Westmoreland boys basketball notebook: Greensburg Salem welcomes back its Big Ben

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Thursday, January 20, 2022 | 4:30 PM


Ben Thomas had not played a WPIAL basketball game in nearly a year.

The Greensburg Salem senior guard hadn’t taken the court since April 11 when he tore his ACL in an AAU game in Lancaster.

Right might be expected when Thomas finally returned Tuesday for a home game against neighboring Hempfield.

Not from this kid. Not on this night.

Thomas was sensational in his season debut, erupting for a career-high 40 points as the struggling Golden Lions lost to the Spartans, 82-72, in a Section 3-6A game.

“I felt a little frustration … just couldn’t wait to get out there and compete,” the 6-foot-3 Thomas said. “I’d say I was feeling it a little.”

A little?

Thomas made 13 two-point field goals, two 3-pointers and 8 of 10 free throws. He had 29 in the second half, including 19 in the fourth quarter.

“He was exhausted but played a great game,” Greensburg Salem coach Mark Zahorchak said. “He’s a calming influence. He takes pressure off of everyone else, a very polished player and a pure scorer.”

The Steelers are saying good-bye to Ben. Greensburg Salem is welcoming Ben back.

“I just played my game and shots were falling,” he said. “Rehab was a long road, but it was definitely worth it. It felt great to compete, especially against Hempfield.”

The Spartans might have expected an easy game. Why wouldn’t they? Greensburg Salem (1-12, 0-5) was coming off a 100-23 loss to Central Catholic. The Golden Lions also lost to Greensburg Central Catholic, 74-25; Laurel Highlands, 88-25; Fox Chapel, 89-22; and Penn-Trafford, 90-44.

Hempfield beat Greensburg Salem last year, 82-38.

Tuesday was the most points the Golden Lions have scored in a section game since playing up in Class 6A.

“He was amazing,” Hempfield coach Bill Swan said. “We threw the kitchen sink at him.”

Hempfield junior Harrison Sowers also had a breakout game, scoring a career-high 31 points, including five 3-pointers.

Jeannette healthy

Jeannette got the band back together Tuesday, and it paid off in the form of a 65-49 win at Clairton in Section 3-2A.

Seniors Anton Good and Nas Thompson returned to the court and combined for 41 points to lead the Jayhawks (7-5, 2-2).

Good scored a season-high 29 after missing two-and-a-half games because of an ankle injury he sustained against Greensburg Central Catholic.

Thompson missed three games for an undisclosed reason.

Batts nears milestone

Jeannette coach Adrian Batts began coaching the Jayhawks in 2009. The Jayhawks have never missed the WPIAL playoffs on his watch and have made the PIAA playoffs eight times.

Now Batts is nearing a milestone for career wins. He needs two more victories to reach 200 for his career.

Batts, who won his 100th game n 2014, was 198-106 heading into Thursday night’s home game against Serra Catholic.

Tough skedding

Hempfield did not back down to anyone when it put its schedule together in the offseason.

The Spartans played the Nos. 1, 2 and 3 ranked teams in WPIAL 6A over a nine-day stretch, losing to Fox Chapel (71-43), Central Catholic (72-45) and North Hills (89-58).

Fox Chapel and Central Catholic are section games.

They also played previous No. 2 North Allegheny and former No. 5 Butler, and have No. 4 Pine-Richland later in the season.

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

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