had taken the 13-point advantage.
Dustin Cowan temporarily halted ECC’s momentum with a 3-pointer to make it 39-34, but Struble beat the horn with a triple of his own from the left wing to get ECC within two, 39-37, going to the fourth quarter.
The game flowed back and forth in the first half as well with the teams tied at 11 at the end of the first quarter before ECC took a 16-13 lead early in the second quarter only to see a 6-0 Ridgway run help the Elkers to a 28-23 halftime lead.
Breier led all scorers with 19 points for Ridgway.
ECC, which is also the D9 League champion, finishes off the regular season with a D9 League contest against Bradford in St. Marys Wednesday before hosting DuBois Central Catholic in the opening round of the AML playoffs Friday.
Ridgway’s regular season is over. The Elkers will host Johnsonburg in the opening round of the AML Playoffs Friday.
NOTES – It is ECC’s first AML North title since 2011 after the Crusaders had taken six of the first seven AML North crowns. Johnsonburg had won each of the previous two AML North Titles and also won the AML North crown in 2009 … ECC two division/conference title marks the first time since 2007 the Crusaders have won the AML North and D9 League outright in the same season. In 2011, ECC won the AML North outright but tied for the D9 League title with Brookville … If ECC beats Bradford Wednesday, the Crusaders will most likely be the top seed in the upcoming District 9 Class A playoffs, something that hasn’t happened since their PIAA Championship season of 2007.
ELK COUNTY CATHOLIC 48, RIDGWAY 46
Score by Quarters
Ridgway 11 17 11 7 – 46
Elk CC 11 12 14 11 – 48
Ridgway – 46
Roselli 2 0-0 4, Horning 2 1-2 6, Cowan 3 3-3 9, MacDonald 2 0-0 4, Breier 6 6-6 19, Lineberger 2 0-0 4. Totals 17 10-11 46.
ECC – 48
Struble 6 2-2 17, Herzing 2 0-0 5, Schlimm 2 0-0 5, Singer 1 0-1 2, Wortman 1 0-0 3, Huff 7 1-1 16. Totals 19 3-4 48.
Three-pointers – Ridgway 2 (Breier, Horning). ECC 7 (Struble 3, Herzing, Schlimm, Wortman, Huff).