Westmoreland high school basketball notebook: Greensburg Salem boys optimistic
By: Bill Beckner Jr.
Thursday, February 8, 2018 | 7:21 PM
Greensburg Salem might be trending in the wrong direction as it gets set to start the WPIAL boys basketball playoffs, but the Golden Lions believe they're coming out of a funk at the right time.
Coach Craig Mankins is seeing improvements, even during a four-game losing streak, that could produce better results in the postseason.
Twelve teams make the WPIAL Class 5A playoffs, and the Golden Lions (10-10, 3-7 Section 3) likely will be one of the lowest-seeded teams in the bracket.
They want to be an underdog with some bite.
In Tuesday's 67-51 loss to Franklin Regional, Greensburg Salem showed more offensive punch, widening the floor and playing fast.
“We were much more fluid, and it looked much more like Greensburg Salem to me,” Mankins said. “We hit the open guy. We missed some shots, but you could feel it. We're doing good things.”
Mankins knows his team can score. His concern has been on the defensive end.
Greensburg Salem's better defensive games also seem to produce anemic offense at times, like allowing fewer than 50 points against Gateway but losing, 44-27, and not scoring in the third quarter.
After scoring 79.2 points over their first five games and producing seven games of 70 or more points, the Golden Lions are averaging 43.9 over their last nine games.
Their scoring average stands at 58.3. They're allowing 57.3.
“We have been working so hard on our defense because we have been giving up way too many points to play against these playoff teams,” Mankins said. “We're going to play a team like Franklin Regional, a senior-laden team — McKeesport, West Allegheny, Trinity; somebody like that.
“To beat a team like that, we're going to have to play pretty much a perfect game.”
With two games left, the Lions are trying to secure their first winning season since 2011-12. They will be making their first playoff trip since 2014-15.
Two regular-season games remain: noon Saturday at home vs. Albert Gallatin (12-8), and Monday at Derry (7-10).
GCC still alive
Greensburg Central Catholic has just six wins. The Centurions were 1-11 at one point. But with four consecutive victories and a 5-3 record since Jan. 18, the team has resurfaced as a playoff contender.
GCC has made the playoffs 17 times in a row.
But there is work to be done. GCC (6-14, 5-6) needs to upset No. 3 Jeannette (15-3, 9-1) Friday night or have Springdale (10-8, 5-6) lose to rival Riverview (2-17, 0-10) to qualify.
Jeannette beat GCC, 77-49, earlier in the season.
Springdale and GCC are tied for fourth in Section 1-2A, and they split their head-to-head games, so if they finish tied, both will make it.
Konek's season ends early
Junior standout Cali Konek did not play in the final eight games of the season for Southmoreland after suffering an MCL sprain in her right knee Jan. 18 against Keystone Oaks.
While it was first thought Konek would miss minimal time, around four games, coaches and medical personnel thought it could be best for Konek to shut it down for the season.
The Scotties did not qualify for the WPIAL Class 4A playoffs.
A Division I prospect with multiple scholarship offers, Konek averaged 17.2 points this season and has more than 1,400 career points. She transferred from Riverdale Baptist (Md.). She played her freshman season at the WPIAL's Imani Christian and averaged 45.4 points a game.
Konek also averaged 4.2 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 3.2 steals this season for Southmoreland.
McGowan climbs list
Greensburg Salem senior standout Marvel McGowan is making his way up the Golden Lions' scoring list. With more than 1,100 points and at least three more games to play, he is 10th.
The top nine are: Charles Dawson (1,785), Jason Trout (1,601), Chris Klimchock (1,455), Rak Hetherington (1,400), Paul Grubb (1,387), Nolan Larry (1,352), Paul Matthews (1,320), Jake Matthews (1,239), and Ray Greene (1,209).
The Penn-Trafford girls battled through an injury-plagued season and nearly made a push for a playoff spot, an emphatic, buzzer-beating upset over Norwin keeping hope afloat. But seven consecutive losses after that win ended the Warriors' playoff streak at nine.