By Chris Rossetti
There is a feeling of new mixed with a feeling of old in the District 9 Class A boys’ semifinals, which will take place Wednesday in Clarion and St. Marys.
The old of course is Elk County Catholic.
The Crusaders are making their 17th appearance in the past 18 years – since moving from AA back to A in 1999 – in the semifinals only missing the final four in 2013.
Ridgway is also quickly becoming one of the “old” teams.
The Elkers, after missing the semifinals last year for the first time since 2011, are in the semis for the fifth time in 11 years.
Coudersport, meanwhile, use to be part of the old making it five times from 2005 through 2010, but the Falcons are making their first trip back to the semifinals since finishing fourth in 2010.
The fourth team, Union?
This is newer waters for the Golden Knights, who had made it to the semifinals just once since 1996 – when they finished second to ECC in 2011 – before upsetting defending champion Clarion-Limestone Friday night. That victory got Union into the PIAA playoffs for just the third time in the last 21 years – 1995 and 2011 were the others.
(5) UNION (17-7) vs. (1) ELK COUNTY CATHOLIC (25-0)
When and where: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 24, at Clarion University’s Tippin Gym
Game Preview: Union has never beaten ECC. The Golden Knights are 0-7 all-time vs. the Crusaders with all seven meetings having taken place in the D9 postseason. That includes a 77-41 ECC win in last year’s quarterfinals. The teams also met in the quarterfinals in 2012 (59-38), in the finals in 2011 (51-39), in the quarterfinals in 2006 (80-53), in the semifinals in 1994 (64-40), in the finals in 1992 (63-5) and in the semifinals in 1988 (63-31) … Union hasn’t won the D9 title since 1981, while ECC hasn’t won a title since 2011. In fact, if the Crusaders don’t win the championship this year it will be the longest title drought (5 years) at ECC first played in the PIAA playoffs in 1974 (prior to that the Crusaders competed in the Pennsylvania Catholic Interscholastic Athletic Association), whose teams were allowed, by state law, to opt into the PIAA Playoffs starting 1972). ECC also failed to win a title four straight years between its first D9 championship in Class B in 1974 and its second in 1979. The Crusaders have won 21 D9 titles (1 in Class B, 3 in AA and 17 in A) in their first 41 years as a PIAA member school … ECC enters the D9 semifinals unbeaten for the first time since winning the PIAA Class A title in 2006 and for just the third time in school history (2001 was the other) … Both teams faced an opponent that had seen multiple times in the quarterfinals … ECC beat DuBois Central Catholic, 51-39, for the third time this year behind 17 points from Nate DaCanal, while the fourth time was the charm for Union against Clarion-Limestone, as the Golden Knights got 25 points from Cole Morris in finally beating the Lions after losing three times to them prior to Friday night.
Top Players: Union – Cole Morris (18.8 ppg; 1,252 career points, T-5th in school history), Lucas Bowser (14.3 ppg), Hank Murphy (12.3 ppg). ECC – Nate DaCanal (13.9 ppg), Kyle Huff (10.8 ppg), Gabe Kraus (10.5 ppg).
(3) COUDERSPORT (21-2) vs. (2) RIDGWAY (22-3)
When and where: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 24, at St. Marys High School
Game Preview: This is the second meeting in 15 days for these teams. Ridgway won the regular-season encounters, 54-45, Feb. 9 in Ridgway thanks to 18 points from Jeremy Breier. Darren Keglovits led Coudersport with 16 points. The Falcons led, 20-17, with under four minutes to play in the first half before Ridgway closed the half on a 12-1 run and never trailed after that … Ridgway is looking for its second D9 title in three years having won the championship in 2014. The Elkers, who also won the title in 2012, would get back to the D9 championship game for the fourth time and five seasons with a win … Coudersport hasn’t been to the D9 title game since winning the 2008 championship. That year marked the third time in a four-year span the Falcons had reached the championship game, as they lost to ECC in 2005 and 2006 … Coudersport reached the semifinals with a 61-51 win over Clarion in the quarterfinals thanks to a monster game from Keglovits, who scored a career-high 27 points … Ridgway had an easy quarterfinal win over Cameron County beating the Red Raiders 49-12 in a game that saw the Elkers give up two first-half points. Breier, who ranks third in school history with 1,436 career points, netted 29 points in the game just missing his season high of 30, which he has done twice this year. He needs 40 points to tie Shane Williamson for second in school history in scoring … Coudy is a young team with two of its top three scorers – Jared Green and Owen Chambers – being a sophomore and a freshman. In fact, Keglovits is one of just two seniors on the roster … This marks the third straight game at St. Marys High School for Ridgway, but the Elkers would much rather be playing at Clarion University’s Tippin Gym in a doubleheader with Union and ECC, something that had become a bit of a District 9 tradition. But the location of the two schools dictated the game being played in St. Marys instead.
Top Players: Coudersport – Darren Keglovits (16.3 ppg), Jared Green (14.9 ppg), Owen Chambers (12.9 ppg). Ridgway – Jeremy Breier (17.8 ppg, 1,436 career points, 3rd in school history), Andy Breier (9.2 ppg), Justin Kasmierski (6.0 ppg).