Westmoreland high school girls basketball notebook: Greensburg Salem’s Mankins is ‘irreplaceable’

Wednesday, January 12, 2022 | 7:01 PM

The Franklin Regional gymnasium fell silent for about 40 minutes Tuesday night when Greensburg Salem sophomore center Kaitlyn Mankins went down with a grim injury.

“The girls were sobbing,” Golden Lions girls basketball coach Rick Klimchock said. “There were tears everywhere.”

Mankins was coming off a pick-and-roll late in the first quarter when she bumped into another player and fell awkwardly to the floor.

A training staff attended to Mankins until an ambulance arrived to take her to Forbes Hospital in Monroeville. There she was diagnosed with a dislocated patellar tendon in her left leg.

The patellar tendon connects the kneecap to the shinbone.

“Her foot was pointing to the side,” Klimchock said. “There was deafening silence. She is such a tough kid, though. She wasn’t even crying.”

Klimchock said she is done for the season and could be sidelined for four months.

Losing the 6-foot-1 post player is a devastating blow to a 10-2 team that has its sights on a WPIAL 5A playoff berth. She was averaging 10 points and eight rebounds.

“She is irreplaceable,” Klimchock said.

Mankins’ mother, Lisa, is an assistant coach for Greensburg Salem, and leading scorer and senior Abby Mankins is her sister.

“Lisa was stoic,” Klimchock said. “We’re such a close team. The girls just gathered together.”

The Golden Lions sleepwalked through the rest of Tuesday’s subdued game but still edged Franklin Regional, 41-40, in overtime. Freshman Regan Kerr showed late poise as she made the go-ahead basket with 20 seconds remaining in OT.

“We’re trying to stay positive, but it’s really tough right now,” Klimchock said. “The Franklin Regional people couldn’t have been any better with the situation. They really showed class.”

BV in first

Belle Vernon had some question marks at the start of the girls basketball season.

Nothing for the team to get shaken up over but enough to get second-year coach Kaitlyn Slagus wondering what she had and how good her team could be.

Turns out, she has the makings of section contender. And, at least for now, a top-five team.

The Leopards, fresh off an upset of No. 1-ranked Southmoreland, went from unranked to No. 3 in this week’s Trib HSSN Class 4A rankings behind Blackhawk and Highlands.

The Leopards (8-2) are alone in first place in Section 3. Their losses are to 5A No. 4 McKeesport and 6A No. 3 Upper St. Clair.

And to think Belle Vernon is still a young team.

Three returning starters have proven their experience in junior guards Viva Kreis, Presleigh Colditz and Kaci Bitonti, and junior Jenna Dawson is looking sharp again after offseason ACL surgery.

The emergence and all-around play of sophomore Tessa Rodriguez also has fueled the Leopards.

GCC moves up

Greensburg Central Catholic is back in the Trib’s Class 2A rankings after dropping out. The Centurions have the No. 4 spot behind Neshannock, Serra Catholic and Burgettstown.

GCC (6-2, 2-0 Section 4) visits Apollo-Ridge (8-1, 1-0) on Thursday night. The teams’ scoring and points-allowed averages are almost identical: GCC 49.3 to 35.6; Apollo-Ridge 49.4/29.3.

Upset for Latrobe

Latrobe was branded with the nickname “Cardiac Cats” last season. Well, the girls are up to their late-game heroics again.

Latrobe was clutch down the stretch Tuesday night as it pulled off an impressive upset over previously unbeaten and No. 4 McKeesport.

Emma Blair made a pair of free throws with 20 seconds left to lead Latrobe (7-2, 3-0) to a 66-65 win in Section 4-5A.

“We came back from five or six at the end of the game multiple times last season,” Latrobe coach Mark Burkhardt said. “I think that was instrumental in how we handled being down six with about 2:30 remaining. We played the last 2:30 with poise and confidence with a different player stepping up each possession. McKeesport is an excellent team that’s well coached. It was just a great display, a quality girls high school basketball game.”

Elle Snyder scored 19 points, Blair added 15, Anna Rafferty had 11 and Bailey Watson 10 for the Wildcats.

Moracco nears 1,000

Derry senior guard Tiana Moracco is scoring more than 55% of her team’s points. Along the way, she is carving a path to a milestone — and possibly school history.

Moracco, who erupted for a school-record 39 points in the Trojans’ 53-32 win over Deer Lakes on Monday, now has 969 career points and is within 31 of 1,000.

The more Moracco, a fourth-year starter, scores, the closer she also gets to the program’s career scoring record. Lindsay Dixon scored 1,047 points from 1999-2002 and holds the top spot.

Derry (5-5, 2-3 Section 1-4A) has 10 regular-season games, plus any playoff games, remaining.

The Trojans have just nine players, and coach Gene Brisbane works the bench alone, but they are grinding out wins and flirting with a postseason berth.

The previous single-game scoring mark was 37 points set by Tiffany Downey in 2007.

Moracco shot 14 of 26 from the field, made pair of 3-pointers and 8 of 13 free throws — to go with five rebounds and four steals — in her record-breaking game.

Mad Dog

Maddie Griffin is one of the best softball pitchers in the state. The senior at Ligonier Valley is headed to Youngstown State to play.

But she is becoming an important player on the Lady Rams’ basketball team — particularly around the basket.

Griffin is one of the top rebounders in Section 3-4A. She had 13 rebounds against West Mifflin and 10 when the Rams played Belle Vernon.

Ligonier Valley is seeking its first win in the WPIAL. In its year-plus in District 7, the girls team is 0-24.

Classy matchups

A nonsection game to watch will be Saturday afternoon in North Huntingdon.

Powerhouse Chartiers Valley (10-1), the No. 1-ranked team in Class 5A, will travel to play Norwin (7-3), which is No. 4 in 6A.

Norwin has the top defensive average in 6A, allowing 32.2 points. But Chartiers Valley is scoring 73.5, second-best in the WPIAL behind Trinity (77.1).

Chartiers Valley won against Norwin last year on its home floor 51-39.

Another cross-classification game to check out Saturday is Southmoreland (8-2) at McKeesport (10-1) — the No. 4 teams in 4A and 5A.

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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