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Greensburg Salem girls ready to reach WPIAL Class 4A playoffs

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Shane Dunlap | Tribune-Review
Greensburg Salem’s Nikki Mellinger cheers on her teammates during a competitive action drill at girls’ basketball practice Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2018 at Greensburg Salem High School.
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Shane Dunlap | Tribune-Review
Greensburg Salem’s Timaia Lewis works on layup drills during girls’ basketball practice Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2018 at Greensburg Salem High School.
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Shane Dunlap | Tribune-Review
Greensburg Salem’s Megan Kallock works on passing drills with teammates during girls’ basketball practice Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2018 at Greensburg Salem High School.
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Shane Dunlap | Tribune-Review
Greensburg Salem’s Nikki Mellinger works on passing drills with teammates during girls’ basketball practice Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2018 at Greensburg Salem High School.
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Shane Dunlap | Tribune-Review
Greensburg Salem’s Megan Kallock leads her teammates in a pep chant after finishing up their basketball practice Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2018 at Greensburg Salem High School.
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Shane Dunlap | Tribune-Review
Greensburg Salem head coach Rick Klimchock discusses a drill with his players during girls’ basketball practice Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2018 at Greensburg Salem High School.
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Shane Dunlap | Tribune-Review
Greensburg Salem’s Megan Kallock sprints down court in an action drill with teammates during girls’ basketball practice Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2018 at Greensburg Salem High School.

Rick Klimchock enters his second season as coach of the Greensburg Salem girls basketball team. With four starters returning this season, the Golden Lions believe they are primed for a deep run in the WPIAL playoffs.

After a full offseason of conditioning and summer and fall league games, the Golden Lions return three seniors — guards Megan Kallock (24 ppg) and Nikki Mellinger, as well as forward Emily Monahan. Kallock has 1,299 career points.

Junior forward Shaleena Garner returns as the fourth starter. All four started every single game last season.

Kallock is the main focal point offensively, but Klimchock points to Mellinger’s continued development as necessity if the Greensburg Salem wants to make a deep run in the playoffs.

“Her confidence level is really high. She really can score in a couple of different ways. She can hit a 3, she can get to the rim, she can make her foul shots,” Klimchock said.

“The biggest thing I’ve seen out of Nikki is her ability to not turn the ball over. She’s making better decisions with the ball and turning into a more experienced and smarter player.”

The Golden Lions welcome a new addition to their lineup who has a familiar last name to those involved in Greensburg Salem basketball. Freshman Abby Mankins, who is the daughter of former Golden Lions basketball coaches Craig and Lisa, will slide in to replace Liz O’Neal in the starting lineup.

The 5-foot-10 point guard will take on ball-handling responsibilities as she looks to spell Kallock in that area.

Klimchock expects sophomore forward Victoria Sarver, freshman forward T’maia Lewis and freshman Kylie Smith to provide needed depth.

“A big key for me is to develop two or three girls off the bench who can come in and spell some of the starters for a little bit to allow them to catch their breath,” Klimchock said.

“I’d like to get up to a seven- or eight-man rotation where you don’t have kids on the court taking mental or physical breaks, and we can keep the pressure.”

Greensburg Salem finished 9-13 overall and 4-8 in Section 3-5A in 2017-18. The Golden Lions missed the playoffs after losing a tiebreaker to Uniontown.

This season, the Golden Lions will play in Section 1-4A with North Catholic, Freeport, Knoch, Apollo-Ridge, Burrell, Indiana and Highlands. North Catholic is the defending WPIAL Class 4A champion, while Freeport, Knoch and Apollo-Ridge each made playoff appearances last season.

“In my opinion, how you do in a season depends upon on how strong the teams in your section are,” Klimchock said.

“There is good talent in our section this year, and there is always good coaching in the section. Every game you need to prepare for a well-coached team.”

The Golden Lions tip off their season against Ligonier Valley in their own tip-off tournament at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 7.

Andrew John is a freelance writer.

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