Mt. Pleasant rallies to beat Greensburg Salem
Mt. Pleasant shook off a sluggish start and found some timely rhythm on the road to beat Greensburg Salem on Friday night, enhancing the Vikings' run at a WPIAL playoff spot.
Cody Monroe scored 19 points in the 70-66 victory, completing a season sweep of the Golden Lions, who lost coach Craig Mankins in the fourth quarter, when he was ejected after receiving two technical fouls for disputing the officiating.
Mankins also will miss Tuesday's scheduled game at section-leading Laurel Highlands, according to WPIAL rules.
Mt. Pleasant (11-8, 6-4), which trailed by as many nine points in the second quarter, won for the third consecutive time and moved a game and a half ahead of idle Derry for third place in Section 3-AAA.
“This was a big win for us,” Mt. Pleasant coach Tony Splendore said. “We've got a good shot to be in the playoffs.”
Luke Liprando added 16 points, and Ryan Gumbita scored 15 for Mt. Pleasant, which also won the first game between the teams, 58-52, on Jan. 8.
Greensburg Salem (3-15, 3-7) watched its slim playoff hopes dwindle. The Golden Lions, who were led by Simeon Stevens' 23 points, played without ill forward Max Ponzurick (11.5 ppg., 7.0 rpg.) and injured reserve point guard Antonio Ferrari.
Denzel Jackson, who scored 19 points for Greensburg Salem, was hobbled with a leg injury.
“We feel like our guys are getting tougher. We're pretty inexperienced, but we're getting there,” Mankins said. “This has been a tough year. Obviously, it's been frustrating. We absolutely came out tonight with a purpose, and we outplayed them early on.”
Greensburg Salem led, 25-16, on a 3-point shot by Stevens before settling for a 31-28 halftime lead when Jackson connected on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer.
Mt. Pleasant, which won despite shooting just 22 for 41 from the free-throw line, took its first lead with 5:01 left in the third quarter on two free throws by Malara, making it 37-35. The Vikings steadily pulled away and led by as many as 12 points (58-46) in the fourth quarter on a three-point play by Monroe with 5:10 remaining.
“He did a good job of creating plays for us tonight,” Splendore said. “He's our only senior, and he's playing like it. His biggest asset is that he plays good defense.”
Monroe was forced to leave the game late after taking a hard tumble out of bounds, where he was chasing a ball and slammed into the Mt. Pleasant bench, injuring a knee.
Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.