Central Catholic holds off late McKeesport rally in victory
Chuck Crummie rode Central Catholic's third-quarter momentum to career coaching victory No. 599 Friday night.
But the Vikings nearly wasted a 14-point fourth-quarter lead in the process.
Sean Whalen scored 12 points, and Central Catholic held off a furious McKeesport rally to claim a 63-58 WPIAL Section 2-AAAA road victory, enhancing the Vikings' playoff hopes heading into the final two weeks of the regular season.
Central Catholic (10-7, 7-3) trails section co-leaders Gateway and Plum by just one game.
Aside from that, Crummie won't have long to wait for a shot at his 600th victory. Central Catholic faces East Liverpool (Ohio) on Saturday in the Coaches vs. Cancer Clash of the Titans tournament at Geneva College.
His focus, however, appeared to be on his team's play rather than his own accomplishments.
“Any time you win on the road, you have an extra sense of satisfaction,” said Crummie, whose 34-year record is 599-290. “We were able to beat McKeesport's zone in the third quarter and get some easy baskets. They want to feel comfortable in that zone, but they started to question themselves when we got that lead.
“It changed the momentum of the game.”
Kevin Wharton-Price and freshman Paris Ford added 10 points each for Central Catholic, which swept the season series with McKeesport (8-9, 4-6).
“We need to split with the remaining teams we play from the section if we're going to get into the playoffs,” McKeesport coach Corey Gadson said. “This was a game we needed.”
Jordan Payne led the Tigers with 18 points, 13 coming in a furious fourth-quarter comeback attempt that saw McKeesport cut a 14-point deficit to four on Payne's 3-pointer with 45 seconds left.
Central Catholic survived by making 10 of 13 free throws in the fourth quarter and 19 of 26 overall. John Petrishen converted four in a row during one stretch in the final 1:30, and Alex Schopppen, who had a career-high nine rebounds, made both of his attempts with 56 seconds left to help the Vikings stay in the lead.
“We gave it a shot there at the end,” Gadson said. “I can't fault the effort. They played hard.”
Central Catholic used a 20-5 run spanning the end of the third quarter and the early part of the fourth to turn a one-point deficit into a 51-37 lead. After the teams traded baskets, McKeesport outscored the Vikings, 17-7 — with Payne scoring 13 during the run — to cut the deficit to 60-56 with 45 seconds left.
“Top to bottom, this section might be the most competitive in the WPIAL,” Crummie said. “That's not to say that the other sections aren't as good, but there is more balance in this section than I can remember for a long time.”
In a game that became physical at times, McKeesport made 11 of 13 free throws. The Tigers played nearly a full two quarters without leading scorer Khalil Perdue, who committed two fouls in the first quarter and picked up his third early in the third on a charge.
“He's got to stay on the floor,” Gadson said. “We've talked about that over and over again. It was just mistakes a young ballplayer makes.”
Perdue scored eight of his 14 points in the fourth quarter for McKeesport, his total nearly six points below his season average.
Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com.