GCC girls get infusion of youth in bid for 20th straight playoff berth

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Thursday, November 21, 2019 | 7:45 PM


Sam Salih relied on his seniors so much last year and got so comfortable with a short rotation that he didn’t leave the bench much while coaching the Greensburg Central Catholic girls.

“I had that imaginary popcorn,” Salih said. “They were fun to watch.”

Salih saw nine freshmen when he looked down the row last year and knew those unproven girls would eventually get their chance.

That chance is now.

“We’re going to try and play eight to 10 girls,” Salih said. “We want to press and speed teams up. As a first-year coach, I had a team that was two-thirds freshmen. I couldn’t throw them to the wolves. Now, there are minutes to be gotten. We’re still going to run. It’s more fun that way.”

The crop of now-sophomores will look to complement senior guard Melina Maietta, who averaged 19.6 points last year.

The Centurions put up 62.4 a game during a run to a section title and the WPIAL Class A quarterfinals.

“We have a really young team,” Maietta said. “But our younger girls are stepping up. They are going to play. They’re going to look to score and be a part of the team.”

Maietta, who has some lower-level Division I and Division II college interest, said she has been working on becoming a more complete player. She was part of a talented backcourt trio last year that included Bella Skatell and Anna Eisaman, the former now playing basketball and the latter set to run track at Point Park.

“All during AAU season, I worked on my defense,” she said. “That was the weakest part of my game. I also want to improve my rebounding.”

Maietta also produced 4.9 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 2.1 steals and made 45 shots from 3-point range.

The sophomore group includes Rebecca Hess, Laura Kondas, Emma Riley, Molly White, and the Zambruno twins, Ella and Meghan, among others. The Zambrunos helped the GCC golf team to a fifth straight WPIAL title and back-to-back PIAA championships.

Hess is 5-11, Kondas 5-10 and White and Riley are 5-8.

Expect a nice blend of guards and forwards.

“We hope to be more balanced scoring-wise,” Salih said. “We expect Melina to pick up where she left off. She can shoot it from anywhere. We have to keep improving and make it all fit together.”

Three other seniors join Maietta in guard Gia Scala, who will return from an ankle injury early in the season; guard Teresa Kondas; and newcomer Sam Nemeth, a forward fresh off a lengthy soccer season.

When asked what the recipe will be for GCC to extend its playoff streak to 20 seasons in a row, Salih said, “Three things: defense, rebounding and running. We’ll have some more size, but we have to defend and rebound. We can give teams a lot of headaches.”

Salih said the expectations haven’t changed at GCC and they won’t start to now.

“Five WPIAL championships and a state championship,” he said. “We win here. That’s what we do. I see us fighting for another section title.”

Salih added a familiar name to his coaching staff. Former GCC and IUP star guard Carolyn Appleby, fresh out of college, is an assistant.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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