With bolstered roster, Greensburg Salem boys look to move past difficult season

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Friday, November 26, 2021 | 4:43 PM


A year ago, the Greensburg Salem boys basketball team was hit with the “perfect storm” for a winless season with the cancellation of seven games because of covid-19 while moving up to the WPIAL’s highest classification.

A year later, coach Mark Zahorchak is hopeful for some calm.

“Last year’s struggles don’t matter anymore. This is a completely different roster,” he said. “It’s going to be a completely different type of team.”

The Golden Lions lineup appears stronger with the return of three players who saw considerable action for the Greensburg Salem football team.

Senior forward Jayden Stevens and junior guards Cody Rubrecht and Raequan Rollins elected last year to sit out the basketball season, but all three were expected this year to make an immediate impact.

Rollins was sidelined for the 2020 season while recovering from a football-related injury.

“It’ll be good to get those guys back,” Zahorchak said. “It’s nice to have a true big man in Stevens. He’s a skilled inside guy.”

While the trio is expected to make a difference, the team will be without senior Ben Thomas, a 6-foot-3 forward and the leading returning scorer (12.5 ppg.), until at least January while he recovers from surgery to repair a torn ACL.

“We’ll definitely miss him for at least some of the first half of the season,” Zahorchak said.

Greensburg Salem opens its schedule Dec. 10 against Connellsville at the Hempfield Tip-Off Tournament.

Without Thomas’ services, Zahorchak said he’ll rely on others to step up.

“Our athleticism has taken a big jump up with those other guys coming back,” Zahorchak said.

Senior guard Kage Burkart and senior forward Donavin Waller join Thomas as returning starters from last season.

“We want to play up-tempo, so I’m not adverse to having a big rotation,” Zahorchak said. “We have a lot of guys with a similar skill set and talent level.”

Others veterans returning are senior guard Adam Zahorchak, junior guard Rashad Canady and junior forward Christian Hostetler.

Canady has impressed coach Zahorchak with his athleticism and desire.

“He can get to the rim, and that’s something we lacked last year,” Zahorchak said. “He and Jayden (Stevens) will give us a little bit of something we were missing. We had none of that last year.”

Greensburg Salem’s enrollment figures at the start of last season barely exceeded the WPIAL’s Class 4A parameters, requiring the Golden Lions to remain in Class 5A, where they had played the previous four years, or move up to Class 6A.

Zahorchak at the time reasoned that a move to Class 6A would provide the team with more opportunities to face neighboring schools in section play.

But the Golden Lions never were able to find a rhythm.

“When we started playing last year, we had a covid bout and it wiped out some nonsection games,” Zahorchak said. “It was a perfect storm of negative things for us.”

Greensburg Salem limped to an 0-13 record (0-10 in Section 3) as opponents more than doubled-up their average scoring margin (67-30).

“Being able to hopefully play seven or eight nonsection games, if everything goes well, should help us get things going and get some continuity,” Zahorchak said.

But the team will need to navigate another tough Class 6A schedule that includes a pair of games against defending Section 3 champion Fox Chapel. The Foxes welcome back their entire lineup from a team that finished 20-3 and reached the WPIAL semifinals a year ago.

Fox Chapel has a good group. They won the section with mostly juniors,” Zahorchak said.

The WPIAL’s latest enrollment figures, which take effect next season, find Greensburg Salem within the Class 4A limit.

“Next year, we’ll be back in 4A, where we’re really more suited to play,” Zahorchak said. “There isn’t much difference between 5A and 6A as far as we’re concerned. You get into some pretty strong programs no matter which class you’re in.”

Greensburg Salem boys at a glance

Coach: Mark Zahorchak

Last year’s record: 0-13 (0-10 Section 3-6A)

Returning starters: Kage Burkart (Sr., G), Ben Thomas (Sr., F), Donavin Waller (Sr., F)

Top newcomers: Raequan Rollins (Jr., G), Cody Rubrecht (Jr., G), Jayden Stevens (Sr., F)

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