Penn-Trafford boys ride big 1st half to victory over Greensburg Salem

Tuesday, February 2, 2021 | 9:45 PM

Penn-Trafford sent a message to visiting Greensburg Salem early in Tuesday night’s boys basketball game.

The message: If you’re going to cross midcourt, be prepared to feel some heat.

The Warriors trapped constantly and forced Greensburg Salem into mistakes in the open court, creating turnovers and building a commanding lead on the way to a 61-34 mercy-ruled victory in Section 3-6A.

Junior forward Ben Myers scored 14 points, senior guard Josh Kapcin added 11 and freshman guard Jason Sabol had 10 — all in the second quarter, including two 3-pointers — as the Warriors (7-3, 3-2) stretched a 21-2 lead after the opening quarter to 42-11 by halftime.

The new mercy rule kicks in when a team is up by 30 points in the second half. Penn-Trafford had no problem keeping the clock running as it led 49-15 in the third.

“Before the game, coach talked about getting up on them and making them uncomfortable,” said Kapcin, who scored nine in the first quarter. “We wanted our defense to transition to offense.”

Greensburg Salem, playing its first section game in Class 6A, fell to 0-3, 0-1.

The Golden Lions, who sat through lengthy delays because of covid-19 contact tracing but finally played their first game Saturday, have struggled to string together offense thus far. They had trouble with Penn-Trafford’s pressure, which stopped them in their tracks as they tried to set up offensive sets.

Still, they continued to play and defend, led by junior Ben Thomas, who scored a game- and career-high 18, including four 3-pointers.

“At halftime we talked about not giving up,” said Thomas, who hit back-to-back 3s to start the fourth to cut the deficit to 25. “We didn’t quit. Penn-Trafford really got up on us.”

This was the Golden Lions’ third game in four days.

Penn-Trafford, which has won four of its last five, has impressive wins over North Allegheny and Fox Chapel, both top-five teams when they played the Warriors.

The Warriors were coming off a 46-42 road win over a solid Central Catholic team.

“The idea was to pressure them,” Penn-Trafford first-year coach Doug Kelly said of Greensburg Salem. “For us, it’s about us vs. us, meaning we need to keep the kids focused and engaged. Sometimes the way to do that is through defense. We wanted to push it on offense when we got stops. We still need to play four quarters, not matter who we have in the game.”

Even with the running clock and reserves on the floor, Greensburg Salem outscored the Warriors, 23-19, in the second half.

“Penn-Trafford really comes at you defensively,” Greensburg Salem coach Mark Zahorchak said. “Kapcin is a really disruptive player. He is a tremendous player. They have so many guys who can shoot the ball and then you have Myers inside. We challenged our kids to make progress in the second half, and I thought they did. They executed better. Nobody is giving up on anybody.”

Said Kelly: “The thing about Greensburg Salem is that they always have tough kids. They battled.”

Nine players scored for Penn-Trafford, including senior Chase Vecchio, who had eight.

Vecchio had bookend plays to end the first and second quarters. He came up with a steal near midcourt, dribbled and flicked up a 3, which beat the first-quarter buzzer. At the end of the second, he lined up for a wide-open 3, but zipped a pass to Myers for an easy two.

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

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