In 1st finals since 2014, Greensburg CC to face high-powered OLSH offense

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Friday, March 12, 2021 | 6:08 PM


Greensburg Central Catholic didn’t get the home-court advantage other No. 2 seeds did in the WPIAL playoffs this year. Its gym was too small to host in the first round, so it had to play on the road, and issues from a water main break forced the Centurions to play quarterfinal and semifinal games at Norwin.

Speaking of water main breaks, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart’s offense — yes, it is kind of like that. It gushes and flows, and opponents can easily get swept under its current.

GCC (16-3) will face the high-octane Chargers (20-0) at 5 p.m. Saturday in the WPIAL Class 2A championship at Peters Township’s new AHN Arena — a showdown between the top two seeds.

Guess which team is No. 1?

Led by star guards Dante Spadafora and Jake DiMichele, OLSH simply gets out and goes. The No. 1-ranked team in the state has won 36 straight and is chasing a third straight WPIAL title — in its fifth straight finals appearance.

DiMichele, a 6-foot-3 junior, averages 28 points. Spadafora, 5-11 a senior, scores 18 a game.

“OLSH is a really good team,” GCC coach Christian Hyland said. “Their two guys are definitely college players. And they have a very good coach. We know we’re far from the favorite and no one will give us a chance to win. But that’s OK. We like that.”

Underdog role accepted, the Centurions hope for a strong start, something they managed in a quarterfinal win over Sewickley Academy but did not have against Sto-Rox in a grind of a semifinal victory.

A strong second-half push allowed GCC to rally and defeat Sto-Rox, 56-51.

“It will be fun,” Hyland said. “Regardless of who you’re playing, you’re still playing for a championship. Our guys are looking forward to it.”

GCC, which has never won a WPIAL title in boys basketball, hasn’t played in the finals since 2014 when Hyland was a senior point guard for the Centurions. The team lost to Seton LaSalle that year in the title game, 52-51.

GCC also made the title game in 2011 and lost to Monessen, 63-43.

“There’s been a lot of talent and really good teams at GCC since then that fell a bit short of the finals,” Hyland said. “They pushed each other, and that’s a testament to the coaches and kids that left the program the way they did.”

The single-digit loss still bothers Hyland, who at 25 is one of the youngest coaches in the state.

“That is not the type of thing you bring up at the dinner table,” he said. “If someone does, I usually get up and walk out of the room.”

There are teams out there that might be thrilled with a one-point loss to OLSH, which averages 75.4 points and handled Jeannette in the semis, 69-41.

DiMichele scored 30, junior 6-4 forward Dawson Summers had 14 points and 11 rebounds, and Spadafora scored 12 for the Chargers.

In the other semifinal, GCC held off Sto-Rox, which arguably beat itself by going 8 of 30 from the free-throw line, including 0 for 7 inside the final minute.

Junior Brevan Williams, a 22-point-per-game scorer, led GCC with 19 in their first semifinal in four years. The bench came alive as four starters played with four fouls late into the contest.

Junior Ryan Appleby and senior Christian McGowan each scored nine and freshman Tyree Turner chipped in eight. GCC made 10 of 17 free throws in the fourth.

“The guys are ready,” Williams said of facing OLSH. “We all just want to go out there and win on Saturday.”

Teams in the finals appreciate the ride perhaps more than any others in WPIAL history because of the covid effect.

“We’re blessed to get back in the finals,” OLSH coach Mike Rodriguez said. “We know how hard it is to get there, and every time you reach the finals feels like the first time.”

Said Hyland: “It’s been a hectic year with all the pauses in schedules, postponed games, temperature checks and all that, but it’s been worth it. Fortunately we aren’t done yet.”

Only WPIAL champions will advance to the PIAA playoffs this season.

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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