East Allegheny star guard Johnson scores 26 in win over Greensburg Central Catholic girls

Sunday, December 24, 2017 | 12:19 AM

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Like any team that plays East Allegheny, Greensburg Central Catholic's quandary was take-over senior guard Amani Johnson.

Speeding up the game with her up-tempo play and getting teammates open looks as a result, Johnson netted a game-high 26 points to power the Wildcats to a 60-29 victory over the Centurions on Saturday at the Jamfest showcase at Penn Hills.

Johnson, a Kennesaw State recruit, has 1,774 career points. The Wildcats, ranked No. 3 in Class 3A, improved to 7-0.

“We tried to pick her up early,” GCC coach Joe Eisaman said of Johnson. “You can't defend a girl like that in space. We tried to keep her in traffic. They speed you up, that creates some deflections and turnovers and that turns into layups the other way. That's been a problem for us.”

East Allegheny is allowing just 30.1 points a game, and GCC is only scoring 32.2.

GCC (1-5) played with the Wildcats early, leading 8-7 before East Allegheny took command with 22-0 run.

The speed of the game increased, and the Wildcats bit down — hard.

Abby Henderson hit a pair of 3-pointers, and Keiyah Marshall converted a traditional three-point play to make it 25-8.

“We got out of what we wanted to do,” Eisaman said. “We wanted to slow it down a little bit and be real deliberate on offense. ... We became a rudderless ship for about three or four minutes, and that's all it takes to be down 15 against a team with that speed.”

GCC managed only three field goals in the second quarter and trailed 40-16 at the break. It had two in the third as the deficit ballooned to 55-21.

The Wildcats' press forced GCC into mistakes.

“We like to get up on defense, not let anybody do anything,” Johnson said. “We dictate the tempo of the game.”

By the time GCC readjusted and started to run some offense, it was too late.

Myla Bortoluzzi added 12 points for East Allegheny. Olivia Stawovy scored 10 to lead GCC.

Eisaman said this season could be about “survival mode” because of new challenges, a short bench among them. The schedule hasn't gotten any easier, either, but the coach still believes his team can contend for a section title.

There never seem to be dire straits with this program.

GCC will move to Class A next season.

“We have played three games against WPIAL finalists,” Eisaman said, referring to his team's rugged schedule that also included Oakland Catholic and Villa Maria. “So we have to keep that in perspective and keep getting better.”

GCC plays Chartiers Valley next week in the Hempfield holiday tournament.

GCC will get Norwin transfer Melina Maietta back Jan. 23. The WPIAL made the sophomore ineligible for a year from her transfer date because it was deemed she moved for athletic intent.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at bbeckner@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BillBeckner.

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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