Clutch free throw shooting leads Greensburg C.C. boys past Clairton

Friday, February 8, 2019 | 6:21 PM

Almost one month ago, the Clairton boys basketball team went into Greensburg Central Catholic’s gym and beat the Section 3-A foe.

On Friday afternoon, the Centurions avenged their loss on the Bears’ home court with a 65-45 victory in the final section contest of the season for both teams.

“It’s a good win because I think it shows how much we’ve improved since we played Clairton the first time. We lost to them by 16 at home,” Greensburg Central Catholic coach Greg Bisignani said.

“Our kids have really come together and started playing together as a team. We haven’t lost since that game, so that puts us on a seven-game winning streak now. We’re pretty excited because we feel like we’re playing the best basketball of our season right now.”

Joel LoNigro and Geoff Helm paced the Centurions (14-6, 9-3) in scoring, with LoNigro totaling a game-high 23 points and Helm pouring in 21. Max Pisula chipped in 12 points to aid his team’s winning effort.

In large part, the difference between the two section rivals’ scoring outputs could be traced back to the free-throw line.

Greensburg Central Catholic was relentless in its ability to drive the paint and earn opportunities around the rim, leading to 26 free-throw attempts, 21 of which were converted. The Bears (9-9, 6-6), on the other hand, made just 3 of 8 attempts from the charity stripe.

While any basketball coach would salivate at prospect of that type of free-throw discrepancy, Bisignani said it was due in part to a strategic adjustment his team made early in the game.

“Clairton is very athletic, and they play very hard. Early on, we made some turnovers and had to adjust to their quickness. After that, we were able to get out on some more fastbreaks and push the ball in transition,” Bisignani said. “We got to the hoop, and we got to the free throw line. That’s what we’d like to continue to be able to do against our opponents.”

With the win, Greensburg Central Catholic finished second in Section 3-A behind St. Joseph (17-5, 10-2).

The Bears were led in scoring by Leonard Robinson and Brendan Parsons, each with 11 points.

Clairton has one more nonsection tune-up scheduled before the WPIAL playoffs begin next week.

“I told them after the game, we have a nonsection game Monday against Elizabeth Forward, and then it’s time to get ready for the playoffs,” Bears coach Matt Geletka said.

“It may not have been a good one today, but we’ll turn the page and play hard on Monday. Then, we’ll turn our attention to the playoffs, and we’ll be ready to do everything we can to get the win.”

Kevin Lohman is a freelance writer.

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