Hot-shooting North Catholic girls hold back Greensburg Salem

Thursday, January 5, 2023 | 10:48 PM

Greensburg Salem likes to turn out the lights for its player introductions at home games. The full spotlight effect.

North Catholic left the Golden Lions in the dark in the third quarter Thursday night in a matchup of top-five girls basketball teams in WPIAL Class 4A.

Greensburg Salem smelled an upset for the first two quarters but couldn’t match a piping-hot shooting night from the visiting Trojanettes.

No. 2 North Catholic made 5 of 7 shots from 3-point range during a 24-point quarter and hit 12 of 19 3s for the game, in a 62-41 victory over No. 4 Greensburg Salem in Section 1.

“It’s tough to beat any team that shoots it like that,” Greensburg Salem coach Rick Klimchock said. “That was one of the best shooting performances in a quarter I have ever seen.”

Junior Alayna Rocco, a Trafford resident, scored a game-high 21 points in her return to Westmoreland County, and senior Tori Drevna added 19, including 5 of 6 3s, to power 21-time WPIAL champion North Catholic (8-3, 4-0), the WPIAL 3A champ last season.

Rocco made three 3s, as did junior teammate Ava Walker, who finished with 11 points. Walker was 3 for 3 from long range.

“We look to come out and get to the rim, but we did a better job when we got two feet in the paint and kicked the ball when they collapsed on us,” Trojanettes coach Molly Rottman said. “It was a matter of making those drives and knocking down the shots. I was happy with our decisions.”

Greensburg Salem (9-2, 2-1), which led four times in the second quarter, the last at 23-22, had its eight-game winning streak halted.

“We didn’t want the girls to look at this game differently than any other,” Klimchock said. “It has the same value as the Valley game. It’s one section game. Just go out and play. They are just really good and have so many shooters.”

Greensburg Salem took a two-point deficit into halftime (25-23), going hoop-for-hoop with the vaunted Trojanettes in the first half despite constant full-court pressure. A fast-paced opening quarter even seemed to favor the Golden Lions.

But North Catholic pulled back to a halfcourt offense after the break, and the constant cutting and weaving had Greensburg Salem looking for a response that never came.

And that was despite the Golden Lions cutting down on turnovers. Kickout 3-pointers became a chore to defend. By the time defenders close, the ball was long gone and through the net — one by one down the conveyor belt.

“We went more east-to-west and controlled the offense more,” Rottman said. “We weren’t sprinting in transition as much. That made a difference.”

After senior Ashley Smith made a 3 to cut it to 30-26, the Trojanettes hit four straight 3s, one from sophomore Sarah Loughry, two from Drevna and another by Walker, to swell the margin to 44-28 with just less than two minutes to play in the third.

Rocco, a Harvard commit who scored from the perimeter and on tough drives, completed a three-point play to close the quarter with her team ahead 49-31.

A 13-0 run was part of the 24-8 quarter.

Rocco and Drevna each had eight in the third.

Greensburg Salem could only get within 16 the rest of the way.

“Our help (defense) has been good all year,” Klimchock said. “We helped tonight, but (North Catholic) got the flow in the second half. Our girls played hard and didn’t let the game get too big for them. I was happy with how we played in the first half. For so many teams, it’s about not letting them get up big right out of the gate. We didn’t let them do that.”

Greensburg Salem made six 3s, three of them coming from junior guard Ashlan Price, who had 13 points. She was assigned the unenviable task of guarding Rocco.

Junior 6-foot-1 center Kaitlyn Mankins finished with 15 points to lead the Golden Lions. She also grabbed 12 rebounds.

North Catholic played its third straight game without senior guard Dacia Lewandowski, an Akron commit who has a sprained foot. She was on crutches and wore a walking boot as she sat on the bench.

Rottman said Lewandowski could be off crutches this week and is expected to return before the end of the regular season.

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

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