Greensburg Central Catholic boys advance to WPIAL semifinals

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Saturday, March 6, 2021 | 6:47 PM


With some film to watch and more time to prepare, Greensburg Central Catholic installed a new defense for Sewickley Academy, a team that beat the Centurions in the last game of the regular season, for the rematch in the WPIAL playoffs.

Maybe the result would be different, GCC figured, if it had some time to do a little homework on the Panthers.

“We knew they would make some adjustments, and we did, too,” GCC coach Christian Hyland said. “‘Last time, we had no prep time — just like 20 minutes in the locker room before the game. Now we had two-and-a-half days to get ready for them.”

An extended, triangle-and-2 defense helped keep the Panthers’ scorers in check and paved the way for an emotionally charged, 48-41 victory for GCC in a Class 2A quarterfinal Saturday afternoon at Norwin.

The No. 2-seeded Centurions (15-3), who played Serra Catholic and Sewickley on back-to-back nights to close the regular season (more focus was placed on Serra for section play), advance to the semifinals for the first time since 2017.

They will take on No. 3 Sto-Rox (11-5) at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Norwin.

GCC lost in the first round last year. The Centurions played Serra again in the first round this year and escaped with a 54-53 win.

Sewickley Academy, the No. 10 seed, is done at 10-8. The Panthers cut a 17-point deficit to single digits before GCC held on.

“Our gameplan was to play smart and take good shots,” GCC junior Brevan Williams said. “Our defense played well. We had (Dylan) Sebek, Tyree (Turner) and Dylan (Parsons) out on top on (Nos.) 2 and 11.”

Senior George Zheng wears No. 2 for the Panthers, and senior Max Belt is No. 11. Zheng had 21 points when Sewickley Academy topped GCC, 49-42. He was limited to nine this time, and Belt had 13, including seven in the fourth, as the Panthers tried to manufacture offense in halfcourt sets.

The game had very little fast-break action. GCC was deliberate as it passed around the perimeter for shots.

Patience was a crucial element for both sides.

“GCC played great. It was a really good performance from them,” Sewickley Academy coach Win Palmer said. “They had a good gameplan. That defense frustrated us a little. We had to chase them in the first half. We did some good things in the second half.”

Parsons made a nifty drive and finished with a left-handed scoop to give GCC a 40-30 lead with 3 minutes, 11 seconds to play.

But the Panthers rallied as senior Cameron Crouch, Zheng and Belt made 3s to close the gap to 42-39 with 1:25 left.

Soon after, Palmer was whistled for a technical foul for leaving the bench area to argue a call. The officials gave GCC a timeout just before an inbounds play where, Palmer thought, freshman Tyree Turner moved on the baseline.

Palmer did not comment on the call.

Two Panthers starters fouled out — seniors Shaun Johnson and Alex Matlak.

“In the playoffs, everything is emotional,” Hyland said. “Every possession matters.”

After the technical, GCC salted it away with free throws as senior Christian McGowan, Turner, junior Dylan Parsons and senior Dyan Sebek made at least one each in the final minute. Turner and Parsons each went 2 for 2.

In between, Sewickley freshman Josh Okorafor put back a miss to make it 45-41 with 25 seconds left.

“Our kids gave their maximum effort,” Palmer said. “I am proud of how they played. They were very unselfish on defense. We controlled the tempo (in the first meeting), and they controlled it today.”

Parsons scored a team-high 11 points, McGowan and Williams had eight apiece and Turner had seven.

GCC led 26-12 at halftime and built a 31-14 lead early in the third after a 3-pointer by Parsons.

Sewickley scored seven straight points to cut it to 33-26, but sophomore Nate Dlugos made a layup to give GCC a nine-point lead heading to the fourth.

“Basketball is a game of runs,” Hyland said. “They kept chipping away at the lead, but we have guys who stay composed and poised. But we don’t have a lot of playoff experience, so we’re learning as we go.”

Watch an archived broadcast of this game on Trib HSSN.

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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