High School Basketball Season Preview: Greensburg Salem Golden Lions

The boys bring back four starters while the top scoring trio returns for the girls

Thu Nov 30, 2023 - 9:55AM

Sean Meyers Sean Meyers
Ryan Burkart and Kait Mankins are expected to lead the charge for Greensburg Salem this season. (Photos by www.westernpasports.com)Ryan Burkart and Kait Mankins are expected to lead the charge for Greensburg Salem this season. (Photos by www.westernpasports.com)

Last Updated: Thu Nov 30, 2023 - 12:54PM

Greensburg Salem Golden Lions Boys Basketball

Head Coach: Cameron Auld – 2nd season

Conference: Class 4A Section 1

Last Season: 5-17 overall, missed playoffs

Key Losses: Cody Rubrecht, Rashad Canady

Key Returners: Ryan Burkart, Braedon Leatherman, Luke Rullo, Julian Stevens

Promising Newcomers: AJ Tarpley

The debut season for Greensburg Salem head coach Cam Auld didn’t exactly go smoothly, as the Golden Lions struggled mightily. Greensburg Salem went 5-17 overall, including just one victory in Class 4A Section 1. Auld believes his second campaign will yield much better results, though, as the youthful roster from a year ago is ready to take massive strides.

While the Golden Lions graduated Cody Rubrecht, who is playing football at nearby Seton Hill University, as well as Rashad Canady, GS returns four players who each posted scoring averages in double figures last season. Leading the way is senior guard Ryan Burkart, who scored 16 points and dished out 6 assists per game. Classmate Julian Stevens averaged 10 points and 7 rebounds from his forward position, while junior forward Braedon Leatherman contributed 11 points per contest. Luke Rullo, a sophomore forward, tallied 10 points per game in his first year of varsity basketball.

That quartet will be joined by promising freshman guard AJ Tarpley, as well as Nick Heinnickel, Anderson Florentino, Jack Douty, Tyler Martin, Anthony Matthews, Brody Burkholder, and Tyler Harkcom.

“This is a playoff roster. The main goal is that we are practicing on Feb. 10,” Auld said, referring to the start of the postseason. “The expectation is that we come in every day - practice or game - and compete like we know our goal of playoff basketball is attainable.”

To reach the postseason, the Golden Lions will need to finish in the top four in their six-team section. Hampton is the reigning champion after the Talbots went 10-0 last year and reached the second round of the state playoffs, while second-place Highlands advanced to the WPIAL semifinals and also won a game in the PIAA tournament. Freeport Area and Knoch also made the playoffs, tying for third place, while Indiana Area split its two games with Greensburg Salem, with each team finishing 1-9 in section play.

Before GS commences the section slate at Knoch on Jan. 5, the Golden Lions will square off against Southmoreland, Greensburg Central Catholic, and Mount Pleasant Area, among other nonsection tilts.

Greensburg Salem Golden Lions Girls Basketball

Head Coach: Rick Klimchock – 7th season

Conference: Class 4A Section 1

Last Season: 14-9 overall, lost to Belle Vernon Area in the WPIAL Class 4A first round

Key Losses: Ashley Smith, Paytan Henry

Key Returners: Kait Mankins, Ashlan Price, Regan Kerr, Gia Rosensteel

Promising Newcomers: Mya Heasley, Blessing Gantt, Kenzi Span, Sophie Beckerleg

For most of the 2022-23 campaign, the Greensburg Salem girls appeared poised for a postseason run. The campaign ended on a sour note, however, as GS dropped five of its final six contests, including a 33-27 loss to Belle Vernon Area in the first round of the Class 4A WPIAL playoffs.

The Golden Lions graduated two notable contributors from last season, as Paytan Henry has continued on the hardwood at Juniata College, while Ashley Smith opted to play soccer at Saint Vincent College.

The most productive player is back, however, as senior forward Kait Mankins averaged 14.7 points and 10.5 rebounds a year ago. Mankins, who stands 6-foot-1, is committed to D’Youville University.

Mankins is not the only player who will continue at the college level, though, as Ashlan Price and Gia Rosensteel have pledged to DIII programs. Price, a guard who posted averages of 10 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists, will play at Allegheny College, while Rosensteel, a guard who contributed 4.5 points per contest, will suit up for Carlow University.

Moreover, 5-foot-11 forward Regan Kerr returns after amassing 7 points and 7 boards per game last campaign.

Blessing Gantt, a 6-foot center, will add more size to the imposing lineup for GS, while guards Mya Heasley and Kenzi Span, and forward Sophie Beckerleg are also contending for playing time.

Veteran coach Rich Klimchock, who has won 388 games throughout his storied career, believes his squad is ready to take the next step after posting strong regular seasons in each of the past two campaigns.

“Build on the success of the last two years to challenge for a top spot in the section, and be a playoff contender,” he said of the primary objectives for his team.

To reach that goal, however, the Golden Lions will have to contend with multiple Class 4A heavyweights in Section 1. Last year, GS went 0-6 against North Catholic, Knoch, and Highlands, while posting a 6-0 mark against Freeport Area, Derry Area, and Valley.

“North Catholic and Highlands were state playoff teams and return a lot of talent. Knoch and Freeport have had coaching changes, but have good teams annually,” Klimchock revealed.

Greensburg Salem opens section play at Derry Area on Dec. 14.