Greensburg Salem rallies past upset-minded Southmoreland
For most of Wednesday's Section 3-AAA boys basketball game between Southmoreland and visiting Greensburg Salem, the Scotties played like a team that would do everything in its power to earn a victory.
But in the final two minutes, key mistakes by the Scotties, coupled with a never-say-die effort by the Golden Lions, prevented Southmoreland from pulling the upset.
Down by seven points in the closing minutes, Greensburg Salem rallied for a hard-fought 52-50 victory.
For Southmoreland, one of its best efforts of the season turned into one of its most frustrating losses.
“We played a great game for three-and-a-half quarters,” Southmoreland coach Frank Muccino said. “Maybe that is the process of learning how to win. For three and a half quarters, we made passes with conviction and we went to the basket with conviction. And then we made passes with hope. We have to constantly play with conviction.”
Greensburg Salem beat Southmoreland, 71-31, in an early-season matchup at Greensburg Salem. But without injured starters Pat Boyer and Simeon Stevens, the Golden Lions (9-9, 5-4) had their hands full against a determined opponent.
“We did a poor job of keeping them out of the lane, and I give a lot of credit to Southmoreland,” Greensburg Salem coach Craig Mankins said. “But I was really proud of our kids at the end. We had to step up and play basketball.”
The majority of the game was a one- or two-possession affair, with neither team able to establish any kind of long-term momentum.
Southmoreland led at the end of each of the first three quarters. The Scotties' Tommy Pisula was strong early, hitting four baskets in the first half. Charles Mills hit a pair of 3-pointers in the second quarter and Mike Mucha scored five points in the first quarter as the Scotties held a 30-29 lead at the half.
Pisula led the Scotties (2-14, 1-8) with 14 points and 18 rebounds. Mucha and Mills each had nine points.
In the third quarter, five different Southmoreland players put points on the board, but Greensburg Salem's Antonio Ferrari and Max Ponzurick also hit key baskets to keep the Golden Lions in it. Southmoreland took a 44-39 lead into the fourth. Ferrari led all scorers with 21 points, and Ponzurick checked in with 13 points.
The Scotties built an eight-point lead midway through the fourth quarter on the strength of a couple of driving layups by Ben Niemiec, who finish with 10 points.
But aside from Niemiec, no other Southmoreland player scored in the final quarter as turnovers began to plague the team. Meanwhile, the Golden Lions kept coming, and with 40 seconds to go, Caleb Key got a rebound and a putback to give the Golden Lions a 49-48 lead.
After a defensive stop, Ferrari hit two big free throws to extend Greensburg Salem's lead to three points.
Niemiec hit a layup to cut the deficit to one. Then with 2 seconds left, the Golden Lions made one free throw, giving the Scotties one final chance. However, a half-court desperation shot banged off the rim as the buzzer sounded, allowing the Golden Lions to escape with the win.
Greensburg Salem's victory, coupled with Derry's win over Laurel Highlands, pushes the Golden Lions into a third-place tie with the Mustangs in the section standings.
“We got tenacious on the glass, and I told them to stick with it,” Mankins said.
For the Scotties, it was an upset chance that slipped through their fingers.
“I've liked the way we played since the Mt. Pleasant game (85-45 loss on Jan. 14),” Muccino said. “We challenged the kids to play tougher and be stronger with the ball and since then, they have played tougher. But I'm not going to be satisfied until these are wins. But I'm proud of their effort.”
Jason Black is the local sports editor of the Daily Courier. He can be reached at email@example.com.