GCC boys will travel; BV gets top seed in WPIAL postseason

Tuesday, February 23, 2021 | 9:14 PM

While many higher-seeded teams in the WPIAL basketball playoffs will be playing at home, a rare luxury afforded to participants this season in response to the pandemic, Greensburg Central Catholic will have to take its show on the road.

The Centurions’ boys team was awarded the No. 2 seed in Class 2A, but because WPIAL stipulations say gymnasiums must have a capacity of 700 to host in the postseason, GCC (13-3) won’t get to play at home.

GCC fell just below the seating number: Its gym holds 625.

The WPIAL pairings for the league’s first open tournament since 1984 were revealed Tuesday night virtually via the TribLive High School Sports Network.

Instead of the possibility of playing at home through the semifinals, GCC will play away at a neutral site or sites. Their first game will be 6 p.m. March 3 against the winner of Serra Catholic and Carmichaels — at a site to be announced.

“I mean, it’s definitely unfortunate for the players. They’ve worked so hard all year and have earned the right to be one of the top seeds and play a majority of the playoff games on their home floor,” GCC coach Christian Hyland said. “We’re not going to make it an excuse. We’ve never had a home playoff game before, so there’s no difference to us.”

GCC, which has won 12 of its last 14, is averaging 70.4 points.

“We may have to travel a little to play,” Hyland said. “But at the end of the day, what really matters is, we need to play good basketball and get wins.”

As expected, the Belle Vernon boys (11-1) drew the No. 1 seed in Class 4A. Coach Joe Salvino had a number of his former Monessen teams get the top rating in past WPIAL tournaments, so he wants his Leopards to stay on their toes.

“You have to be careful when you’re number one,” he said. “Every team you play knows that, and they just seem to play harder.”

Belle Vernon, the WPIAL runner-up last winter, dropped it season opener to Thomas Jefferson but has not lost since. The Leopards host the winner of Blackhawk (16) and Freeport (17) at 6 p.m. March 4.

Other local teams to get their hands on a top-five seed were the Hempfield, Penn-Trafford and Jeannette boys and the Norwin and Southmoreland girls.

Hempfield (11-4) is No. 3 and Penn-Trafford (11-5) No. 4 in 6A. Both will open with 6 p.m. games Tuesday.

Hempfield lost to Albert Gallatin, 67-66, on Monday night to snap a six-game winning streak. Hempfield coach Bill Swan didn’t think that loss should have hurt his team’s status.

“Our record and body of work I stand behind,” Swan said. “Heck, we didn’t even have to play (Monday). We want our kids, especially seniors, to get in games. AG is a top eight to 10 seed in 5A and played great.”

The Spartans host No. 14 Baldwin (5-11).

Swan thinks 6A could be a wide-open field. The Spartans only lost by three (74-70) against No. 1 Upper St. Clair, although they were swept by No. 2 Fox Chapel.

Like Hempfield, Penn-Trafford finds itself competing in a lot of games. It knocked off 5A No. 1 Chartiers Valley, swept Central Catholic and split with Fox Chapel. The Warriors will face No. 13 North Hills (4-9).

In 2A, Jeannette has not missed the WPIAL playoffs since 2000-01. The fifth-seeded Jayhawks (11-4) host the winner of 21-Riverview and 12-Burgettstown 6 p.m. next Wednesday.

The Jayhawks are on the same side of the bracket as heavily favored top seed Our Lady of the Sacred Heart.

Norwin’s girls lost their last two games, but to solid teams in 6A No. 1 seed North Allegheny and Class 5A No. 2 Chartiers Valley. The Knights (11-4) lost their playoff opener last year but hope to surprise some teams in their 20th straight postseason appearance.

They are seeded third and host No. 14 North Hills (3-14), a team they held to 18 points earlier in the year, 6 p.m. next Wednesday.

Section 3-5A champion Southmoreland (14-3), coming off a historic run to the WPIAL Class 4A title game, has two losses to 5A teams. The Scotties have won 10 of 11 and are perfect at home. They will welcome No. 14 Deer Lakes (6-4) at 6 p.m. Tuesday.

“I have told the girls that we have met our first goal of the season by winning the section,” coach Amber Cernuto said. “But there is plenty of more basketball to play. If we want to make it back to the championship, we have to take it one game at a time and not look too far ahead.”

Latrobe’s girls are the No. 6 seed in Class 5A and play the winner of 22-Connellsville and 11-South Fayette at 6 p.m. March 4.

The Monessen girls are the sixth seed in Class A and host Uniontown at 6 p.m. March 4.

The Yough girls withdrew from the 4A tournament after contact tracing showed they played a team last week that had a positive case.

One preliminary-round matchup features a pair of local teams. In Class 4A boys, 20th-seeded Southmoreland (2-16) visits No. 13 Derry (4-5) at 6 p.m. Monday for the right to play No. 4 Quaker Valley (11-4).

Watch the archive of the WPIAL Basketball Playoff Pairings Show on the TribLive High School Sports Network.

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

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