Greensburg Salem girls basketball returns plenty of experience, depth

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Friday, November 27, 2020 | 9:10 PM


Four starters return to the Greensburg Salem girls basketball team, giving coach Rick Klimchock hope for a breakout season heading into his fourth year of leading the Golden Lions, whose enrollment rose enough to place them in Class 5A.

Though he wasn’t thrilled to learn of the move, Klimchock hasn’t allowed it to temper his enthusiasm.

“We got bumped to 5A because we were a few kids over (Class 4A),” he said. “Actually, we didn’t choose to ‘play up,’ like the boys team did.”

Greensburg Salem, a Class 5A boys program the past four years, will play in Class 6A this season in a move coach Mark Zahorchak said was made to reconnect in Section 3 with some old Westmoreland County rivals.

The Greensburg Salem girls will be aligned in Section 4-5A with Franklin Regional Gateway, Latrobe, McKeesport, Penn Hills and Woodland Hills after a finishing last season in Section 1-4A with a 6-8 record (10-12 overall).

The Golden Lions’ scheduled season-opening home tournament was canceled for covid-related reasons, pushing back the start of the season to a home game Dec. 12 against Greensburg Central Catholic.

But, while the team’s classification changes, the Golden Lions’ lineup remained relatively intact with the return of starters Kylie Smith (5-foot-3), 5-9 Cadie Peters, 5-7 Timaia Lewis and Abby Mankins, a 5-10 guard and the team’s unquestioned leader.

All four players are entering their junior years.

As a sophomore last season, Mankins led the Golden Lions in scoring (19.5 ppg.), rebounding (7.0 rpg), assists (5.0 apg) and steals (4.0 spg).

“We’re blessed with some things now that we didn’t really have before,” Klimchock said. “We have size for the first time at multiple positions, and we have experienced depth. We have people who can come off the bench that have played in the past. So we have some good things going for us.

“And we have one of the top juniors in the WPIAL on our team,” he added, referring to Mankins.

While none of the returning starters are taller than Mankins, four other players are at least 6-foot — 6-1 junior Sidney Kantor, 6-1 freshman Kait Mankins, 6-0 sophomore Paytan Henry and 6-0 senior Victoria Sarver — and all are expected to contribute, Klimchock said.

Sarver, a three-year letterwinner, is the team’s lone senior and has played significant minutes over the years for the Golden Lions.

“She’s a very physical player and gives us some depth at the post,” Klimchock said. “All four 6-footers bring a little bit of something different to the team.”

Add Carissa Caldwell, a part-time starter a year ago, to the mix, along with 5-6 junior Roni Kaufman and 5-6 sophomore Ashley Smith, and that “experienced depth” seems evident.

“We’re excited,” Klimchock said, “though we talk about this with the kids: The games in our section will be wars. All of them. You have to be up for those games. You can’t go in there not ready to play.

“I like good basketball, and we’ve got to play good basketball in this section. We’ve got to be able to rebound, make some shots and do a little bit of everything.”

Klimchock hopes to have enough of that “experienced depth” to help Mankins, a multi-positional player who could benefit by the success of other perimeter players.

“We’ve got to have multiple scorers,” he said, adding, “Use of size is also very, very important this year, and we’re thinking we’re going to play that hand in having a bigger team.”

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