With widened eyes, Shamar McCoy saw the ball into his grasp, secured it tightly and trampolined upward.
The delicate pass inside from sophomore Christian McGowan was just as sweet as McCoy’s finish: a two-handed stuff early in the fourth quarter that helped reshape the game for Greensburg Salem in a 51-35 win over Jeannette on Saturday night in the Westmoreland County Coaches Association Showcase at Hempfield.
“I came through the lane and grabbed the ball,” said McCoy, a 6-foot-4 junior forward who came to Greensburg Salem a year ago, joining the basketball team after Christmas. He originally is from Penn Hills and also spent time at Valley and Hempfield.
“I found a way to get open. The game was boring up to then. I thought, ‘Why not?’ This is my opportunity.”
Right after the monster dunk, Jeannette senior forward Marcus Barnes went hard to the rim on the other end but the Golden Lions’ Ryan Thomas arrived with him and swatted away the bid at retaliation.
Jeannette coach Adrian Batts argued for a foul on the play, but to no avail, and was promptly ejected.
The whirlwind few seconds not only woke up a snoozer of a nonsection game between longtime county rivals, but it also helped to decide the outcome.
McCoy’s jam gave the Golden Lions a 10-point lead that eventually ballooned to 18 (51-33) as Jeannette staggered.
“That sequence was the turning point for sure,” Golden Lions coach Mark Zahorchak said. “That did it. I have been urging Shamar when he gets the ball down low like that, just dunk it.”
Coming off a so-so performance Friday in a loss to Albert Gallatin in which McCoy had seven blocks, Greensburg Salem (3-2) used momentum and 3-point shooting to pull away from the Jayhawks (3-2).
And to think it was 4-4 after the first quarter – yes, four to four – and 17-17 at halftime.
The first half was like watching a dance where nobody wanted to lead. The second half for Golden Lions was a quick-step with a little shimmy.
Senior Jack Oberdorf, junior Jeff Mankins and junior Dante Parsons all hit 3-pointers in the third quarter as the Golden Lions built a 32-24 advantage.
Mankins and McGowan hit from deep in the fourth, and Parsons made 5 of 6 free throws, including the technicals with 5 minutes, 53 seconds left.
“I kept saying, ‘No, no, no. Yes, yes, yes,’ ” Zahorchak said. “We wanted to run some clock, and I didn’t want us shooting there a few times. But they went in.”
Senior AJ Sharp, a Greensburg Salem transfer, cut it to 43-30 with a 3 of his own for Jeannette, and teammate Zach Crutchman also hit a 3 to make it 46-33. But the Golden Lions kept coming and swiftly polished off the victory.
Batts apologized to his players after his ejection. He will have to sit out the team’s next game Friday at Bentworth.
“I let my emotions get the best of me,” Batts said. “I hurt my team, and it will never happen again. It’s on me. The thing about today is it’s a pride game and doesn’t mean anything (in the standings).”
Parsons led Greensburg Salem with 16 points. Thomas added 12, and McCoy had nine.
Barnes led Jeannette with 10 points.
“We just stopped playing,” Batts said. “I don’t know if we think too much or what it is. But it’s all correctable mistakes. We’ll get better.”
Bill Beckner is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bill at [email protected]
or via Twitter @BillBeckner.