Cruse comes up big in clutch as California upsets Greensburg Central Catholic

Tuesday, February 18, 2020 | 11:02 PM

Down five at halftime, the 12th-seeded California girls basketball team dialed up the intensity for a 36-35 victory over No. 5 Greensburg Central Catholic in the opening round of the WPIAL Class A playoffs Tuesday at Peters Township.

The Trojans (13-10) also got some unexpected clutch scoring from an unlikely source.

California trailed GCC 35-34 with 20 seconds to play when Jordyn Cruse picked the best possible time for her first points of the game, a lay-up under the basket with 16 seconds left.

GCC (14-8) inbounded the ball but was forced to call a timeout with 4 seconds left.

Cal stole the inbounds play, and the Centurions turned to fouling the Trojans. California didn’t make the free throws but held on for the win.

“I loved our intensity on offense and defense, aggressiveness for sure,” said Niemiec. “You don’t always have to run the plays correctly if you’re being a little aggressive and can just beat your player head-to-head.

“As long as we can continue to play like that, we’ll be fine.”

Makayla Boda led the Trojans with 13 points, and Gia Scala topped GCC with 11.

California will play No. 4 seed Clairton on Friday at a site and time to be determined. The Bears advanced with a 61-58 victory over Eden Christian. California defeated Clairton, 43-37, on Jan. 17.

Low-scoring games appear to suit the Trojans, who traded baskets with the Centurions in a opening quarter with just 14 points.

California hit a pair of 3-pointers, and five points from Boda helped it to an 8-6 advantage after the first.

California led 12-8 in the second quarter before Greensburg Central Catholic went on a 10-0 run. Scala knocked down a pair of 3-pointers and scored eight points in that stretch, pushing the Centurions to a 20-15 lead at halftime.

“I liked our defensive and offensive intensity in the first half, but we just weren’t getting shots to fall,” California coach Chris Niemiec said.

The second half was a different game for the Trojans.

California started the third quarter on an 11-0 run to take a 26-20 lead. Sydney Smichnick picked up five of her seven points in that stretch, giving the Trojans a narrow 28-25 edge to start the fourth.

GCC knocked down a 3-pointer to open the fourth, then the teams traded baskets until a free throw put the Centurions up 35-32 with just over a minute to play.

Listen to the archived broadcast of this game on Trib HSSN.

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