Sometimes it’s good to come home.
Coming off a road loss at Upper St. Clair last week, the Greater Latrobe girls’ basketball team felt right at home, as the Lady Wildcats nearly doubled up visiting Greensburg Salem, 59-31, during a WPIAL Class 5A, Section 4 contest on Monday.
Add the big section win to the fact that it was senior night, and it certainly left the Lady Wildcats feeling happy to be home.
To celebrate, underclassmen team members sported homemade warm-up T-shirts that read, “we love our seniors.” And, senior starters Ava Vitula, Rachel Ridilla and Lexi Weatherton didn’t disappoint, all combining to score 23 points.
Ridilla and Weatherton ended up with nine points, while Vitula added five. When the three seniors left the floor late in the fourth period, the crowd responded with applause, and their teammates finished off the Lady Lions for the win.
The players weren’t the only ones glad to be home. Head coach Mark Burkardt was pleased with the efforts of his seniors and the entire team.
“All three of them played very well,” said Burkardt, who pointed out that this class of seniors are significant because they are helping build the program by being the first group to come through that have played from seventh grade through 12th.
But it was the way the team played as a whole that really impressed the Lady Wildcats’ head coach.
“It was our best team effort this year,” added Burkardt. “(I) thought everyone who played, came in and contributed.”
He was particularly thrilled because the Lady Wildcats finished with only eight turnovers.
Turning the ball over, Burkardt said, has been the Lady Wildcats’ Achilles heel this year, even in some of their wins. He believes limiting turnovers is a key area of their game.
“If we can do that, I think we are a hard team to beat,” Burkardt said.
“That was very satisfying that we cut those turnovers down to eight.”
Greater Latrobe stayed perfect at 4-0 in section play and improved to 4-1 overall, good for the top spot in the section. The Lady Wildcats opened the season with three straight section wins against Franklin Regional, McKeesport Area and Gateway before an exhibition loss at Upper St. Clair last week.
Junior guard Rachel Ridilla led the charge against Greensburg Salem with 12 points, while sophomore forward Emma Blair contributed 10 points. Ridilla connected on six field goals, while Blair scored in all four quarters.
Junior guard Abby Mankins paced Greensburg Salem with 16 points before fouling out late in the fourth quarter.
The two teams played on even terms, as Greater Latrobe held a 14-11 lead through one quarter.
The Lady Wildcats opened a 19-11 lead, and they stretched the advantage to 24-13 following Blair’s basket and Ridilla’s three pointer. Greater Latrobe continued to press and carried a 31-20 lead into the break.
Freshman guard Elle Snyder started things for Greater Latrobe with a three-pointer nearly three minutes into the second half, making it a 34-20 game.
Greensburg Salem was forced to call a timeout with 4:21 to play, but Weatherton continued the surge for Greater Latrobe. She grabbed a defensive rebound, was fouled on the score and added a free throw to finish the three-point play, giving Greater Latrobe a 42-20 lead.
The Lady Wildcats never looked back. Greater Latrobe continued to build its lead, outscoring Greensburg Salem, 12-8, in the final quarter.
Greater Latrobe is scheduled to play next 7:30 p.m. Monday at Franklin Regional in a section contest.
Greater Latrobe’s junior varsity team also came away with a 38-18 victory against Greensburg Salem. The Lady Wildcats’ JV team went five minutes without a field goal to begin the game, but came alive for the eventual 20-point win.
Freshman Cara Dupilka led the way with 11 points, while Lizzie Planinsek tallied eight points. Belle Blossey also contributed seven points to the victory.