Jeannette boys pull away from rival Greensburg Central Catholic
Jeannette saved its best for last in a back-and-forth run-in with longtime rival Greensburg Central Catholic.
Section opponents no more, the boys basketball teams battled like they were playing for a championship before a packed house Saturday afternoon in Carbon.
Don’t tell the players Jeannette-GCC has become a meaningless encounter. Or the fans, who helped give the nonsection game into a playoff-like feel.
Seniors AJ Sharp and Seth Howard sparked a late surge for the Jayhawks in a 56-47 victory that saw the Jayhawks score the final 11 points.
After GCC (4-3) went ahead 47-45 on a layup by senior forward Ryan Bisignani, WPIAL No. 3 Class 2A Jeannette (5-2) went to work with an 11-0 run over the final two minutes and 23 seconds — seven points by Howard and four from Sharp — to put away the single-A Centurions.
“I told our seniors, this is the last time you’ll play here, on this floor,” Jeannette coach Adrian Batts said. “Play hard every moment. This is a great place to play, and it was a great atmosphere. Our guys got after it and had to find a way.”
GCC turned it over four straight times during the pivotal stretch of the fourth, as Howard, Sharp and Imani Sanders cranked up the pressure.
“We didn’t execute our offense in the end,” GCC coach Greg Bisignani said. “We need to be able execute in the final two minutes. Their seniors finished the game, and ours didn’t.”
Sharp did not score in the first half but still tied junior Jackson Pruitt with a team-high 12 points. Howard added 10.
Jeanette made eight 3-pointers, three from Pruitt and two apiece from Howard and Imani Sanders. Six shots from behind the arc went in before halftime when Jeannette led 26-23.
“They hit six 3s in the first half,” coach Bisignani said. “We weren’t expecting that.”
Sharp did most of his damage slashing to the rim, a day after he hit eight 3-pointers and scored 30 against Bentworth in a 77-34 win.
“We played more as a team today,” Sharp said. “We were looking to push it up the floor and move. Howie (Howard) really stepped up well.”
Ryan Bisignani led GCC with 12 points and senior Geoff Helm, a Shippensburg recruit, had 11.
Senior forward Marcus Barnes chipped in eight points, and Sanders and junior forward Zach Crutchman added seven apiece for Jeannette, which had stretched the lead to 40-27 with 3:49 to go in the third quarter.
An 8-0 run then had the Jayhawks looking like they might run away and hide. Sharp scored on consecutive drives, the second on a nice screen from Barnes, and Pruitt canned a corner 3.
But GCC ran off nine straight points to close the gap to 40-36 with 47.2 seconds left in the third.
GCC junior guard Tommy Erdely hit a 3 from the top of the key to cut it to 42-40.
After Helm buried a 3 to open the fourth to make it 43-43, Ben LaCarte scored inside for his first basket to give GCC a two-point edge.
Crutchman, a Hempfield transfer who scored all of his points in the first half, fouled out with about 4:30 to play. Shortly after, the Jayhawks made their key run.
“When you hold GCC to 47 points on their floor, you know you did a good job,” Batts said. “I thought Imani played big. He caused some havoc and forced some big turnovers; and he had two big rebounds. Seth showed the speed he has up and down the floor and he has been shooting it better. To win this kind of game on the road, that’s what helps you get ready for the playoffs.”
GCC will look to rebound in the Deer Lakes tournament over the holiday break.
“Our guys are getting better,” coach Bisignani said. “We’ve had some guys miss practice with illnesses so we haven’t had everyone together. But I was happy with their effort.”
Bill Beckner is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bill at [email protected] or via Twitter @BillBeckner.