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Uniontown girls win showdown with Greensburg Salem

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Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review
Uniontown guard Lydya Dennis delivers a no-look pass around Greensburg Salem forward Karly Mellinger during their January 24, 2013 contest in Greensburg.
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By Brian Hunger
Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013, 11:04 p.m.

The Section 3-AAA showdown between Uniontown and Greensburg Salem on Thursday had a little bit of everything — from an extremely physical game to a ferocious comeback. ... and even a fan ejection.

In the end, it was the Red Raiders (8-1, 13-2) who pulled out a hard fought, 56-53, victory in a hostile Greensburg Salem gymnasium.

But it wasn't easy.

After opening the game with an aggressive, attacking demeanor, Uniontown stormed to a 10-2 lead and led by as many as 16 with 5 minutes to go in the second quarter.

The Lions (7-1, 12-5), who shot miserably in the first half (4 of 28), were able to stay within 35-25 at the half due mainly to nearly perfect free-throw shooting.

“We knew a team like Greensburg would make a run on us,” Uniontown coach Jason Winfrey said. “They have great coaching and tremendous players and it showed in the second half. This is what you expect in a game like this one.”

Then, the tables turned. Greensburg Salem switched to a high-pressure, pressure defense in the second half and its shots starting falling. The Lions took their first lead of the night with 5:48 remaining in the fourth quarter on a deep 3-pointer by senior guard Jayne Oberdorf (16 points). But Uniontown continued to make clutch shots down the stretch.

A potential game-tying 3-pointer by Salem's Karly Mellinger missed with seconds remaining.

“We shot poorly,” Lions coach Janine Vertacnik said. “It's the second game in a row. Somehow we were only down 10 at the half. We saw near the end of the second quarter they weren't handling our pressure well so we just switched to it in the second half and it started to create things. The first quarter they just really hurt us and we were just passive.”

For as well as the Lions' press worked, however, it wasn't enough to completely slow down Uniontown's dynamic senior guard duo of Danasha Harris and Lydya Dennis, who both finished with 19 points. The two made clutch shots and were aided by four 3-pointers from senior guard Alyssa Machesky (14).

“We come and go as they go,” Winfrey said. “They are the heart and soul of this team. This was a very physical game tonight but we were able to stick to our game plan for the most part. Some things got away from us and a little out of hand at times, but we stuck together.”

At times, the game felt more like a football game than a basketball game, as it was stopped numerous times for injuries.

“In a game like this with title implications … I know they want to let you play but somebody could have got hurt,” Vertacnik said. “It got crazy with elbows and people swinging. We didn't quit and fought to the end. These girls won't back down if they get behind and showed how tough they are tonight.”

The Lions, whose starters played almost the entire game, were led by sophomore guard Claire Oberdorf (16). Mellinger finished with 14 points.

Brian Hunger is a freelance writer.

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