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Greensburg Salem claims AAA title spot

| Wednesday, March 18, 2009

In the rematch for a shot at a state title, Greensburg Salem prevailed.

Senior guard Chris Klimchock's only points of the second half — four foul shots in the final 40 seconds — secured Greensburg Salem's 46-45 victory over WPIAL champion Hampton on Tuesday night in a PIAA Class AAA semifinal boys basketball game at Gateway High School.

Klimchock's final two points with 16.5 seconds left gave Greensburg Salem a 46-42 lead before Hampton's Nathan Winek connected on a 3-pointer at the buzzer to make the final margin a single point.

"Another easy one," Greensburg Salem coach Paul Sapotichne joked.

Greensburg Salem (23-5) will face Radnor Archbishop Carroll (26-3) for a PIAA championship at 8 p.m. Friday at Bryce Jordan Center in State College.

"I don't know how I feel right now. We're in the state championship," Klimchock said.

Junior guard Jake Matthews led Greensburg Salem with 17 points, and Klimchock added 12. Matt Madia scored 17 for Hampton (25-5), which won the WPIAL championship last month, along the way defeating Greensburg Salem, 52-49, in overtime in the quarterfinals.

This time, Greensburg Salem came out on top, thanks in part to clutch free-throw shooting down the stretch. The Golden Lions converted 6-of-8 attempts in the final 1 minutes, 5 seconds.

"They made their shots when they had to, plus they hit their free throws down the stretch," Hampton coach Joe Lafko said.

Matthews, whose 3-point shooting in the first half kept Greensburg Salem close, scored nine consecutive points during a 2-minute span in the fourth quarter to put the Golden Lions in the lead for good.

His 3-pointer with 3:08 remaining broke a 33-33 tie. It came after both teams went cold and failed to score for the final 1 1/2 minutes of the third quarter and the first 2.5 minutes of the fourth.

"When you start missing, you just have to get it out of your mind and know it'll go in," Matthews said.

The night was a defensive struggle for both teams, with neither taking a sizeable lead.

Greensburg Salem, with the diminutive Klimchock controlling the offense, challenged Hampton's big men inside, particularly in the second half.

"We missed some opportunities inside," Lafko said. "I think the environment ... and we did some things uncharacteristic that we haven't done all season. We didn't take advantage of our inside game as much as we could have, especially in the first half. We've been able to dominate the inside area, offensive and defensively. Tonight we didn't do a good job at that."

After the game, Greensburg Salem cut down the nets, even though they hadn't won a state title.

But Sapotichne enjoyed it, nonetheless.

"I've never been here before. Any opportunity I get to cut down the nets, I'll do it," he said. "Even in the driveway."

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