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Boys’ PIAA Second Round Playoff Preview for District 9 Teams

Four District 9 boys’ basketball teams are still alive in the PIAA playoffs, as play heads into second-round action Thursday after a two-day weather delay. (Note that changes were made Wednesday to times and locations of two of the game. Those changes are highlighted in red).

(Cover photo of Elk County Catholic’s Nate DaCanal. Photo by Paul Burdick. Check out more of Burdick’s work here)

In Class 1A, the District 9 champion Elk County Catholic faces District 6 runner-up Williamsburg, while District 9 runner-up Johnsonburg takes on District 6 champion Saltsburg.

Coudersport, the District 9 Class 2A champion, takes on WPIAL fourth-place finisher Greensburg Central Catholic, while D9 third-place finisher Ridgway faces District 5 champion Berlin Brothersvalley.

Here is a look at all four games.


9-1 ELK COUNTY CATHOLIC CRUSADERS (27-0) vs. 6-2 WILLIAMSBURG BLUE PIRATES (16-10); 7:30 p.m. at Clearfield High School

Elk County Catholic, which enjoyed back-to-back unbeaten regular seasons for the first time in school history, advanced to the second round with a come-from-behind 52-41 win over Eden Christian, the fifth-place finisher from the WPIAL. Eden was winning after three quarters before a 16-2 ECC advantage in the fourth lifted the Crusaders to the win.

Williamsburg picked up its first PIAA playoff victory since 1985 with a 55-54 victory over Southern Fulton, the District 5 runner-up when Nick Michelone hit his lone basket of the game, a 3-pointer, with four seconds left.

ECC has three players averaging in double digits led by 1,000-point career scorer Nate DaCanal, who is averaging 15 points per game. DaCanal, the sixth player in school history to 1,000 points and the first since Jesse Bosnik, who graduated in 2007, has 1,169 career tallies. He is also one of just six ECC players in history to have two 400-point seasons.

Also for the Crusaders are Gabe Kraus at 14.6 points per game and Ryan Newton at 11.1 points per contest.

Williamsburg, which is in the PIAA postseason for the first time since 2002, has three players averaging in double digits paced by Rashadd Knorr, who averages 12.8 ppg. Austin Fay adds 11.7 ppg and 7.5 rpg with Michelone chipping in 11.2 ppg and Silas Dishong 8.3 ppg and 5.9 rpg.

ECC head coach Aaron Straub now has 792 wins as the boys’ coach at ECC going 792-228 in his 35th season while putting together a career record of 819-240 having also coached the ECC girls for two years. The Crusaders are 1124-380 in their history.

The winners plays the winner of the game between defending state champion Kennedy Catholic, the District 10 champion, and District 6 third-place finisher Juniata Valley Saturday at a site and time to be determined.

9-2 JOHNSONBURG RAMS (13-13) vs. 6-1 SALTSBURG TROJANS (25-1); 7 p.m. at Punxsutawney High School (Change)

Johnsonburg entered the PIAA playoffs under .500, but the Rams matched up with a worse team in Jamestown, which was 8-16 and knocked off the Muskies, the District 10 runner-ups, 49-39.

Saltsburg, meanwhile, picked up its 10th straight win with a 63-57 victory over Vincentian Academy, the fourth-place finisher out of the WPIAL.

Ryan Kilhoffer is the lone Johnsonburg player averaging in double digits at 10.2 ppg. Drew Akers, who was held scoreless in the Jamestown game, adds 9.2 ppg but has just one double-digit contest in his last eight games after scoring in double figures 10 times in his first 18 games. Point guard Kacey Raubenstrauch chips in 7.6 ppg.

Nick Porter leads Saltsburg averaging 21 ppg, while Frank Plowman adds 13.2 ppg. Dan Shirley possesses an overall rounded game scoring 12.5 ppg to go with 8.2 rpg, 4.0 apg and 3.0 spg, while 6-foot-6 big man Jake Roman contributes 8.3 ppg and 8.5 rpg. Jordan Booth rounds out the key players for the Trojans at 7.3 ppg.

The winner plays the winner of the game between WPIAL champion Monessen and District 5 champion Shanksville Saturday at a site and time to be determined.


9-1 COUDERSPORT FALCONS (25-0) vs. 7-4 GREENSBURG CENTRAL CATHOLIC CENTURIONS (24-1); 6 p.m. at Clearfield High School (Change)

Don’t be fooled by Greensburg Central Catholic’s fourth-place finish in the WPIAL. The Centurions entered the WPIAL playoffs as the undefeated top seed and heavy favorite to win the district title having been ranked near the top in the state in Class 2A all season. But Seton-LaSalle upset GCC, 54-49.

The Centurions rebounded by beating District 10 runner-up West Middlesex, an under .500 Cinderella of sorts, 66-53, in a game that was closer than the score.

Coudersport had no trouble in its opening round PIAA victory racing past United, 80-45, behind a career day from sophomore guard Owen Chambers, who scored 35 points.

The 35-point performance allowed Chambers to take over the team scoring lead at 16.9 ppg, and the sophomore enters the game with 762 career points.

Junior Jared Green has already reached the magical 1,000-point mark with 1,057 career tallies and is just behind Chambers in scoring at 16.8 ppg after a 21-point contest in the PIAA opener.

Green’s cousin, Aaron Wolfinger, a senior, chips in 9.7 ppg with senior point guard Zach Layag adding 9.2 ppg and Derek Keglovits 7.5 ppg.

Greensburg Central Catholic, has a lot of talented college-level athletes, albeit in other sports.

Neal McDermott, who is headed to Seton Hill to play baseball, leads the Centurions at 20.1 ppg while Jack Liberatore, who will go to Ohio University to play baseball, chips in 12.9 ppg. Ben Hertzog chips in 12.2 ppg.

Two additional GCC players are playing college football next year, including Alvin Ross, who is headed to Clarion University, and Dom Eisaman, who is going to Washington & Jefferson.

The winner meets the winner of the game between the WPIAL champion Sewickley Academy and District 6 runner-up Bishop Guilfoyle Saturday at a site and time to be determined.

9-3 RIDGWAY ELKERS (22-5) vs. 5-1 BERLIN BROTHERSVALLEY MOUNTAINEERS (17-9); 7:30 p.m. at Altoona High School

Both these teams are traditional “Western Region” teams but find themselves on the “Eastern” half of the bracket this year.

Ridgway found that side to its liking in a 54-50 first-round win over District 4 champion North Penn-Mansfield in NPM’s backyard at Mansfield University/

Berlin Brothersvalley played a more traditional game against District 6 third-place finisher Purchase Line coming away with a 55-46 victory.

The Elkers are paced by senior Justin Kasmierski, who scored 13 ppg, while junior Neil MacDonald adds 11.1 ppg and is coming off an 18-point performance against North Penn-Mansfield. MacDonald has scored 41 points in the last two games for Ridgway, both elimination contests.

Andy Breier gives Ridgway three players averaging in double figures scoring 10.0 ppg.

Nick Gooden, a junior, leads the way for Berlin Brothersvalley with 20.6 ppg. 6.0 rpg and 5.0 apg.

Gideon Snyder chips in 10.5 ppg and 5.4 rpg with Cole Booth adding 9.9 ppg and 7.4 rpg.

The winners plays the winner of the game between District 12 (Philadelphia City/Catholic League) runner-up Constitution and District 2 champion Holy Cross.