Greensburg Central Catholic girls shake off slow start, roll past Windber in PIAA 1st round

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Friday, March 10, 2023 | 10:41 PM


WINDBER — Freshman guard Erica Gribble emerged from the locker room with a small bag of ice pressed between her neck and right shoulder. The plastic was tucked under her shirt and peeking out of the top of her jacket.

Still, she smiled.

“I don’t know what I did, it’s just sore,” Gribble said. “I’ll be fine. My neck just hurts a little.”

Gribble and her Greensburg Central Catholic teammates were a pain in the neck for Windber in the first round of the state tournament Friday.

Gribble, whose soreness was nothing serious, scored 25 points to lead the Centurions, who shook off a sluggish opening few minutes to rip the host Ramblers, 55-33, in a PIAA Class 2A first-round game.

“We want to go further than we did in WPIALs, and this is a good start,” said Gribble, who had five steals and five assists. “Our steals gave us momentum after we started out slow.”

Defense kicked GCC (22-5) into gear as the WPIAL’s underrated fifth-place team pressed early, then settled into a disruptive 2-3 zone against the three-time defending District 5 champion Ramblers (20-7).

GCC had not won a state playoff game since 2017.

It had not been to the PIAA tournament since ’18.

The Centurions will play District 10 runner-up Maplewood (21-5) in Tuesday’s second round at a time and site to be announced.

“We hadn’t played in a while, so we had to get back into game form,” GCC coach Chris Skatell said. “We got to the (foul) line more, which I liked to see. (Windber) played us man; I’m sure a zone would have made much of a difference. Our Big 3 showed up, and our younger girls played well when we needed them to.”

Junior Mya Morgan added 12 points, and junior Avery Davis had 10.

The Centurions scored 10 straight points after falling behind 5-0.

Gribble made two layups off steals, and Morgan hit a left-handed layup.

“It could have been 10-0 or 11-0,” Windber coach Cory Pavlosky said. “It’s a lot easier looking down the barrel of an 11-point lead than five. Give GCC credit. They’re long and lanky, and they have kids who can score in transition. They are potent.

“We had a window, but they took advantage.”

A 12-0 run followed that helped GCC build a 27-10 lead early in the second quarter.

“The first couple bursts got us going,” Gribble said. “We kept pushing.”

Gribble finished a three-point play and scored on a break after Morgan swished an open 3-pointer.

It was 32-17 at halftime.

“We speed them up with our defense,” Skatell said. “I’m not sure they see man teams that play that fast. Our zone is a problem.”

Morgan made a 3, and sophomore Erica Rodriguez scored inside to push the lead to 41-19 with three minutes left in the third.

Winder made a 7-0 run, all on free throws.

The Ramblers only had three field goals in the second and third quarters combined.

Freshman Kaylie Gaye hit a 3 for Windber to make it 46-29, but GCC kept it a comfortable, 20-plus lead the rest of the way.

“We wanted to try to tap into their bench more,” Pavlosky said. “We were too stale with the ball. When it comes down to brass tax, it’s the little things. A few minutes here or there, a few turnovers here or there.”

Gribble and the Centurions clearly were not fazed by the state-playoff pressure. It was, after all, the first PIAA game for all of them.

“It’s just another basketball game,” Gribble said. “Just go play.”

Senior Alexis James led Windber with nine points, and senior Harmony Jablon and Gaye each contributed seven.

Windber made 15 of 20 free throws. GCC was 12 for 15.

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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