High School Basketball Season Preview: Greensburg Salem

Cam Auld will lead the GS boys while the girls hope to return to the playoffs

Wed Nov 23, 2022 - 9:25AM

Sean Meyers Sean Meyers
Julian Stevens and Regan Kerr will both play key roles for their teams this season. (Photos by www.westernpasports.com)Julian Stevens and Regan Kerr will both play key roles for their teams this season. (Photos by www.westernpasports.com)

Last Updated: Wed Nov 23, 2022 - 11:19AM

Greensburg Salem Golden Lions Boys

Head Coach: Cameron Auld – 1st season

Conference: Class 4A Section 1

Last Season: 3-19 overall – Missed playoffs

Key Losses: Ben Thomas

Key Returners: Julian Stevens, Markeece Walker, Braedon Leatherman, Ryan Burkart

Promising Newcomers: Luke Rullo

The 2022-23 campaign will be a season of change for Greensburg Salem boys basketball. The Golden Lions will drop two classifications from a year ago, and will feature a new coach at the helm of the program.

After playing up in the largest classification during the previous cycle, the Golden Lions will now reside in Class 4A, which should be a welcome change after GS went winless in the section each of the past two years.

Additionally, Mark Zahorchak stepped down as head coach after a four-year tenure, which opened the door for Cameron Auld to take over.

Auld played basketball at Norwin, graduating in 2016, and continued his career on the hardwood at Waynesburg University. Auld joined the Waynesburg coaching staff for the abbreviated 2021 season, while also helping at nearby Waynesburg Central High School. Last year, he returned to his roots, serving as the ninth-grade coach at Norwin.

A quartet of players graduated from last year’s Greensburg Salem team, led by standout Ben Thomas. Thomas, now playing at the University of Pitt-Greensburg, led the Golden Lions in scoring and was a Second-Team All-Section honoree.

The cupboard is not bare for Auld, though, as Julian Stevens, Markeece Walker, Braedon Leatherman, and Ryan Burkart are key returners. Stevens, a junior, paced GS in rebounding last year, and his physical presence is crucial. Walker, also a junior, brings a combination of athleticism and toughness. Leatherman, a sophomore, possesses good length and should be an asset on both ends of the floor, while Burkart, another junior, is a skilled shooter.

“We have a great group coming back, and are very young,” Auld detailed. “What is great about these guys who have been here and who are coming back is they have already started to buy into our staff’s goals and mission, and they work so hard every day.”

Additionally, freshman Luke Rullo appears poised to make an impact. The younger brother of Dom Rullo, who played with Auld, Luke is long and athletic.

Shifting to Class 4A Section 1, the Golden Lions will compete against Highlands, Hampton, Freeport Area, Indiana Area, and Knoch. Last season, the Golden Rams and Talbots made the playoffs in 5A, while the Yellowjackets qualified in 4A.

For a team that has endured such a difficult stretch in recent years, the Golden Lions are looking at this season as a chance to take gradual steps in the right direction.

“The goal of this team is to get better every day. We won’t be results driven; it’s about the guys we have, staff included, buying into the process of getting better and chasing excellence,” Auld explained. “If we can chase that every day, I trust in our guys and my staff that we will find ourselves in good positions, especially as we continue to build relationships with one another.

“Every night will be all about us, how we prepare and how we execute,” he continued. “If we can be the best versions of ourselves game in and game out, we will be right where we need to be.”

Auld has assembled a coaching staff with diverse experience, including former Hempfield Area and Seton Hill football player Ty George, Denny Little, who serves as the head coach for Penn-Trafford softball, and Jerry Cooley, a former basketball and football player for the Golden Lions.

Greensburg Salem Golden Lions Girls

Head Coach: Rick Klimchock – 6th season

Conference: Class 4A Section 1

Last Season: 15-8 overall – Lost to South Fayette in WPIAL 5A first round

Key Losses: Abby Mankins, Carissa Caldwell, Kylie Smith

Key Returners: Kait Mankins, Regan Kerr, Ashley Smith

Promising Newcomers: Paytan Henry, Ashlan Price, Gia Rosensteel

The 2021-22 season appeared to be a breakout year for the Greensburg Salem girls, as the Golden Lions opened the season with eight wins in a row. Greensburg Salem also posted a four-game surge in section play, but injuries took their toll down the stretch. With one of their top players, Kait Mankins, sidelined, GS ended the season on a four-game skid, including a loss to eventual WPIAL champion South Fayette in the first round of the Class 5A postseason.

Greensburg Salem must also replace a bevy of key components from a year ago. No absence looms larger than that of Abby Mankins, who scored nearly 1,300 points in her accomplished career with the Golden Lions. Abby, the older sister of Kait, is now plying her craft at Seton Hill University. Carissa Caldwell, who has continued her career on the hardwood at Penn State Behrend, and Kylie Smith, who opted to play soccer at the University of Pitt-Greensburg, are among the other notable graduations.

Now, the younger Mankins will serve as the catalyst for the Golden Lions, as the junior center should return to form after averaging approximately 9 points and 8 rebounds last season before injury. She’ll be joined by fellow letterwinners sophomore forward Regan Kerr, who averaged 3 points and 5 rebounds a year ago, and senior guard Ashley Smith, who is also a soccer standout.

Additionally, senior center Paytan Henry should create a formidable frontcourt duo with Mankins, with both players standing 6-foot or taller, while junior guards Ashlan Price and Gia Rosensteel also appear poised for an increased role. Henry has garnered collegiate interest from Division III schools.

While the Golden Lions dropped from 5A to 4A, the section will feature several contenders, including perennial powerhouse North Catholic. In addition to the Trojans, who captured the WPIAL Class 3A crown last season, Knoch also resides in the section after reaching the WPIAL Class 4A championship game a year ago. Highlands and Freeport Area, both of which qualified for the postseason in 21-22, along with Derry Area and Valley round out Class 4A Section 1.

Veteran head coach Rick Klimchock hopes to see his squad improve and play together, and if so, GS may reach the goals he has established, such as achieving a winning record, making the playoffs, and making a postseason run.