Hempfield boys basketball coach Bill Swan probably hadn’t felt nervous before a game in a long time.
But after not coaching at Hempfield for the past five seasons, Swan admitted the start of the season Friday night felt different.
No. 3 Hempfield (1-0) eased its coach’s nerves with a solid 63-37 victory over Greensburg Salem (0-1) in the Hempfield Tip-Off tournament at Spartan Field House.
Hempfield will play McKeesport, which lost to Greensburg Central Catholic, 80-75, at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Kason Harrell scored a game-high 35 points, and Tony Pilato added 11 for the Spartans, who pulled away in the second half.
Hempfield led scrappy Greensburg Salem, 14-11, after the first quarter and had a 30-20 halftime lead.
“It was a hectic game,” Swan said. “I was busy at school, but once I got to the gym and watched the first game, I started to settle down.”
Having players like Harrell, Pilato and his son Logan returning from last year’s squad helped settle him down.
“I could tell Coach was a little nervous,” Harrell said. “He’s been gone for a few years. Once we started the game and started executing, he was back to his normal self.”
Greensburg Salem, which lacks Hempfield’s star power, kept to its game plan of slowing things down and being patient.
“We were two or three possessions in the first half away from being tied with them,” Greensburg Salem coach Craig Mankins said. “We made a few mistakes, and they were able to capitalize on them.
“Everyone knew Hempfield was favored and expected to win — everyone except the players in our locker room. I told them we could be the 1980 United States hockey team.”
Swan said he felt the team played well defensively and got to see a lot of different defenses.
“I have no idea how teams plan to defend us,” Swan said. “I thought we used all our zone offenses, and we were able to get some good looks.”
Hempfield only turned over the ball six times and shot nearly 60 percent from the field.
“There are no Kason Harrells in our section, and no one the size of Tony Pilato,” Mankins said. “We played hard, and if we put forth the effort every game and get a little healthy, we’ll be OK.”
Caleb Key led Greensburg Salem with 13 points, and Delaine Hughes added 11.
Greensburg Salem will face Greensburg Central Catholic at 5.