CLARION, Pa. (EYT/D9) — It’s difficult to pinpoint the identity of Elk County Catholic’s best player.
It’s hard for anyone to pick out just one from the waves of Crusader boys basketball players who make crisp passes, cut hard to the rim, make shots and play staunch defense.
Count North Clarion coach Ewing Moussa among them.
“They are sound — and I don’t know if that’s even the right word, but they are,” Moussa said. “They’re disciplined. They’re organized.”
And they had their way with the Wolves in the District 9 Class A semifinals Wednesday night at Clarion University, rolling to a 66-37 victory.
(Luke Jansen was named Hager Paving Incorporated Player of the Game)
Elk County Catholic raced out to a 30-10 lead at the half, grew that advantage to 49-21 at the end of three and pushed it to the mercy-rule threshold at 53-23 two minutes into the fourth quarter.
It was a clinic. Four Crusaders scored in double digits and another added nine. They shot 60 percent from the field and their defense held North Clarion to just three points in the second quarter.
“I mean, that’s who they are, right?” Moussa said. “I don’t believe in moral victories, but that’s when you learn from it and say, ‘That’s the level.’ We saw the level that we need to get to. That’s not all talent. We have talented guys — I think we’re one of the most talented teams around. It’s execution. It’s discipline.”
Luke Jansen scored 16 points to lead the way for ECC, which will play DuBois Central Catholic in the Class A championship game at 5 p.m. Saturday at Clarion University.
Jordan Wasko added 14, Colby Nussbaum 11 off the bench, Adam Straub 10 and Charlie Briendel nine.
Zeelan Hargenrader led North Clarion with 12 points. Collin Schmader pitched in 11.
North Clarion will play Otto-Eldred to decide third place at a site, time and day to be determined. The Wolves have already qualified for the PIAA playoffs.
The goal now for the North Clarion to learn from the setback against Elk County Catholic.
“We have to learn to play through emotions, to play through bad calls, play through everything,” Moussa said. “We tend to let things linger. We let a bad first quarter linger, a bad first half linger. We need to grow from that. That’s a game that I think we can certainly learn from because of who it was against.
“At the end of the day, we’re a talented team,” Moussa said. “I told my guys at the beginning of the year that we wanted to play in March. Well, it’s March 2. We wanted to play in a championship game and we did that (in the KSAC title game) and we were one game away from playing in another.”
North Clarion has at least two more games to shake off this loss.
“We have a chance to keep writing this story,” Moussa said. “That’s all that matters, you know. It was a tough game to lose, but as long as these guys are growing as young men and as long at they’re there for each other, I can sleep well at night knowing that.”
DuBOIS CENTRAL CATHOLIC 50, OTTO-ELDRED 39 – Alec Srock made sure the Cardinals were going to get the chance to play for a district title.
Srock scored 20 points, including eight in a pivotal fourth quarter, as third-seeded DuBois Central Catholic down No. 2 seed Otto-Eldred in a Class A semifinal.
DCC clung to a slim lead early in the fourth, but Srock helped the Cardinals surge ahead.
So did Andrew Green, who hit two big 3-pointers in the final quarter and finished with nine points.
Jalen Kosko added 13 for DCC, which led 21-17 at the half.
Otto-Eldred made a few runs at the Cardinals.
Landon Francis scored six of his team-leading 11 points in the fourth, but they weren’t enough.
Gavin Jimerson and Manning Splain each added 10 for Otto-Eldred, which will play North Clarion to decide third place in Class A.