Highlands girls hold off Greensburg Salem comeback bids, build resume

Monday, February 5, 2024 | 10:01 PM

The Highlands and Greensburg Salem girls basketball teams had the same agenda Monday in their Section 1-4A showdown.

Since both had already clinched spots in the upcoming WPIAL playoffs, the teams were looking for a win to better their seeding for the tournament.

Second-place Highlands (14-6, 9-2) built an early lead and then withstood a couple of comeback attempts by Greensburg Salem (14-7, 6-5) for a 55-45 victory.

“We just didn’t come out with the intensity we need in the first half,” Greensburg Salem coach Rick Klimchock said. “We were a lot better in the second half and had an opportunity to take the lead, but we couldn’t get the key basket.”

Highlands raced out to a 10-2 lead in the first quarter by scoring on its first four possessions. The Golden Rams have won four of their past five games.

Greensburg Salem started finding Kaitlyn Mankins and quickly trimmed the lead to 10-9, but Highlands closed the quarter by scoring five points to take a 15-9 lead.

The Golden Rams extended their lead in the second quarter as Katelyn Myers and Zoey Celko each nailed two 3-pointers to push the advantage to 29-18 at halftime.

“When you’re on the road, you have to start off quickly,” Highlands coach Shawn Bennis said. “The girls really responded, and when we struggled, Katelyn was there to pick us up.”

Greensburg Salem came out hot in the third quarter and used a 15-4 run to tie the score at 33.

The Golden Lions had opportunities to take the lead, something they never did the entire game, but Highlands ended the third quarter getting two big buckets, including a layup by Tyarah Woody at the buzzer to push the lead to 37-33.

Early in the fourth quarter, Myers connected on two more 3-pointers and the Golden Lions never got closer than five points. Highlands then spread the floor in the fourth quarter and forced Greensburg Salem to foul.

The Golden Rams also tightened up their defense and forced Greensburg Salem out of its comfort zone.

Greensburg Salem has dropped four of its past five games.

Mankins led the Golden Lions with 20 points.

Kalleigh Nerone led Highlands with 16 points and Myers had 12.

“We hadn’t beaten them the past two seasons,” Klimchock said. “We want to get the win and enhance our playoff seeding. The team is upset they didn’t get the job done.”

Paul Schofield is a TribLive reporter covering high school and college sports and local golf. He joined the Trib in 1995 after spending 15 years at the Daily Courier in Connellsville, where he served as sports editor for 14 years. He can be reached at pschofield@triblive.com.

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