Westmoreland County basketball’s top storylines to follow

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Thursday, December 6, 2018 | 6:30 PM


5 storylines to follow

Remember me? — Coaches who resign or leave the game often mention in parting that they’ll probably surface later on, that it’s not the end of the road. In some cases, they even return to the same program.

That is the case with four area boys coaches.

Tom Esposito is back at Derry, the place he coached a decade ago. John Berger, meantime, is back in charge at Ligonier Valley. He’s the chief, and the players know it: Berger is the chief of police in Ligonier. He coached the Rams from 2011-13.

Jim Nesser returns to Yough, where he began coaching in 1988. Since then he made stops at several places around the WPIAL, including Greensburg Central Catholic, his alma mater, last season, and held a couple of college jobs.

And don’t forget about Dr. Greg Bisignani, who coached eight years at GCC before serving as an assistant last season to Nesser. Bisignani is back in charge this season.

More new coaches, such as Salvino at Belle Vernon and Janine Vertacnik at Monessen, have simply switched county schools. Salvino left Monessen after more than three decades, while Vertacnik departed Jeannette.

Other new coaches include: Ronnie Drennan (Belle Vernon boys); Matt Regula (Derry girls); Mark Zahorchak (Greensburg Salem); Tom Brush (Hempfield girls); Jonathan Bass (Jeannette girls), Allan Bilinsky (Mt. Pleasant boys); Sam Salih (GCC girls) and Dan Bosnic (Monessen boys).

Dynamic duos — Look for scoring combos to rack up the points at Latrobe and Ligonier Valley. Reed Fenton and Bryce Butler both scored over 20 a game last season for Latrobe — remember the Gateway game when they combined for 76 points?

Marrek Paola and Michael Marinchak, meanwhile, are a dangerous inside-outside tandem. Paola averaged 24.3 and Marinchak 19.

Other potential duos to watch include Geoff Helm and Joel LoNigro and GCC; Anna Eisaman and Melina Maietta at GCC; Meg Kallock and Nikki Mellinger at Greensburg Salem; and Jayla Wehner and Olivia Gribble at Norwin.

New surroundings — A number of county teams will be in new classes and sections. If they can familiarize themselves quickly, success could follow with them.

Both GCC teams have the potential to make a significant splash with the move to Class A, while the Latrobe and Penn-Trafford girls also could make noise as they move to Class 5A.

Class 3A boys, which has Southmoreland and Burrell, has a larger playoff bracket: 16 teams while all of the others have 12. More teams could advance based on ties, but 3A has the largest tournament.

2,000-point club? — Keep an eye on Franklin Regional’s Cali Konek and Greensburg Salem’s Kallock. They have similar-sounding last names and similar milestones within reach. Both are chasing 2,000 career points.

Konek has 1,528 points over stints at Imani Christian, Riverdale Baptist (Md.) and Southmoreland. Kallock stands at 1,299 and has a longer road to 2,000, but it could be done.

Only six girls in Westmoreland history have topped 2,000: Gina Naccarato of Monessen (3,364), Charel Allen of Monessen (3,110), Vanessa Abel of Southmoreland (2,327), Ciara Gregory of Jeannette (2,130), Jen Sabota of Latrobe (2,072) and Danielle Dawson of Greensburg Salem (2,007).

County shootout — A new event is the Westmoreland County Coaches Association Shootout set for Dec. 15 at Hempfield. A total of 14 county boys teams will play a game apiece during the one-day showcase, set to be played in two of Hempfield’s gyms. The in-season event will give fans a look at several area teams, those of which will get to play, and scout, more localized opponents.

As the WPIAL fabric is stretched out longer with each season in the six-classification era, events like this will keep local teams in the same backyard.

Bill Beckner is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bill at bbeckner@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BillBeckner.

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