Greensburg Central Catholic girls lose in PIAA semifinals

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Monday, March 20, 2023 | 9:20 PM


A simple change can make all the difference in a basketball state playoff game.

Though the move Kennedy Catholic made was subtle, probably not that noticeable to fans Monday night, Greensburg Central Catholic saw it and tried to adjust to it.

But the Centurions could not stop it.

Again, this wasn’t quantum physics. It was get the ball to the most imposing player on the floor. Throw the ball in the lake — err, in to Layke.

An effort to get 6-foot sophomore Layke Fields the ball more effectively in the second half allowed the Golden Eagles to push ahead of GCC and post a 56-44 victory in a PIAA Class 2A semifinal at North Allegheny.

The District 10 champion Golden Eagles (25-4), who made the state final in Class A last year, advance to play Homer-Center (24-7) in the state final at noon Thursday in Hershey.

They have won 23 games in a row.

GCC, in the state semis for the first time since 2006, is done at 24-6.

“I have said it before: the first five minutes of the second half are the most important,” GCC coach Chris Skatell said. “They play a really sticky defense. They made an adjustment, and we did our best against it.”

Back to that key move: Freshman guard Bella Magestro moved to the middle of the offense, senior Hayden Keith switched spots and Magestro became a facilitator for Fields, delivering passes inside for high-percentage shots.

GCC fronted Fields early, but, when it had to help on Magestro, Fields got position to produce in the lane.

The Centurions went man-to-man in the second half.

Fields, who slid down from the high post against GCC’s 2-3 zone, scored a game-high 22 points, making 10 of 14 shots, as Kennedy Catholic stretched a three-point halftime lead (27-24) to 10 (40-30) after three.

She grabbed 12 rebounds.

Fields scored 10 in the third as the Golden Eagles went on an 8-0 run to turn a four-point lead into a 42-30 advantage early in the fourth.

“She’s a handful,” Skatell said of Fields, who made 15 of 15 field goals for 30 points in the previous round, using her size to gain position and finish around the rim.

“We did change it up at halftime,” Kennedy Catholic coach Justin Magestro said. “We have been working on some new sets. I watched 20 films on (GCC), so I knew what they were going to do and what they had. Bella made some nice passes to Layke; You saw, she didn’t have to put the ball on the floor. It was straight up. Layke has the best hands and the best footwork of any sophomore I have seen.”

Coach Magestro said his son, Drew, offered the advice to move his sister to the middle.

Junior Mya Morgan led GCC with 20 points, including four 3-pointers, and freshman Erica Gribble added 14, 13 in the second half.

GCC led briefly in the second quarter at 16-14 and 21-19.

After the Centurions cut it to 42-33 early in the fourth, the Golden Eagles began to gain spacing.

Fields scored inside to make it 46-33, before eight straight free throws from sophomore Monique Vincent added some padding to the lead.

“We’re so young, but I am so proud of our girls,” Skatell said. “Not many teams have been able to hold us under 50 (points). We have most of our girls back, and most of them are basketball players who will be playing AAU.”

Vincent was effective in several ways. She finished a three-point play to end the third quarter and made 8 of 8 free throws in the fourth.

She had 13 points. Bianco chipped in 10 for Kennedy Catholic.

“We played a really strong non-league schedule,” Magestro said. “We played Norwin, Indiana, Blackhawk, Morgantown, McDowell … We figured it would pay dividends down the line. GCC has a nice team. Morgan and Gribble are very good. They’re young, but so are we.”

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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