Wednesday, March 15, 2023 | 9:51 PM
State College’s Braeden Shrewsberry didn’t accompany his father to the NCAA tournament, but the son of Penn State’s basketball coach created his own moments of March Madness.
He busted Central Catholic’s bracket in the process.
Shrewsberry scored 15 of his game-high 26 points in the fourth quarter and made three consecutive 3-pointers as State College defeated Central Catholic, 57-47, Wednesday night in the PIAA second round at Central Cambria.
His three 3s came in an 80-second span, quickly stretching a two-point lead to nine as the District 6 champion pulled away from the WPIAL champs.
“We hit a couple of 3s and got stops at the same time,” said Shrewsberry, a Nittany Lions recruit. “That’s really been our recipe for success. It seems we always go on a run that breaks the game open.”
The shots were deep 3s, too. His preferred spot was at least a step or two behind the arc.
“I usually work out at Penn State and I just shoot from the college line,” he said. “It’s not really much of a difference for me.”
Central Catholic held Shrewsberry to five points in the first quarter, two in the second and four in the third. The 6-foot-3 guard made only five of his first 14 attempts, but found his shot in the fourth.
“He got comfortable in the fourth quarter,” Central Catholic coach Brian Urso said. “Early on, he had two little drives that got him going. That’s all he really needs. When you’re that caliber of a player and you see the ball go through the hoop two times in a row, he got his feet under him and that was that.”
State College (25-2) advances to face District 1 runner-up Spring-Ford (27-3) in a state quarterfinal Saturday. New Castle (24-3) is the only WPIAL team remaining in the Class 6A bracket.
Central Catholic (16-10) already has one new championship banner to hang, but the Vikings were trying to add another postseason win to their milestone season.
“What we accomplished … nobody can ever take that away from us,” said Urso, a fourth-year coach. “The senior class changed the program. They put in so much time and effort and they took away what was theirs – a WPIAL championship and a state playoff win, the first in over 15 years.”
Central Catholic held a one-point lead early in the fourth after a 3-pointer by senior Dante DePante, who led the Vikings with 19 points. The game was close throughout with six ties and five lead changes. Central Catholic was ahead 13-12 after one quarter and trailed 21-19 at half and 33-31 after three.
Yet the final lead change belonged to State College.
Shrewsberry answered DePante’s go-ahead shot with a jumper near the six-minute mark, giving the Little Lions a 37-36 lead they never lost. A couple a minutes later, Shrewsberry made his flurry of 3s to pull away.
Central Catholic was outscored 24-16 in the fourth.
“We did a great job on him for three quarters,” Urso said. “He made some great shots. Credit to State College and him for beating us.”
Turnovers hurt Central Catholic’s chances to extend the season. The Vikings had 14, including seven in a low-scoring second quarter. Central Catholic had a 17-14 lead early in the quarter before State College scored seven in a row.
The Little Lions led 21-19 at half.
“We had some flow going in the second quarter and that’s seven trips we don’t even get a chance to score,” Urso said.
Shrewsberry’s father is Penn State coach Micah Shrewsberry, whose team opens the NCAA Tournament on Thursday in Des Moines, Iowa. State College coach Brian Scholly described the younger Shrewsberry as “the biggest Penn State fan in the world,” but the tournament buzz around the Nittany Lions wasn’t a distraction.
“I try to stay focused as much as I can,” Shrewsberry said. “I’m glad we didn’t play at the same time (as Penn State). Last game vs. Upper St. Clair, we played at the same time as the Indiana game (in the Big Ten tournament), and I was really mad about that.”
Scholly said Central Catholic’s defense seemed well-prepared for State College’s sets and held the Little Lions to 33 points in the first three quarters.
State College scored 72 in the first-round win over USC and had 73 a game earlier against Erie High. Central Catholic’s strategy was to keep the score in the 50s.
“We kind of wanted to keep it physical and gritty,” Urso said. “We thought maybe we could out-size them, out-physical them down the stretch. They fought right back.”