‘Survival mode’ for Greensburg Central Catholic girls basketball team
With just seven girls on the roster, Greensburg Central Catholic could have to get crafty if it wants to make an 18th consecutive trip to the WPIAL basketball playoffs.
“It’s survival mode,” coach Joe Eisaman said. “We’re going to be in games a lot of different ways. It will be a challenge, but we have competitive girls. I don’t think we’re going to be down. We just have low numbers.”
Used to playing at breakneck speed last year, with transition and fast breaks its bread and butter, GCC could slow it down — way down — to conserve energy, get quality shots and work out of half-court sets.
“Gene Hackman only had seven but found a way to win in ‘Hoosiers,’ ” Eisaman said. “If we have to hold it, we will. If you can get up a good shot with two good passes, imagine what you can get with eight.”
Eisaman probably has enough offensive sets to fill every chalk and dry-erase board in every Central classroom.
Still, the defending Section 3 champion Centurions can still run if needed. Opponents could dictate pace, and Eisaman said he thinks his girls will be able to sprint as effectively as they deliberately cut and pass.
“We want our girls to be in the best shape of their lives,” Eisaman said. “Our practices are hard, but they will all be thankful later. We just don’t want to overdo it early. We want them to be like an eraser: don’t wear it down in the first half.”
New GCC football coach Aaron Smetanka, a personal trainer, worked with the girls over the summer on strength and conditioning.
No starters are back, but three players return with varsity experience: senior guard Olivia Stawovy, junior guard/forward Anna Eisaman and junior guard Bella Skatell.
Other contributors will be 5-foot-7 senior forward Heaven Hester, junior guard/forward Rachel Riley, and sophomores Teresa Kondas and Melina Maietta, a transfer from Norwin.
GCC reached the WPIAL Class AA semifinals last season, losing to against Vincentian, 43-39, to finish 19-7.
That came a year after it reached the WPIAL final. Last year, the Centurions also went two rounds in the PIAA playoffs, falling to District 3 champion Camp Hill, 60-52.
The team that made the final also began the year with lowered expectations but wore its No. 14 seed with quiet confidence.
“This team has similarities to that one,” Joe Eisaman said. “We have four girls who can score, four good shooters. There is some talent there, so who knows?”
The Centurions will not field a junior varsity team.
Their season-opening tournament won’t be a walk in the park. The Centurions are in the Oakland Catholic tip-off with Villa Maria, Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic and the host team.
GCC leads all Westmoreland County girls teams with five WPIAL titles.
Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @BillBeckner.