GCC’s Nate Ward beats Clairton with bomb at the buzzer

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Tuesday, January 14, 2020 | 12:07 AM


Nate Ward simply has a knack for creating bedlam.

A tie-busting forward in soccer — one of the top recruits in the country in the Class of 2020 — Ward has a penchant for game-winning goals.

The Greensburg Central Catholic senior took that tendency onto the basketball court Monday night and buried a game-winning shot — and with it, Clairton.

Ward connected on a 30-foot 3-pointer from the wing to beat the buzzer in overtime as GCC prevailed, 66-65, in a Section 3-A game before a raucous home crowd.

With Clairton (7-4, 5-2) ahead, 65-63, with five seconds remaining in the extra period, GCC (9-4, 6-1) inbounded to Ward.

The senior point guard caught the ball just outside the near foul line, dribbled across midcourt and squared up in front of the GCC bench. Rather than trying to spot an open teammate with time ticking away, he dribbled once through his legs and fired from deep — with a hand in his face.

The shot splashed down and the gym erupted in excitement.

“It feels good,” Ward said. “It’s not a WPIAL championship goal, but I am going to remember it.”

Ward, an Indiana recruit known for his goal-scoring abilities as the leading scorer for the WPIAL Class A champion Centurions soccer team, had the green light to shoot.

“I wasn’t surprised it was him,” GCC first-year coach Christian Hyland said. “He’s pretty aggressive in our offense. He’s one of our captains. It’s not surprise how our seniors carried us tonight. He works so hard in basketball and it’s not his No. 1 sport.”

Clairton went ahead, 65-63, on a free throw by Don Napper after a steal by Andrew Henderson.

GCC led, 57-54, with 52.6 seconds to play in regulation.

GCC took a one-point lead with 1:06 left on a 3-pointer by Dylan Sebek. But Brendan Parsons answered for Clairton with a bank shot to put the Bears back in front.

Kenlein Ogletree made 1 of 2 free throws to make it 57-56 and Ward came up with a block with 22.8 seconds to go. But Ogletree was fouled again and made 1 of 2 to tie it 57-57 with 19.2. A lane violation negated the second make, however, and GCC had a chance to win it.

Ogletree made a steal and missed, and GCC’s Brevan Williams appeared to get fouled. But GCC called a timeout before the whistle, and it went to overtime after Clairton nearly hit a shot at the buzzer.

In overtime, Ward came up with a steal and was fouled with 33 seconds left but missed both attempts with Clairton up, 64-63.

He made up for it when he got the ball in his hands again and connected from NBA range. Hyland said he considered taking a timeout with five seconds to go, but instead opted to let Ward bring it up the floor.

“I saw we had a guy in the corner and they were doing a great job on defense,” Ward said. “The clock was running down, so I figured I had to just pull up and shoot it.”

Ben LaCarte led GCC with 21 points, and Christian McGowan and Brevan Williams had 12 apiece for GCC. McGowan fouled out.

Napper led Clairton with 23 points and Parsons added 20.

Hyland smiled when he saw a replay of Ward’s shot because Ward dribbled through his legs. It had the feel of an inside joke.

“It’s funny,” Hyland said. “His dribbling skills have improved as he’s been with us for four years. He kind of jokes around that he thinks he’s better than he is with the dribble. He’ll shoots shots like that during drills in practice. He’s not known to be a between-the-legs, crossover guy, but there’s nobody better for that to happen to.”

GCC has won five of its last six games.

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

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