Greensburg Central Catholic wins back-and-forth tilt vs. Apollo-Ridge

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Thursday, January 13, 2022 | 9:11 PM


Greensburg Central Catholic sat a few starters midway through the first quarter Thursday night, but the move had nothing to do with their conduct or early play.

“Rest,” GCC coach Chris Skatell said. “I wanted to get them some down time because I knew we were going to need them later in the game.”

Senior Bailey Kuhns had a sore ankle and sophomore Mya Morgan had two early fouls, and Apollo-Ridge took advantage with the pair on the bench, building an early lead fueled by pressure defense.

But No. 4 GCC quickly recovered after getting backed into a corner and toppled the host Vikings, 53-37, in a Section 4-2A girls basketball game in Spring Church.

Kuhns and Morgan were well rested upon their re-entry. A Mercyhurst recruit, the 6-foot Kuhns scored 17 points, and Morgan added 16, including three 3-pointers.

GCC lost 46-42 on the same floor last year for just its second loss to Apollo-Ridge since 1999.

The teams did not play their second section game because of covid-related issues.

The Centurions (7-2, 3-0) had some trouble with the Vikings’ pressure and aggressive play when they finally met again. Apollo-Ridge (9-2, 1-1) scored 11 straight points to take a 15-13 lead after one quarter.

GCC, though, adjusted when it needed to and outscored the Vikings, 15-6, in the second and 11-4 in the third to push its advantage to 39-25 after three.

“(Ray Bartha) is a good coach, and we knew he was going to throw a bunch of stuff at us,” Skatell said. “He changed up his defenses, and we had to adjust to that. We had to keep grinding. We’re still learning how to win. Now, we have to build on it.”

Apollo-Ridge made another solid run late, cutting a 17-point deficit to 46-37 with 2:40 remaining, with juniors Brinley Toland and Sydney McCray scoring off steals. But GCC scored the final seven points to limit any further damage and seal it.

Toland, Bartha’s granddaugter, finished with a game-high 19 points.

“We got gassed,” Bartha said. “We needed more continuity. I thought we did some good things, but we also did some things we weren’t supposed to do. I’m happy with our effort.”

Kuhns said adjusting to the pace of the game initiated by the Vikings was key to the victory.

“I think in the third quarter we started to settle down. They had us on our toes,” Kuhns said. “We had to get comfortable. We started to talk to each other and communicate better, and then we didn’t take our foot off the gas.”

After the Vikings kept the ball in play with back-to-back saves, Toland scored on a layup to get within 25-21. But Kuhns hit a 3 to give GCC a 28-21 lead at the half.

Kuhns’ second 3 stretched it to double figures in the third, at 34-23, and senior Maddie Pisula hit a jumper to give GCC a 39-25 advantage.

In the fourth, McCray and Toland helped chip away at the deficit as the Vikings went on a 10-2 run to get within 46-37.

“They played good defense,” Bartha said of GCC. “We tried to get them out of man when we could. (Kuhns) did a nice job for them. I can’t believe (Morgan) is only a sophomore.”

McCray and sophomore guard Sophia Yard each scored eight.

Senior Emma Riley added 10 for GCC, six coming from the foul line.

GCC senior guard Meghan Zambruno missed the game with a non-covid-related illness.

“We knew they were basically the same Apollo-Ridge team (as last year),” Kuhns said. “We knew they would play us tough again. We had to stay in tune.”

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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