Greensburg Central Catholic boys dispatch Eden Christian

Friday, February 24, 2023 | 10:59 PM

History did not repeat itself for Greensburg Central Catholic and boys basketball coach Christian Hyland.

Four years ago, in his first season as the top man at his alma mater, Hyland lost his playoff debut to Eden Christian in the first round at Fox Chapel.

It bothered him ever since, even though GCC made the finals in his second year.

The fourth-seeded Centurions got a rematch with No. 5 Eden Christian on the same floor Friday night and made amends with a 73-54 victory in a WPIAL Class 2A quarterfinal in O’Hara.

Junior forward Franco Alvarez rang up a career-high 33 points, and junior guard Tyree Turner added 18 as the fourth-seeded Centurions (17-5) moved into the semifinals for the third time under Hyland’s watch.

They will meet No. 1 Aliquippa (18-6) Tuesday at a time and site to be announced.

“It’s something that I think about personally,” Hyland said of his initial playoff loss. “My staff was with me then, so they remember it. But the players are all new. It feels good. We’re just glad we have another opportunity to keep playing.”

Eden Christian (17-6), coached by former Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Aaron Smith, moves into the consolation bracket.

The 6-foot-5 Alvarez was unstoppable as he continued to devour high-percentage shots. He had 14 field goals, including three and-1 plays.

He scored 21 in the first-round win Tuesday.

“It’s my teammates getting me the ball,” he said. “It was so much fun (scoring 33), but I am not that focused on it. I wanted the team to win.”

GCC methodically pulled away after Eden took an early 13-6 lead. Before long, the Centurions were in control after a 15-0 run.

Another high-scoring quarter gave them a wealth of momentum going into halftime.

Long passes and less dribbling sparked the scoring. Fast breaks pushed the pace, and movement created chances.

“Once we started running, that got us going,” Alvarez said. “That is central to what we do. We don’t want to stand around and get stagnant.”

The Centurions scored 26 in the second frame — they had 33 in the third quarter against Propel Braddock Hills in the first round — and built a 40-28 advantage by the break.

“We kicked it in,” Hyland said.

After Eden Christian got to within 25-22 on a layup by senior Ryan Merrick, GCC scored eight straight, including a 3-pointer by Turner, to go ahead 33-22.

Turner tossed in four 3s.

Alvarez, who had 10 in the second frame, finished a three-point play, senior Jaydin Canady made a layup and freshman Samir Crosby scored off a feed from Canady to close the half.

Role players rounded off the victory. Canady delivered some pinpoint passes down the lane, and senior Ryan Kimmel was a bruiser on the boards and kept the ball moving.

“We play our best when we’re playing together like a family,” Kimmel said. “Tyree, Franco and me are the leaders, but we all do what we have to do to win. We play for each other.”

Canady and Kimmel each scored eight, and Crosby chipped in seven.

GCC has won 10 straight and is averaging 70 points during that streak.

“This team has a good collective IQ,” Hyland said. “Kimmel does the dirty work. He isn’t going to wow you with points, but he’s going to make some nice passes.

“You can’t tell Jaydin didn’t play (basketball) for two years.”

Eden Christian, which cut the deficit to eight in the third (47-39) cooled off after a fast start. Senior David Ryan hit three 3-pointers for a team-high 15 points, and seniors Ryan Merrick and Noah Elias added 12 apiece.

“They like to drive and kick it,” Hyland said. “We knew they were a good shooting team. We tried not to overhelp. We went more one-on-one with them.”

Kimmel scored inside late in the third to get the lead back to double figures. Turner found Alvarez in close for a 60-46 lead in the fourth. Alvarez sent another off the glass for another easy two to make it a 20-point game with less than two minutes to play.

Eden Christian was seeking its first semifinal appearance.

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

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