Knights take another shot at PIAA tourney

When it was announced that Kennedy Catholic was going to forfeit its win in the District 10 Class A consolation game and a spot in the PIAA playoffs to Eisenhower, many of the Knights were already gearing up for practice.

Spring practice, that is.

Monday was the official start of the spring sports season, but the baseball gloves and track cleats will have to wait at least another week as Ike opens the PIAA Class A state tournament against District 9-champion Ridgway Friday at Clarion University’s Tippen Gymnasium.

The Elkers (20-5) are in the midst of a dramatic postseason run of their own after winning the District 9 Class A crown as the sixth-seeded team. They were defeated in the first round of the Allegheny Mountain League playoffs by Johnsonburg – the team many favored to repeat as district champs – before going on a 4-0 run through the D9 tournament.

Included in that run was a semifinal win over second-seeded Clarion-Limestone and a win over top-seeded Elk County Catholic in the final.

“They play a lot of man to man (defense) and try to control the pace of the game with their offense,” said Eisenhower coach Dave Allenson. “They’re a very patient team. They don’t make too many mistakes; they capitalize on your mistakes. They’re just well coached.”

Both Ridgway and Eisenhower went 2-0 against Sheffield, the only common opponent for the two teams this season. The Elkers defeated the Wolverines by scores of 53-31 and 68-40, and the Knights picked up wins of 50-34 and 73-36.

Ridgway is listed in the “others to watch” category of the Harrisburg Patriot-News state basketball rankings along with Cochranton, Erie First, and Kennedy Catholic out of District 10. Elk County Catholic and Johnsonburg are ranked ninth and tenth, respectively.

Six-foot-four forward Jeremy Breier is Ridgway’s top scorer, averaging just over 17 points per game, though guards Ben MacDonald and Josh Roselli have each had breakthrough performances for the Elkers in the playoffs.

Tre Frank, Casey Vincent, and Jarrett Johnson are the main source of offense for the Knights, who are 15-9 after the forfeit win over Kennedy Catholic. Johnson has the most postseason points with 44, Frank has 34, and Vincent has 28 in Ike’s three games.

Ike’s path to the state tourney includes a win over Rocky Grove in the District 10 Class A quarterfinals, a loss to eventual D10 champion-Cochranton in the semis, and the double-overtime loss to Kennedy Catholic that was later overturned due to an ineligible player.

A game against the new District 9 champs gives Eisenhower a chance to atone for a 62-30 loss to Johnsonburg in the first round of last year’s PIAA tournament. That meeting was just one of a streak of wins that led Johnsonburg to finish second in the state, but Allenson says it’s still fresh in his team’s mind.

“They remember the game against Johnsonburg, so I think they were a little shellshocked when they heard they would have another chance,” said Allenson.

Friday’s game is scheduled for a 7:30 p.m. start at Clarion University. The first game of the double-header features Elk County Catholic (District 9’s second seed) against Homer-Center (District 6’s third seed) at 6 p.m. Eisenhower advanced due to Kennedy Catholic using an ineligible player in the double-overtime win over Ike last week.