East Xtra: Talented Greensburg Central Catholic has uphill climb in PIAA

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Looks can be deceiving this time of year in the PIAA basketball playoffs. According to the PIAA bracket, the Greensburg Central Catholic boys basketball team is the six seed out of the WPIAL.

With a record of 22-2, a Class AA Section 3 title under their belt and a backcourt consisting of senior guard Zach Herman and junior guard Brian Graytok, the Centurions might be one of the six best teams in the state.

But by virtue of its surprising upset loss to Burrell in the WPIAL quarterfinals, Greensburg Central Catholic finds itself in this position.

"Maybe teams won't take us as seriously as they did in the regular season," Herman said.

While the Centurions might be one of the most dangerous teams in the PIAA field, they must now navigate a tough bracket that starts out against District 6 champion Penn Cambria (20-4). The game will be played at Altoona Area High School, about 20 minutes from Penn Cambria and about 90 minutes from Greensburg Central Catholic.

"We dug ourselves a hole," Greensburg Central Catholic coach Greg Bisignani said. "We have to go to their backyard and play a district champion, which is what happens when you are a six seed. There are only 32 teams left in the state in Double-A, everybody is pretty good. You are going to have to come out and play good basketball. We are just happy we have a second chance."

The Centurions certainly have the talent to dig themselves out of a hole. With Graytok and Herman they have two players who average more than 20 points per game. Graytok, a Latrobe native, scored 21.5 points per game in the regular season, just ahead of Herman, a Greensburg native who averaged 20.7 points per game.

"They are both scorers," Bisignani said. "Both have scorer's mentality. Zach is probably more of an off-the-dribble player while Brian is more hustle and makes things happen. They both love to run the floor. They both have aggressive mindsets."

The Centurions may not have the size they did last year with 6-7 forward PJ McLaughlin, who has since graduated, but they now have the ability to speed up the tempo.

"Last year we played a lot around PJ," Herman said. "He was just such a force inside. This year we don't necessarily look to the post as much as we did last year."

Playing inside for Greensburg Central Catholic this year is 6-7 junior forward Colin Bisignani, the son of coach Greg Bisignani. Colin Bisignani may lack the experience and scoring touch of McLaughlin but his game has continued to develop this season.

"Colin has gotten better every day," Herman said.

The other starters are junior point guard Christian Hyland and senior guard/forward Ty Swan. Hyland is the catalyst on most fastbreaks, pushing the ball up the floor while Swan is the best athlete on the team and a defensive specialist.

Greensburg Central Catholic made a run to the PIAA final in 2011 but no starters remain from that team.

"It is a different bunch this year," Bisignani said. "Every team is different personnel-wise."

Preparing his team for the PIAA playoffs may be one of Bisignani's biggest challenges. His team has not played a game since Feb. 23 against Burrell in the WPIAL quarterfinals.

Two full weeks will pass between the WPIAL quarterfinal loss to Burrell and the PIAA first round. Since Feb. 11, Greensburg Central Catholic has only played two total games.

"I don't know if we have ever had quite this long of a break," Bisignani said. "We're going to try to get a couple scrimmages in before the game. We got good kids. They are a little disappointed in our play, we didn't want our season to end when we weren't playing as well as we could have played. The kids are pretty happy to get a second chance."

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