Greensburg Central Catholic girls use defense to beat Rochester, move into 2A semifinals

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Wednesday, February 21, 2024 | 10:27 PM


Rochester players tried repeatedly to drive the lane against Greensburg Central Catholic, but the Rams were met with constant resistance. A block here, a deflection and steal there.

Denial ruled the paint at Chartiers Valley.

Defense is said to win championships. It worked pretty well for the top-seeded Centurions in the quarterfinals Wednesday night as they ran past the No. 9 Rams, 63-41, to move ahead in the WPIAL Class 2A girls basketball playoffs.

“When we start out in our 2-2-1 (press), it gets us going,” senior guard Avery Davis said. “We started a little slower tonight, but we had a better second half.”

All five starters scored in double figures for GCC (17-5), which advances to the semifinals for the first time since 2016-17 and will play South Side (14-9) or Fort Cherry (17-5) on Saturday at a time and site to be determined.

Senior Mya Morgan scored 15 points, Davis added 14, sophomore Erica Gribble had 12 and sophomores Abby Dlugos and Jayla Peterson chipped in 10 apiece in the Centurions’ fourth straight quarterfinal trip.

Last year, GCC was upset by Burgettstown in the quarters. There was no upset this time.

An active defense saw to that as GCC constantly slapped the ball away and created transition offense.

“You have to defend,” GCC coach Chris Skatell said. “When they came down the lane, we collapsed on them. It was good to get the jitters out in the first (playoff win), and now we get through and get a state-playoff bid. Those are the two big things (after two rounds).”

While GCC clinched a PIAA tournament berth, Rochester (15-8) moves into the consolation bracket to play for a spot in states.

Davis made four of GCC’s nine 3-pointers. Peterson and Gribble had two shots each from deep.

Dlugos made the start and scored eight in the first half. Gribble scored eight in the first quarter.

“We wanted to contest their outside shots, but they have five girls who can shoot it, stroke it,” Rochester coach CJ Iannini said. They are well-skilled and well-coached. I was proud of the way our girls competed.”

GCC pulled ahead by double figures with a 21-point second quarter to take a 39-19 lead into the break.

“We had confidence going in,” Skatell said. “We have to keep playing as a team.”

Peterson and Davis made back-to-back 3s, Peterson put back a rebound and Morgan scored off a steal, before Davis made a 3 to make it a 20-point game at halftime.

“We just have to keep playing the way we can,” Morgan said.

The lead reached 25 in the third when Morgan scored six to push GCC to a 51-26 advantage.

The Rams made a 7-0 run in the third but could only trim it to 44-26.

Senior Aleaya Mercier led the Rams with 11 points, and junior Marque Taylor had 10. Sophomore Tia Yellock added eight.

Skatell wanted GCC to dial it back and use some clock in the final quarter.

“I took a timeout there in the fourth,” the coach said. “They want to win by 40 and run, run, run. They work their tails off and always want to score, which is good. But we have to play smart. If we do take shots, we don’t want non-good ones.”

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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