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Super Saturday D9 Championship Game Preview: Four Crowns to be Awarded at Tippin Gym

Sami Straub hopes to help ECC defend its D9 Class 1A girls title when it takes on Otto-Eldred Saturday night. Photo by Barb Close
            

CLARION, Pa. – Four District 9 championship games, one subregional championship game, and one winner-moves-on, loser-is-done consolation game will take place Saturday at PennWest Clarion’s Tippin Gym.

                  

The schedule is set like this:

10 a.m.: D9 Class 2A Boys Consolation game – (4) Ridgway vs. (3) Karns City
Noon: D5-8-9 Class 3A Girls Regional Title game – Karns City vs. Chestnut Ridge
2 p.m.: D9 Class 2A Girls Championship game – (2) Moniteau vs. (1) Redbank Valley
4 p.m.: D9 Class 1A Boys Championship game – (6) Union vs, (1) Elk County Catholic
6 p.m.: D9 Class 1A Girls Championship game – (2) Elk County Catholic vs. (1) Otto-Eldred
8 p.m.: D9 Class 2A Boys Championship game – (2) Clarion-Limestone vs. (1) Otto-Eldred

Tickets are $8 for adults and $4 for students and one ticket is good for the entire day.

All the championship games will be video broadcast. The YDL Sports Network/D9and10Sports.com will broadcast the ECC/Otto-Eldred game and the C-L/Otto-Eldred game while the other three games will be available on ExploreClarion.

                                      

Here is a quick glance at each championship game

GIRLS

Chestnut Ridge (21-3) vs. Karns City (15-8)

Chestnut Ridge is coming off a 46-15 win over Westinghouse in the subregional semifinals, while Karns City beat Kane, 28-21, in the D9 title game that also served as a subregional semifinal.

Belle Bosch is the key for the Lady Lions, averaging 21.5 ppg and 9.7 rpg, while Ashlei Weaver checks in at 9.3 ppg and Caylie Conlon at 7.9 ppg.

                          

Karns City is paced by Chloe Frtich (11.9 ppg) and Brooklyn Taylor (11.8 ppg) with Emma Dailey adding 8.1 ppg.

Both teams advance to the PIAA playoffs with the winner playing Waynesburg Central, the sixth-place team out of the WPIAL, and the loser taking on Shady Side Academy, the third-place team out of the WPIAL. Both of those games could be home games for the teams involved in Saturday’s clash.

Moniteau (19-6) vs. Redbank Valley (24-1)

This is the fourth meeting of the season between these KSAC Large school rivals.

Redbank Valley won the first three with each game getting progressively easier.

The Lady Bulldogs had to rally for a late Mylee Harmon shot to beat the Lady Warriors, 36-34, on Dec. 16, at Redbank Valley. Then, on Feb. 10 at Moniteau Redbank Valley turned a seven-point lead at the end of the third quarter into a 46-31 win before beating the Lady Warriors, 56-37, in the KSAC title game on Feb. 18 at Tippin Gym.

Redbank Valley is coming off a 60-16 win over Keystone in the semifinals while Moniteau held off Coudersport, 50-38.

Sophomore Mylee Harmon leads the Lady Bulldogs. She is the second-leading scorer in District 9 averaging 21.1 ppg while senior Alivia Huffman is also a Top 5 scorer in the district scoring 15.7 ppg. Senior guard Caylen Rearcik checks in at 6.6 ppg, and Rearcik has picked her game up a notch since the start of the KSAC playoffs averaging 9.0 ppg over her last three contests.

Catherine Kelly paces Moniteau averaging 15.2 ppg with Kendall Sankey and Davina Pry each adding 7.2 ppg, and Allie Pry checking in at 7.1 ppg. Allie Pry has been strong in her last four games averaging 9.8 ppg.

Redbank Valley won last year’s D9 Class 3A title before moving down to 2A this season. The Lady Bulldogs also won the 2020 Class 2A championship and are seeking their sixth overall D9 title having won championships in 2A in 1993, 1994, and 1998.

