Believe it or not, this was supposed to be a rebuilding season for the Greensburg Central Catholic High School boys basketball team.
After making appearances in last year's WPIAL Class AA semifinals and the PIAA quarterfinals, the Centurions welcomed back just six players from 2011-12's 17-man roster.
"Coming into the season -- because players had graduated or transferred -- we lost 11 guys," Greensburg Central coach Greg Bisignani said. "We weren't sure what to expect, only bringing back two lettermen."
The Centurions, however, quickly jelled together and ended up posting a pretty successful season.
Following a perfect 12-0 run in Section 3-AA, Greensburg Central Catholic captured another section title and finished the regular season 21-1. Its only regular-season loss came in non-section play against Class AAAA Gateway on Dec. 28.
"Most coaches would laugh at you if you call that type of season a rebuilding year," Bisignani said. "Our regular-season record set the school record for the best finish. It's kind of hard not to be happy with that."
Riding a 13-game winning streak into the WPIAL playoffs, the Centurions topped Northgate in the first round before dropping a 67-63 decision to Burrell in the quarterfinals. Because the Bucs advanced to the WPIAL title game, GCC got "new life" in the postseason and qualified for the PIAA tournament as the WPIAL's No. 6 team.
In the PIAA tournament, they beat Penn Cambria in the first round but were knocked out of the state tournament after losing a 49-41 second-round decision against Lakeview on March 13.
"Going into the year, I thought we had a pretty tough schedule and wanted to get through December around .500," Bisignani said. "This group put in the hard work in the offseason and made the most of their opportunities.
"I am pretty proud of the kids and their season. I would have liked to have won a few more playoffs games, but when you look back [at the entire season] this group accomplished a lot."
Against District 10's Lakeview, Greensburg Central owned a 22-18 lead at the half but ended up getting outscored, 17-9, in the fourth quarter.
"Unfortunately, the sad thing about basketball is only one team can finish its season with a win," Bisignani said. "We definitely didn't want to go out with a loss, but we let one get away. We got cold at the wrong time.
"The kids still fought and worked hard. They played in front of some great crowds this season, won another section title and were ranked as high as second in the state. This was a great group of kids, who set the bar pretty high for this program."
Senior Zach Herman and junior Brian Graytok gave Greensburg Central one of the best backcourt tandems in the WPIAL. Herman, who lives in Greensburg, averaged 20.7 points during the regular season, while Graytok, a Latrobe resident, averaged 21.5 points.
"Those guys did a great job," Bisignani said. "They were able to do what they did because of the guys around them. I don't think they would have had the seasons they had if not for the other guys knowing their roles and everyone doing their part."
Senior guard/forward Ty Swan as well as guard Christian Hyland and 6-foot-7 forward Collin Bisignani, who is a son of the coach, rounded out Bisignani's starting five Hyland and Colin Bisignani are both juniors.
Senior forward Corey Marshall, junior guard Zach Guiser and sophomore guard Romano Sebastiani each contributed quality minutes off the bench.
"Corey Marshall and Zach Guiser both played football and hadn't played basketball in four years," Bisignani said. "They showed up the first day of practice without much experience and ended up contributing a lot. They were a big reason for our success."
Although the Centurions will graduate another senior group, Bisignani expects to reload his roster before next year.
"Unfortunately, we're graduating two seniors who won 90 games, four consecutive section titles and won at least one state playoff game during the past four years," Bisignani said.
"We will bring back three starters, one of whom will be a key role player. I am also excited about our younger kids. Our JV team only lost one game this season.
"We're looking for some younger guys to contribute and have another successful season."
First Published March 21, 2013 4:00 AM