Greensburg Central Catholic boys outlast Penn-Trafford in 2OT for win in opener

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Friday, December 1, 2023 | 9:54 PM


While he was far from overweight, Franco Alvarez worked on slimming down in the offseason so he could be faster on the basketball court.

Looking fit and trim, the 6-foot-5 senior forward from Greensburg Central Catholic helped his team melt off a fourth-quarter deficit and get past Penn-Trafford, 72-63, in double overtime Friday night during the 19th Hempfield Tip-off Tournament.

Alvarez scored 11 of his game-high 22 points in overtime — eight of GCC’s 13 in the second OT — to lift the Centurions (1-0) to a season-opening win.

“It wasn’t intentional, trust me,” Alvarez said of his late-game surge. “I’m just happy we won. It was exhausting with the way P-T pressures you. We bounced some early nerves and got back to playing basketball.

“We pressured them right back and got into a rhythm.”

Penn-Trafford (0-1) held leads of 16-6, 40-31 and 48-39 (early in the fourth) before GCC rallied.

After Brady O’Rourke made a 3, Sean Walker scored on a layup and was fouled to cut the deficit to 50-49 with 1 minute, 30 seconds left in regulation.

After Tyree Turner missed on two tough looks inside in traffic, Braden Riley made a putback just before the fourth-quarter buzzer to force overtime with the teams tied 51-51.

In a back-and-forth first overtime period, Turner hit a turnaround jumper, but Tyler Freas made a pair of free throws with 49.6 seconds left to send it to a second overtime.

Alvarez, who was 9 for 11 from the foul line, scored the first six points of the second extra frame before making a layup on a feed from Turner for a 68-63 advantage.

Gallagher and Anthony Semelka hit free throws to extend the lead as GCC outscored the Warriors, 13-4, in the second OT.

Semelka had not played a game in two years after he chose to sit out last season.

Turner finished with 18 points, and Gallagher had a career-high 16, including eight in the second quarter.

Gallagher made four 3-pointers.

“It wasn’t pretty,” GCC coach Christian Hyland said. “We didn’t take care of the ball well early. They pressure the ball hard. We adjusted to it and started to get downhill.”

Hyland has seen Alvarez take over games before.

“He’s a tough matchup for people,” Hyland said. “Liam came up big for us and made some big 3s. He has been turning a corner the last few days.”

Freas finished with 21 points, Ian Temple added 17 and Jason Sabol chipped in 11 for the Warriors, who went 0 for 9 on 3-pointers in the second half and overtime after making five 3s in the first half.

“I thought we were much improved and played well on the defensive end,” Penn-Trafford coach Doug Kelly said. “I thought we looked a little tired late. Maybe I need to expand the bench a little bit. We had some breakdowns that came back to hurt us.

“(Alvarez) went to work.”

Penn-Trafford used 10 players with its constant pressure.

GCC went to a zone late when it took a four-point lead.

“I love playing against Doug’s teams,” Hyland said. “I know all the guys on his staff. They make you work.”

GCC will play Franklin Regional (1-0) in the round-robin tournament at noon Saturday.

The other two matchups have Connellsville (0-1) facing Greensburg Salem at 1:30, followed by Penn-Trafford vs. Hempfield at 3.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a TribLive reporter covering local sports in Westmoreland County. He can be reached at bbeckner@triblive.com.

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