Elks earn trip to 2A quarterfinals | Sports

CLARION — The Ridgway Elkers boys basketball team earned a hard-fought, 59-53 victory on Saturday against the Greensburg Central Catholic Centurions to earn its second PIAA Class 2A quarterfinals birth since 2019.

That 2019 team also had now senior Dan Park on it. Park sure did deliver on Saturday in leading the Elkers (22-5) with 29 points and 15 rebounds in dispatching the WPIAL three-seeded Centurions (22-4).

“To savor a game like this and see Dan as a senior have 29 points — I think that’s probably a career high,” Ridgway head coach Tony Allegretto said .”The guards — the way the four guards handled the ball. Aaron Sorg coming off the bench because Dom (Allegretto) is in foul trouble. Dylan (Goetz) getting rebounds. Everybody contributed and everybody had to. You can’t hide in a game like this.”

After GCC got up 4-0 early, a nifty move underneath by Jack Benninger got things rolling for Ridgway and Park tied it up soon after. Sorg then scored underneath to take a 6-4 lead before GCC answered back.

With the score tied at 8-8, Ridgway took a 10-8 lead after one as Benninger made a layup with a couple of seconds remaining.

The second quarter saw the contest be a one-possession game for its majority, with Sorg hitting a corner three to get it to a 20-16 Ridgway lead at one point. But much like the first quarter, the second quarter saw Ridgway make a walk-off bucket. This time, Park hit a midranger to take a 26-22 lead into halftime over the Centurions.

The D-9 champs started to pull away in the third quarter with its signature style of lengthy possessions and finding good, open shots. Park’s opening bucket of the second half made it 28-22 but GCC’s high-powered offense would answer right back with a Brevin Williams layup.

“Consistently we’re getting pressured with different presses — half court, full court, stuff that we don’t see back home,” Allegretto said. “We practice and the kids swallow it up and they do a great job against it. We get the ball in the right place and we’ve got Jack and Dom handling that pressure and dribbling the gaps and getting Dan buckets underneath. It’s tough.”

The Elkers then made its trips to the charity stripe count on the evening. A couple of Park and Benninger free throws gave the Elkers a 32-24 lead and two more from Park — who made 10-of-12 from the stripe on the night — later made it 36-28.

After another Williams bucket underneath, Ridgway made it 3-for-3 in last-second shots. Sorg buried a corner three as the Elkers held a 39-30 lead through three quarters.

Allegretto made it a double-digit 40-30 lead just 42 seconds into the fourth quarter with a free throw — which was actually his first point of the night as he battled foul trouble throughout.

The Centurions would then cut the lead down to four points at 42-38 after an and-1 conversion by Ryan Appleby and a three by Dylan Parsons. A Tyree Turner triple then saw just a 42-41 lead before Park hit two more free throws with 4:13 to go after Appleby fouled out.

“We don’t panic,” Allegretto said. “We got the ball in Dan’s hands to shoot the foul shots. The kids know what to do. They know what the situations are and they saw the presses and they handled it pretty well with all the chaos going on.”

The waning minutes of the fourth quarter saw the Elkers try and possess the ball while Allegretto and Benninger dribbled through the GCC defense, while the Centurions would then try and score quickly after an Elkers bucket or rebound. Another Turner three made it 51-49 Ridgway with just 1:47 to go.

Sorg then made the front end of his free throws to make it 52-49 with 1:34 to go as Williams got the rebound for GCC. Parsons then missed a three that went out of bounds and Allegretto soon after made another free throw to put it at a two-possession contest at 53-49 with 1:07 left.

An Anthony Semelka bucket underneath cut the Ridgway lead to 53-51 with 52.4 seconds left. The Centurions then put Allegretto on the line just seconds later. That appeared to work out at first, as he made the first but missed the second. However, Park got the rebound for Ridgway and the Centurions had to put Allegretto on the line again. Once again, Allegretto was one of two and it was a 55-51 Ridgway lead with 32.1 seconds remaining.

“Dan and Dom have been on the bench for four year with three district championships and this is their second final eight,” Allegretto said. “They’ve been through all of this — this stuff doesn’t phase them. They know how to put the team on their backs and help them out and coach them out on the floor.”

Just eleven seconds later, Semelka scored underneath and it was back to a one possession game. But from there, Ridgway would pull away at the line as Benninger made his attempts with 19.5 seconds left to go up 57-53. A missed three by Turner had Park grabbed the crucial rebound and he stepped up to the line himself with 8.7 seconds left and made both for the 59-53 lead.

“They’re not easy to shoot in a situation like that, and Dan made two big ones in the end,” Allegretto said.

A missed three late and Park’s final rebound set the final at 59-53 and it clinched its second trip in four seasons and its third in its last five.

“It’s always fun to be at this point,” Allegretto said. “You’re in the final eight. I think this is our fourth time to make it that far since I’ve been coach and third time in the last five years. This team has mirrored (son Dante Allegretto’s team in 2017) where they just came together at the end of the year to the final eight. It’s wonderful to be a part of it.”

It also extends the career of coach Allegretto, who is retiring at the end of the season.

“I’m coaching like I normally coach and when it’s over, it’s over,” Allegretto said.

Next up for Ridgway is WPIAL champion and undefeated 25-0 Our Lady of Sacred Heart — who is also riding a 65-game winning streak dating back to 2020. They’ll get OLSH on Wednesday at 7:30 pm at Oil City High School .

“We know how good they are,” Allegretto said of OLSH.

GREENSBURG CENTRAL CATHOLIC 53

Ridgway 10 16 13 20 — 59

Greensburg Central Catholic—53

Tyree Turner 3 2-2 10, Brevin Williams 7 1-2 15, Ryan Appleby 6 1-1 13, Franco Alvarez 1 0-0 2, Dylan Parsons 2 0-0 5, Anthony Semelka 2 4-4 8, Sean Walker 0 0-0 0, Garrett Sherwin 0 0-0 0. Totals: 21 8-9 53.

Domenic Allegretto 0 6-10 6, Aaron Sorg 4 1-2 11, Erik Panebianco 0 0-2 0, Dan Park 9 10-12 29, Jack Benninger 3 7-8 13, Dylan Goetz 0 0-0 0. Totals: 16 24-34 59.

Three-pointers: GCC 3 (Turner 2, Parsons), Ridgway 2 (Park, Sorg).

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