CURWENSVILLE – Coach Matt Wassil couldn’t fault the effort by his Curwensville Area High School basketball team on the Patton Hall hardwood Wednesday night, emphatically stating the Golden Tide cagers played harder as a unit than they have all season.
“Every guy who stepped out on the floor was putting out max effort,” he said.
Unfortunately, Curwensville was trying to slow down an Elk County Catholic team that has been building steam since a 2-2 start.
Though playing the Crusaders on even terms over the last two quarters, the Golden Tide paid for committing 16 turnovers in the first half of the Allegheny Mountain League crossover game.
Elk County Catholic opened a 36-15 lead at intermission and defeated Curwensville 58-38 for its fourth win in a row and seventh in its last eight games.
“We started off really sluggish with five straight turnovers,” Wassil said. “Things got out of control a little bit and they built an early lead. But our kids stayed with it. So, I really give them a lot of credit for that.”
It took more than four minutes for the Golden Tide to get untracked as three missed shots followed the string of turnovers before Tanner Elensky slipped inside for a layup.
The Crusaders already had nine points on the board and closed the first period on top 18-6 with seven players contributing to the offense.
A 15-0 run that ended 3:09 into the second quarter gave the visitors a 29-6 bulge before the Golden Tide began to show signs of life though matching its first-quarter total of eight turnovers.
After gaining some momentum by trading field goals late in the half, Curwensville began to make a move in the third quarter.
Alec Starr, who ended the first half with two jumpers, provided the spark for a 14-5 run with a peep on a nice pass by Shane Hoover and two more jumpers in the lane. The senior guard tallied all of his season-high 11 points in that stretch.
Later, Shelby McGary banked in a runner and a tough jumper in the lane to make it 41-27 with 1:43 left in the period.
Ricky Pearsall drained his third three-pointer from the right corner and followed with a driving layup to put Elk County Catholic up by 19. He wound up with all 10 Crusader points in the quarter, which ended with the visitors ahead 46-30.
Curwensville shot 40 percent and had only one turnover in the period.
“Against a team the caliber of Elk County, that’s an excellent job,” Wassil said. “That’s a big difference. If you’re getting shots, you’re going to give yourself an opportunity to score. And guys were shooting the ball where they can make shots.”
Pearsall opened the fourth quarter with one of his six steals for an easy two and then tacked on a pair of free throws to cap a 19-point performance and snuff out the Golden Tide’s comeback hopes.
Kyle Barrett did make three consecutive shots in the low post to finish with a career-high 17 points for the Golden Tide.
“I was very pleased with Alec’s and Kyle’s offensive nights,” Wassil said. “They were getting shots within their shot selection, and making them. That made all the difference in their point totals.”
“I also was very pleased with Shelby McGary’s defensive pressure. That’s something that we kind of expected out of him. That gave us a boost too.”
Curwensville totaled 23 turnovers that offset a 31-22 advantage in rebounds, with Barrett and Starr pulling down six apiece.
From the floor, the Golden Tide was 17-for-49 for 34.7 percent, while the Crusaders were 24-for-55 for 43.6 percent in moving coach Aaron Straub to within one victory of the District 9 boys basketball record for wins, 638, set by former Union mentor Don Stemmerich.
The Crusaders’ three losses were by a total of six points, and they are the lone team with a win over perennial District 9 Class A rival DuBois Central Catholic, which is No. 1 in the latest D9Sports.com RRR Roadhouse District 9 Basketball Rankings.
“We told the kids that in the locker room,” Wassil said. “They’re in the district finals every year, with a great shot to win it every year, and we played them pretty even in the second half.
“Coach Straub always has them ready to play. They play hard and they’re fundamentally sound.
“Those 16 turnovers in the first half, that’s the game when you’re playing a team like Elk County.”
Curwensville (2-10) returns to Moshannon Valley League action Friday against West Branch at Allport.
Elk County Catholic also won the junior varsity game, 40-32. Jesse Zorger and Kyle Johns tallied 14 and 12 points, respectively, for Curwensville.
ELK COUNTY CATHOLIC — 58
Ricky Pearsall 7 2-2 19, Tyler Herzing 3 0-0 6, Darren Simons 3 0-0 6, Ben Daghir 2 0-0 5, Josh Gebauer 2 0-0 4, Eric Wehler 3 0-0 8, Luke Daghir 0 2-2 2, Ben Crowe 0 0-0 0, Kevin Kraus 1 0-0 2, Ben Wortman 1 1-3 5, Michael Jacob 1 0-0 2, Caleb Lecker 0 0-0 0, Brandon Pollick 1 0-0 2. TOTALS: 24 5-7 58.
CURWENSVILLE — 38
Alex Starr 5 1-2 11, Shane Hoover 0 0-0 0, Kyle Barrett 8 1-1 17, Boone McGary 0 0-0 0, Tanner Elensky 1 1-2 3, Shelby McGary 2 0-0 4, Will Rauckhorst 0 1-2 1, Jesse Zorger 0 0-0 0, Dan Davis 0 0-0 0, Kyle Johns 0 0-0 0, Alex Olson 1 0-0 2. TOTALS: 174-7 38.
Three-Point Field Goals – Elk County Catholic 6 (Pearsall 3, Wehler 2, B. Daghir).
Score by Quarters
Elk County Catholic 18 18 10 13 – 59
Curwensville 6 9 15 8 – 38
Officials – Shawn Deemer and Bill Overly.