SHARON — Call it the Shootout in Sharon.
The Clarion-Limestone Lions embraced the wide-open style forced by WPIAL third seed Vincentian Academy and outgunned the Royals in a 97-90 offensive explosion at Sharon High School that landed them in Friday’s PIAA Class A quarterfinals.
The Lions improved to 25-3, establishing a team record for wins in a season. Next up is District 10 runner-up Farrell at a site and time to be announced.
“I haven’t had time to think about things like that right now,” said Lions head coach Joe Ferguson. “We’ll enjoy this tonight and probably take it easy on the guys tomorrow and then get ready for our next game.”
The Lions play Farrell, which routed Elk County Catholic, 79-49, Tuesday night.
Trailing by as many as 10 points at 29-19 early in the second quarter, the Lions got back to within 46-43 by halftime and started the second half with a 14-1 run that put them up for good.
Leading by as many as 15 points early in the fourth quarter, the Lions held off the Royals despite two players — Josh Kahle and Noah Rankin — fouling out. Vincentian got it back to within four points at 87-83 with 1:45 remaining, but senior point guard R.J. Laugand wouldn’t let the Lions lose.
Laugand was masterful in the break-neck pace, scoring 20 points and dishing out a whopping 21 assists. He was 12-for-12 from the line, including 6-for-6 in the fourth quarter.
“It’s a lot of fun. This is the way I like to play,” Laugand said. “This is the way I play over the summer and I just like scoring a lot of points and getting up and down the floor.”
“My opinion is R.J. is the best player to come through our league,” Ferguson said. “What else can you say? He produces. He does what he has to do to try and help us win games. He incorporates his teammates. That’s another 40 points he had a hand in with those assists. We keep stats, so we know what he does. You don’t get here without him.”
Laugand helped set up big nights by his teammates. Kolton Stiglitz also finished with a double-double, scoring 19 points with 12 rebounds. Dan Callen, his status unsure going in because of an ankle injury that knocked him out of most of the Lions’ state-opener against North Catholic, started and scored 22 points with seven rebounds.
“It was hurting him you could tell especially during timeouts and stuff,” Ferguson said. “How he played the whole game, which was out of need because of foul trouble, only the Lord knows how he played through it.”
Kahle had 19 points before exiting with five fouls at the 4:55 mark of the fourth.
“We definitely knew it would be a up-paced game,” Laugand said. “We just wanted to try to outrun them and play our style. I have confidence in these guys to make their layups, so I just dished the ball off and they made them.”
Vincentian (17-10) jumped out to an 8-0 lead before the Lions got going and cut the deficit to 15-11 by the 3:55 mark. By the end the first quarter, the Royals led 27-19.
The Lions wound up outscoring the Royals, 24-19, and tied the game for the first time at 41-41 on Kahle’s basket off a Laugand assist with a minute left in the half. Ryan Wolf, who shared the team-high of 21 points with Jamison Nee, hit a 3-pointer to give Vincentian a 44-41 halftime lead.
Laugand dominated the start of the second half during the Lions’ decisive run, assisting on all five of the field goals during the 14-1 streak that gave C-L a 57-47 lead by the 3:56 mark of the third quarter.
Laugand dished out a whopping 14 assists in the second half alone.
From there, the Lions continued to answer Vincentian’s up-tempo pace and led by as many as 15 with six minutes left. The Royals rallied back into the game, but Laugand and Callen took care of business late. Laugand made six of his fourth-quarter free throws while Callen scored 11 of his points in the final quarter, including all four of his field goals off Laugand dimes.
The Lions wound up shooting 55.7 percent from the field (34-for-61) while taking just three 3-point shots, making one.
Vincentian shot 37.3 percent (31-for-83), including a lowly 8-for-35 from the 3-point line. Wolf and Nee both averaged over 20 points per game. Wolfe was 8-for-25 from the field, including 2-for-13 from the 3-point line. Nee was much sharper at 7-for-12 and 2-for-5 respectively.
The Lions were 28-for-38 from the foul line, leading to Vincentian’s 22 more field goal attempts. Also helping the Royals’ shot total was their 19 offensive rebounds.
Jay Cortese had a double-double for Vincentian, scoring 17 points and grabbing 12 rebounds.
CLARION-LIMESTONE 97, VINCENTIAN 90
Score By Quarters
C-L 19 24 27 27 – 97
Vincentian 27 19 13 31 – 90
C-L – 97
R.J. Laugand 4-9 12-12 20, Josh Kahle 7-13 5-6 19, Noah Rankin 4-9 2-4 10, Jesse Pezzuti 0-2 1-4 1, Kolton Stiglitz 8-12 2-2 19, Dan Callen 8-11 6-10 22, Cesar Lopez 3-5 0-0 6. Totals: 34-61 28-38 97.
Vincentian – 90
Ryan Wolf 8-25 3-5 21, Jay Cortese 5-17 6-6 17, Ian Taylor 3-6 1-2 7, Jamison Nee 7-12 5-6 21, Greg Kaniecki 2-9 2-4 6, Jack Monahan 2-7 3-3 8, David Jen 0-1 0-0 0, Connor Kreutzer 2-3 0-0 5, Evin Fitzgerald 0-0 0-0 0, Zach McDonough 1-2 0-1 2, Matt Iannuzzi 0-0 0-0 0, Vinny Miller 1 0-0 3. Totals: 31-83 20-27 80.
3-pointers: C-L 1-3 (Stiglitz 1-1, Laugand 0-2), Vincentian 8-35 (Wolf 2-13, Nee 2-5, Cortese 1-7, Monahan 1-2, Kreutzer 1-2, Miller 1-1, Kaniecki 0-3, Jen 0-1, Taylor 0-1). Rebounds: C-L 43 (Stiglitz 12), Vincentian 39 (Cortese 12). Turnovers: C-L 15, Vincentian 13.