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Greensburg Salem girls excel in Chemistry 101

| Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012, 11:48 p.m.
Greensburg Salem's Claire Oberdorf dribbles past a Penn-Trafford player during a scrimmage on December 04, 2012. Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review
Greensburg Salem's Karly Mellinger shoot a 3-pointer during a scrimmage against Penn-Trafford on December 04, 2012. Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review
Greensburg Salem's Jayne Oberdorf dribbles past a Penn-Trafford player during a scrimmage on December 04, 2012. Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review

Entering the season, Greensburg Salem girls basketball coach Janine Vertacnik knew her team had good chemistry.

Several guards, she said, played like clockwork.

But an event off the court really convinced her how well the players got along.

“We had a pizza and movie night,” she said. “Everybody was talking and enjoying themselves and really getting along.

“It's a really tight-knit group.”

Senior Angela Balya was not surprised by the observation.

“We're not only a team but a family,” she said. “We read each others' minds on the court.”

All but one starter returns from last year, when the Lions qualified for the WPIAL playoffs for the first time in five seasons.

Junior Karly Mellinger joins the lineup after transferring from Greensburg Central Catholic, where she was leading scorer a year ago.

New to the team, Mellinger is no stranger to some teammates, who attended elementary and middle school with her.

“She fits right in,” Balya said.

Mellinger is part of a rotation of point guards that includes Balya and sophomore Claire Oberdorf.

Senior Jayne Oberdorf, Claire's sister, is a pure 3-point shooter, Vertacnik said.

Oberdorf, who averaged nearly 15 points last season, credits senior forward Taylor Mehan with setting up scoring opportunities for her.

“Taylor always seems to know where I am on the court,” Oberdorf said. “She's good in setting screens.”

“Taylor does the little things no one notices,” Vertacnik said. “She's a scrapper in getting loose balls.

“She's really athletic and quick, and will set screens and kick balls back to Jayne.”

While Oberdorf is deadly shooting from outside, Balya is good at penetrating.

“Angela will get layups and not too many jump shots,” Vertacnik said. “She can drive in with her left hand as well as her right. Not too many players can do that.”

Sophomores Sydney Ross and Vanessa Adams and junior Kellie Hutchinson are reserves expected to contribute heavily this season.

In her third year as coach, Vertacnik expects the Lions to do better than they did a year ago, when they tied for third place in Section 3-AAA and were eliminated early in the WPIAL playoffs.

“There are a lot of good teams, but we'd like to win our section and go farther at WPIALs so we can qualify for states,” she said.

Greensburg Salem last qualified for the PIAA playoffs in 2007, when it was eliminated by eventual champion Hopewell in the second round. The Lions finished fourth in the WPIAL after reaching the semifinals of the WPIAL championship that year.

Karen Kadilak is a freelance writer.

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