Greensburg Central Catholic overcomes Sto-Rox to get back to WPIAL title game

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Wednesday, March 10, 2021 | 10:17 PM


Christian Hyland was the Centurions’ senior point guard the last time Greensburg Central Catholic made the WPIAL basketball finals. Now he is headed to the title game as the second-year coach of his alma mater.

Hyland, 25, drew on his experiences from that year and passed them on to his players, who overcame foul trouble and the quickness of Sto-Rox to win a WPIAL 2A semifinal 56-51 on Wednesday night at Norwin to earn a shot at their own title.

The second-seeded Centurions (16-3) went back and forth with the No. 3 Vikings (11-6), who had numerous opportunities to stay close or overtake them but shot 8 for 30 from the free-throw line, including 2 for 12 in the fourth quarter.

GCC advances to play No. 1 Our Lady of the Sacred Heart (20-0), which beat Jeannette, 69-41, in the other semifinal, for the WPIAL championship at 5 p.m. Saturday at Peters Township’s new AHN Arena.

“I told them this game reminded me of when we played Aliquippa (in the ’14 semifinals),” Hyland said. “(Sto-Rox) wanted to come in and do the same thing to us, really pressure us and get us out of our rhythm. They did a good job of that in the first half. They made us uncomfortable, but our guys battled and that’s what they have been doing all year.”

After falling short in semifinal trips in ’15, ’16 and ’17, the Centurions finally broke through. The program never has won a WPIAL title.

In ’14, they lost 52-51 to Seton LaSalle in the Class AA final at Duquesne’s A.J. Palumbo Center.

“This helps make up for that one a little,” Hyland said. “I am proud of our guys. It’s been long overdue.”

A team effort got GCC to finals with their second win on Norwin’s floor in five days. It won a quarterfinal against Sewickley Academy four days earlier.

The team reached far down its bench as three starters fouled out — juniors Brevan Williams, Ryan Appleby and Dylan Parsons — and got valuable minutes from reserves.

“We preach that we need everybody, nine or 10 deep, no matter what,” Hyland said. “Some of those guys haven’t seen much of the court this year at all. Here and there in spots they got us rebounds tonight. (Juniors) Danny Dlugos and Garrett Sherwin did a great job.”

GCC trailed until midway through the third quarter when Williams hit a bank shot, then scored on a breakaway off a steal to put the Centurions ahead 30-29. The lead changed sides eight times from there with GCC going up to stay at 43-32 on two free throws from Appleby with 4:53 remaining in the fourth.

Williams, who had a game-high 19 points, finished a three-point play, and freshman Tyree Turner drove in for a layup to make it 48-42 with 4:26 left.

Appleby and senior point guard Christian McGowan had nine points apiece, and Turner chipped in eight, including two 3-pointers. Appleby had all of his points after halftime.

Stoppages for free throws slowed the pace in the fourth. GCC made 10 of 17 from the free-throw line in the final quarter, and 13 of 23 for the game.

“We played smart with the ball and made smart passes,” Williams said. “We rebounded and Christian McGowan hit some good free throws at the end; it was all crucial. After halftime, that’s when we took over.”

The Centurions clung to a single-digit edge and dodged Vikings’ free-throw misses to lead 53-49 with 32.5 seconds to play. McGowan, who battled pain in his knees all game but managed the offense and found open teammates around the rim, grabbed two straight rebounds off his own missed shots and was fouled.

He made 5 of 6 from the line in the fourth, including two with 22.2 seconds left after Corey Simmons scored inside for Sto-Rox.

The Vikings missed seven straight free throws inside the last minute.

GCC made a buzzer-beater to end each quarter, two by McGowan and one from Williams.

“It’s a big steppingstone to start each quarter,” Hyland said. “We started three quarters with the ball, so you get a good end to one quarter and get to come right back and go at it again with another possession.”

Sto-Rox led 9-7 after the first quarter, 23-17 at halftime and 37-35 after three. The Vikings led by 10 in the first half.

Sto-Rox, which was hoping to play for a ninth WPIAL title, was the WPIAL runner-up last season but lost nine seniors from that team. The Vikings lost to OLSH in the title game, 81-72.

The Vikings could be a factor again next year. They only lose one senior this time.

Sophomore Josh Jenkins led the Vikings with 12 points, including three 3-pointers, while sophomore Jaymar Pearson had 11 and Simmons 10.

Sophomore Jaymont Green-Miller chipped in nine.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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