Westmoreland County girls basketball notebook: 7 teams punch playoff tickets

Wednesday, February 1, 2023 | 9:01 AM

Seven Westmoreland County teams have secured WPIAL playoffs spots with just more than a week remaining in the regular season.

Norwin clinched a berth in Class 6A, and Penn-Trafford wrapped up a a spot in Class 5A. Belle Vernon (4A), Greensburg Salem (4A), Yough (3A), Greensburg Central Catholic (2A), and Monessen (A) also are postseason bound.

A number of county teams still are seeking spots for the playoffs, which are scheduled to start Feb. 17.

Hempfield can still qualify in 6A, Franklin Regional, Kiski Area and Latrobe are still alive in 5A, and Mt. Pleasant and Burrell also can still qualify in 3A.

Section plays ends Feb. 11, and the playoff pairings will be announced Feb. 13.

Good test

Greensburg Central Catholic (16-3), ranked first in the state in Class 2A at the time, went into a game against WPIAL Class 4A No. 3 McKeesport on Sunday and gave the Tigers a game.

Freshman Erica Gribble scored 18 points, and junior Mya Morgan added 11 in a 59-43 loss in the Shootout at Seton Hill.

“It was a good measuring stick for us,” GCC coach Chris Skatell said. “We handled their pressure well, for the most part, and I was happy with our effort.”

Open-court turnovers hindered GCC down the stretch, but the Centurions went hoop-for-hoop with the Tigers for much of the game.

As for the No. 1 ranking …

“It’s nice to have someone say something nice about you or think of you in that way,” Skatell said. “But we can’t worry about the outside noise. We have to worry about us.

“We’re excited about where we’re at. We’re growing up.”

GCC stumbled in a Section 3 showdown Monday with No. 2 Serra Catholic, falling 40-35, and slipped to No. 4 in the state rankings.

Zelmore tops 1,500

Mt. Pleasant scoring sensation Tiffany Zelmore, the county’s points leader this season, topped the 1,500-point mark when she scored 32 on Monday in a 55-25 win over Deer Lakes.

Zelmore, who is averaging 29 points, has 1,505 points.

She is the first girl from Westmoreland to score 1,500 since Latrobe’s Laura Graytok in 2018.

The Mt. Pleasant scoring record is held by 1996 alum Michelle Katkowski, who scored 1,896.

Back to Seton Hill

Organizer Allen Deep, who runs a series of showcase events on the high school basketball calendar, can call the Shootout at Seton Hill a success.

The seven-game event, held over two days for the first time, drew a decent crowd, considering a late schedule change Saturday and the NFL conference championship games Sunday.

“The people around here love coming here,” Deep said. “I have a special love for Seton Hill. It is truly a special place that did a marvelous job with my daughter (former Griffins player Alexandria). She matured into a young lady and was taught to respect people. She played for coach (Mark) Katarski for four years and had a memorable time making plenty of friendships.

“Everyone at SHU wants this event to continue.”

Deep said the invited teams plan to return next year.

BV, Monessen bump up

Belle Vernon and Monessen are the newest Westmoreland teams to join the Trib Live WPIAL rankings.

Both are on hot streaks.

Belle Vernon (14-6), which has won six in a row and 10 of 11, is now No. 5 in Class 4A behind Blackhawk, North Catholic, Elizabeth Forward, and Quaker Valley.

Monessen (12-4), on a 10-game winning streak, is No. 5 in Class A. The rest of the top five is Bishop Canevin, Union, St. Joseph and Aquinas Academy.

Norwin dropped to No. 3 in 6A after a loss to North Allegheny, and Greensburg Central Catholic remained No. 1 in 2A.

House of 1,000 points

Belle Vernon is honoring its 1,000-point club in consecutive weeks.

On Thursday, the school will recognize the five girls who scored more than 1,000 in their career in Megan Backstrom, the late Sasha Zuro, Jessica Slagus, Kaitlyn Slagus and Jocelyn Connolly.

The ceremony will begin at halftime when the Leopards entertain Laurel Highlands.

Then, on Feb. 10, the eight male 1,000-point scorers will get the limelight — Ron Haten, Tom Parks, Tom Emelo, Vinnie Graham, Matthew Rowland, Jacob Dudzinski, Joshua Pohlot and Devin Whitlock — in a halftime ceremony.

The Leopards will host Elizabeth Forward.

Both games tip at 7 p.m.

Smith, for 3!

It was the play of the year for Greensburg Salem.

In less than 10 seconds, senior guard Ashley Smith took the Golden Lions from dejection to celebration.

The girls trailed host Laurel Highlands, 44-42, with 7.4 seconds left.

Smith inbounded to junior Ashlan Price just over midcourt, who flipped it back to Smith at the volleyball line.

Smith dribbled left, crossed over and dribbled two more times before firing in a winning 3 from the top-left of the key at the buzzer.

Final score: Greensburg Salem 45, Laurel Highlands 44.

“It was amazing,” Greensburg Salem coach Rick Klimchock said. “I ran out the door into the hallway. I couldn’t believe it.”

The team ran onto the floor, and manager Levi Kerr put his arms up like Smith had scored a touchdown.

Henry commits

Greensburg Salem senior Paytan Henry will continue her basketball career at Juniata.

A 6-foot center, Henry is known for her rebounding and defensive play around the basket.

Another surprise milestone

Norwin coach Brian Brozeski was surprised to learn he had 200 wins and just as surprised when his parents gave him a game ball to commemorate the milestone at Monday’s home game against Butler.

“I was 100% surprised,” Brozeski said. “When I scored 1,000 points (at Blairsville), my coach called a timeout and he gave me the ball and said ‘Go give this to your parents,’ ” Brozeski told the Westmoreland Sports Network. “I looked at him … ‘What the heck are you talking about?’ He said ‘You just scored 1,000.’

“Definitely a surprise. I honestly don’t keep track of that (type of thing).”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a TribLive reporter covering local sports in Westmoreland County. He can be reached at bbeckner@triblive.com.

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