Gregory's free throw gives Jeannette win over GCC
One free throw was just enough for Jeannette High School to claim its fourth consecutive WPIAL section title in girls basketball.
Each time, the Jayhawks have edged or tied Greensburg Central Catholic for the honors.
Ciara Gregory connected from the line with 0.8 seconds left to break a tie and lift Jeannette to a 54-53 victory over host GCC on Thursday night in the final Section 4-AA game for both schools.
Jeannette (14-6, 11-1) survived after allowing GCC to rally from a double-digit deficit and take its first lead late in the game.
Gregory banked in a 3-point shot with 1:12 remaining to put Jeannette back on top, 51-50, before Carolyn Appleby answered with a 3-pointer for GCC (15-6, 10-2).
Monique Redman's driving layup with 32 seconds to go knotted the score at 53-53 before Gregory's shot hit the side of the backboard after she was fouled with 0.8 seconds left.
“I'd rather have the ball in her hands than anyone's when it comes down to crunch time,” said Redman, who fed the ball to Gregory at the top of the key with time winding down and the score tied. “We all put our trust in her.”
Gregory scored 29 points, and Redman added 14 to lead Jeannette, which also edged GCC in section races by one game in 2011 and 2012 and shared the title with Centurions in 2010.
“I told the girls beforehand that they had a chance to do something that I had a chance to do when I played at Jeannette,” Jayhawks coach Luann Mills. “I told them they had a chance to win four section titles. They did it. I told them that no matter the atmosphere, this is about them. It's not about anyone else. They handled it well.”
At the start, it looked as though Jeannette would bury GCC, building leads of 13-2 and 25-6. But the Centurions, who made just one field goal in the first quarter, started to come back.
“We dug way too deep of a hole,” GCC coach Chris Kallock said. “The girls were too hyped up for this game.”
Jeannette settled for a 31-18 halftime lead. But GCC rallied with a 21-11 third-quarter edge to pull within 42-39.
“I remember saying when we had that big lead, ‘They'll probably come back,' ” Mills said. “They did.”
But Gregory scored 20 second-half points to keep Jeannette afloat.
“I knew I had to make some shots,” she said. “I knew that when I went to the line, I needed to make at least one.”
After her first attempt was good, giving Jeannette the one-point lead, she intentionally missed the second to start the clock, and time almost immediately expired.
Devon Larkin led GCC with 14 points, including 10 in the second half. Her turnaround jumper with 2:12 to go gave GCC a 50-47 lead. Sydney Pecoraro hit 1 of 2 free throws to pull Jeannette within 50-48 before Gregory and Appleby traded 3-pointers, tying the score with 32 seconds left.