Hempfield girls win opener with new coach; will play Greensburg Salem
By: Dave Mackall
Friday, December 7, 2018 | 9:48 PM
Another coaching change at Hempfield didn’t appear to affect the Spartans in their season-opening girls basketball game, a 52-36 victory over Mt. Pleasant on Friday night at the Greensburg Salem Tip Off Tournament.
Jessica Persin scored 18 points, including five 3-pointers, and Sarah Liberatore added 16 in Tom Brush’s coaching debut with the Spartans.
“Every year, I’ve had a new head coach and we’ve been able to adjust,” said Liberatore, a 5-foot-10 junior forward. “We’ve got one common goal, and that’s to win basketball games.”
Hempfield, which advanced to the WPIAL Class 6A quarterfinals last season in Lindsy Muchnock’s only season as coach, led Class 4A Mt. Pleasant, 32-16, at halftime and built a 45-23 lead heading to the fourth quarter.
The Spartans never were threatened. They face host Greensburg Salem at 7:30 p.m. Saturday after Mt. Pleasant meets Ligonier Valley, a District 6 Class 3A school, at 6 p.m.
Brush, a former East Allegheny coach, was happy to get rid of any jitters that might have dogged the team heading into its opener.
“We’d been practicing for so long, it was just good to get out there and play a game together,” he said. “I’m happy that we won, but I know we can play a lot better.”
Chloe Jaworski’s 11 points paced Mt. Pleasant. Juliann Kalp added 10 for the Vikings.
“We were playing up in class in a pretty tough circumstance,” Mt. Pleasant coach Scott Giacobbi said. “We hung in there and never really conceded the game.”
The teams matched points in the second half (20-20) after Hempfield had marched to a big lead.
Brush is Hempfield’s third coach three seasons. Muchnock, currently coach at Ringgold, followed Aaron Epps, whose Hempfield teams were a fixture in the postseason during his five seasons.
Brush takes over a team at Hempfield with two seniors: Persin, a 5-5 guard, and 5-9 forward Maddy Gray.
“This is a good group of girls to coach. They’re really good at following instructions,” said Brush, who spent the past two seasons as an assistant at Franklin Regional.
He previously led East Allegheny to a pair of WPIAL Class 2A playoff appearances in three seasons.
Greensburg Salem 59, Ligonier Valley 45 — Nikki Mellinger scored 24 points, and Megan Kallock added 23 to lead Greensburg Salem over Ligonier Valley at the tournament.
The Golden Lions of WPIAL Class 4A rallied from a one-point deficit after the first quarter by outscoring District 6 Class 3A Ligonier Valley in the each of the final three quarters.
Greensburg Salem led 33-20 at halftime and stretched its margin to 50-26 after three quarters.
“We had a slow start, but we got untracked and played a pretty good game,” Greensburg Salem coach Rick Klimchock said. “We played solid defense and got a solid scoring punch from Nikki and Megan.”
Destiny Sheriff led Ligonier Valley with 20 points, and Alexia Boyd added 10.
Dave Mackall is a freelance writer.