Seton-La Salle boys win 1st WPIAL title since 1989
Perhaps it's fitting that a basketball game played between two Catholic schools came down to a little divine intervention.
With 7.2 seconds left in Saturday's WPIAL Class AA championship game, a free throw from Seton-La Salle sophomore Cletus Helton missed its mark and stopped for a beat before dropping.
The frozen-in-time shot gave the top-seeded Rebels a two-possession lead and preserved a 52-51 victory over No. 2 Greensburg Central Catholic at Duquesne's Palumbo Center.
“That was crazy,” Helton said. “I was aiming for the back of the rim. It hit the wrong side — the right side. I thought it was going to roll out, but it went in.”
Which was equally as amazing to Seton-La Salle coach Mark Walsh, who compared it to a Tiger Woods putt he saw a number of years ago.
“We'll have to look at the film to see if maybe that ball just physically stopped,” Walsh said. “Sometimes it's the person above looking down on us and saying, ‘OK, today's your time.' ”
It hasn't been Seton-La Salle's time for a while. The Rebels had been 1-5 in WPIAL championship games and last won a title in 1989, topping New Brighton in the Class AAA game.
But Dale Clancy scored 16 points, Christian DelGreco added 10, and Levi Masua racked up seven blocks, as Seton-La Salle won a game that featured six ties and 12 lead changes.
“It feels great to make history for our school,” Clancy said. “Especially going out with a bang senior year.”
Malik White (nine points) converted two free throws to give Seton-La Salle the lead for the final time — 45-44 with 3:09 left in the fourth quarter.
After Collin Bisignani's layup cut it to one, Clancy came off a screen and drilled a fadeaway jumper in the lane to push Seton's edge back to 49-46 at 1:39.
Ryan Norkus — who, Walsh said, asked to shoot 50 free throws following Seton's win over Beaver Falls in the semifinals — went 2 for 2 from the line with 21.1 seconds left to push the Rebels' lead to four.
Helton's free throw was the front end of a one-and-one and negated a layup from GCC's Brian Graytok.
Both teams have first-round games in the PIAA Class AA playoffs next Saturday. Seton-La Salle (25-1) will play the fourth seed from District 6, Penns Valley, and GCC (22-3) plays the No. 3 seed from District 6, Bald Eagle Area.
Billy Hipp scored a game-high 19 points to lead Greensburg Central Catholic, but the Centurions were hurt by an 8-of-21 performance at the free-throw line.