Belle Vernon girls top Greensburg Salem in Mt. Pleasant tournament

Saturday, December 28, 2019 | 6:04 PM

Belle Vernon’s stable of young girls basketball players keep performing at a high level this winter, providing some hope for another successful season.

A trio of freshmen, led by Viva Kreis’ 16 points, scored in double figures Saturday to lead the Leopards to a 50-31 victory over Greensburg Salem at the Mt. Pleasant tournament in a matchup of Class 4A teams from different sections.

It was Belle Vernon’s third consecutive win.

“The freshmen are performing pretty well,” Belle Vernon coach Ronnie Drennen said.

Farrah Reader and Jenna Dawson added 11 points apiece for Belle Vernon (6-2), a WPIAL playoff team last season with a 10-4 record in Section 3.

“We have four seniors, two that play a lot (Rachel Wobrak and Vienna Bertram), and, honestly, they all are very good leaders, very good off-the-court leaders,” Drennen said. “They get the girls together and make sure we’re all communicating on what we want to do in game prep, gameplanning, making sure they’re going over the plays, the sets of other teams. They really hold the younger girls together off the floor, which is really important.”

The Leopards haven’t missed a beat in the early going, winning six of seven games after a season-opening 15-point loss to Class 5A Penn-Trafford.

“Belle Vernon has a nice team,” said Greensburg Salem coach Rick Klimchock, who also is dealing with a roster dominated by underclassmen.

The Golden Lions, who also reached the WPIAL playoffs last season with a 7-7 record in Section 1, have had to overcome the loss of all-time leading scorer Megan Kallock, now a freshman guard at Saint Vincent.

“They have a really good freshman class,” Klimchock said of the Leopards. “They’ve been really good players since about seventh grade when I started seeing them play. Now, they’re ready for varsity. Mix in some of the older players, and you’ve got a hard-working group. We thought coming in this would be a tough matchup for us.”

While the Belle Vernon freshmen are making waves, it has been a concerted effort from the upperclassmen on down. Wobrak’s 18 points led the way in a 57-45 victory over Derry in the tournament opener Friday night.

Reader again was in double figures in that game, scoring 14 points against the Class 3A Trojans.

“We all know we need to be unselfish, whether you’re a freshman, sophomore, junior or senior,” Drennen said. “The girls know it’s all about the team. It’s not about one individual who can take over a game. We need everybody to do their part.”

Against Greensburg Salem (3-6), which was coming off a 39-33 loss to Class 2A Bishop Canevin in the Golden Lions’ tournament opener Friday night, Belle Vernon took control from the start.

The Leopards built a 25-16 halftime lead, then held the Golden Lions to just one 3-pointer for a 15-3 edge in the third quarter that gave them a 40-19 advantage heading to the fourth.

“Belle Vernon didn’t play how we thought they would play,” Klimchock said. “They live on the full-court press, but they got out of the press and just packed in a zone and dared us to shoot, and we struggled against the zone.”

Klimchock sensed his girls were sluggish from the start of the unusually early tipoff, blaming some of it on a quick turnaround after a tough loss on the previous night.

“We played against a really good Bishop Canevin team, and we lost a close one,” he said. “We were winning the whole game and lost in the last few minutes, and I could just tell that the quick turnaround from late (Friday) night till 11 o’clock today, I think that was part of it.

“We lost a little steam mentally, and they started getting some easy baskets in the second half. When you aren’t scoring, it becomes really hard to play defense because you say, ‘What’s the point?’ in your mind. That was frustrating that they got away from us. We’re a young ballclub, but we’re going to have to grow up in a hurry. Nobody’s going to feel sorry for you.”

Abby Mankins’ 11 points led Greensburg Salem, which lost its fourth game in a row.

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