By Andy Close
ST. MARYS – Elk County Catholic’s Julia Sweeney hit a three-pointer from just inside half-court at the end of the third quarter, and it was at that point that the Lady Crusaders probably figured it was their night.
Sweeney scored a game-high 19 points as ECC beat Kane for the third-straight season in the AML championship game, 51-37 Saturday.
“We’re happy to win the AML championship,” Elk County Catholic coach Ken Pistner said. “That was one of our goals at the beginning of the season.”
Kiley Kinney’s layup gave the young Lady Wolves (12-12) a 2-0 lead to start the game. It would be the only lead they had all game.
Sweeney got off to a hot start, scoring nine points in the first quarter to set the offensive tone.
“Julia comes to play every day and works really hard on her game,” Pistner said.
Kane tried a couple of different defenses on Sweeney and Macy Neurieter, the latter of whom chipped in with 11 points, and Pistner was pleased with the patience they showed.
“They played a box-and-one and a triangle-and-two and I thought we were able to adjust to that pretty well,” Pistner said. “I thought their (Sweeney and Neurieter’s) patience was good. I didn’t think we had to force too many things, they sort of let it come to them.”
Kane was able to stay within striking distance for most of the game, thanks in large part to the play of Taylor Morgan, who scored 18 points and pulled down 12 rebounds.
In fact, they were trailing by just two late in the second quarter before Neurieter hit a three and Mackenzie Gahr drained a pair of free throws to extend the lead to 25-18 at the break.
“I thought that was an important part of the game,” Pistner said. “I thought that was very big after they made their run to finish up seven like that.”
Elk County Catholic’s defense was also key, as they forced 29 turnovers.
Eight of them came in the third quarter, when the Lady Crusaders (19-5) were able to create some offense off of their full-court press.
“I thought our defense really did set the tone,” Pistner said. “Shooting comes and goes but if you’re solid on defense every night you have the opportunity to win some games. We’ve really hung our hat on that this year and we’re going to need to continue to do that for our next game against Clarion.”
While ECC will play Clarion in the Class A playoffs, Kane will enter the Class AA playoffs as the No. 7 seed and play Curwensville, whom they have beaten twice this season.
ELK COUNTY CATHOLIC (51)
Macy Neureiter 4-0-1-11, Erin Petrosky 2-0-0-4, Julia Sweeney 7-3-5-19, Kristie Wheler 2-1-2-5, Maddi Schneider 1-1-2-4, Nicole Schneider 1-0-0-2, Sam Zimmerman 0-0-0-0, Mackenzie Gahr 0-2-2-2, Reiley Herzing 0-0-0-0, Cassidy Cunningham 0-0-2-0, Hayley DaCanal 1-2-2-4, Totals 18-9-16-51
Kelsey Johnson 0-0-0-0, Taylor Morgan 5-8-10-18, Sidney Dyne 2-0-0-4, Kiley Kinney 2-0-2-5, Camryn Cummings 2-0-2-4, Katelyn Moran 2-0-0-4, Emily Hauser 0-0-0-0, Emily Truden 0-0-0-0, Lindsey Hottel 0-0-0-0, Alania Barner 1-0-0-2, Totals 14-8-14-37
Elk County Catholic 14 11 13 13-51
Kane 6 12 9 10-37
Three-point FGs: Neureiter 3, Sweeney 2, M. Schneider 1; Kane – Kinney 1