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Fourth Time’s The Charm: Stifling Defense Sends Johnsonburg Past ECC in AML Boys Title Game

ST. MARYS, Pa. – The fourth time was the charm for Johnsonburg.

Rewatch the game:

After dropping three close games to Elk County Catholic during the regular season, the Rams (17-6) turned in a complete performance to beat the Crusaders (22-2) for the AML title.

“It feels great to beat ECC,” said Johnsonburg’s Isaiah Jackson. “We lost to them three times already.”


See Jackson’s full interview:

The Rams never trailed in the game, thanks in large part to their defense. They limited the Crusaders to just nine points in the first half, taking a 16-9 lead. They also held ECCs leading scorer, Jordan Wasko, without a field goal. Wasko scored five points on free throws.

“He’s a tremendous player,” said Johnsonburg coach Cole Peterson of Wasko. “Our plan is to smother him as best we can. They’re going to run him off screens. We had Luke (Zimmerman) do it (guard him), we flip back and forth. Tonight we went to Eli. He’s been a tremendous defender the whole season. He didn’t play the last couple of years and boy am I glad to have him this year. He works tail off. He’s a machine. That’s what we always tell him. You’re a machine, you just don’t stop. That’s all we can ask out of him. He did a tremendous job and so did everybody else”

A Cade Peterson 3-pointer was Johnsonburg’s last made shot of the first half with 3:23 to go before halftime, giving the Rams a 16-8 lead.


Leading 16-9 at halftime, the Rams turned up the offense in the third quarter.

ECC’s Lance O’Neil hit a pair of shots from the line to make it 23-15 at the 4:46 to go in the third quarter. Johnsonburg responded with an 8-0 run that essentially put the game out of reach.

Jackson and Eric Hoffman had buckets, and back-to-back shots from Luke Zimmerman made it 31-15 with 1:15 to go in the third quarter.

“We kept saying if we could put a full game together, good things would happen,” Peterson said. “We said listen fellas, we’ve played them three times and we haven’t put a complete game together. Defense has been our strong suit against them and we kind of picked it up a gear on offense, which helped us out tremendously.”

The Crusaders followed Johnsonburg’s 8-0 run with a 6-0 run of their on a pair of free throws from Wasko and buckets from O’Neil and Timmy Brannock to get back within 10, 31-21 with 7:37 to play.

ECC was never able to get the lead below single digits in the fourth quarter, however.

Zimmerman had 14 points and Jackson 13 to lead the Rams.

Wil Wortman paced ECC with 11 points.

“These kids deserve everything, I’m happy for them,” Peterson said. “It’s icing on the cake for them for everything they’ve done this season so far. Clearly the main goal is to get the D9 championship and anything can happen. But for now, to collect this one for them, for those kids, this is their first time beating ECC. To do it and get a championship out of it in the AML, I couldn’t be happier for them.”

The fourth time might not be the last these two teams see each other. ECC is the No. 1 seed and Johnsonburg the No. 2 seed in the upcoming District 9 Class 1A playoffs.


Elk County Catholic received a bye into the semifinals, which will take place on Feb. 27. Johnsonburg, meanwhile, will host No. 7 seed Northern Potter on Wednesday.

“This gives us a lot of momentum,” Jackson said. “It feels like we’re the one seed now.”


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