Greensburg Salem girls roll past Derry in section opener

Thursday, December 15, 2022 | 11:25 PM

Greensburg Salem girls basketball players and coaches turned an old storage closet at their home gymnasium into a makeshift locker room.

Derry felt like it was confined to an even smaller space Thursday night when the teams met in the Section 1-4A opener.

Using pressure defense to set up offense predicated on kick-out 3-pointers, the Golden Lions used a first-half surge to shove past the visiting Trojans, 56-20, for their fourth straight victory.

The Golden Lions continue to turn up the heat defensively. They are allowing just 28 points per game.

Both coaches chalked the result up to conditioning, continuity and experience. Oh, and yoga.

“Our girls are in good condition,” Greensburg Salem coach Rick Klimchock said. “We have some size, and our girls can shoot and defend. We have some tough practices where we run all the time.

“We don’t go that hard all the time. We lift and do yoga, which I think has helped us, too.”

With three cross-country runners and three soccer players on the team, the Golden Lions (5-1) showed stamina, which seemed to wear down Derry (4-2).

The Trojans had won three straight.

“We don’t have the luxury of playing in a summer league because we can’t get enough girls committed to it,” Derry coach Gene Brisbane said. “We run and lift weights, and those things. But we don’t have the (year-round) basketball like (other teams). We haven’t reached that point at Derry yet.”

The section matched the veteran coaches, who have

guided Westmoreland County basketball teams for more than 40 years and have 783 combined wins. Brisbane has been in coaching for 48 years when you count his time in track and field.

While both had other stops, Klimchock is known best for his 14 years at Jeannette, while Brisbane led the Hempfield girls for 20 years.

They are both trying to make their latest programs consistent winners again.

“It’s a neat matchup,” Klimchock said. “Gene is crafty and smart, and he’s coached a million games, so we were concerned about this one.”

Brisbane hopes to get Derry in the kind of shape Greensburg Salem’s program is in, with the youth levels on the same page as the varsity, along with more participation in the offseason.

“Rick and his staff do a great job with the girls,” Brisbane said. “They complement each other well. They have the girls all year and play a ton together. There’s a big difference there between Greensburg Salem and Derry. It’s just as lopsided as the score tonight.”

With a 9-7 lead early, Greensburg Salem rattled off 21 straight points to build a 32-11 lead by the half.

It made three 3s in the first quarter for a 19-7 advantage.

Juniors Ashlan Price and Gia Rosensteel each hit a pair of 3s during the bullish run, and 6-foot-1 junior Kaitlyn Mankins began to take command inside to propel the Golden Lions.

“We call it crack-backs,” Klimchock said. “Catch the ball inside and kick it back out. We like to shoot 3s.”

Their momentum carried into the third quarter when they outscored the Trojans, 14-4, to swell the margin to 31 (46-15) after three. Mankins, who made eight of 11 shots, scored eight in the third.

They remained comfortably in front from there.

Mankins led all scorers with 19 points, and Price had 10, all in the first half.

All five of the Golden Lions’ 3s came before halftime.

Derry has 11 players after tiptoeing through last year with eight girls.

“I am impressed by our girls’ determination,” Brisbane said. “They are showing more signs of cohesiveness.”

Junior Samantha Gruska and senior Mara Lewis had six points apiece to lead Derry.

“I really like how our girls work for each other,” Klimchock said. “They’re not selfish and aren’t worried about the stats. There were some things we didn’t do perfectly, but I am pretty pleased. We were up for this game.”

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

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