North Xtra: Senior center leads North Catholic to quarterfinals

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Halfway through this past Friday's WPIAL Class A first-round game against Winchester Thurston, Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic boys basketball coach Dave Long realized something was quite wrong with his team's offensive approach.

"Winchester Thurton was still in the game, but Dom hadn't shown up for the first half," said the veteran Trojans coach.

He was referring, of course, to Dom Robb, his 6-foot-6 senior center.

His tone and the team's effort quickly changed, though, as Robb scored all 13 of his points in the second half as the Trojans turned a 14-point halftime lead into an easy 75-45 victory and a berth in Friday's quarterfinals against Our Lady of the Sacred Heart at 8 p.m. at Cornell High School.

The Chargers punched their ticket with an 86-36 victory against St. Joseph this past Friday at Northgate.

Robb, who is averaging 18.7 points, 9 rebounds and 4 blocks per game, already is looking forward to the matchup with the Chargers and with his good friend, standout center Cameron Johnson.

"No doubt about it," he said about looking forward to playing against Johnson, a 6-7 senior who is drawing interest from NCAA Division I college programs. "Me and Cam played over the summer, and we trained together. We know each other, and know [each other's] tendencies. It's going to be a fun [game] with him."

Through the regular season, Johnson averaged 27.8 points a game. He scored 20 points this past Friday against St. Joseph in a game where the Chargers had a 28-point lead at halftime.

Long said Robb can force opponents to change their game-plans.

"The length of his arms is deceiving," the coach said. "One would think it's just his offense. But he alters a lot of shots around the basket. Even on the perimeter last year, we had success putting him on some of the other team's better-shooting guards to try to change the arc on the ball. He's still doing that.

"There are many attributes that he has. But, for me, his wingspan and the length of his body [are the best parts of his game]. That does it for me."

Long said Robb -- who has started for two-and-a-half seasons with the Trojans -- was tall when he came into the program, but has become a more complete player with his ability to snare a rebound, dribble the length of the floor and finish the play with either a layup or an impressive two-handed dunk.

"I think any big man early in his career has to overcome some hurdles," Long said. "I realize Dom knows that to get to the next level, he is not a 215-225 pound big man. He's probably going to be a swing man.

"You learn a little through experience, and he's learned that he's going to have to handle the ball like he does now, but much better. Still, he's evolved into a complete basketball player."

Robb and his teammates already played their last game at Graham Court on Troy Hill, and that was a 66-58 victory against Class AA playoff participant Laurel to close the regular season.

While many members of the current team will be playing at the school's brand-new campus gym in Cranberry next season, Robb and three senior teammates are seeing their high school careers measured out in days. Robb said that air of finality on Troy Hill gives him plenty of incentive.

"North Catholic has had such a great legacy, and we want to carry that on," he said "We want to finish out strong rather than go out early like we do every year. We want to try to get to the championship and just do our best."


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