CURWENSVILLE —All eyes were on Justin Miknis Tuesday night as he became DuBois Central Catholic’s all-time leading boys scorer, but it was fellow senior Brandon Walker who stole the show in the first half of the Cardinals’ 78-52 victory against Curwensville at Patton Hall.
Walker drained six 3-pointers on his way to a career-high 24 points — all in the first two quarters — to help DCC jump out to a commanding 50-22 halftime lead en route to the lopsided 26-point victory that clinched the Cardinals’ first playoff berth since Walker and Miknis were freshman.
As for Miknis, he entered the night eight points shy of passing Chris Marshall as the school’s all-time leading boys scorer. Marshall, who served as an assistant coach for the Cardinals the two seasons prior to this year, set the old record of 1,412 back in his senior year in 2011.
Miknis, who played facilitator more than scorer for most of the first half, eclipsed Marshall’s record on a free throw with 5:01 left in the second quarter that put DCC up 34-16. Miknis went on to score 20 points on the night, giving him 422 this season (22.2 ppg.) and 1,425 for his career.
“We talked before the game that we really wanted to win this game because it was a playoff-clinching victory,” said Miknis. “We said team first, and if it happens, it happens. Brandon went off tonight, and I’m glad he did. It was a great team win.
“It’s an honor to break the record. Coach Marshall has been teaching me how to play since freshman year, working on post moves and what not. He’s helped my game a lot, and it was special to have here tonight. I knew he wouldn’t miss it.
“I never imagined this would happen. You just keep working hard and stuff happens. It’s nice to get it out of the way, and know we can focus on winning in the playoffs.”
Miknis, who became the 13th Cardinal to hit the 1,000-point milestone last year as a junior in the season finale, has passed all 12 former Cardinals ahead of him on the career scoring list this season. The top two fell in back-to-back nights, as Miknis passed Pat Felix (1,398 –1976) Monday in a tough 66-64 loss to North Clarion before eclipsing Marshall’s mark Tuesday night.
He technically passed a 13th 1,000-point scorer in Chris Wulderk (1,145), who played at DCC as a senior after transferring from Moshannon Valley where he scored 771 points.
Coming off the tough home loss to North Clarion, DCC (11-9) wasted little time seizing control Tuesday against the Golden Tide (2-15).
Walker hit his first 3-pointer just 19 seconds into the game before Miknis scored two quick hoops off turnovers to put the Cardinals up 7-0 in the opening minute.
Christian Bakaysa countered with a basket for Curwensville, but that did little to slow down the Cardinals who ripped off seven straight points again. Walker had five of those to make it a 14-2 game midway through the quarter.
Curwensville got its offensive going a little late in the first quarter, but DCC pushed its lead to 16 points (28-12) after one quarter. Walker scored 16 of his 24 points in the opening eight minutes, while teammate Jonathan Kutrz added six. Kurtz finished with 10 points.
Bakaysa and teammate Dakota Bloom opened the second quarter with back-to-back hoops but it was all DCC from there over the final six-plus minutes of the half. Central outscored the Tide, 22-6, during that stretch to take a commanding 50-22 lead into the half.
Miknis hit a 3-pointer early in that run to pull even with Marshall, then moments later was fouled on a strong drive to the basket. He calmly hit the first free throw to surpass Marshall, sending a large DCC contingent on hand into a frenzy. The game was stopped as Miknis walked over to celebrate with his family, coaches and teammates. Marshall was on hand also came on to the court to congratulate Miknis.
“It was awesome that the record was there for me to break, and I set my goal to that when I started playing,” said Marshall. “I heard about him as a freshman, and I knew this was probably coming down the line. Then once I coached him, I knew it was going to happen and this was a foregone conclusion.
“I’m just glad I was able to coach him the last two years and get to know him a little bit better through basketball. That’s the cool thing about this happening. I got to see him grow as a person and a player, and that makes it special.
“I know he appreciates it, and I’m proud of him. He puts in the time and the last two years he was the hardest working player on court every practice and every game. He deserves it.”
When played resumed, DCC didn’t take its foot off the gas.
Walker scored eight points, including back-to-back treys, in the final four-plus minutes of the quarter. Walker and Miknis combined to score 34 of the Cardinals’ 50 first-half points.
Curwensville found its game in the second half, as DCC coach Dom Varacallo started to rotate in his reserves with the starters in the third and fourth quarters. The Golden Tide actually outscored the Cardinals, 30-28, over the final two quarters but DCC still came away with an impressive 28-point win.
Bakaysa and Terry led that second-half performance for the Tide. Bakaysa scored 13 of his team-high 22 points in the third and was held scoreless in the fourth, while Terry hit three 3-pointers in the second half on his way to scoring 15 points.
Miknis had 10 in the third before seeing his night end. Overall, 13 of the 16 Cardinals who played in the game found the scorebook.
“You notice a lot of times when someone is going for a 1,000 points or a record like this, they really try to force it and take a lot of shots early,” said Varacallo. “They were keying on Justin, and Justin being the player and the man he is, took a backseat for the first quarter and let other people shine and facilitated. That speaks volumes about his character and who he is.
“He said before the game he’d rather win the basketball game than get this school record because this win clinched a playoff spot for us. And, we haven’t been in the playoffs in the three years.
“Not only is it a great night for Justin, but our team, because this is a team accomplishment for guys who have played with Justin since fourth grade and don’t always get the accolades. They play defense and rebound and dive on the floor for loose balls.This is something they’ll remember as a group.
“Brandon Walker had a great night, and that was him stepping up. The potential has always been there and he’s continued to work. He’s somebody who has always put the team before himself, but then on the biggest stage for one of his teammates, he showed out and really put the game out of reach early.”
Central Catholic is back in action Saturday at Johnsonburg.