St. Joseph edges Greensburg Central Catholic in Section 3-A opener
Two schools that both had rare WPIAL playoff misses last season were anxious to start the road back to the postseason Friday night.
St. Joseph, in the first section game between the two schools since the late 1970s, used a strong effort on the defensive boards in the fourth quarter to down Greensburg Central Catholic, 72-63, in the Section 3-A opener.
Sophomore Andrew Sullivan led the way for the Spartans (4-1, 1-0) with 25 points, including nine in the final quarter.
Senior Daniel Fábregas added 17, hitting nine of his first 10 free throws.
Senior Geoff Helm tallied 26 points and nine rebounds for the Centurions (2-1, 0-1) until fouling out in the first minute of the fourth quarter.
“I thought we were physical and aggressive on both ends of the floor,” St. Joseph coach Kelly Robinson said. “We’re going up and getting rebounds at the highest point. The kids really wanted it and it feels good.”
The Spartans held the lead for most of the first half until Greensburg Central tied the game at 28-all on a 3-point basket by Joel Lonigro with 2 minutes, 38 seconds to go in the half.
Down by two at the half, the Centurions came out strong to start the second half, converting two St. Joseph turnovers into baskets to take a 35-30 lead one minute into the third quarter.
Helm score 10 in the third quarter, though the Spartans staged a 15-5 run at one point.
Helm hit a bank shot to cut the St. Joseph lead to 50-48 with 1:49 left in the third, but committed his fourth foul about a half-minute later and fouled Sullivan on a 3-point attempt 43 seconds into the fourth quarter to end his night.
“We didn’t play very well, we had a lot of fouls called against us,” Centurions coach Greg Bisignani said. “We’re not a very smart team. We’ve got to get better.”
Sullivan hit two of three from the line in what Robinson thought was a key turning point in the game.
With Helm on the bench, Jacob Biros hit a big 3-pointer and Ben LaCarte nailed two free throws to keep Greensburg Central within striking distance, down 64-61 with 2:12 to go, but Fábregas canned six free throws in the next 66 seconds to ice the game.
“The kids we had at the line are good foul shooters,” Robinison said. “On a couple of misses, we went in and got the ball back. That can be a backbreaker for an opponent.”
Lonigro and LaCarte also fouled out, and three other Centurions played with four fouls during the fourth quarter.
Max Pisula had 15 points for Greensburg Central Catholic.
Matt Arvay had 11 for the Spartans, including two key 3-pointers in the third quarter.
Grant Bendis had eight rebounds and four steals for St. Joseph.
The Centurions had a streak of 17 straight years in the playoffs halted last year, while St. Joseph had a 13-season streak end in 2015 and missed the postseason two of the past three seasons.
George Guido is a freelance writer.