Greensburg Salem senior showing scoring prowess

| Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014, 8:55 p.m.

The Greensburg Salem boys basketball team finished with a mere four wins last season.

Yet, after their Jan. 8 victory over Ligonier Valley, the Golden Lions had already eclipsed their win total from last year with half of a season yet to play.

While many factors have played a role in the team's turnaround, the play of senior small forward Simeon Stevens might be the most significant.

“This year we know what it takes, and coach stresses more that we all play as a unit and not as individuals like last year,” Stevens said.

Leading the Golden Lions in scoring at 15.2 points per game, Stevens has propelled Greensburg Salem to a 5-7 overall record and a 2-2 mark in WPIAL Section 3-AAA, which has the group in the mix for a postseason berth.

Golden Lions coach Craig Mankins cited Stevens' versatility as the reason for his scoring prowess this season.

“With his skill set, he has such a lightning-fast first step that other teams have to pick their poison with him,” Mankins said. “If they decide to get out and pressure him he's going to blow by them; if they decide to hang back, he's a good shooter.”

But the 5-foot-9 swingman is willing to do more than just score, often taking what the defense is giving him and dishing to his teammates as evidenced by Golden Lions post players Max Ponzurick (13.3 ppg) and Pat Boyer (10.7 ppg) averaging double-figure scoring.

“Whenever I get the ball, I look to drive and if I have an open lane I take the shot, but if not then I look to dish to other players,” he said.

While his offensive contribution has been a driving force in Greensburg Salem's success this season, his effort on defense also has made a difference.

“He really has done a great job on the defensive end, too,” Mankins said. “A lot of times he's my weak-side help defender. He either forces turnovers or gets steals himself, which really helps getting some easy buckets, and that really takes the pressure off the rest of the team.”

An impressive three-sport athlete, Stevens also starred at wide receiver for the Golden Lions this season and held one of the top long jump marks (21 feet, 9 12 inches) in the WPIAL last year.

Despite his feats in other sports, Stevens is hoping to play college basketball, but his first goal is to lead his team into the WPIAL playoffs and beyond.

“As a team, of course I want to go to the playoffs, not be eliminated early and go as deep as we can,” he said. “Individually, I just want to be a leader on my team to take them there, and I want to play college basketball.”

Alex Oltmanns is a freelance writer.

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