BOYS HOOPS: Knights dispatched by state-ranked J’burg

CLARION – Aaron Lundmark controlled the opening tip and sailed toward an open hoop for a quick layup.

Out of nowhere, Johnsonburg’s Cameron Grumley sailed in to erase Lundmark’s shot.

It was that kind of night for Eisenhower.

The Rams, the District 9 champions and sixth-ranked PIAA Class A team, was simply too much for Eisenhower, running past the Knights, 62-30, in the opening round of the PIAA Class A Playoffs Friday at Clarion University.

Johnsonburg (27-2) advances to play the winner of Friday’s opening round game between District 5 champion Shade and District 7 third seed North Catholic. The Knights finish the year at 10-16.

After the game, Eisenhower coach Dave Allenson could do nothing but tip his cap to Johnsonburg.

“Do I even need to say anything,” said Allenson. “Everything I said about them in the preview, you saw tonight. They are just so sneaky and so quick. They play together so well. After you watch them, there’s very little question about the level at which they play.”

The District 9 champs opened the game playing a full-court pressure defense and used their quickness to force several early Ike turnovers. On offense, the Rams used precision passing and surgical cuts in the lane to build a 13-4 lead before Allenson called a full timeout with 4:09 remaining in the first quarter.

Ike senior Nathan O’Brien did his part to keep the Knights in the game early, scoring six of Ike’s seven first quarter points. However, Johnsonburg was able to maintain control of the game and led 17-7 after a stanza.

In the second quarter, Johnsonburg put together perhaps its best quarter of the season, outscoring the Knights, 30-5.

The Knights were held without a score for the first three minutes of the second quarter as the Rams built a 27-7 lead. Eisenhower was limited to only an O’Brien hoop and Ryan Williams three-pointer in the second quarter, but the Rams had no such trouble finding the basket.

Grumley hit three 3’s and Quinn Lohr and Cole Peterson added one each in the second stanza and Johnsonburg led, 47-12, at halftime. Peterson and Grumley each had more points at halftime than the Knights, scoring 18 and 13 first half points, respectively.

The Knights showed some grit out of the intermission and began finding the basket with more regularity. Lundmark hit a pair of free throws, Carter Farrell added a third and Alex Johnson scored a basket, but that only cut the Rams’ lead to 49-17. Johnsonburg was able to retake momentum just moments later and the lead hit a high of 41 points late in the third.

The fourth quarter ticked away in nearly real time with the mercy rule in effect as both teams struggled to close out the game. The Rams scored just two points in the fourth quarter with Ike adding seven to their total.

The Knights’ fans were at least given something to cheer about at the end as reserves Grant Venman and Ben Harvey hit two-point baskets and Casey Vincent canned a three in the waning seconds to close the scoring at 62-30.

Despite a rough end to the season, Allenson said his Knights have plenty to be proud of when looking back on 2012-13.

“They made the state playoffs for starters. Not many teams can say that,” said Allenson. “They made a nice run at the end of the season and were able to win some playoff games by playing together as a team and overcoming some odds. Those are special things.”

Peterson led the Rams with 23 points and Grumley added 17 of his own. Lohr added eight points, Mitch Holmberg six points and Kyle Sheldon five points. The Knights were led by O’Brien’s eight points. Johnson added seven points and Vincent, Lundmark and Williams all scored three points apiece.