Veteran lineup looking toward big things ahead for Greensburg Salem girls basketball

Friday, November 26, 2021 | 4:44 PM

Rick Klimchock doesn’t need to be reminded of how quickly a basketball season can go south — even with a veteran team. Last year, his Greensburg Salem girls returned four starters, yet the team finished the season under .500.

“Last year was a hard year for us,” he said.

It is precisely why Klimchock is guarded as he enters his fifth year as coach of the Golden Lions, whose starting lineup remains intact from last season’s 8-12 team.

Klimchock noted the lineup wasn’t necessarily a lock as the team prepared for its season opener Dec. 10 against Ligonier Valley at the Greensburg Salem Tip-Off Tournament.

“We’ll be shuffling people a lot. We’re feeling like we can break out and have a good season,” Klimchock said, hopeful, too, of no stoppages, such as those that hampered the team during last season’s covid-plagued year.

“We had four starters back and were very hopeful going in,” he said.

But the constant interruptions following frequent covid testing idled the program and prevented Klimchock’s team from establishing momentum.

“Three shutdowns from covid really, really ruined our season,” he said. “There were weeks where we had four games (after rescheduling). One stretch, we had five games in eight days. We were really up against it last year.”

The Golden Lions managed to play a total of 20 games but couldn’t do better than 8-12, just 2-10 in section play. It didn’t help the Lions were bumped up a classification to Class 5A, based on changing enrollment numbers.

“It was a tough year for the kids, but we really bounced back with a good summer,” Klimchock said. “We had a good summer by upping the tempo and getting better, defensively, and that’s what we’re going to build on.”

With another veteran group, including two four-year starters, Klimchock believes Greensburg Salem is capable of making a run at a section championship, and it starts with 5-foot-10 guard Abby Mankins, a Seton Hill recruit who needs just 60 points to reach 1,000 for her career.

“Her scoring isn’t the only thing,” Klimchock said. “Her defense, ball-handling, rebounding, game-management skills — just knowing how to play the game the right way, that’s the biggest thing about her. She does so many things well. She can keep us in the game. She’s been kind of a workhorse for us for four years.”

Mankins’ younger sister, Kait Mankins, a 6-1 sophomore center, also returns after cracking the starting lineup last season as a freshman. Senior guards 5-6 Carissa Caldwell and 5-3 Kylie Smith and 5-7 senior forward Tamaia Lewis are also back.

“We have good guard depth, great quickness and speed, a lot of quick, fast kids,” Klimchock said. “I like these kids. We’ve had them for five years, back when we started here. This senior class, I’m really close to them. They’ve been playing a lot of minutes together.”

A promising group of underclass players should bolster Greensburg Salem’s bench, Klimchock said. Among them are 6-0 junior forward Paytan Henry, sophomore guards 5-9 Ashlan Price and 5-4 Gia Rosensteel and 5-11 freshman forward Regan Kerr.

Following its early-season tournament Dec. 10-11 and a trip to Connellsville on Dec. 13, Greensburg Salem will open its Section 4 schedule Dec. 23 against visiting McKeesport.

The Golden Lions’ first matchup against defending section champion Latrobe is set for Jan. 17 at home.

“Physically, we feel we can match up with people a little better this year,” Klimchock said. “We’ve matured on the court. Our depth at the guard spot … those kids really had a good summer. We’re trying to develop our young girls in the post. Latrobe and Woodland Hills — and others — they have great post players. We aspire to get to that level.”

Greensburg Salem girls at a glance

Coach: Rick Klimchock

Last year’s record: 8-12 (2-10 Section 4-5A)

Returning starters: Carissa Caldwell (Sr. G), Tamaia Lewis (Sr., F), Abby Mankins (Sr., G), Kait Mankins (Soph., C), Kylie Smith (Sr., G)

Top newcomers: Paytan Henry (Jr., F), Regan Kerr (Fr., F), Ashlan Price (Soph., G), Gia Rosensteel (Soph. G)


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