Greensburg Salem girls rout Ringgold in opening round of tip-off tournament

Friday, December 1, 2023 | 10:58 PM

Rick Klimchock’s love affair with basketball continues.

The veteran high school coach began his 27th season on the bench Friday night with another victory, as host Greensburg Salem routed Ringgold, 71-12, in the opening round of the Lady Lions tip-off tournament.

Junior Regan Kerr led four Greensburg Salem players in double figures with 19 points. The Golden Lions will meet defending PIAA Class 4A runner-up Blackhawk in the tournament championship game at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.

In an earlier game Friday, Blackhawk, with Alena Fusetti’s 19 points leading the way, outclassed Mt. Pleasant, 72-14, in another lopsided outcome.

Mt. Pleasant and Ringgold square off for consolation honors at noon Saturday, ahead of the championship game.

Klimchock, who is in his seventh season at Greensburg Salem, improved his overall record to 389-283. He also coached the girls team at Franklin Regional for six seasons.

Before that, Klimchock spent 14 years as boys coach at Jeannette, where he led the Jayhawks to 13 WPIAL and eight PIAA playoff appearances, winning six WPIAL section titles along the way.

His first head coaching job came at District 6 Saltsburg (now River Valley), where the boys team went 7-14 in his only season before taking over at Jeannette.

When he’s not coaching the Greensburg Salem girls, Klimchock is volunteering as an assistant to Pitt-Greensburg men’s coach Chris Klimchock, who just happens to be his son and who starred at Greensburg Salem, where he led the Golden Lions to an appearance in the PIAA Class 3A championship game in 2009.

Chris Klimchock’s sister, Laura, also played at Greensburg Salem, while their brother, Ben, played at Greensburg Central Catholic.

“I enjoy being around the college guys, too,” said Rick Klimchock, who also served a stint as a men’s assistant at Saint Vincent.

But he’s settled into the girls game these days, and, surprisingly, he said, it’s been a lot of fun.

“I wasn’t sure at first, when I took the Franklin Regional job (in 2011), but I know I love coaching,” he said. “It wasn’t a big adjustment, but the biggest difference has been how great the respect is from the girls. The work ethic and willingness to learn is different than boys.”

Seniors Kaitlyn Mankins (15 points), Ashlan Price (12) and Giavanna Rosensteel (10) also scored in double digits for Greensburg Salem (1-0), which led Ringgold (0-1) at halftime, 42-8.

“We have a team full of athletes,” Rosensteel said. “Everyone gets along.”

Perhaps it is Klimchock’s steady leadership that has molded the Golden Lions, who were 14-8 (6-6 in Section 1-4A) last season, losing to Belle Vernon in a first-round WPIAL playoff game.

“He’s like a second dad to me,” Rosensteel said. “He’s a guide for me. He not only pushes me in this sport but in my other sports, and also in school, too. He teaches me that if I have a positive mindset, I can make it through anything. He’s really helped my attitude in every sport.”

Following a final tune-up Thursday, a day before the start of the regular season, Klimchock got together with Greensburg Salem’s four seniors — Mankins, Price, Rosensteel and Mackenzie Span — and came away energized from the emotional meeting.

“I’ve been working with all four of them since sixth grade, and we had a really nice conversation,” Klimchock said. “It was a meaningful conversation. One of the girls looked at me and said, ‘Coach, you’re making me cry.’ It was kind of emotional.”

Said Rosensteel: “I think he loves the whole team. He was telling us he’ll have a hard time leaving any grade level because he has a connection to every single grade level.”

The senior quartet of players are hopeful of doing something special in their final high school season. All four are committed to play at the college level next year.

“I enjoy building a culture, and with girls, it’s easier,” Klimchock said. “I want to win championships, but I want to build a good team and have the girls enjoy something special. That’s something I worked on at Franklin Regional and I continue to work on at Greensburg Salem.

“We have a great culture here.”

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