Long-range shooting has Greensburg Salem girls contending
In theory, at least, scouting the Greensburg Salem girls basketball team should be fairly easy.
Opposing teams don't have to worry about preparing for a team with a deep rotation. A lack of height eliminates much of an inside scoring presence. It's even most clear who will be taking the majority of the shots.
In fact, the Lions' starting five players rarely even come out of a game.
The simplicity, however, ends there.
The challenge, as numerous opponents have discovered, is trying to find a way to slow down a team which rarely subs — and also trying to slow the onslaught of long-range shots Greensburg Salem fires on a nightly basis. Then there's the chemistry factor that comes from playing together so much.
Fatigue, surprisingly, has not been a major issue, according to coach Janine Vertacnik, who says her group is in “superior condition.” Instead, it's been a few scattered “off nights” shooting — a poor first half in a loss against Uniontown last week (4-of-28 shooting) being an example. The Red Raiders' victory could prevent the Lions from winning an outright section title.
The Lions (13-5, 8-1), who have relied this season on the 3-point shot, enter Thursday's Section 3-AAA contest against streaky Mt. Pleasant (9-9, 5-4) with a lot on the line. If Greensburg Salem wins out — it also plays at Indiana (7-2, 12-6) and against Derry (3-7, 4-12) — it is guaranteed at least a share of the section title.
Despite her team's earlier wins against all three opponents, Vertacnik isn't expecting anything to be easy.
“We're in a great position,” she said. “There are a lot of teams already packing up for the season. The girls know they have to take care of business. Just because you won the first time around doesn't mean anything is guaranteed. You have to be ready to run into a hot team.”
Indiana and Derry will be playing with playoff hopes at stake.
The Lions have been led most nights in scoring by senior guard Jayne Oberdorf (16.8 ppg), sophomore guard Claire Oberdorf (16.5) and junior Greensburg Central Catholic transfer Karly Mellinger (14.8).
But as Vertacnik points out, the high-scoring trio is only part of the equation.
She credits her other two seniors — guard/forward Taylor Mehan and point guard Angela Bayla — as being the team's unsung heroes.
“They do the dirty work,” Vertacnik said. “Taylor has been great on the boards, and Angela just finds holes to get her teammates the open shots. Everybody we play knows who is going to be shooting the ball. There aren't any surprises. These two really help to make it happen. They are kind of like my offensive linemen. Everybody talks about the quarterbacks and running backs, but nothing works without the offensive line.”
Vertacnik is confident her team can make some noise in the playoffs if it gets there, but first the Lions want to wrap up the section slate.
Greensburg Salem won a tight 46-43 decision over Mt. Pleasant the first time around, and not many would count on the Lions beating a strong Indiana team by 20 points again.
“This is where I thought we'd be at this point,” she said. “We have a good team here with talented shooters. We've gutted some games out and shown high energy in our losses. It's been a long time since this program has won a section title, and I really want to see them do it. Hold your breath. It's going to be interesting.”
Brian Hunger is a freelance writer.