                                   

Moniteau is back in a D9 title game for the sixth time in the last eight years but hasn’t won a D9 title since 2001 when it beat defending PIAA champion Karns City in the 2A title game at the old Tippin Gym. The Lady Warriors have lost seven straight D9 title games (2006, 2012, 2016, 2017, 2019, 2020, 2021) and are 3-9 all-time in title games. Moniteau head coach Dee Arblaster has been a part of all three titles helping the Lady Warriors to championships as a player n 1983 and 1984 and as the head coach in 2001 (this is her second stint as the head coach).

Both teams advance to the PIAA playoffs and will have the option of playing home games Friday, March 10.

The D9 champion will face Serra Catholic, the sixth-place finisher out of the WPIAL, while the loser will take on the third-place finisher out of District 10, either Lakeview or Cambridge Springs (that game is being played at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Meadville High School).

Elk County Catholic (23-3) vs. Otto-Eldred (22-2)

This is a rematch of a Dec. 9 game won by Otto-Eldred, 36-32. It is also a rematch of last year’s D9 1A title game won by Elk County Catholic, 39-28.

That was ECC’s first D9 title since winning the second of two straight in 2010 in Class 1A. The Lady Crusaders also won D9 titles in 1980 (2A), 1987 (1A), and 1989 (1A).

Otto-Eldred has never won a District 9 title and is 0-2 in title games also losing in 2017 in Class 1A to North Clarion.

Even though every ECC started played a key role in last year’s title contest, the Lady Crusaders are still a young team featuring five junior starters.

Those five juniors are also very evenly matched in scoring with Lucy Klawuhn leading the way at 10.6 ppg followed by Syd Alexander at 8.9 ppg, Tori Newton at 8.7 ppg, Emily Mourer at 7.2 ppg, and Sami Straub at 5.5 ppg. Straub is a true point guard who is the player who stirs the drink for ECC.

Otto-Eldred, which advanced to the PIAA Quarterfinals last year, is led by defending D9and10Sports Player of the Year Katie Sheeler who is the leading scorer in D9 at 22.3 ppg. Sheeler has scored 30 and 32 in her two D9 playoff games and is the all-time leading scorer in Otto-Eldred history with 1,614 career points and has a shot at cracking into the Top 20 all-time in D9 history.

Sheeler isn’t a one-woman show as Anna Merry delivers 10.4 ppg with Brooke Close adding 6.0 ppg, Bri Heller 5.2 ppg, and Carrie Drummond 5.0 ppg.

The D9 champion will face Monessen, the fifth-place team out of the WPIAL, while the runner-up will take on the District 5 runner-up, either Berlin Brothersvalley or Northern Bedford (they are playing at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Pitt-Johnstown. Both the D9 champion and D9 runner-up will have the option of playing the March 11 first-round game at home.

BOYS

Union (14-11) vs. Elk County Catholic (24-2)

Union is hoping Cinderelli’s slipper fits.

                                  

The sixth-seeded Golden Knights have already upset third-seeded Clarion and second-seeded DuBois Central Catholic to reach the D9 title game for the first time since losing to ECC in 2011. That had been their first trip to the title game since 1992 when they also lost to ECC.

Union hasn’t won a District 9 title since beating A-C Valley, 51-44, in 1981. That was the last of the Golden Knights’ eight D9 titles. They also won Class C titles in 1967, 1969, 1970, and 1974, and Class B titles in 1959, 1963, and 1965. The old Rimersburg High School, which became part of Union, won titles in Class B in 1932 and 1954.

While Union hasn’t had much success over the past 50 years, ECC has ruled D9.

The Crusaders, the defending D9 1A champions, are looking for their 28th District 9 title – all since 1974 – and 14th since 2000. This is the 37th D9 title game for ECC, which made it to the PIAA semifinals a year ago, including 18 since 2000.

