Irwin's presence makes difference for Monessen in WPIAL playoffs
By Paul Schofield
Published: Thursday, March 1, 2012,
Jaisen Irwin wasn't much help to Monessen the last time the Greyhounds played Greensburg Central Catholic in the WPIAL boys basketball playoffs, but he sure made his mark this time.
Irwin scored 33 points to lead top-seeded Monessen into the Class AA title game with a 63-58 victory over GCC in the semifinals Wednesday night at Gateway — the second year in a row that the Greyhounds have beaten the Centurions in the WPIAL playoffs.
"I knew I had to come out tonight and help my team," said Irwin, a 6-foot-4 senior who leads Monessen in scoring as its sixth man.
The Greyhounds (23-2) will face second-seeded Beaver Falls at 5 p.m. Saturday at Palumbo Center in search of their second consecutive WPIAL championship.
Monessen defeated GCC, 63-43, in last year's title game. Irwin sat out for disciplinary reasons, and GCC got revenge in the PIAA semifinals by beating Monessen, 64-61, with Irwin in the Greyhounds' lineup.
"I was kind of chomping at the bit," Irwin said. "I really wanted to get back out there. This is becoming a good rivalry. I'm happy that we came out on top. It feels terrific."
This latest renewal of a series saw Monessen survive several GCC rallies after the Greyhounds had taken sizable leads.
Chavas Rawlins added 10 points for Monessen, which tried to pad an eight-point halftime cushion but never led by more than eight the rest of the way.
Fifth-seeded GCC (19-6) fought back to pull even at 37-37 on a layup by sophomore Brian Graytok, who led the Centurions with 20 points, before Monessen went back in front on a baseline layup by Irwin.
The Greyhounds stretched the lead to 44-39, only to endure another GCC comeback that saw the Centurions deadlock it again at 49-49 early in the fourth quarter.
A jumper by Graytok knotted the score for the final time at 53-53 before Monessen used a 7-0 run, punctuated by Irwin's dunk, for a 61-53 lead with 2:30 remaining.
"This is a clean rivalry," Monessen coach Joe Salvino said. "Nothing going on but good competition. They're a good team. We're a good team. You couldn't have asked for more. This is what high school basketball is about."
Early on GCC was the aggressor, consistently beating Monessen to loose balls and rebounds while building a 12-6 lead.
Monessen rallied to tie it, 16-16, on Rawlins' 3-pointer, and the teams jockeyed for position the rest of the way.
"They just get a lot of opportunities because of their (superior) athleticism," GCC coach Greg Bisignani said. "They all made a lot of tough shots."
From there, the Greyhounds outscored GCC, 17-9, capped by back-to-back dunks off lob passes to Irwin, the second just beating the halftime buzzer to give Monessen a 33-25 advantage.
P.J. McLaughlin and Ben Klimchock added 16 points apiece for GCC.
"I take the blame for this loss. I didn't have my team ready," Bisignani said. "This is a coach's loss, not a player's loss. Our guys gave 110 percent, but some of our shots didn't go our way."
Greensburg Central Catholic will advance to the PIAA tournament, which gets under way Tuesday with preliminary-round games.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.