No. 2 Vincentian Academy keeps GCC girls from title game return
Greensburg Central Catholic girls basketball players weren't admiring their high-tops as they left the court Monday night, their heads down in frustration and tears swelling after their bold second-half comeback came up just short.
Their hopes of returning to the WPIAL finals were dashed — barely.
The third-seeded Centurions rallied from 16 points down early in the third quarter and cut No. 2 Vincentian's lead to one midway through the fourth. But the Royals pulled out a great escape and posted a 43-39 victory in the Class 2A semifinals at Fox Chapel.
Instead of Greensburg Central (18-6) advancing to play at Petersen Events Center for the second straight time, it will be the Royals (20-4) — new to 2A after winning five consecutive Class A titles — who will play top-seeded Chartiers-Houston (22-2) at 5 p.m. Thursday for the title. It will be the Royals' seventh finals appearance in eight years.
GCC, a No. 14 seed when it finished as WPIAL runner-up last season, won't turn in uniforms just yet. It will now get ready for the PIAA playoffs, which begin March 10.
The team knows it will take a more complete game to advance in the state bracket.
Vincentian's size bothered GCC and kept the Centurions on the perimeter, while the Royals scored easily inside, at least in the first half.
“To win championships you have to play defense — it's the little things that can add up,” GCC coach Joe Eisaman said. “We looked too cautious in the first half and didn't defend well.”
Vincentian took a 17-8 lead after the first quarter as turnovers and cold shooting hindered GCC. After GCC cut it to 22-15 on a 3-pointer by Maddy Coddington, Tess Belko answered with a 3 of her own and the Royals ended the half on an 8-1 run to take a 30-16 advantage into halftime.
Defensively charged and amped up pressure-wise, GCC owned the third quarter. It limited the Royals to one field goal and four points to narrow the deficit. A 7-0 run capped by an Anna Eisaman 3 got GCC within 34-28.
Haley Moore scored on a drive, Brittany Stawovy buried a 3 and Moore made two free throws early in the fourth for GCC to make it 36-35 with 4:39 to play.
Stawovy faked and stepped back, appearing to hit a 3 from the corner, but the official ruled her foot was on the line and her long two allowed the Centurions to creep within 38-37. Just before that play, a call was reversed that could have given GCC possession, down one point.
“I don't know if it was a 3 or not,” Stawovy said. “I didn't look down at my feet. We got down early and that is hard to overcome. We showed the will to come back, and it just didn't happen. It hurts to not be able to make it back to the finals.”
Some missed opportunities seemed to pile up in the closing minutes for the Centurions, and Vincentian quietly pulled ahead. Madison Very connected on a short pull-up jumper and Olivia O'Brien scored inside off a pass from Very to make it 42-37 with 1:30 left.
Katelyn Bartlett led the Royals with 15 points, 10 in the first half. Caroline Elliott and Belko had eight apiece.
Baily Bungard put back a miss for GCC with 29.9 seconds left but missed the and-1 chance.
“We knew moving up to Class 2A would not be easy,” Vincentian coach Ron Moncrief said. “No lead was going to be safe against GCC. But our girls didn't panic. We play a tough schedule so they have been in that position before. The girls have learned what to do.”
Stawovy led GCC with 14 points and Coddington finished with 11.
“You haven't heard the last of us,” Joe Eisaman said. “We're going to keep working and get ready for states.”