‘Iceman’ McGowan leads Greensburg Central Catholic into Class 2A final

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Thursday, March 11, 2021 | 3:52 PM


His knees encased in twin glaciers, an exhausted Christian McGowan limped out of the Norwin gymnasium Wednesday night after a postgame interview and joined his teammates on the bus.

The “Iceman” from Greensburg Central Catholic had just given the Centurions (16-3) all he had — and then some — in a 56-51 semifinal win over Sto-Rox that launched his team into the WPIAL 2A championship game for the first time in seven years.

“I’ll be all right,” the easygoing McGowan said. “Ice and heat. I am used to it.”

The senior point guard routinely battles severe tendinitis in his knees, an ailment that has plagued him for nearly three years. The pain sang out this night. It poked and prodded at him throughout the semifinal. He often jogged up and down the court, with occasional bursts, and still ran the offense efficiently, driving the lane to draw fouls or dish off assists, and grabbed several key rebounds.

He made buzzer-beating shots to close the second and third quarters. He hit 4 of 6 free throws in the fourth to, well, ice it.

McGowan hopes the pain can subside long enough for him to go full-tilt against high-powered Our Lady of the Sacred Heart (20-0) when the teams play for the title at 5 p.m. Saturday at Peters Township.

“Christian has been our workhorse all year,” GCC coach Christian Hyland said. “If the game is on the line, he is going to have the ball in his hands. I couldn’t be more proud to be his coach. I couldn’t be happier for him. I am super-happy for guys like him.”

Aside from the knee troubles, McGowan has come nose-to-nose with adversity before. He was ineligible for the postseason last year after transferring from Greensburg Salem. He missed a first-round game against Eden Christian, which GCC lost as the No. 4 seed.

“That was awful,” McGowan said. “I hated that I couldn’t be there.”

How bad is his pain at times? So bad that McGowan hasn’t fully practiced since the playoffs began. Sure, he attends workouts, but his session is reduced to free throws and walk-throughs.

“He is really good at running the offense,” GCC junior forward Brevan Williams said. “Even though he didn’t score as many (Wednesday), he made clutch free throws. He has just been icing his knees and resting, getting ready for the big game.”

McGowan, a 6-foot-1 guard who averages about 15 points, probably would have had a similar role at Greensburg Salem, which moved up to Class 6A this season and struggled with a young team. But he never envisioned a move across town could possibly come with a championship.

“I’m excited to play (in the final),” McGowan said. “It’s tough sometimes, but I know my team needs me to play.”

Hyland knew McGowan would be the centerpiece to a talented team that had the potential to make a deep run.

“Getting a smirk out of him is doing something,” Hyland joked. “He is quiet but leads by his actions. It wasn’t easy for him to leave Greensburg, where he probably would have had the ball in his hands most of the time. He had to come here and work into his role. You can tell there are times he is really hurting but plays through it.”

McGowan cracked a smile from beneath his mask. Hyland comfirmed it.

“He was hurting but you could tell he was happy,” the coach said.

McGowan does have his upbeat moments. When asked about facing OLSH, he said: “We’re excited to play them.”

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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