By Chris Rossetti
CLARION, Pa. – Poor free-throw shooting, a cold overall second-half shooting performance and seven second-half turnovers were too much for District 9 runner-up Elk County Catholic to overcome in a 47-45 loss to Homer-Center in the opening round of the PIAA Class A boys’ basketball playoffs Friday night at Clarion University’s Tippin Gym.
The Crusaders hit just 7 of 19 free throws, shot 6 of 21 (28.6 percent) in the second half and allowed Homer-Center to score seven points off turnovers in the half – all in the third quarter.
“I think we turned it over, I think that was the big problem,” ECC head coach Aaron Straub said. “I think the game came down to we didn’t shoot free throws well, and the third quarter where we turned the ball over six times and never got it in to an offensive flow. They got us back on our heels a little bit, and we weren’t aggressive enough. We didn’t have an aggressive enough attack.”
Despite all of the warts, ECC (23-5) still had a chance late in the game to either tie or take the lead.
First, with 1:27 to play and down one, 43-42, Mitchell Struble was fouled but missed the front end of a one-and-one.
Homer-Center (23-3), the District 6 third-place team, was then able to get the lead to give, 47-42, before Ian Herzing hit a 3-pointer with 5.5 seconds left to get the Crusaders within two.
Robert Dellapenna then missed two free throws with three seconds left, but Brandon Schlimm’s desperation pass as time expired hit the backboard.
“I thought we did a pretty good job defensively,” Straub said. “There just is no excuse for shooting like that from the free-throw line.”
Midway through the second quarter, ECC looked to be in complete control of the game using a 20-6 run fueled by eight points from Cory Huff and seven from Struble – all at the end of the first quarter – to build a 30-22 lead with 3:06 to play before halftime.
But Homer-Center was able to finish the half on a 7-1 run to cut the Crusader advantage to a deuce, 31-29, at halftime.
The lead then changed hands four times in the first three minutes of the second half before ECC went bone dry from the field.
The Crusaders didn’t hit a basket for over eight minutes from a Schlimm layup with 5:11 left in the third quarter that gave ECC as 35-34 lead until 4:05 remained in regulation when another Schlimm layup cut a Homer-Center lead to two, 40-38.
“We had them back on their heels, but we just didn’t score,” Straub said. “We needed to keep scoring.”
Huff had a monster game for ECC with 18 points and 19 rebounds while shooting 6 of 12 from the field and adding two blocks, a steal and an assist.
“We knew going in we need to have a good, solid game from Cory,” Straub said. Fortunately, we did. He would have an even bigger game if we had hit a couple of outside shots. That would have opened up the middle. They did a pretty good job of surrounding him.”
HOMER-CENTER 47, ELK COUNTY CATHOLIC 45
Score by Quarters
Homer-Center……………… 18 11 11 7 – 47
Elk County Catholic……….. 17 14 4 10 – 45
CAPITOSTI, Joe 7-11 4-4 18; CAPITOSTI, John 4-7 0-4 10; IRELAND, John 2-6 2-2 7; CARR, Darren 3-8 1-2 7; DELLAPENNA, Robert 1-6 2-6 5; MILLER, Cody 0-0 0-0 0; CITERONI, Jacob 0-2 0-0 0; BLACK, Brad 0-1 0-0 0; BREWER, Cody 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 17-42 9-18 47.
ELK COUNTY CATHOLIC (23-5)
HUFF, Cory 6-12 6-10 18; SCHLIMM, Brandon 5-12 0-2 10; HERZING, Ian 3-5 0-0 9; STRUBLE, Mitchell 3-12 0-1 7; WORTMAN, Ivan 0-2 1-4 1; SEELYE, Ryan 0-1 0-0 0; SINGER, Dan 0-1 0-2 0. Totals 17-45 7-19 45.
3-point goals—Homer-Center 4-14 (CAPITOSTI, John 2-4; IRELAND, John 1-4; DELLAPENNA, Robert 1-1; CARR, Darren 0-3; CAPITOSTI, Joe 0-2), Elk County Catholic 4-16 (HERZING, Ian 3-5; STRUBLE, Mitchell 1-6; WORTMAN, Ivan 0-2; SCHLIMM, Brandon 0-3).
Rebounds—Homer-Center 30 (CARR, Darren 8; CAPITOSTI, Joe 8), Elk County Catholic 33 (HUFF, Cory 19).
Assists—Homer-Center 8 (DELLAPENNA, Robert 4), Elk County Catholic 8 (HERZING, Ian 2;
WORTMAN, Ivan 2).
A BOYS PIAA PLAYOFFS FIRST ROUND