Greensburg Central Catholic girls hang on vs. Mt. Pleasant

Friday, December 10, 2021 | 9:12 PM

Chris Skatell, in his coaching debut at Greensburg Central Catholic, beat longtime pal Scott Giacobbi of Latrobe on Friday night, and Skatell said the Centurions were fortunate to come out on top on the opening night of high school girls basketball.

Bailey Kuhns scored 17 points, Natalie Ward collected all her points on a traditional three-point play with 47 seconds left to give Class 2A No. 5 GCC the lead for good and the Centurions edged Class 4A Mt. Pleasant, 43-39, in a first-round game of the Greensburg Salem Tip-Off Tournament.

Kuhns, a Mercyhurst recruit, led GCC (1-0) with 17 points.

“We were fortunate to win,” Skatell said. “I knew tonight would be tough. Scott has been at it for a long time.”

The men were classmates at Latrobe and have maintained a close relationship since then.

In the second game, host Greensburg Salem (1-0) rolled to a season-opening 50-16 victory over Ligonier Valley (0-1).

Giacobbi tried finding positives after Mt. Pleasant failed to protect its lead late.

“It was a good start for us,” he said. “You can’t always be prepared for every eventuality. You do the best job that you can and work to success.”

Tiffany Zelmore led Mt. Pleasant (0-1) with 17 points.

GCC and Mt. Pleasant were in a closely contested battle throughout and played to a 20-20 halftime tie.

Mt. Pleasant trailed by two points then managed to build a 37-32 lead in the fourth quarter but couldn’t put away GCC. A pair of baskets by Kuhns pulled the Centurions within a point before the teams traded baskets.

With Mt. Pleasant leading 39-38 and the Vikings holding the ball in the closing minutes, GCC forced several turnovers, finally taking the lead.

Ward, a senior who hadn’t scored until that point, converted underneath and was fouled. When she sank the free throw, GCC led 41-39 and Mt. Pleasant was unable to recover.

“We got a little tentative early because their guards are pretty fast,” said Skatell. “We made some fouls and got a little tentative on defense. We looked at what our matchups looked like and what our fouls looked like and decided to play a little zone and see if they could shoot us out of it. They have some kids who can really shoot it.”

Fortunately for GCC, the Vikings couldn’t find a consistent range in key moments.

Clinging to its slim lead late, Mt. Pleasant tried to milk the clock, but the Vikings repeatedly gave up the ball, finally losing the lead.

“We panicked a little bit,” Giacobbi said. “At first, they showed zone and I figured something was coming, so we spread clear out and tried to hold the ball a little bit. But we just weren’t successful with that. We let them jump into passing lanes and we didn’t do a good job of managing away from the sideline.

“I’m not displeased in any way with our effort, but there’s no such thing as a moral victory.”

The tournament concludes Saturday morning with Mt. Pleasant squaring off against Ligonier Valley at 10 a.m. and GCC facing host Greensburg Salem at 11:30 a.m.

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