Greensburg Central Catholic rides hot shooting to WPIAL semis

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Friday, February 23, 2024 | 10:36 PM


With seniors Tyree Turner and Franco Alvarez seeing multiple double teams when they had the basketball in the lane, Liam Gallagher saw an opportunity to bail out his teammates and help keep a promising championship run intact.

Not that No. 2 seed Greensburg Central Catholic was ever in real danger Friday night at Fox Chapel.

“They collapsed on Tyree and Franco, so I was ready to knock shots down,” the junior guard said. “You have to be ready to shoot it.”

Gallagher made four of his team’s nine first-half 3-pointers as the Centurions pulled away and took down No. 10 Eden Christian, 69-41, in a mercy-ruled WPIAL Class 2A quarterfinal.

GCC (22-2) advances to its fourth straight semifinal and will take on No. 3 Northgate (18-5) on Tuesday at a time and site to be announced.

Northgate beat Jeannette, 55-44.

GCC also clinched a spot in the PIAA playoffs.

Eden Christian (12-11), coached by former Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Aaron Smith, moves into the consolation round to play Jeannette on Monday for a spot in the state playoffs.

Both teams were hot out of the gates, and GCC only led 17-12 after the first quarter.

But after the tighter-than-expected opening eight minutes, Gallagher hit back-to-back 3-pointers to start the second quarter, then connected on one more before halftime, and GCC began to roll.

Suddenly, the Centurions were up by double figures and their advantage swelled to 23 (44-21) by halftime after junior Sean Walker’s buzzer-beating 3.

Junior Braden Riley and Turner also made 3s during a 27-point second quarter that sent GCC on its way.

Turner started 7 of 8 from the field and had 11 in the first quarter.

“We shot the ball really well,” GCC coach Christian Hyland said. “We were a little unorganized early, but we were able to find Liam on some skips to get us into rhythm. Franco requires so much attention; they had two or three guys on him. Our guys did a good job reading the help.”

Alvarez scored 33 against Eden Christian in last year’s quarterfinal, also at Fox Chapel, a 73-54 win. He had 14 this time, with 10 coming in the third when the lead increased enough invoke the 30-point running clock.

An 11-0 run in the third made it 63-26.

Smith won two Super Bowls. He said coaching basketball is vastly different because he has less control over what happens on the court.

“We didn’t want Tyree and Franco to hurt us,” Smith said. “You have to try to take something away. I picked my poison. Maybe it wasn’t the right one. They’re just a very good team. Same as last year, only better.

“In most games, they have the seven best players in the gym.”

Turner finished with a game-high 20 points, Gallagher scored 13 and Walker had 10. Senior Nathan Garrett led the Warriors with 17, 10 in the first quarter. He hit three 3s.

Freshman Mason Dean chipped in 10, including a pair of 3s.

Eden Christian played without senior Luke Gronbeck, who has a torn left Achilles tendon.

He is the team’s second-leading scorer at around 18 points a game.

“You can’t take anyone lightly,” Hyland said. “Eden presents a unique challenge because they run a lot of good stuff. They have shooters, and they extend the floor. It’s tough for (Gronbeck) being his senior year. He’s a really good shooter.”

The Warriors have made the quarterfinals five straight years.

“My guys are always going to play hard,” Smith said. “That’s a great team we just played. Now, just like last year, we have to refocus and be ready to go in a couple days.”

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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