Ellwood grabs third place in section
Ellwood City (41) Vs. Riverside (38)
Feb 12, 2011
Special to the News
The game wasn’t for a section title or a playoff spot, but it had a playoff atmosphere.
Ellwood City Lincoln and Riverside squared off in a jam-packed Riverside gym last night in a Section 2-AA contest with nothing more than third place in the section standings on the line. Both teams had already secured places in the WPIAL Class AA tournament, so it wasn’t as if the losers would have to pack away the uniforms.
None of that matters, however, when Riverside and Ellwood City meet … in any sport. A Tiddlywinks match between students at the rival schools would probably attract a big crowd.
Ellwood City was able to handle the noise and a charged-up Riverside team on its senior night en route to a 41-38 victory.
The contest wasn’t decided until Brandon Lucarelli put in a layup for Ellwood City with 7 seconds left to play. He ended up with the basketball after Zac Rorick missed a short jumper for Riverside and the rebound was batted around.
“We knew we had to get the ball and score,” Lucarelli said. “It just happened to end up in my hands. You can’t miss layups … not a big shot like that.”
Ellwood City is 11-9 overall with one game to play — it has a non-league game at Slippery Rock on Monday — and closes out section play with a 7-5 record. Riverside ended its regular season on a two-game losing streak and is 12-10 overall, 7-5 in the section.
The Wolverines will go into the playoffs — the WPIAL pairings meeting is at 7 p.m. Tuesday — as the No. 3 team out of the section behind Summit Academy and Neshannock because they beat Riverside twice, winning 60-44 at Ellwood City.
“Boy, it feels very good to win a close one because we’ve lost a lot of close ones this year,” Ellwood City coach Al Campman said with a smile. The Wolverines have lost five games this season that were decided by five points or less.
While the atmosphere was electric, neither team played particularly well. The largest lead either side had was six points and Ellwood City managed that at 1:43 of the first quarter. Riverside held an 18-16 edge at the half.
The key point of the contest for Ellwood City came at the 5:20 mark of the third quarter. Rorick made a jumper to put Riverside on top, 23-20, but Lucarelli answered with a field goal at the other end. The Wolverines then came up with two quick steals. Lucarelli ended up with the basketball both times and put in layups.
The mini outburst gave Ellwood City a 26-23 edge with 4:46 left in the quarter. The Wolverines would not trail the rest of the way. They also wouldn’t pull away.
The score was tied, 30-30, going into the fourth quarter. Gino Ceriani, who paced the Wolverines with 19 points, made one of two free throws at the start of the final frame, then banged in a 3-pointer from the top of the key to put Ellwood City up by four.
Riverside still had a shot when Rorick scored on a layup with 36 seconds remaining to pull the Panthers to within 39-38. And the Wolverines left the door open when Ryan Horgan missed the front end of a one-and-one 2 seconds later. But all that did was set the stage for the wild finish.
“You knew it was going to be that kind of game here,” Campman said.
Ellwood City’s defense did a good job containing Rorick, especially in the second half. He finished with 16 points but got just four of those in the final two quarters.
Again, it was Lucarelli, a 5-foot-10 junior guard, who came up big. He had help, but he was guarding Rorick man-to-man most of the time.
“Rorick is such a competitor and a good player … we tried not to leave him alone,” Campman said. “Some of their other guys got some open looks because of it, but you have to live with that.”
When asked about Lucarelli’s performance, Campman said, “He made all the big plays. It’s about winning plays. There’s a fine line in that kind of a game, that kind of atmosphere. We made enough winning plays to win.”