Third-year coach leads Seton-LaSalle boys to Class AA basketball title

It was like a tennis match broke out Saturday at Palumbo Center in the WPIAL Class AA boys championship.

Back and forth. Back and forth. Back and forth.

But when Seton-LaSalle went ahead with a little more than two minutes left, the Rebels finally had enough and weren’t about to return the lead again.

Seton-La Salle 52, Greensburg Central Catholic 51

Greensburg Central Catholic takes on Seton-La Salle in WPIAL Championship basketball action. (Video by Justin K. Aller; 03/01/2014)

In a game that featured six ties and 14 lead changes, Seton-LaSalle made big plays down the stretch to defeat Greensburg Central Catholic, 52-51.

“Since the beginning of the season, this is what we’ve been working for,” Seton-LaSalle senior Malik White said.

Seton-LaSalle’s second WPIAL title and first in 25 years capped what was a historic weekend for the school’s basketball teams. A day earlier, the girls captured their sixth WPIAL title. It’s just the 13th time in WPIAL history a school won boys and girls championships in the same season.

“To put two banners up the same year for Seton-LaSalle is just going to be incredible,” Seton-LaSalle coach Mark “Knobby” Walsh said.

Top-seeded Seton-LaSalle (25-1) fell behind No. 2 Greensburg Central Catholic (22-3), 44-43, with 3:21 left. That’s when White stepped up. He made two free throws to give Seton-LaSalle the lead and then made a power move into the paint to score a basket that put the Rebels in front, 47-44, with 2:20 to go.

“I didn’t know I was going to get that, but that was a pretty big basket,” White said, smiling.

Greensburg Central Catholic kept fighting, though. Brian Graytok’s layup brought the Centurions within 51-48, but Seton-LaSalle’s Cletus Helton made one of two free throws with seven seconds left to extend his team’s lead to four. Greensburg Central Catholic’s Billy Hipp connected on a 3-pointer at the buzzer for the final points.

Free-throw shooting played a critical role in the outcome. Greensburg Central Catholic was just 8 of 21 from the line. Seton-LaSalle was 7 of 10, making 6 of 7 in the fourth quarter.

“It would have been nice if we would have knocked down a couple of foul shots,” Greensburg Central Catholic assistant coach Dave Palcic said.

Seton-LaSalle also had a slight edge defensively, especially with 6-foot-6 senior center Levi Masua. Masua spent much of the game blanketing Graytok, Greensburg Central Catholic’s leading scorer who averages 17 points per game. Graytok was 3 of 8 from the field and had nine points. Masua added six points and a game-high 10 rebounds.

“What got the job done for us was defense,” Masua said. “We only had 52 points. Defense is what wins championships and that’s what happened.”

But as well as Seton-LaSalle played in the first quarter, the second was much different. Greensburg Central Catholic held the Rebels to 2-of-13 shooting and five points, taking a 28-27 halftime lead.

Greensburg Central Catholic led by as many as four in the third quarter, but Seton-LaSalle took a 40-38 lead after three.

White then made the go-ahead points in the fourth and, as they say, the rest is history

“This group of seniors started with us as sophomores and I can’t say enough about them,” Walsh said. “They put in so much time, effort and energy. It was great to be able to come out on top.”

Mike White: First Published March 1, 2014 3:00 PM

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