Most of the success has come under 41st-year head coach Aaron Straub who is 937-243 as the boys coach and has 964 career wins when his two years as the ECC girls’ coach is added in. Straub is looking for his 25th D9 title as a head coach. He also won a PIAA 1A title in 2006.

The Crusaders got an emotional lift in their semifinal game against Cameron County when Jordan Wasko returned to the court.

Wasko was thought to be lost for the season to a knee injury on Feb. 7. But he returned Wednesday wearing a knee brace and scored two points while playing in three of the four quarters.

Wasko was ECC’s leading scorer at the time of the injury averaging 10.6 ppg and is still averaging 10.1 ppg.

Wil Worman has picked up the scoring slack with Wasko out averaging 14.0 ppg over his last five games to up his scoring average to 7.5 ppg.

Colby Nussbaum contributes 8.1 ppg, and Adam Straub checks in at 6,3 ppg.

It’s been a strange season for Union.

The Golden Knights started the year 6-2 and then went 2-8 over their next 10 games. But they have rebounded to go 6-1 in their last seven with the lone loss coming in the KSAC semifinals to Clarion-Limestone, who is playing for the 2A championship Saturday, 56-51. Union led by three with a minute to play but lost.

In the semifinals against DCC, Union trailed by 10 going to the fourth quarter but rallied in the fourth quarter behind a pair of 3-pointers and eight points from Payton Johnston.

Johnston leads the Golden Knights in scoring at 16.5 ppg and is one of three Union players averaging in double digits. Zander Laughlin checks in at 12.0 ppg, and Skyler Roxbury scores 10.2 ppg. Dawson Camper also adds 8.5 ppg.

Both teams advance to the PIAA playoffs.

The winner faces The Neighborhood Academy, the fifth-place team out of the WPIAL, while the loser takes on the District 5 third-place finisher Turkeyfoot Valley. Both of the D9 teams will have the option of hosting first-round games Friday, March 10.

Clarion-Limestone (24-2) vs. Otto-Eldred (23-1)

It’s the premier game of the day in the prime time spot.

The Lions and Terrors are tied for the D9 lead in team scoring with both teams averaging 63.7 ppg.

C-L, whose only two losses are to Ridgway and Karns City, is a bit deeper than Otto-Eldred and will play up to nine guys.

The Lions, who are in the title game for the first time since winning it all in Class 1A in 2015 and for just the third time since 2001, are led by senior Jordan Hesdon’s 14.3 ppg, while fellow senior Riley Klingensmith adds 11.6 ppg. Sophomore Jase Ferguson, who missed six games with an elbow injury before returning to the court in a quarterfinal win over Kane, chips in 10.0 ppg and does a bit over everything for his team.

Additional key players for C-L are Alex Painters (7.9 ppg), Tommy Smith (7.0 ppg), and Jack Callen (6.3 ppg).

The Lions are searching for their third D9 title also having secured the 1961 Class C championship.

Otto-Eldred has never won a D9 title as Otto-Eldred, although Otto Township won back-to-back titles in 1944 and 1945 beating Sykesville in the 1945 title game despite leading scorer Leon (Skip) Robinson having a few days before to serve in the United States Navy towards the end of World War II.

The Terrors haven’t even been to a championship game since losing to Keystone in the 1A title game in 1997, which was the only championship game appearance for Otto-Eldred before this year.

Sophomore Landon Francis leads the team in scoring at 14.9 ppg while Manning Splain chips in 13.0 ppg, Austin Cousins adds 11.6 ppg, and Shene Thomas contributes 11.9 ppg. Brax Caldwell also checks in at 8.3 ppg and is coming off a team-high 14 points in the semifinal win over Ridgway.

Both teams move into the PIAA playoffs.

The winner takes on WPIAL fourth-place finisher Bishop Canevin while the loser faces WPIAL third-place finisher Greensburg Central Catholic. Both D9 teams will have the option of home games Saturday, March 11.

                       

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