After thrilling victories in each of the first two rounds, Ridgway is set to battle Our Lady of Sacred Heart (OLSH) in the PIAA Class 2A quarterfinals Saturday at Oil City High School at 2:30 p.m.
The District 9 champion Elkers are the lone boys team out of D-9 still alive in the playoffs, as the only other teams from the district left competing are Kane and A-C Valley on the girls side.
The quarterfinal appearance is the second in the last three seasons for the Elkers, as they were defeated by Constitution, who went on to finish as the state runner-up, 59-40 in the quarterfinal round in 2017.
Ridgway’s last appearance in the semifinals came in 2012 at the Class A level, as it was defeated by Lincoln Park, who then lost to Constitution in the state title game.
OLSH (25-2), who won its first ever WPIAL title this year after back-to-back losses in the title game in 2017-18, have made the quarterfinal round PIAA tournament each of the last three seasons, including a trip to the state title game last season where it was defeated 81-71 by Constitution.
Ridgway (26-3) and OLSH, are among seven of the eight teams remaining in the Class 2A playoffs that are district champions, as the lone exception is Mathematics, Civics and Science, the runner up out of District 12.
The Chargers return four of five starters from last season’s runner-up squad, as last year’s team did not include a single senior on the roster.
The only starter gone from last year for OLSH is 6-foot-6 junior guard Donovan Johnson, who transferred to Moon.
Sophomore guard Dante Spadafora, senior guard Daren DiMichele, senior guard Austin Wigley and senior forward Ricco Tate all all back after helping the team make a run to the title game in 2018.
Wigley and Spadafora (12 points each), as well as DiMichele (20 points) and his younger brother Jake DiMichele (15 points) led the team to a commanding 77-36 victory over Lakeview in the second round.
The quartet also led OLSH to a 62-43 victory over West Middlesex in the opening round of the state playoffs, as Daren DiMichele scored a game-high 20, Wigley and Jake DiMichele added 14 apiece and Spadafora finished with 10.
Daren DeMichele is leading the team with approximately 17 points per game this season for a squad that is averaging around 75 points per game on the year.
OLSH has won seven game in a row since dropping a 71-66 contest on the road against Sewickley Academy Feb. 8, as its only other loss came on Jan. 5, a 87-81 defeat at the hands of North Catholic.
The Chargers’ fast-paced offense will have an interesting matchup with Ridgway, who plays a much slower, defensive style and has allowed just 37.3 points per game this year.
The Elkers, who are averaging 53.6 points per contest themselves, have only surrendered more than 60 points in a game once this season, a 68-61 win over St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy in their second game of the year on Dec. 12.
Jake Reynolds, who hit the game-winning shot in Wednesday’s second round win over Wilmington and also came up with a game-saving block, leads Ridgway with 11.3 points per game and has stuck to that average with 23 points in the Elkers two PIAA games.
Will Thompson is also averaging in double figures, while Daunte Allegretto and Matt Dush add just under 10 points per game for the Elkers.
Thompson came up big with a team-high 18 points in Ridway’s first round win over Sewickley Academy and added nine in the second round as he is the team’s leading scorer in the state playoffs.
The Elkers enter the quarterfinal contest on a 15-game winning streak after having lost two of three in early January.
Ridgway suffered its second loss of the season in overtime 37-31 to Johnsonburg Jan. 11, then after a win over DuBois Central Catholic, fell 44-38 to Elk County Catholic.
The only other loss for the Elkers this season also came against ECC, a 43-40 defeat in the Elk County Catholic Holiday tournament title game.
Ridgway since avenged all of its losses, defeating the Rams 46-36 Feb. 14 in the first round of the AML tournament and then beating the Crusaders 45-43 two days after for the AML title.
The winner of Saturday’s contest will face the winner of a matchup between District 10 champ Farrell and District 6 champion Bishop Guilfoyle in the semifinals Tuesday at a site and time to be determined.