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With Oberdorf back, Greensburg Salem looks to make some noise

Steph Chambers | Tribune-Review
Claire Oberdorf stretches with her teammates during practice Monday, Dec. 2, 2013 at Greensburg Salem High School.

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Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014, 9:36 p.m.

Janine Vertacnik, of course, never wanted it to happen.

But when junior Claire Oberdorf tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee while playing AAU basketball this past summer, Greensburg Salem's coach knew her young team would have no choice but to mature — fast.

Several players stepped up in the absence of the Lions' best player, and Vertacnik watched her team take giant strides. That evolution has paid dividends now that Oberdorf has returned.

“Us playing without her helped the other girls gain confidence,” Vertacnik said. “I don't want to say it's a blessing in disguise, but it gave our kids a chance to grow and play in some pressure situations without (Oberdorf).

“When she's on the floor now, we're just going to be that much better.”

Oberdorf returned to score 13 points in a 50-48 win over Uniontown on Dec. 19, but Greensburg Salem (4-5, 2-0 Section 3-AAA) has been unable to develop much consistency with Oberdorf back in the lineup.

After a five-point win over Riverview, the Lions lost to Blackhawk, Hempfield and Greensburg Central Catholic around the holidays — those teams are a combined 20-7.

“We've been making a lot of improvements,” said Karly Mellinger, the team's lone senior starter after Kellie Hutchinson suffered a season-ending knee injury in June. “We're still a young team, but I think we should do well in our section.”

Besides reaching the 1,000-point milestone during a loss to Hempfield last Friday, Mellinger has shown a diversified game while keeping things together without Oberdorf.

Whether she has been bringing the ball up the floor, setting up the offense or scoring, Mellinger has averaged 20.3 points, 2.2 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 2.5 steals per game.

Another key contributor has been Sydney Ross, a 5-foot-5 junior guard. Ross has scored 10.7 points per game while showing accuracy from 3-point range.

Sophomore guard Maggie Kallock has been a similar surprise. She's at 8.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game, and Kallock can run the point in a pinch.

Juniors Lydia Kepple, Alyssa Short and Vanessa Adams, along with sophomores Ally Bronson and Caitlin Stoner, round out Greensburg Salem's eight-player rotation.

“We're a young team, so our experience isn't much,” Oberdorf said. “But watching them at every practice, they learned so much. We began to play as a team more. It was a good thing to watch.”

A standout softball player, Oberdorf gives Greensburg Salem a legitimate inside threat. She averages 11 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists.

That, along with several late free throws to sink Uniontown, was what Oberdorf's teammates expected.

“We knew she was coming back,” Mellinger said of Oberdorf. “We just tried to stay as positive as we can. We looked to some other players to get the ball while she was out.

“Now that she's back, we're going to be solid with me and her working together.”

And maybe achieve some consistency in the second half.

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