Big fourth quarter lifts Crusaders over Potters

TAKING A SHOT — Catholic Central’s Matt Kilonsky pulls up to take a shot during Tuesday’s game against East Liverpool. (Photo by Andrew Grimm)

STEUBENVILLE — Catholic Central let a double-digit first half lead evaporate, then used a late fourth quarter run to take down East Liverpool 63-59 inside the Mickey Barber Gymnasium Tuesday.

The Crusaders, now 2-0, went up 26-16 late in the second quarter on four consecutive points by Matt Kilonsky. Nate Conley’s Potters, who were making their season debut, cut the deficit to four (29-25) at the break thanks to a hoop by Gabe Roach and Peyton Reed’s triple at the buzzer.

A Roach three and Tre Jackson’s long-distance buzzer beater put East Liverpool up 45-42 with eight minutes to go. The Potters put together a 5-0 scoring run to lead 37-34 midway through the third. Central, however, responded as senior standout Donnie Vandeborne scored eight straight points.

Back-to-back hoops by Nick Woodyard had the Potters ahead 54-48 before Chris Tarquinio’s club put together its game-deciding spurt. Luca Connor got it started with a free throw then his big brother, senior A.J. Connor, netted five in a row to knot the score at 54. A.J. Connor, who scored 30 in Central’s opening win at Harrison Central, was slowed by East Liverpool’s defensive pressure until getting open a few times in the final frame.

Kilonsky added two free throws and freshman Ryan Gorman came off Tarquinio’s bench to knock a pair of critical freebies to cap the run and put Central ahead to stay.

“We had the lead, then we gave it back to them,” Tarquinio said. “We just didn’t play in the third quarter and we made too many mistakes with the basketball. After we called a timeout, we seemed to calm down and we gathered together like the family that we are.

“I was really proud of our how guys stepped up and really turned it on down the stretch.”

Vandeborne recorded a double-double for the Crusaders, tossing down 18 points and collecting 12 rebounds. Kilonsky contributed 14, A.J. Connor 13 and Luca Connor 10. His triple at the buzzer gave Central an 11-9 lead after the opening period.

“That was typical A.J.,” Tarquinio said when discussing the senior’s fourth quarter scoring burst. “He’s going to have guys flying at him the whole game because of his ability to score. When we needed buckets, he stepped up and made them.

“As I’ve said, Donnie and A.J. can take you a long way. But tonight, this was a team win. We had some young guys step in and one (Gorman) knocked down some key free throws for us. All of our guys, one through 14, contributed tonight.”

Sophomores Roach (16 points), Brennan O’Hara (13 points) and Jackson (11) led the Potters in scoring.

“We fought and overall I’m pleased with how we played,” Conley said. “We had a majority of sophomores on the floor against a senior-heavy basketball club with two of the best players (A.J. Connor and Vandeborne) probably in the Ohio Valley on the team and we fought with them.

“I told them we lost the game but people are going to be talking about us. We really worked hard and going forward we have to execute our stuff better. It was a tough task being on the road. I think Central is a quality team that is well-coached.”

Central returns to action Saturday with a home game against Bellaire.

“It’s great to win our first two games but we have a very tough assignment Saturday against Bellaire,” Tarquinio said. “We’ll enjoy this win but come midnight, we’re back to 0-0 and we’re getting ready for Bellaire.”

East Liverpool will host Indian Creek on Friday.

“We have some really good sophomores in O’Hara, Jackson and Roach,” Conley said. “Overall, I was pleased with how we played. Sure I’d like to win but we came down here and played extremely hard. From this year to last year, we’ve improved tremendously and I’m extremely proud of far we’ve come.”

Catholic Central 63, East Liverpool 59

E.L. 9-16-20-14 — 59

Central 11-18-13-21 — 63

EAST LIVERPOOL (0-1): O’Hara 6 0-0 13; Roach 6 2-3 16; Torma 0 2-2 2; George 0 0-0 0; Jackson 4 2-2 11; Reed 1 1-2 4; Browning 2 2-5 6; Woodyard 3 1-2 7. TOTALS 22 10-16 59. 3-pointers: Roach (2), O’Hara, Jackson, Reed; Rebounds 27 (Roach 6); Turnovers 14.

CENTRAL (2-0): L. Connor 4 1-2 10; A.J. Connor 4 4-5 13; Gorman 0 2-2 2; DiBiase 2 0-0 4; J. Rook 0 0-0 0; Carapellotti 0 0-0 0; Kilonsky 5 4-9 14; Vandeborne 6 4-9 18; Costello 0 0-0 0; Stoll 1 0-0 2. TOTALS: 22 15-27 63. 3-pointers: Vandeborne (2), L. Connor, A.J. Connor; Rebounds 32 (Vandeborne 12); Turnovers 19.