CLARION, Pa. (EYT/D9) — It’s a sweep for the Crusaders.
The Elk County Catholic girls basketball team took care of business first, downing Otto-Eldred, 39-28 for the District 9 Class A title.
(Above, members of the Elk County Catholic and DuBois Central Catholic boys basketball teams formed a prayer circle before the Class A championship game for DCC coach Dom Varacallo’s mother, who is battling pancreatic cancer.)
Then it was the boys’ turn as the Crusaders held off a late DuBois Central Catholic charge for a 40-31 win and their own D9 Class A championship at Clarion University Saturday afternoon.
For the girls, it was their first district title since 2010.
“Oh, it means a lot,” said ECC girls coach Ken Pistner. “We’ve had a little bit of a drought. We’ve been in the finals a few times since then, but didn’t take advantage of it. And we have been in the final for quite a bit over the last 10 years, but came up a little short. It means a lot to this group. You know, this is very hard-working group here and it’s fun to see them have some success.
Defense has been the key to the playoff run for the Crusaders and it was again against a potent Otto-Eldred team.
The Terrors have been, well, terrors to opposing defenses with the trio of Anna Merry, Bri Heller and Katie Sheeler doing damage.
ECC held those three in check.
“Bri Heller, we held her scoreless, and Katie Sheeler, we held her to 12 and she worked for all 12 ,” Pistner said. “And and then Anna Mary, she ended up having four. So we held their top three scorers to 16 points. And whenever you do that, you’re gonna have some success.”
Meanwhile Elk County Catholic did enough on offense.
Lucy Klawhun scored 12 and Sami Straub added 11.
In the three D9 playoff wins, the Crusaders surrendered just 63 points.
“I think it’s successful because it’s team defense, not just the individual,” Pistner said. “They work well together as a team. They take pride in defense. We always say, offense is going to come and go — you’re gonna have nights when you’re missing shots — but defense can be there every night.”
For the ECC boys, the Crusaders won a battle of attrition.
Defense again ruled as Elk County Catholic led 9-5 after the first quarter and 21-11 at the half.
The advantage stayed at 10 after the third quarter and Charlie Breindel had 11 points through three quarters for the Crusaders.
But DuBois Central Catholic made a run at ECC, closing the gap to two at 33-31 with a little more than two minutes remaining in tee game.
Luke Jansen sank a pair of free throws to get the lead back to two possessions and the Crusaders were able to hold off the Cardinals for the title by scoring the next five points.