McKeesport’s pressure rattles Greensburg Salem girls in 1st-round win

Monday, February 18, 2019 | 10:20 PM

With leading scorer Jhayla Bray spending most of the first half on the bench with foul trouble, McKeesport’s defense started strong and built a double-digit lead Monday night against Greensburg Salem.

Bray scored all 16 of her points in the second half and pulled down 17 rebounds as the Tigers cruised to a 51-37 victory over the Golden Lions in a Class 4A opening-round game at Fox Chapel.

McKeesport forced nine Greensburg Salem turnovers in the first quarter, several in the Golden Lions backcourt. The Tigers built a 17-3 lead by the end of the first quarter.

“That was our plan,” McKeesport coach Eric Smith said of his team’s defense. “We’re a pressing team. We have a bunch of different presses we can throw at them. We wanted to keep the ball out of their studs’ hands.”

Greensburg Salem was blanked over the last 5 minutes, 14 seconds of the first quarter.

The seventh-seeded Tigers (13-8) will play No. 2 Central Valley (20-1) in the quarterfinal round Thursday at a site and time to be determined.

Greensburg Salem, seeking its first playoff win since 2012, finished the season at 12-11.

“We had a bad start,” Golden Lions coach Rick Klimchock said. “McKeesport was really good defensively. We kind of thought if we handled their pressure, we’d be OK in the half court. Their ball pressure on our guards was good.”

The game also marked the end of Greensburg Salem senior guard Megan Kallock’s outstanding career. The WPIAL’s leading girls scorer in the regular season, Kallock scored 22 points Monday, giving her 1,868 for her career.

“She’s just a great competitor,” Klimchock said of Kallock. “The stage is never too big for her. She pours her heart into both sides of the ball. I can tell you my two seniors, Megan and Nikki Mellinger, I never had a bad day with them. They’re two of my hardest workers in practice every day. They’re good leaders, and we’ll really miss them.”

“It’s been like a journey since freshman year,” Kallock said. “We couldn’t make it past the first round but getting here’s what’s mattered most. I’m proud of my career, my coaches and my teammates.”

Kallock will head down Route 30 East and attend St. Vincent in the fall. She finished 150 points short of Danielle Dawson’s school record of 2,018 set from 1998-2002.

After McKeesport had built a 25-8 lead with 3:08 to go in the half, Greensburg Salem scored the last eight points to cut the lead to 25-16 as Kallock’s off-balance shot beat the buzzer.

Kallock missed the free throw and the Golden Lions had three chances at the start of the second half, but couldn’t further cut into the Tigers lead.

McKeesport was in control, but Smith felt the team lacked focus after a lengthy layoff. The absence of Bray could have contributed to some uneven play before the junior guard returned for the second half.

Said Smith of Bray: “She’s a warrior. She has those games. She was rusty, too, but played extremely hard. She’s getting smarter and more experienced. But we go nine deep and there’s many people capable of stepping up.”

Nevaeh Stepanik had 10 rebounds and Emma Elash eight steals for the Tigers.

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