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WPIAL

Pittsburgh Central Catholic Beats Baldwin In Overtime To Advance To Semifinals

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MONROEVILLE – Entering overtime, the Baldwin Fighting Highlanders looked as if they would pull off a quarterfinal upset against Pittsburgh Central Catholic. That was until the Vikings’ Dante DePante scored 10 points in the overtime quarter to ultimately end the game.

Looking to win the school’s first WPIAL title since 2008, the Pittsburgh Central Catholic Vikings are now one step closer to that goal after defeating Baldwin in overtime fashion, 80-75. 

DePante paced the Vikings with 34 points, 24 of which came in the second half and overtime quarters.

This is the Vikings’ third trip to the semifinals in the past four years but failed to reach the big game in each of the previous two.  

“It would be amazing to win the title. I know that Central is more known [as] a football school, so it would be amazing to get a WPIAL championship for basketball and let everybody know that basketball is just as good,” said Vikings’ senior Dante DePante.

The Vikings’ season could be described as up-and-down as they finished with an overall record of 13-9. That did not stop Central from racking up impressive wins in the process. The Vikings managed to beat top teams in New Castle, Lincoln Park, and Penn Hills to ultimately secure the three-seed entering the WPIAL playoffs. 

“In the holiday tournaments, we played some really tough teams, had a really tough schedule this year. I feel like it really helped us so far and I feel like we are really peaking at the right time as a team. I feel like we can really go far,” said DePante. “We didn’t do as good as we wanted [earlier in the season] but right now we are peaking.”

Baldwin’s James Wesling came out firing as he hit back-to-back threes and helped the Fighting Highlanders jump out to an early lead. Central’s DePante answered right back with two buckets of his own to even the momentum.

In the late stages of the second quarter, the Vikings were on a 5-0 run until Wesling went down the court and hit an NBA-range 3-pointer. Wesling then followed that up on the next possession with another three that made it a two-point game.

In the first half, the Highlanders were able to limit DePante to only 10 points. DePante needed to take over in the second half in order for the Vikings to close the game out and gained the energy to do so in the final seconds of the first half as he blocked a Baldwin shot at the buzzer.

Baldwin opened the third quarter on a 7-3 run that brought the game back within one possession.

These two teams, and specifically DePante and Wesling, would go punch-for-punch down the stretch. Wesling scored a game-high 41 points, including nine 3-pointers in the losing effort.

Baldwin took a 55-53 lead into the final frame after Wesling beat the buzzer with his seventh three of the game.

The momentum shifted back and forth in the fourth quarter with the score being tied four different times. Wesling’s eighth 3-pointer tied the game at 68-68 with just over two minutes remaining. Neither team scored again in regulation and the game went to overtime.

With 1:20 remaining in overtime and the game tied, Baldwin’s Nathan Richards looked to make another tough, spinning shot but was blocked by the 6-foot-7 Debaba Tshiebwe. DePante then pushed the ball down the court and made a contested lay-up that resulted in a 3-point play. This ended up as the dagger for the Highlanders.

Tshiebwe, Cole Sullivan, and Randy Wilkerson each finished with 11 points for the Vikings.

“It was just a really fun game overall. Baldwin is a really good team,” said DePante. “I feel like our team fought through all of the tough shots [Baldwin] made and ended up winning the game.”

Wesling tried to carry the Highlanders to the upset, as he scored 25 of his 41 points after halftime but ultimately came up short. Richards was the only other Highlander to finish in double-digits as he scored 13 points.

Central Catholic will play Upper Saint Clair in the semifinals on Feb. 28 at Peters Township High School. The other semifinal matchup in Class-6A will feature a clash between New Castle and Mt. Lebanon.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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