OLSH handles Greensburg CC to take 3rd straight WPIAL crown

Saturday, March 13, 2021 | 7:22 PM

While Greensburg Central Catholic was talking about diamonds, Our Lady of the Sacred Hearts grabbed the gold.

Second-seeded GCC tried a diamond-and-1 defense early, trying to slow down No. 1 OLSH in the WPIAL Class 2A boys basketball championship, and the plan was effective early.

But the high-speed Chargers adjusted, dictated the tempo and shifted gears in the second half on the way to a 71-52 victory and their third straight title Saturday evening at Peters Township’s AHN Arena.

“(GCC) did some good things defensively, and that is a credit to them. They’re a good team,” OLSH coach Mike Rodriguez said. “We changed some things up, and it worked out for us. The third (title) is special for our younger guys who hadn’t won. We only have two guys who have won before. We’re so blessed to be here.”

OLSH (21-0), the state’s No. 1-ranked team, ran its winning streak to 37 and became the 10th WPIAL boys team to win three titles in a row — the first to 3-peat since New Castle (2012-14) — in its fifth straight finals appearance.

“They spread us out in the second half, and they made more shots,” GCC coach Christian Hyland said. “I thought we played pretty well in the first half. They caught fire in the second half.”

GCC, which led briefly in the opening quarter and was within seven at halftime, finished the season at 16-4. The Centurions were seeking their first WPIAL title in their third finals trip.

OLSH senior guard Dante Spadafora led all scorers with 25 points, including four 3-pointers, and junior Jake DiMichele added 19.

Junior Brevan Williams had 18 points to lead GCC (16-4). Junior Ryan Appleby added 11, and freshman Tyree Turner had 10.

The Chargers changed up defenses, starting in a 1-2-2 press, before switching to a 2-2-1 and then their “32” set. After making five 3-pointers in the first half, GCC made none in the second.

“We took that away,” Rodriguez said.

“This caused a lot of turnovers and rushed shots, so it was hard for them to get shots off,” said Spadafora, a West Liberty recruit. “That led to our big lead.”

With the diamond-and-1 meant to limit DiMichele, Spadafora flourished. The Chargers are used to seeing a triangle-and-2 defense but had not prepared for what GCC offered early.

“It was kind of weird to see Jake as not an option on the offensive side,” Spadafora said. “It was hard getting the ball around, so it forced me to take more shots and I had to convert on my opportunities.”

GCC took away OLSH’s ability to get second-chance points in the first half, which wasn’t the Chargers’ best shooting half.

After an 8-0 run by the Chargers early made it 10-3, GCC closed the gap to 16-11 after the first quarter as junior Dylan Parsons made two 3-pointers.

“At the end of the first quarter, I told our guys, ‘We belong here. We can hang with them,’ ” Hyland said.

Turner knocked down a pair of 3s in the second, the second to get the Centurions within 20-19 at the 4:05 mark of the quarter. But the Chargers used an 8-3 spurt to push ahead, 28-22.

Williams, who controlled the boards in the first half, took a feed from senior Christian McGowan to cut it to two, but sophomore Rocco Spadafora made a 3 just before the break to make it 33-26.

After Williams’ layup cut it to 40-37, OLSH ended the third on a 12-4 spurt, with Dante Spadafora hitting a 3, sophomore Bryson Kirschner converting a three-point play and Kirschner beating the buzzer with a putback to make it 52-37.

Despite a dunk and later a three-point play from Williams, GCC could only get within 12 the rest of the way.

“They kind of went into four-corners and got Spadafora going downhill on drop-offs,” Hyland said. “If we don’t have some loose balls and turnovers, we might have stayed with them longer. Spadafora is such an athlete. You can’t simulate their length and speed. Film doesn’t do them justice.”

For as good as OLSH is, with its 74-point average and energetic pace, the Chargers often prove they are not a two-man show. OLSH got contributions from the 6-foot-3 Kirschner, 6-4 junior Dawson Summers and sophomore Rocco Spadafora.

Summers scored nine, and Kirschner and the younger Spadafora had seven each.

“Our big guys … having a paint presence like that is so uplifting,” Dante Spadafora said. “Me and Jake can’t do everything all game. My little brother, Rocco, also hit some big shots. Bryson and Dawson did, too. That saved us.”

Junior Dylan Parsons hit two 3s for GCC.

Dante Spadafora deflected attention to his teammates, pointing out this is the first championship for most of them.

“It’s nice because I want to be known as a winner when I graduate,” Spadafora said. “It’s kind of nice to have the third one under my belt. Seeing the younger guys happy and to get a championship is most important to me, because I have been here before and done this.”

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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