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Updated 2 hours ago
It wasn't supposed to end like this. Not after a perfect regular season. Not after eight straight section titles.
Not after a No. 1 seeding.
Greensburg Central Catholic staggered out of Fox Chapel following a head-in-the-hands kind of night, an opponent finally solving the mighty Centurions in the WPIAL final four.
No. 5-seeded Our Lady of the Sacred Heart started fast and pulled a stunner in the WPIAL Class 2A semifinals, handing top-seeded GCC its first loss and preventing the Centurions from reaching the title game with a 54-49 win Tuesday night.
OLSH (18-6) advances to play No. 3 Sewickley Academy (19-4) in Friday's championship at Pitt's Petersen Events Center. The Chargers have not played in the finals since 1999.
GCC (23-1) will open the PIAA playoffs next weekend.
Just like the girls team Monday, a comeback ran out of time.
“You can't dig yourself a hole like we did in the playoffs,” GCC coach Greg Bisignani said. “We were tight and didn't get good shots. Our kids battled back, but it was just too much to overcome.”
OLSH rode a big first half to the win and got 20 points from freshman Donovan Johnson and 16 from Ethan Harrell, 10 in the fourth.
“We were focused on what (GCC) does and how to defend it, not their record,” OLSH coach Mike Rodriguez said. “We knew no lead was safe and they'd come out and punch us in the mouth and they did. We did a nice job limiting their transition game.”
GCC made it interesting late but could not clinch a trip to its third WPIAL final. Ben Hertzog and Neal McDermott each scored 16 for the Centurions. McDermott had four 3-pointers.
After OLSH scored the opening hoop of the third quarter, GCC went on a 14-0 run to cut the deficit to 33-28.
Jack Liberatore scored six during the spurt.
OLSH, in the semifinals for the first time since 2006, would not relent. Harrell opened the scoring in the fourth and, despite McDermott and Liberatore hitting 3's, the Chargers still held the lead.
“Harrell played like a senior tonight,” Rodriguez said.
Hertzog found a cutting Dom Eisaman for a layup to cut it to four (42-38) with 3:57 to play. But McDermott made two free throws, and then a wing 3-pointer to get the Centurions within 44-43 with 2:18 left.
After four free throws by OLSH, Hertzog converted a three-point play to make it 48-46 with 59.3 seconds, but Harrell drove in for a layup for a 50-46 advantage.
Free throws sealed it for OLSH, which made 8 of 9 in the fourth.
Hertzog nailed a 3 at the buzzer, but it was unconsequential.
The start set the table.
OLSH came out firing behind Johnson, who hit three 3-pointers in the first quarter as the Chargers surged to 22-8 lead. Johnson, who finished with five 3-pointers, is the brother of Pitt guard Cam Johnson.
“He's not a freshmen any more,” Rodriguez said. “He's growing up.”
GCC looked uncomfortable from the start, struggling to get position on both ends of the floor and to set up its offense.
“We settled on some bad shots and some 3's,” Bisignani said. “We probably should have worked it inside more.”
Six different players scored in the opening quarter for OLSH, which carried its momentum into the second quarter where it built a 31-14 advantage by halftime.
The Centurions have only been to the title game twice in school history. In 2014, they lost to Seton-La Salle, 52-51, and fell to Monessen, 63-43, in 2011.
“We'll learn from this,” Bisignani said. “The season's not over.”
Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @BillBeckner.
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