In the first 16 minutes of the second half, the lead changed hands 10 times as neither Elizabethtown nor Catholic could gain enough momentum to open up any breathing room.
That finally changed when the Cardinals broke free with a late 8-0 run en route to a 68-64 win over the Blue Jays on Wednesday night in a Landmark Conference men’s basketball game at Thompson Gym.
Leading 56-55 with 4:53 to play, Elizabethtown (4-5 Landmark, 9-10 overall) was held scoreless over the next 4:12 as Catholic went on its decisive run. Prior to that run, neither team led by more than three points in the second half.
“We had an open three that rimmed in and out and I felt like that was our shot to get it to five or six, make it a double-possession game,” Elizabethtown coach Britt Moore said. “We just couldn’t get that separation.”
In the first half, the Jays were up 9-4 when Catholic (4-5, 8-12) ran off 10 unanswered points and eventually took a 21-14 lead with 6:39 left in the half.
Elizabethtown regained momentum, tied the game 25-25 and took a 31-29 advantage into halftime.
“I thought we struggled with man-to-man early on,” Moore said of his defense. “We went to the zone and I thought that helped a little.”
Neither team had a hot hand from long range. Catholic hit only 1 of 10 shots from beyond the arc, while the Jays netted 4 of 16 in the opening half. Both teams hit the same number of 3-pointers in the second half as well.
“We were a little inconsistent in the post and inconsistent jump shot,” Moore said. “I don’t think it was a lack of good looks, they just weren’t going down.”
The Cardinals were doing most of their damage in and around the paint area. Riley Hayes, a 6-foot-8-inch junior, finished with 16 points and 6-5 freshmen posted a game-high 20 points, including an 8 for 8 night at the free-throw line.
Brandon Berry picked up the hot shooting touch in the second half for the Jays, scoring 14 of his team-high 16 points after the break. His final bucket, a 3-pointer, got the Blue Jays within 66-64 with 18.5 seconds to play.
“He played really well,” Moore said. “Everything’s clicking at the right time for him. He had a real nice game.”
Ethan DuBois added 15 points and Bryce Greene had 14 for Elizabethtown. Hempfield grad Connor Moffatt chipped in seven for the Jays, who are in fifth place, one spot out of the playoff picture and one win away from posting their first double-digit win season since the 2010-11 team went 16-8.
“I think we’re probably ahead of where people thought we’d be,” Moore said. “For us to be right there is definitely growth, but we want to get in, we want to be a playoff team and win 15-16 games.”