Greensburg Salem girls pressure Charleroi, extend winning streak

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Tuesday, December 28, 2021 | 8:38 PM


Suffocating opponents from the tip has become a calling card for the Greensburg Salem girls basketball team.

The, ahem, still-unbeaten Greensburg Salem girls basketball team.

The Golden Lions’ pace is fast. Their hands are in faces. Teams have little time to react to full-court pressure.

“Defense is what makes us, us,” senior guard Carissa Caldwell said. “It’s who we are.”

Coach Rick Klimchock has his Golden Lions (7-0) playing like his old Jeannette boys teams of the 1990s with turnovers leading to transition points and traps paving the way for one-sided results.

Tuesday night’s 72-40 win over Charleroi (4-2) was another notch on the team’s belt. The Golden Lions continued their best start since the 2006-07 season, and though they allowed a season-high 40 points, the 72 is the most they’ve scored.

Back from a three-game road trip at the KSA Tournament in Kissimmee, Fla., the Golden Lions got 14 points, including four 3-pointers, from Caldwell. Senior Abby Mankins and sophomore Kaitlyn Mankins each added 10 points in another wire-to-wire win, this one coming at the Mt. Pleasant Tournament.

Eleven players scored in a rotation that can stretch 10 deep.

“I like this team,” Klimchock said. “We’ve committed to playing a certain way, my old style. Pressing and playing a lot of people keeps you out of foul trouble.”

Greensburg Salem is allowing 27.9 points and winning by an average of 21 points.

“We’re playing unselfish, and a lot of girls are contributing,” Caldwell said. “It’s not just our starting five. We’re determined to win.”

Charleroi tried its best to break the press with long lobs over the top of the defense. It worked briefly until Greensburg Salem turned a single-digit lead into a runaway, building a 41-16 lead by halftime.

The advantage swelled to 30 early in the fourth for Salem, which made seven 3s.

“We’re running all over the place and jumping on teams early,” said Abby Mankins, a Seton Hill commit. “For us seniors, we want to leave it all out on the floor because it’s our last run together.”

Last season was an inconsistent mess with stops and starts because of covid protocols. The Golden Lions finished 8-12 and lost to Albert Gallatin in the first round of the playoffs. With continuity on its side this year, plus senior leadership to guide a deep mix, the team is flourishing.

“This team has taken some body blows,” Klimchock said. “We knew we’d have a 1,000-point scorer in Abby, and we know what Kait can do in the post. But the question was, what can the other kids do?”

To play this fast style, teams have to be conditioned. Greensburg Salem starts every practice with drills to make sure it is.

“We have our Dairy Queen (Tom Myers) drill and our Paul Zeise (AAU) drill,” Klimchock said. “We also run 17s every practice. The girls are doing a lot of running.”

Abby Mankins is learning to enjoy the drills in a strange way.

“There are rough days, for sure,” she said. “But we’re working hard to get better. We have a drill where we can’t dribble and have to make five perfect passes. It teaches us to take care of the ball.”

Senior Roni Kaufman chipped in eight points in the team’s latest win, and freshman Regan Kerr, back from a concussion, added seven.

“We have girls like (senior Timaia) Lewis and Kaufman who are good athletes, and the Smiths (senior Kylie and junior Ashley) are like rabbits running around,” Klimchock said. “And we have shooters. Caldwell has been on fire.”

With section play looming, Klimchock hopes the early success can build confidence, especially with a sharpened press.

“Nothing is given; you have to earn it,” Klimchock said.

Sophomore guard McKenna Deunger kept Charleroi in the game early and led all scorers with 19 points.

Greensburg Salem plays Mt. Pleasant on Wednesday.

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

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