Battle-tested Eden Christian upsets Greensburg Central Catholic boys

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Saturday, February 15, 2020 | 6:04 PM


Eden Christian coach Todd Aiken kept shouting “five out” to set up a play Saturday afternoon as his boys basketball team clung to the lead against favored Greensburg Central Catholic.

By game’s end, the fearless Warriors had knocked four out.

Junior guard Elijah Manges tied a career high with 25 points — 16 in a hot-shooting second quarter — and 13th-seeded Eden Christian upset No. 4 GCC, 66-56, in a WPIAL Class A first-round playoff game at Fox Chapel.

The Warriors (14-9) advance to Thursday’s quarterfinals to play fifth-seeded Nazareth Prep (16-7), a 53-52 winner over No. 12 Clairton.

GCC (16-7) led early, but never by more than three points. Its momentum was fleeting and the Centurions could not sustain scoring runs on the way to their first exit in the first round since 2009.

“It was about the little things today,” said GCC coach Christian Hyland, who was making his playoff coaching debut. “We missed some bunnies early, and we missed a ton of free throws. And we didn’t rebound well. Eden crashed the boards and we didn’t have an answer for Manges.

“They play in a section with the three top teams. They’re not a 13 seed. They’re more like an eight or nine.”

GCC played without junior guard Christian McGowan, its leading scorer (14.5 ppg), who was ineligible for the playoffs after transferring from Greensburg Salem.

Manges was the clear difference maker as he took the scoring reins in the second quarter when the Warriors outscored GCC, 23-15. He made 6 of 9 shots, including two breakaway layups off of steals, and 4 of 4 free throws.

He added multiple assists and spearheaded the defense on several possessions.

“There are some quarters that I might not have to be a 16-point scorer and I might have to dish the ball off,” Manges said. “That first quarter I didn’t score any … I think that actually helped because they sagged off a little bit and then I am able to get looks off.”

Eden, in the playoffs for the sixth time in seven years, plays in Section 1 with top-seeded Vincentian, No. 2 Cornell and No. 5 Nazareth Prep.

No. 10 seed Union also comes from that section, and it defeated No. 7 Monessen on Saturday.

Aiken said his team did not fret over its seed and, as an extension, did not view the win as an upset.

“Every night in our section gets us ready for the next challenge,” Aiken said. “There isn’t much we haven’t seen from an athletic standpoint playing teams like Vincentian, Cornell and Naz Prep.”

Eden showed poise early in the second half when GCC opened the third quarter with a 10-0 run. But the Centurions never regained the lead, only tying Eden twice before the Warriors finally gained some spacing in the fourth.

“Elijah is our leading scorer and our go-to guy,” Eden coach Todd Aiken said. “That’s what he does for us. He’s our floor leader. We had some other guys make some free throws at the end. (GCC) plays that pack-line defense and we like to get to the basket, so they made it hard on us. But we did a nice job responding to that.”

Senior Drew Lipinski made back-to-back hoops late in the third to give the Warriors a 48-45 lead heading to the fourth.

“Coach Aiken prepares us for whatever we need to do when we’re out there,” Manges said. “We don’t listen to all the noise. We have played against the best teams in the state so … it’s another game. We step out there and come to work.”

GCC senior Nate Ward drove the lane and scored to cut it to 54-52 but the next eight points went to Eden, including a tip-in and two free throws by senior Thomas Medure and a layup by junior Kyle King after he recovered a loose ball.

Eden shared the basketball effectively and took care of the ball in the fourth.

Two free throws by Medure made it a 10-point game, at 62-52, with 2:03 remaining.

With Eden swarming on defense as it felt the upset becoming a reality, GCC only had one field goal inside the final two minutes.

“Defense is all about character and who’s got it,” Manges said. “Whenever the clock’s ticking down and everybody’s tired, who is going to push through that extra step and keep grinding? Coach Aiken has given us that mentality: Go out there and kill yourself for your brothers.”

The Centurions made 15 of 22 free throws for the game. Eden hit 15 of 21.

Medure and Lipinski each had 12 points for Eden.

GCC had three score in double figures. Senior guard Tommy Erdely had 13, junior guard Dylan Sebek added 12, and sophomore forward Brevan Williams chipped in 10.

In retrospect, Hyland said McGowan likely would have made a difference. But GCC had been doing its best to prepare for a game without him and had still had plenty of chances to regain the advantage.

“You have to try and get a lineup together with the guys you have,” Hyland said. “Our other guys had to step up. It’s tough to see our six seniors play their last game. They worked so hard all season long, and I respect what they gave our program.”

Senior Ben LaCarte and Ward each scored nine points for GCC, which ended the season on a three-game losing streak.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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