Greensburg Central Catholic boys hold off Leechburg in key Section 3-A game
Greensburg Central Catholic heard Leechburg’s crowd, loud and clear. And then the Centurions quieted it down.
Visiting GCC took the air out of Leechburg’s rowdy “Devils’ Den” with a dominant second quarter, then weathered a second-half rally from the home team, holding on for a 68-57 win in a crucial Section 3-A game Tuesday night.
“It was a big game,” said Geoff Helm, who scored a game-high 30 points, two off of his career high. “We beat them, obviously, at our house, but we wanted to come out and outplay them at theirs because we knew it was going to be an uncomfortable place, it was going to be packed. We just stayed composed.”
GCC outscored Leechburg, 21-3, in the second quarter to overcome an early deficit, and the Centurions led by as many as 22 points in the second half before Leechburg rallied late in the third and fourth quarters.
“Going into somewhere that’s not your home, you’ve got to come out intense right away,” Helm said. “I think we did that right off the bat.”
The Centurions (12-6, 7-3) completed a two-game sweep of Leechburg and moved into a tie with the Blue Devils (10-8, 6-4) for second place in the section, a game behind St. Joseph.
The atmosphere inside Leechburg’s gymnasium matched the stakes, as GCC brought its own fan bus to battle the Blue Devils’ home crowd.
“We’re trying to go one game at a time, but we knew we had to win this one to get where we want to be at the end of the year,” GCC coach Greg Bisignani said. “Our fans were great. … Leechburg’s fans were great. It was another playoff atmosphere. We’ve had a couple, so the kids are getting used to it now. It’s only going to help us down the road.”
One bad quarter derailed Leechburg, which had a chance to forge a first-place tie with St. Joseph with a win Tuesday.
“That’s the game of basketball,” coach Corey Smith said. “You cannot have a bad quarter, a really bad quarter, like that and expect to win the ballgame against a really good team. I tip my hat off to GCC. They came in ready to play tonight.”
After suffering a 23-point loss at GCC in the teams’ first meeting earlier this month, Leechburg came in with a slow-it-down game plan on offense. The tactic worked early on, as the Blue Devils worked the ball down low and took a five-point lead late in the first quarter.
On one possession late in the quarter Leechburg took the air out of the ball, passing around the perimeter for more than a minute. But the slowdown backfired on the Blue Devils, who ultimately turned it over and then got buried in the second.
“Guys, they didn’t stay disciplined,” Smith said. “We worked for two days about staying disciplined doing our stall offense, which is our regular motion offense. … The guys got mixed up, and stuff happened. That’s when they took the momentum.”
And then some. GCC scored the first 18 points of the second quarter, forced Leechburg into eight turnovers in the period and didn’t permit a field goal until Leechburg’s John Miskinis converted a three-point play with 2 minutes, 29 seconds remaining before halftime.
The Centurions drained five 3-pointers in the quarter, including three by Jacob Biros, and led 32-16 at halftime.
“Our defense turned the corner and really made a difference,” Bisignani said. “The kids were talking, and moving their feet on defense. They were throwing some junk defenses at us, and Jake Biros got hot. We recognized it, and got it to the open guy.”
Helm scored 10 points in the third quarter, but Leechburg closed the period on a 13-2 run to cut its deficit to 10 points heading to the fourth. The Blue Devils twice made it an eight-point game in the fourth, but GCC made sure it got no closer with strong free-throw shooting.
Biros complemented Helm’s big night with 17 points, including four 3-pointers.
Dylan Cook led Leechburg with 14 points, 10 in the third quarter, and Eli Rich scored 11. Connor McDermott hit three 3s in the third quarter and finished with nine points.
“Our section’s pretty knotted up right now,” Bisignani said. “Again, we’re looking at it as one game at a time, and I think if we keep taking it one game at a time and playing well, we’ll be in a good position.”
Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Doug at [email protected] or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.