Greensburg Central Catholic boys earn No. 2 seed in Class AA
Zach Herman, the shifty point guard in Greensburg Central Catholic's electric backcourt, scoffed at a suggestion that the Centurions boys basketball team is a two-man show.
“Hardly,” was Herman's immediate response.
That his humble expression would reach teammates beyond shooting guard Brian Graytok, the other half of GCC's emerging guard tandem, Herman hopes so.
Especially after GCC on Tuesday night received a No. 2 seed in the WPIAL Class AA playoffs. The Centurions (21-1), champions of Section 3, will play a first-round game Feb. 20 against the preliminary-round winner between Brownsville and Northgate.
Defending-champion Beaver Falls (19-3) received the top seed in Class AA. Jeannette (17-4) was seeded No. 4 and, like Beaver Falls, awaits a preliminary-round winner. The Jayhawks will open play Feb. 20 against either Aliquippa or Avonworth.
“On the surface, Class AA doesn't seem to be strong,” WPIAL executive director Tim O'Malley said. “But someone in the state does by ranking them one (Beaver Falls), two (GCC), three (Seton-La Salle) in the state. Greensburg Central Catholic and Beaver Falls are very good. Seton-La Salle and Jeannette are good.”
Other top seeds include New Castle (22-0) in Class AAAA boys, Chartiers Valley (19-3) in Class AAA boys, Lincoln Park (17-5) in Class A boys, Mt. Lebanon (20-2) in Class AAAA girls, Blackhawk (22-0) in Class AAA girls, Seton-La Salle (21-1) in Class AA girls and Vincentian Academy (21-1) in Class A girls.
New Castle, the WPIAL's top Class AAAA boys team, opens against No. 16 Latrobe (12-10) on Feb. 20.
The single-elimination playoffs will continue through March 1-2, when the championship games will be played at A.J. Palumbo Center.
The GCC boys would have raced through the regular season unbeaten if not for a midseason loss to Class AAAA Gateway. The Centurions finished 12-0 in Section 3, where they claimed their fourth consecutive title and capped the regular season with an 81-72 victory over District 6 power Bishop McCort.
“Going into the season, we knew we were a little bit under the radar,” Herman said. “We thought we might have something here because we worked very hard in the offseason. But it wasn't until we started playing games and winning early that we realized what we had. It's been our goal to make it to Palumbo.”
In 2012, GCC was eliminated in the WPIAL semifinals by Monessen and later was ousted from the PIAA playoffs by WPIAL champion Beaver Falls in the quarterfinals.
That team finished 21-7, graduated five seniors, including three starters and one top reserve. On top of that, six players transferred from privately funded GCC back to their home school districts.
“We only have back six players out of 17 on the varsity and JV teams from last season,” GCC coach Greg Bisignani said. “I didn't know what to expect, but it's been great. This team plays hard and has great chemistry.”
Elsewhere, the Hempfield girls received a No. 4 seed in Class AAAA. The Spartans (19-3) will meet No. 13 seed Upper St. Clair (11-11) in a first-round game Friday at North Allegheny.
“Anytime you get a top-5 seed, you have to be happy,” first-year Hempfield coach Aaron Epps said. “It's what we figured. Upper St. Clair knocked us out of the playoffs last year, so we're looking forward to playing them.”
Hempfield boys coach Jim Nesser wasn't disappointed with his team's No. 7 seed but stressed the importance of winning a first-round game. The Spartans (17-5), who could be without injured center Tony Pilato, will face Fox Chapel (16-6) on Feb. 20.
“We put an emphasis on getting a win in the playoffs,” said Nesser, who previously led Jeannette to a PIAA Class AA championship. “It's time to take it to the next level. We have to win some games in the playoffs.”
Greensburg Salem (16-6) received a No. 8 seed in the Class AAA girls bracket and will play No. 9 Belle Vernon (15-6) on Feb. 20 in a rematch of the Golden Lions' 63-53 victory during the regular season.
“If we win, there is a good chance we'll play No. 1 Blackhawk,” Vertacnik said. “If we lose, there is still a good chance we can make the state playoffs if Blackhawk makes the WPIAL finals.”
Two area Class AA girls teams will open play on Tuesday. Jeannette (15-6) is seeded No. 5 and will meet the winner of Steel Valley-Avonworth, and Greensburg Central Catholic (16-6) is seeded No. 8 and will play the survivor of Beaver Falls-South Side Beaver.
Staff writer Paul Schofield contributed to this report. Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.