Greensburg Salem battled, scratched and clawed against a much taller and accomplished Ringgold team on Monday night.
But now the Golden Lions will have to do much of the same, and produce a better result, if they want a shot at the WPIAL girls basketball playoffs.
Despite a valiant effort against a team already in the postseason, Greensburg Salem never captured the lead and dropped a 49-38 decision to the visiting Rams in a Section 3-5A game.
If nothing else, a playoff atmosphere could aid a playoff push.
“When our girls look in the mirror, they'll know they gave a great effort,” Greensburg Salem coach Rick Klimchock said. “We couldn't get shots to go, but we sure fought. This section is tough sledding.”
A couple of recent section losses diluted the Golden Lions' playoff hopes, but a chance to qualify still flutters.
The Golden Lions (6-11, 3-7) must win their last two section games to have a go at fourth place in Section 3-5A.
Ringgold's size was a hard sell to Greensburg Salem, so the Golden Lions tried to run half-court possessions, down-screen and work for good shots, while trying to keep Ringgold (13-5, 8-1) on the defensive end of the floor.
“We knew their size would be an issue, but we did a pretty good job defensively,” Klimchock said.
The plan worked in the first half as the Golden Lions kept it close. Junior Nikki Mellinger connected on a pair of rainbow 3-pointers to get the Golden Lions within 16-12.
Still containing transition, Greensburg Salem limited Ringgold to mostly free throws for much of the first half. The Rams made 10 of 14 from the line before halftime.
Regular senior starters Taylor Costa and Ashley Briscoe, both injured last Thursday, checked in late in the first quarter and made an impact.
“Once those two came back, it took our offense a little time to get going,” Ringgold coach Erika McCarthy said. “We came out a little flat, but we did a better job in the second half.”
The Golden Lions kept chipping away, cutting an eight-point deficit to three, at 20-17, after a driving layup by Shaleena Garner with 28 seconds left in the second quarter.
But Garner, who appeared to take a charge, was instead called for a block, and Briscoe hit two free throws to give the Rams a 22-17 lead at the half.
Both teams made six field goals in the first 16 minutes.
“It was a battle when we played them here last year, too,” McCarthy said. “We knew it wouldn't be an easy game. We tried to push the ball. We executed when we needed to. We're thinking about winning a section championship, so we need to win the games we should win.”
Junio Megan Kallock, the Golden Lions' 23 points-per-game scorer, battled for a rebound and put back her own miss to cut the lead to 28-23 in the third.
“We were up for this game. We were charged up,” Klimchock said. “We kept the game manageable.”
Kallock finished with a game-high 15 points, and Mellinger added 12, including a trio of 3-pointers.
But Johnna Mayer buried a 3 from the wing to give the Rams a double-digit lead.
Mellinger picked up her fourth foul for Greensburg Salem with 2:39 to play in the third.
Emily Monahan hit a 3 from the corner for Greensburg Salem to cut it to 35-27, but the Rams went ahead by double figures again until Monahan drove the lane and scored to make it 43-35 with 3:52 left in the fourth.
Kallock nailed a 3 to cut it to seven, but Taylor Mendicino and Nya Adams each scored off steals to push the advantage back to 49-38.
Mendicino led Ringgold with 10 points, Briscoe added nine, and Adams, Faith Martin and Costa each scored eight.
Ringgold, which came in allowing 41.3 points per game, won the teams' first meeting, 56-32.