Greyhounds come from behind to top Trojans
Sunday's game between Monessen and California Area was a non-section game, but both coaches used it as playoff preparation.
“It was a good test for our team, especially after losing Friday,” Monessen coach Joe Salvino said. “California is a very good team with two good scorers. It's what we're going to see in the playoffs.”
The Greyhounds passed this test, handing the Trojans only their second loss of the season, 68-63.
“We held our composure towards the end there and did what had to be done,” Salvino said of his team.
Junior Clintell Gillaspie led the way for the Greyhounds (6-9), scoring a team-high 24 points. Javon Brown added 17.
The game was close throughout with neither team holding a lead of more than six points and when the Trojan defense tried to put the clamps on Gillaspie, it was Noah Rullo and Luke Doptis seizing the momentum back for the Greyhounds.
With his team leading by one, Doptis nailed a three-pointer to raise the lead to four, 50-46, and after a quick California basket, Rullo nailed a three of his own.
California's Tanner Huffman, who led all scorers with 33 points, including 16 in the final frame, nailed a three of his own to pull the Trojans to within two, but Rullo dialed up his second score from long range to give the Greyhounds a five-point cushion.
It's a good thing he did because Huffman scored five straight to tie it up for California.
With the game tied at 60-60, Gillaspie scored four points within 33 seconds. A Tyler Yuille basket game Monessen a six-point lead with 24 seconds left.
Huffman nailed another three-pointer to pull the Trojans to within three, but Doptis stepped to the line and knocked down both ends of a one-and-one to seal it for Monessen.
“Those kids coming off the bench and hitting those threes was big for us,” Salvino said. “Our thing was to try to stop Huffman and (Brian) Fisher. We did all we can do. Those two should really be commended. They played a great game.”
Fisher notched a double-double for the Trojans (13-2), who had a seven-game winning streak snapped. The senior finished with 16 points and 13 rebounds.
“An athletic team is what we expect to see in the playoffs,” Trojans coach Phil Pergola said. “We didn't play really well defensively and offensively we missed a lot of close shots. Monessen did a good job, though.”
Pergola was quick to point out the play of Greyhounds' point guard Javon Brown.
“Number two did a great job of running that offense,” Pergola said. “He definitely handled the ball well and did a good job. Their outside shooting really hurt us towards the end.”
Looking ahead, both teams are primed to make a run to the playoffs with California undefeated in Section 5 AA and the Greyhounds in second place in 3 A.
“We need to make sure this game doesn't effect us emotionally,” Pergola said. “It's an exhibition game. It's just a matter of going out and battling against another good team. One is going to win and the other is going to lose. Just don't let that affect what you're going to do in the section.”
Salvino, whose team has won five of their last six, is hoping the emotions of his team were affected by the win.
“We can play against a good team. This shows that,” Salvino said. “We just have to be better fundamentally. We need to rebound better. We missed a lot of easy shots, you can't do that in a big game. When we wake up tomorrow this game will be over and we'll look forward to the Geibel game.
California returns to 5 AA play Tuesday at Frazier, while the Greyhounds are off until Friday when they travel to Geibel.
Jeremy Sellew is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-684-2667.