Serra Catholic shuts down Greensburg Central Catholic to earn season split

Monday, January 30, 2023 | 10:09 PM

After a near miss in Round 1, the Serra Catholic girls basketball team handled business in Round 2 against first-place Greensburg Central Catholic, handing the Centurions their first section loss of the season and thrusting itself back in line for a share of the Section 3-2A title.

Freshman Abby Genes scored all 13 of her points in the second half to push the Eagles to a 40-35 win at Serra Catholic on Monday.

The Eagles, who have only eight on their roster, were down to seven Monday as Rylee Allebach is out with an injury.

“We knew Rylee was unavailable, so it was even more imperative that we played well defensively and took care of the basketball. We didn’t do that early on, and that led to our struggles early,” Serra Catholic coach Matt Bacco said. “I’m so proud of our eight — tonight, our seven. It was a big game for them tonight and in a great atmosphere.”

The game was low scoring, which fit right into what the Eagles like to do. They entered the game with the top defense in the WPIAL, allowing just 27.9 points per game.

“We can’t take anything away from them. They played really well defensively,” GCC coach Chris Skatell said. “Then the other part of that, we just didn’t make shots. We had Cadie (Peters) in foul trouble, and that didn’t help at all. And we just weren’t willing to work inside out and hit our shooters.”

The Eagles (13-2, 8-1) held a slim 10-8 lead after one quarter, but it was only a matter of time before the Centurions (16-4, 9-1) got rolling.

Erica Gribble, who led her team with 15 points, picked up a steal and layup to kick off an 8-0 run as the Eagles went scoreless for six minutes in the second.

Mya Morgan added a transition basket and Gribble and Cara Dupilka each turned Serra turnovers into points to make it 17-12 with 1:58 remaining in the first half.

“We were able to force some turnovers and got into transition. We didn’t have to deal with their zone slowing us down,” Skatell said. “I thought we did well against it, but those were big baskets.”

Then Kendalyn Niedermeyer made some noise for the Eagles.

The sophomore reserve came off the bench and picked up a steal. She was fouled and hit two free throws to make it 17-14. On her team’s next possession, Niedermeyer stepped into a 3-pointer that found nothing but net to tie the game.

In the final seconds of the half, Cate Clarke buried another 3 for the Eagles to give her team a 20-17 lead at the half.

“With Rylee out, I went up to Kendalyn and asked her if she was going to be ready,” Bacco said. “I couldn’t be more proud of her. That’s why I call her ‘Little Larry Bird,’ because she can stroke it from outside. That’s what she does. She’s a shooter. She really sparked us there.”

Clarke, who scored a team-high 15 points for Serra, drove baseline and hit a soft jumper to make it 22-17, but the Centurions were able to answer.

Gribble hit a jumper and Morgan hit 1 of 2 from the line just before Gribble hit the first 3-pointer of the game for her team to give GCC a 23-22 lead.

“Turnovers again, that was the difference,” Bacco said. “There were moments where we were careless with the ball and not strong with our passes. It got them right back into it.”

Genes, who struggled in the first half, gave her team the lead for good with 2:52 remaining in the third. The freshman hit two straight from beyond the arc, the second just before the buzzer to make it 28-23 after three.

“Abby had a rough start,” Bacco said. “She couldn’t hit anything in the first half. It says a lot about the kid. She’s not afraid to step up and knock down huge shots.”

The Eagles watched as the Centurions whittled the lead down to four twice in the fourth quarter, but a clutch steal by Caitlyn Cooley and her ball-handling ability allowed her to spin along the sideline in front of the GCC bench and fling a one-handed pass to Genes all alone for a layup with 2:30 remaining that pushed the lead to 37-28.

“She’s ‘Little Hercules,’” Bacco said. “She was cramping up and still running around out there. If I had a cramp, I probably couldn’t walk. But she battled through. She’s just such a strong player.”

It was too much for the Centurions to overcome and put the Eagles right back into position to share the section crown with GCC if both teams win their remaining section games.

The Eagles were able to hold Morgan to only nine points and held Avery Davis to four points without a 3-pointer.

“Mya struggled a bit, and if she doesn’t get going early, sometimes she has games like this and struggles,” Skatell said. “They did a good job with the zone, and we couldn’t hit shots to pull them out of it.”

“Cate had 17 last time we played them, so we figured she’d be the focal point of their defense,” Bacco said. “But she’s the hardest worker and the first one in and last one out of the gym. I’m proud of her for the way she played tonight. She carried us when we needed it.”

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