DuBOIS — The DuBois Central Catholic boys basketball team used a strong defensive effort to capture a statement victory on the cusp of the postseason, as the Cardinals knocked off Cameron County, 46-40, on Senior Night at the Varischetti Sports Complex.
Cameron County (15-6) entered the game with four players averaging double-figure scoring on the season, but only one hit double digits Wednesday as DCC (12-10) held the Red Raiders to nearly 17 points under their season scoring average (60.9 points per game)
The Cardinals did an exceptional job neutralizing Cameron County big man Jake Walters. who is listed at 6-8. Walters came in averaging a double-double on the season (16.6 ppg, 10.9 rpg) but mustered just seven points and a handful of rebounds.
Second-leading scorer Caden Beldin (13.2 ppg) came close to his average with 12 points, but teammates Marcus Brown (10.8) and Dino Brown (10.2) were each held well below those averages with three and six points, respectively.
Despite that defensive effort, DCC still found itself down by two points (26-24) at the half. However, the Cardinals bucked down even more the final final two quarters, outscoring the Red Raiders, 22-14, to come away with a victory that could have have a big impact on both team’s seeding for the upcoming District 9 Class A playoffs.
Senior Justin Miknis scored a game-high 19 points to lead DCC in his final home game. Junior Jonathan Kurtz came off the bench to score 13 points, while senior bigman Peter Downer had eight points and eight rebounds while guarding Walters.
Miknis and Downer were two of 10 Cardinals seniors —along with Egan Peck, Brandon Walker, Kenny Starr, Anthony Kness, Jon Schoeneman, Noah Bloom, Garrett Prosper and Zack Vandervort — honored following the game before the Lady Cardinals took on Clarion. All but Vandervort, who is injured, saw action in the game.
“We appreciated Cameron County coming down, first and foremost, because the weather was a little rough. But, they wanted to get the game in since we had it scheduled,” said DCC coach Dom Varacallo. “That was our best win of the year. i think they were a four or five-loss team (coming in).
“We just found a way to win. We were down at the half and clawed our way back in the third, then got a four-point edge in the fourth and rode that out. I’m very proud, especially on Senior Night, to get a win like that.
“They are a tough team because they have Walters inside and can feed him. Some games this year he has gone for 20 (points) and 20 (rebounds), so we really needed neutralize him and I thought we did a good job containing him throughout the game.
“Overall, we locked down on them and rebounded a lot better in the second half. That was a huge key. I got our our guys a little bit in first half, but I knew they wanted. They deserved it (win) because they have been working so hard all year, and I’m just glad it swung in our favor.”
Varacallo opened the game with five senior starters andß shortly thereafter subbed in the four other seniors suited up in the first quarter. Without it’s normal starting lineup on the floor, Cameron seized the opportunity to jump out to an early 7-3 lead behind four points by Walters, who would scored just three more points over the final 28-plus minutes of the game.
A hoop by Walker got DCC back within two at 7-5 just past the midway point. Varacallo then inserted a couple of his regular starters in Kurtz and sophomore Harrison Starr.
Their presence helped spark a 7-2 spurt over the final 2:27 to hep DCC pull even at 12-12 after one quarter. Kurtz scored four points in that stretch, while Miknis drained a 3-pointer.
The second quarter proved to be a see-saw affair, with the Red Raiders outscoring the Cardinals 14-12. The lead changed hands 10 times in the quarter as the teams traded scores. Dino Brown hit a 3-pointer with nine seconds left in the half to send to send the teams to the break with the Red Raiders up 26-24.
Beldin scored eight of his 12 points in the second quarter for Cameron, while Downer had six of his eight in the period.
The third quarter was the polar opposite of the second, as points came at a premium for both sides.
After the teams traded scores to open the third, a 3-point by Matt Swartz pushed the Cameron lead to five at 31-26 with 4:18 left in the quarter.
Central Catholic then countered with a 7-0 run to regain the lead. Kurtz and Miknis scored back-to-back hoops to jump-start the spurt before Miknis kicked a pass out to Kurtz for a trey following a Red Raider turnover. Kurtz’s long-range shot put the Cardinals up 33-31.
A hoop by Miknis in the final minute sent the game to the fourth with DCC up 35-33.
Kurtz wastled little time scoring to open the final quarter to make it a four-point game at 37-33. Central got the lead to as many six points twice (42-36 and 44-38) on baskets by Ethan Kness and Miknis, respectively.
But, the Red Raiders didn’t go quietly and were given a golden opportunity to get back into the game with 1:25 to go.
Downer was called for a foul on Walters, and then was hit with a technical foul after saying something to the official. That call gave Cameron County four fould shots plus the ball in a six-point game (44-38).
Fortunately for DCC, The Red Raiders only made two of the four free throws and missed their shot attempt on the ensuing possession.
Cameron County was then forced to foul several times to put DCC at the line in the bonus situation. That finally occurred with 10 seconds to go, and Miknis hit both foul shots to seal the Cardinals’ victory.
With its regular season completed, the Cardinals hit the floor again tonight at undefeated Elk County Catholic in an Allegheny Mountain League semifinal game. The winner plays Saturday night at St. Marys at 8 p.m. for the AML title.