In the offseason, Central Catholic coach Brian Urso would have his players watch film of the team’s two postseason losses from a year ago.

“Just to kind of remind us of what it feels like to feel that way again,” Urso said before adding, “And Dante told us we’re not going to feel that way anymore.”

Dante DePante certainly lived up to his promise Friday night, and because of that, Central Catholic is bound for the WPIAL Class 6A semifinals for the second year in a row.

In a game when shots were falling left and right, DePante had a memorable duel with Baldwin’s James Wesling and guided No. 3-seeded Central Catholic to a thrilling 80-75 overtime win against the No. 6 Highlanders in a quarterfinal at Gateway.

“That’s definitely one to remember,” DePante said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever played in a game that intense. They were hitting shots and then we would come down and hit shots. It was just real back and forth, real intense, and came down to the wire.”

Central Catholic (14-9), two wins away from winning just its second WPIAL title and first since 2008, will take on No. 2 Upper St. Clair (15-8) Tuesday in the semifinals. Baldwin, which was seeking its first WPIAL title, finished the season 12-11. Nine of its losses were by five points or fewer, including eight by three or fewer.

DePante and Wesling put on a show. Wesling, a senior guard, was seemingly unstoppable for much of the game. Wesling, who averaged 19 points a game in the regular season, connected on nine 3-pointers, some of them tightly contested, and went for 41 points.

“He was unconscious,” Urso said. “What a player. Shot after shot. Great motor. Composed for sure. He was fantastic. I think every small college in our area should be going to recruit that kid tonight.”

DePante, who has Division I offers from North Florida and Radford, might have not scored as many points as Wesling, but Central Catholic’s standout senior guard happily will take the win instead. DePante scored 10 of Central Catholic’s 12 points in overtime, including the final 10. Most of that damage came from the free-throw line, where he went 8 of 9.

Wesling forced overtime after hitting his ninth 3-pointer to tie the score at 68-68 with 2:04 left in regulation. The Highlanders had the ball in the final seconds when they hoped to get off a quality shot attempt to win the game. But on an inbounds play in front of the Baldwin bench with 3.8 seconds left, Wesling was stripped by Central Catholic’s Cole Sullivan, also a standout linebacker and Power Five conference football recruit. Wesling recovered the ball back before throwing up a desperation shot that misfired just before the buzzer.

“He was a middle linebacker right there,” Urso said of Sullivan. “He read it, he got the deflection, he picked it up. Huge play for us. Got the stop that we needed. Went into overtime and we knew at that moment that it was our game to win.”

A.J. Cherico’s basket with 2:34 left in overtime provided the first points of the extra period and put Baldwin in front, 70-68, but Central Catholic responded with a 5-0 run to take a 73-70 advantage. Central Catholic’s 6-foot-7 Debaba Tshiebwe produced two big plays, tying the score with a layup before providing a big blocked shot that led to a DePante 3-point play with 1:19 left. Wesling’s brother, Nate, sank two free throws to cut Baldwin’s deficit to 73-72, but DePante went 5 of 6 from the line on Central Catholic’s next three possessions to help the Vikings pull away.

Central Catholic’s Debaba Tshiebwe tries to get around Baldwin’s Matthew Schenk Friday night in the WPIAL Class 6A quarterfinals at Gateway High School. Central Catholic won, 80-75. (Emily Matthews/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

“Debaba had a huge block and we made free throws down the stretch,” said Urso, whose team lost to Fox Chapel in the 2022 semifinals.

Central Catholic’s 80 points tied a season high. Tshiebwe, Sullivan and Randy Wilkerson each chipped in with 11 points.

Aside from James Wesling, Nate Richards was the only other Baldwin player to score in double figures. He finished with 11 for the Highlanders, who closed the season with four consecutive losses.

Central Catholic has been up and down this season. No team in the WPIAL has two wins as good as the Vikings, who have beaten Class 6A top-seeded New Castle and are the only team to beat Class 4A No. 1 Lincoln Park. But, at the same time, the Vikings have not won more than three consecutive games at any point this season.

With his team’s dreams of winning a WPIAL title looking more realistic by the day, Urso believes this team is playing its best at the most important time of the season.

“That was one that we needed,” he said. “Now that’s going to keep our momentum going into [Saturday] and Sunday as we go into playing Upper St. Clair.”

Brad is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at

Brad Everett

Brad is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at