Beck Buchanan’s breakaway goals carry Winchester Thurston past GCC, into state finals

Wednesday, November 13, 2019 | 10:41 PM

Greensburg Central Catholic boys soccer coach Tyler Solis watched as his team fired shot after shot at Winchester Thurston, a few that struck the goal posts, bounced the wrong way and somehow stayed out of the net.

It was a tense buildup to a disappointing conclusion for the Centurions.

“We hit the post so many times,” Solis said. “You see how things are going and the opportunities you’re getting and you just realize how cruel this game can be.”

Winchester Thurston junior Beck Buchanan scored two breakaway goals in the second half and the Bears held off GCC, 2-1, to win a PIAA Class A semifinal Wednesday night at frigid Peters Township.

After avenging a WPIAL championship game loss, Winchester Thurston (19-2) will make its debut in the state final. The Bears will play District 11 champion Moravian Academy (23-1) for the championship at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Hersheypark Stadium.

Moravian Academy, which won the state title in 2014, defeated Dock Mennonite, 4-0, in the semifinals.

GCC, which blanked the Bears in the WPIAL championship, 1-0, is finished at 17-4-1.

“They pushed us up so much on defense,” Winchester Thurston coach Adam Brownold said. “(Buchanan) has great speed and was able to get through their back four and make a couple big plays.”

Down 2-0 with 26 minutes remaining, GCC cut the deficit in half when Nate Ward, an Indiana recruit, fired in a penalty kick past keeper Morgan Graham, who had a solid night with eight saves.

Graham got a hand on the ball, but Ward still cut it to 2-1 with 12 minutes, 49 seconds to play.

“We know what Ward can do,” Brownold said. “I have been coaching against him for four years. I love watching him play, but I hate coaching against him.”

Buchanan first scored in a 1-on-2 break with 32:06 to go to break the ice.

“His speed was something we knew we had to be aware of,” Solis said.

His second goal, a rip that was tipped by Centurions’ keeper Max House, made it 2-0.

Winchester Thurston, which last played in the PIAA semifinals in 2014, came in with five of six shutouts in the playoffs.

“Our defense played great again. We’ve only given up nine goals all season,” Brownold said. “It was a clean sheet for our guys.”

GCC had 10 shots and swarmed in front of the net in the closing minutes, getting a few free kicks that came up empty.

“I am no longer young as a coach,” Solis said. “It’s disgusting to get that many chances and come so close. It’s tough to take. But we’ll look back on this season in a couple weeks and the guys will realize what they accomplished: WPIAL champs and state semis two years in a row. It’s so tough when you get this far. I am proud of our guys.”

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

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