By Andy Close
CLARION – Just when it looked like Ridgway had seized all the momentum, Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic stole it right back.
The Trojans outscored Ridgway 16-4 in the fourth quarter to earn a 58-43 win in the second round of the PIAA Class A playoffs Tuesday at Clarion University’s Tippin Gym.
“From the beginning to the end of the seasons, it’s amazing how different this team is,” said Ridgway coach Tony Allegretto. “Even from when the playoffs started until now.”
Indeed, it’s a team few expected to be in this position, but there the Elkers were, leading 31-30 lead after a Ben MacDonald three-point play with 5:10 to go in the third quarter. This was after trailing by eight, 28-20 to start the third quarter.
“We’ve been pretty good all year to start the half,” Allegretto said. “We always say let’s give the best three minutes that we have to start the half and I think that’s when we took the lead.”
North Catholic (17-10), responded, however, taking advantage of a pair of Ridgway turnovers to retake the lead, 36-31. They never trailed again.
Ryan Kirby led the winners with 21 points.
“As soon as we took the lead we turned the ball over a couple times and never got the lead back,” noted Allegretto.”
Turnovers were an issue for Ridgway, as they committed 20, compared to just 11 for North Catholic.
Some of that could certainly be attributed to the absence of starting point guard Josh Roselli. Roselli not only is Ridgway’s second-leading scorer, but control’s the tempo for the disciplined Elkers’ offense.
Without him, Ridgway took a while to adjust and North Catholic took advantage.
“I don’ think the press gives us trouble if Josh plays,” Allegretto said. “We’ll still turn the ball over, but when you lose your point guard that automatically puts two or three guys out of position.”
Despite a slow start (Ridgway didn’t score until a Jeremy Breier layup with 1:14 left in the first quarter that made it 9-2), the Elkers were never out of the game.
Breier, who scored 17 points and pulled down 10 rebounds, converted a pair of layups to keep the game close, with Joe Horning’s three to beat the first quarter buzzer pulling the Elkers back to within four.
“It takes a while to get comfortable in a game without Josh,” Allegretto admitted.
Despite that, Ridgway rallied and was still in the game with five minutes left in the fourth-quarter, trailing just 46-41.
North Catholic 6-6 forward Dom Robb took over late however, as he converted a pair of dunks, the last of which extended the lead to 56-43 with 1:43 to go.
“I think at one point we were down three, missed a layup and they got a bucket and a foul at the other end,” Allegretto noted. “That was a big turnaround.”
Despite that, the Ridgway coach knows that this season was a successful one, and with four of their top six players returning next year, the future looks bright for Ridgway basketball.
“We started getting it and it really paid off,” Allegretto said. “Our expectations were to compete for a district championship and we got our shot and played one of our two best games of the season. We have good things to look forward to .”
North Catholic 58, Ridgway 43
Score By Quarters
Ridgway 7 13 19 4-43
North Catholic 11 17 14 16-58
Joe Horning 2-1-2-6, Dustin Cowan 1-0-0-2, Ben MacDonald 5-3-4-13, Jeremy Breier 7-3-6-17, Josh Lineberger 2-1-2-5, Cory Oknefski 0-0-0-0, Mitchell Stark 0-0-0-0, Cody Delhunty 0-0-0-0 Phil Wadell 0-0-0-0, Mike Sorge 0-0-0-0, Jack Toncich 0-0-0-0, Totals 17-8-14-43
NORTH CATHOLIC (58)
P.J. Fulmore 2-2-2-6, Timon Gribbin 2-0-0-5, Ryan Kirby 8-3-3-21, John Savulchak 4-2-2-10, Dom Robb 7-2-2-16, Tom Braun 0-0-0-0, Chris Goetz 0-0-0-0, Brandon Kowalecki 0-0-0-0, Vince LeGrande 0-0-0-0, Jake Matschner 0-0-0-0, Totals 23-9-9-58
Three-point FGs: Ridgway (1) – Horning; North Catholic (3) – Kirby 2, Gribbin 1