Greensburg Salem solid in Jeannette win
There's a different man running the Greensburg Salem boys basketball team. And despite losing, 80-65, to Class AA No. 2 Jeannette on Friday night, the Golden Lions' program appears to be in good hands.
Craig Mankins was hired this summer to replace legendary coach Paul Sapotichne, who resigned after last season. Sapotichne, the school's winningest coach with 399 victories, spent the past 29 years at Greensburg Salem.
“Craig had (Greensburg Salem) playing hard,” Jeannette coach Adrian Batts said. “They've seemed to adapt to a new system, and they're going to get better. Max (Ponzurick) was the only player who saw a lot of time last year, and he had a nice game.”
While Friday's score wasn't what Mankins would have liked, he saw some good things from his squad in the season opener in the Hempfield Tip-Off Tournament.
He also witnessed the talent of Jeannette guards Duke Brown and Julian Batts.
“Those two guards are super players,” Mankins said. “They were fantastic. I would think Uniontown would be favored in our section, and that's the type of pressure we're going to face.”
Jeannette, which was playing without four players — including starter Orlando Morgan, who was out for an unspecified reason — was too experienced at the guard position for the young Golden Lions. The other three players were out with injuries.
Brown scored 24 points, and Batts had 23 to help Jeannette build a double-digit lead, 13-2, in the first quarter. The Jayhawks led, 22-11, after one quarter as Batts scored 10 points and Brown eight.
Ponzurick (18 points and 10 rebounds), Denzell Jackson (14 points) and Pat Boyer (13 points and 10 rebounds) kept Greensburg Salem in the game.
“We have to develop better guard play,” Mankins said. “Other than Max, this was the first varsity experience for many of the players. They'll get better with experience. They need to slow down. They were a little ahead of themselves.
“I know we'll bounce back from this loss. We have some tough games ahead before we begin section play. That's when we want to be playing our best basketball.”
Ponzurick said he likes to the new offense.
“We have a little more freedom to create our offense,” Ponzurick said. “It's a lot different than Coach Paul. We have to continue to work hard.”
While Greensburg Salem's inside game will be its strength, Jeannette has strong shooters. Jordan Edmunds and Garrett Elliott each scored 10 points for the Jayhawks, while 6-foot-5 Seth Miller added eight points and seven blocks.
“Duke and Julian have been working hard on their shooting,” Batts said. “They're complementing each other.”
One thing that Batts said must improve is his team's defense. Allowing 65 points didn't excite him.
“Craig's a new coach, and we didn't know what he's run,” Batts said. “These kids know each other. It turned into a street game.”
And that type of game benefitted Jeannette.
“I told them the three battles we needed to win were turnovers, free throws and rebounds,” Mankins said. “We probably won the free-throw battle. We had too many turnovers, and we were outrebounded.”
Paul Schofield is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.