ST. MARYS — Johnsonburg opened the fourth quarter on a 6-0 run on its way to a 42-37 win over Cameron County in the District 9 Class A quarterfinals at St. Marys Thursday.
The fifth-seeded Rams took a narrow 28-26 lead into the final quarter of play over the fourth-seeded Red Raiders.
Both offenses struggled to get anything to fall in the early portions of the fourth, as both sides were held scoreless over the first four minutes of the frame as Johnsonburg maintained its two-point lead.
Isaac Schloder got the scoring started with a bucket for the Rams with 3:53 left to play to double their lead.
Caden Beldin had an opportunity to cut the deficit back to two on the other end after drawing a foul, but missed both free throws as the lead stayed at four.
On the other end, Gabe Watts scored on the inside while drawing a foul to push the Rams’ lead to six and headed to the line with a chance to stretch it to seven.
Instead the sophomore’s foul shot came up short off the front end of the rim, but Watts followed his shot, came up with the rebound and scored on the inside to give Johnsonburg (16-8) a 34-26 lead with 2:10 remaining.
Cameron County (16-7) cut the Rams’ lead to four with back-to-back three-pointers by Dino Brown and Marcus Brown around a bucket by Watts to bring the score to 36-32 with 1:09 left to play.
Watts finished with six points, all in the fourth quarter, to help secure the win for Johnsonburg.
Austin Green helped close out the victory by going 4 of 4 at the foul line down the stretch as the Rams advanced to the semifinal round and earned a spot in the PIAA playoffs.
“We knew we were gonna have to win it on the foul line and we made our shots,” Johnsonburg head coach Bill Shuey said.
The Red Raiders opened the game with a basket off the opening tip-off, as Beldin chased down the loose ball and scored just three seconds into the game.
Johnsonburg responded by scoring on each of its first four possessions of the game to take a 8-2 lead on a pair of scores by Nick Bliss and buckets from Schloder and Green.
Bliss finished with 12 points for the Rams, as the senior battled with Cameron’s big-man Jake Walter throughout the game, as Walter finished with eight points and added a game-high 10 rebounds.
“Nick (Bliss) had a great game, it was good timing for him to be able to score in the paint like that, he shot it well,” Shuey said.
The head coach added that his team did a good job defensively in their zone closing down on the ball and preventing Cameron from getting any open looks.
Green finished with a game-high 14 points in the win, while Schloder added eight for the Rams.
Cameron then held the Rams without a point in the final 5:47 of the quarter to close on a 4-0 run and cut the deficit to 8-6 after one quarter of play.
Johnsonburg added a point to its lead in the second quarter to take a 16-13 lead into the half.
Green got the scoring started with a bucket, before Marcus Brown scored the next five points of the game for the Red Raiders, as his three-pointer gave Cameron County its second lead of the night at 11-10 with 6:17 to go in the half.
Schloder responded with a 4-0 run of his own for the Rams by draining a three-pointer after going 1 of 2 at the line on a previous possession to put Johnsonburg back in front for good.
The teams traded buckets in the final three minutes and change of the half as the Rams took a three-point lead into the break.
The Red Raiders got that point back in the third quarter, cutting the Rams’ lead back to two at 28-26 heading into the fourth.
Johnsonburg began the second half on a 4-0 run on a pair of baskets from Green, but a three-pointer by Dino Brown sparked a 5-0 run for the Red Raiders to get them back within one.
The teams then traded baskets over the final five plus minutes of the third, as a score by Walter with 12 seconds remaining in the quarter cut the Rams’ lead to 28-26 heading into the fourth.
Johnsonburg then opened the final frame on a 6-0 run to cushion its lead on the way to a five-point victory.
Shuey said his team shot the ball better in the second half, which was due a better shot selection and noted his team will certainly have to continue that in its next game.
Johnsonburg will now face top-seeded Elk County Catholic in the semifinals, as the Crusaders defeated Austin 61-38 in the quarterfinals Thursday, Tuesday at a time and site to be determined.
“Elk County is going to be very methodical on offense and I expect it is going to be a low scoring game,” Shuey said. “We are going to have to be very selective and score every possession because we aren’t going to get many.”