By Chris Rossetti
CLARION, Pa. – Will Elk County Catholic move back on top of District 9 or will a young, upstart Coudersport team extend the Crusaders title drought to historic portions?
That’s the biggest question when the teams square off for the D9 Class A boys’ title at 8 p.m. Saturday at Clarion University’s Tippin Gym.
ECC (26-0) hasn’t won a District 9 title since 2011, which for most teams wouldn’t be a big deal. But a loss Saturday would mark the longest title drought for the Crusaders since they joined the PIAA/District 9 playoffs in 1974.
In fact, this is only the second title-game appearance for ECC since winning the 2011 championship over Union. The Crusaders, who have won 21 D9 title since 1974, lost to Ridgway in 2014.
Coudersport (22-2), which has only two seniors and one senior starter, is back in the championship game for the first time since beating DuBois Central Catholic in the 2008 championship game to win only its fourth D9 title and its first since 1964.
ECC, which is in the title game unbeaten for the first time since winning the PIAA title in 2006 and for just the third time in school history (2001 was the other), is a well-balanced team with three players averaging double figures and a fourth adding seven points a game.
A pair of juniors lead the Crusaders in scoring with junior Nate DaCanal averaging 13.7 ppg and Gabe Kraus, fresh off a 32-point performance in a semifinal win over Union, adding 11.3 ppg. Senior Kyle Huff adds 10.7 ppg, and fellow senior Benji Hoffman chips in 7.0 ppg.
Coudersport has three players averaging in double figures and fourth just a ½ point away from being in double digits.
The lone senior starter, Darren Keglovits averages 16.5 ppg and has scored 50 points in two playoff wins (27 vs. Clarion in quarterfinals and 23 vs. Ridgway in semifinals).
Sophomore Jared Green adds 14.0 ppg, while freshman Owen Chambers adds 12.8 ppg and junior Aaron Wolfinger, Green’s cousin, chipping in 9.5 ppg.
Despite the lofty record, Coudersport has faced adversity this year including having point guard Zach Layag (10.0 ppg) removed from the team at midseason.
The Falcons also were considered somewhat of a paper tiger going into the playoffs coming out of a very weak North Tier League, but they put doubters to rest with playoff wins over Clarion and Ridgway including a come-from-behind 60-58 double overtime win over the Elkers, who had beaten them earlier in the season, in the semifinals.
GAME NOTES – This is the 14th all-time meeting between ECC and Coudersport, all in the District 9 playoffs. ECC has dominated the series winning 12 in a row including the last two. Coudersport’s lone win came in 2008 when the Falcons won a 40-38 Class A semifinal game … This is the fifth championship matchup between the teams. ECC won the first four getting victories in 1991, 1993, 2005 and 2006 … Six other matchups have occurred in the semifinals with ECC winning five of them … The last meeting between the teams came in the 2011 quarterfinals when ECC won 55-52 … Four of the meetings have been decided by four points or less with ECC winning three of them … ECC is 17-4 all-time in Class A title games but has lost two of the last three … Both teams are in the PIAA playoffs. The winner will play the fifth-place team out of the WPIAL, Eden Christian, while the loser will face the third-place team out of District 6 Bishop Guilfoyle.
ECC vs. COUDERSPORT SERIES (ECC leads 12-1)
2011 – ECC 55, Coudersport 52 (D9 A quarterfinals)
2010 – ECC 59, Coudersport 52 (D9 A semifinals)
2008 – Coudersport 40, ECC 38 (D9 A semifinals)
2007 – ECC 68, Coudersport 48 (D9 A semifinals)
2006 – ECC 66, Coudersport 26 (D9 A championship game)
2005 – ECC 71, Coudersport 46 (D9 A championship game)
2003 – ECC 48, Coudersport 36 (D9 A quarterfinals)
2000 – ECC 52, Coudersport 39 (D9 A semifinals)
1999 – ECC 64, Coudersport 60 (D9 A quarterfinals)
1995 – ECC 35, Coudersport 31 (D9 A semifinals)
1993 – ECC 73, Coudersport 39 (D9 A championship game)
1991 – ECC 65, Coudersport 58 (D9 A championship game)
1987 – ECC 57, Coudersport 47 (D9 A semifinals)