Greensburg Central Catholic boys advance on Turner’s buzzer-beating layup

Wednesday, March 9, 2022 | 10:35 PM

DAVIDSVILLE — Greensburg Central Catholic was hooting on the way to hollering with a 19-point lead early in the fourth quarter.

This first state playoff game — a new experience for all of the players and their coach — was going to be easy.

Or so they thought.

District 5 champion Conemaugh Township, led by senior Jackson Byer, rumbled to life and decided to make a game of it before GCC ruined the comeback with a thrilling finish Wednesday night.

Sophomore Tyree Turner drove in for a tough layup to narrowly beat the final buzzer as the visiting Centurions escaped with a 62-60 victory in a PIAA Class 2A first-round boys basketball playoff game.

The Centurions (19-4) advance to play Ridgway (21-5), the District 9 champion, on Saturday in the second round.

Conemaugh Township (21-4) trailed 51-32 early in the fourth but ended up scoring 28 in the quarter with Byer accounting for 15 of his game-high 25 in the last eight minutes.

He had the team’s final 11 points, including three free throws after he was fouled on a 3=point attempt with 5.9 seconds left to tie it 60-60.

Turner, though, took the ball at midcourt, drove through heavy traffic — nearly losing the ball twice — and finished with a right-handed scoop shot from the left side to win it as time expired.

It was his March Madness moment.

“I dreamed that kind of play up before,” Turner said, “but there’s nothing like the real thing. That was fun. I may have celebrated a little too much.”

Seniors Ryan Appleby and Brevan Williams had 18 points each to lead GCC. Appleby fouled out with 20.8 seconds left.

Turner chipped in 11, and sophomore Franco Alvarez had eight.

A Juniata recruit, Byer was terrific down the stretch. He made back-to-back steals and nailed a 3 from the top of the key to make it 58-56 with 29.2 seconds left.

After Turner hit two free throws with 17 seconds to give GCC a 60-57 edge, Turner fouled Byer on another 3 attempt. The senior calmly made all three shots to tie it.

He was 6 of 7 from the line in the fourth.

GCC inbounded wide to Alvarez, who fed Turner and the sophomore did the rest to avoid overtime.

The collective exhale from GCC’s bench was palpable. So was the sigh on Conemaugh’s end.

“We got a lot of points in the paint in the first half, but the second half was shaky at best,” GCC coach Christian Hyland said. “Give (Conemaugh Township) credit. They cut into our lead … that is hard to do.”

After his game-winner, Turner sprinted down the floor yelling with excitement, and his teammates followed.

“We’re a pretty even-keeled team,” Hyland said. “There aren’t a lot of hoorah guys. They were excited. I was happy to see us compete tonight. We didn’t compete against OLSH (in the WPIAL semifinals).”

Conemaugh Township, which won back-to-back District 5 titles, lost to Karns City in the first round last year.

“We dug ourselves too deep a hole,” Indians coach Chuck Lesko said. “We didn’t attack them the way we wanted to. We made a great comeback. Our seniors had nothing to lose. I told them, go make it happen. (GCC) made one more play.”

Lesko said Byer has been that type of leader all season. The guard finished with 1,226 career points, seventh on the program scoring list.

His cousin, Paul Byer, is No. 1 with 2,505 points, and his uncle, Andy Byer, is second at 2,360.

“We chipped away, but I think mentally we wore down,” Jackson Byer said. “We haven’t seen a team with that kind of size all year.”

That size helped GCC build significant rebounding edge and a 32-19 lead by halftime.

Easy layups and second-chance points piled up quickly for the Indians, who scored just six in the second quarter.

Williams made a layup early in the third, where GCC’s lead never dipped below 13, and another early in the fourth, for a pair of 19-point leads.

Junior Tanner Shirley’s 3 with 3:08 to play cut the margin to single digits at 55-46. Turner drove the lane for a layup to make it 57-47 before the Indians outscored the Centurions, 13-5, in the final 1:57.

Sophomore Jonny Updyke had 15 points for the Indians, and Shirley added 13.

“This gives us a spark,” Hyland said. “They want to keep playing. Our guys love being around each other big time.

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


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