Third-ranked Jeannette boys edge Greensburg Central Catholic on late putback

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Tuesday, January 12, 2021 | 9:45 PM


That Greensburg Central Catholic had played a game and Jeannette had not heading into the teams’ Section 3-2A boys basketball matchup was mostly irrelevant to the coaches.

When rivals like these get together, the present tends to upstage the past.

“Doesn’t matter,” GCC coach Christian Hyland said. “It’s GCC-Jeannette.”

Jeannette coach Adrian Batts added: “Nobody’s was gonna blow anybody out.”

Still, No. 3-ranked Jeannette had not even played a scrimmage before Tuesday’s season opener. It’s just been practices on top of practices.

But the Jayhawks were sharp in spurts and rebounded when it mattered most to pull out a 47-46 victory on their sleek, refurbished home floor.

Senior Keith Rockmore grabbed a rebound and scored on a putback with 5 seconds left for the difference, and Jeannette (1-0, 1-0) dodged a quality final look by the Centurions (1-1, 1-1) to open the year with a win.

“Once I saw the ball go in the air, I knew it was coming to me,” Rockmore said. “I knew I had to put it back in.”

Rockmore finished with 17 points and six rebounds, scoring all of his points after halftime, and senior teammate Toby Cline added 14 points, including a few scoop shots, for Jeannette.

“We just kept it together,” said Rockmore, who nearly injured himself celebrating at midcourt when the final buzzer sounded. “I was very tired, I’m not going to lie. A couple plays we were catching a bunch of cramps, but we fought through that.”

Thanks to realignment, Jeannette and GCC are section opponents again for the first time since the 2017-18 season. GCC beat Jeannette last year in the same gym, 48-46, in nonsection play.

“We knew it was going to come down to the wire,” Batts said. “It’s like a playground game. Whoever gets the ball last is going to win. And they had a chance. We were sloppy on both ends and so were they.”

The lead changed sides six times in the fourth in the nip-and-tuck section clash. Cline faked in the corner and drove in for a score to give Jeannette a 45-42 lead with a minute to go.

But senior Christian McGowan scored on a short jumper and senior Dylan Sebek came away with a steal on the inbounds and was fouled with 27.2 seconds. He made both to put the Centurions in front, 46-45.

Jeannette 6-foot-9 center Hunter Schmidt nearly scored inside but when his bank shot missed, Rockmore worked himself into a position to get his hands on a rebound and muscled in the finish to give Jeannette the final edge.

“I honestly thought he got fouled, but hey, the referees … it was a great officiated game. They let them play,” Batts said. “That’s all you can ask for in a rivalry game. It was good. It was a fun, clean game.”

GCC still had a chance and nearly won at the buzzer as junior Brevan Williams tried a floater in the lane, but it didn’t go down and Jeannette held on.

“We’re glad to get a look at the end,” Hyland said. “I’ll take that shot 10 out of 10 times. We didn’t rebound well and coach Batts did a nice job with his game plan forcing us to make outside shots.”

Williams led GCC with 14 points, junior Dylan Parsons and McGowan had 11 each and Sebek had 10. Parsons made three 3-pointers.

Jeannette took a 34-32 lead into the fourth after a 10-point third quarter from Rockmore.

His 3-pointer and two free throws gave the Jayhawks a 34-29 lead but Parsons connected on a straightaway 3 to cut it to two.

“I told our guys you have to continue to play hard,” Batts said. “And you have to do it on the defensive end. We had quite a few turnovers but I expected the sloppy play.”

GCC, which handled Propel Braddock Hills, 72-36, in its opener, only had four players score.

“When you play Jeannette you know it’s going to be a grind,” Hyland said. “This game leaves a bad taste for us but it’s a lot of motivation for the next time we play them.”

Jeannette, which seems to have as many postponements on its schedule as it does players so far, took a 22-20 lead into halftime. The lead never got above six in the opening 16 minutes — or for the game.

Cline scored on a layup to give Jeannette an 18-12 lead. But GCC scored six straight to tie it, including a putback by Williams.

“When you have senior guards like we have,” Batts said. “You have two guys who were in the WPIAL football championship and a few plays from winning a state championship, they aren’t going to be afraid of the moment. They had some big defensive stops.”

Sophomore Ryan Kimmel hit a fadeaway jumper at the end of the first quarter to give the Jayhawks a 14-10 advantage. Kimmel left the game with a leg issue but returned.

Schmidt grabbed seven rebounds.

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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