Monessen ousts S. Academy, 60-52
Any time two successful coaches face off, there is bound to be a game of chess and that was the case Friday night in a WPIAL Class A first round game at Keystone Oaks.
After all, Monessen coach Joe Salvino and Sewickley Academy coach Win Palmer have each recorded over 500 wins in their respective illustrious careers.
Fortunately for the Greyhounds (10-13), their adjustments trumped those of the Panthers (8-13) and as a result, Monessen is moving on to the quarterfinals thanks to a 60-52 win.
The Greyhounds will now meet second-seeded Vincentian (22-1) Friday. The Royals routed Western Beaver, 106-73.
“Hitting shots early was a big key for us because they packed in their zone,” Salvino said. “We were able to get the early lead and went from there.”
In fact, seventh-seeded Monessen never trailed and the contest was only tied at the opening tip and at 2-2.
The Greyhounds went on a 9-0 run to open an 11-2 lead and they led 15-6 after the first quarter.
Junior Justice Rawlins came out on fire and scored eight of his 18 points in the opening frame on four jumpers from 12 feet and out.
“Justice was on tonight,” Salvino said with a smile. “He gives absolutely everything he has every time out.”
Monessen was in control in the second quarter, but then Sewickley junior sharpshooter Keenan Hickton found his stroke. He drained a trio of three-pointers to keep the Panthers in the game, but the Greyhounds still held a commanding 27-16 lead at the half.
The contest, which only saw each team shoot a pair of free throws each in the first half, was played a lot tighter in the third quarter.
Both teams began having foul issues and Monessen extended its lead to 41-27 after three quarters.
However, the Panthers would not go away and made a run.
They chipped away at their deficit by hitting five of six free throws in the fourth quarter, and they also hit four more three-pointers in the quarter.
Sewickly adjusted to a full court press, and Salvino countered by going small.
“They were giving us a few problems so we put an extra guard in for ball handling,” he said. “We knew they wouldn't go away and they are a really good team.”
When senior Termanini Firas hit a trey with 3:36 to go, he cut the Monessen lead to 50-45.
After a turnover on Monessen's next possession, junior Clintell Gillaspie stole the ball and scored on a layup and added another layup seconds later to put the game out of reach.
Gillaspie finished with a game-high 25 points, including 19 in the second half with 13 in the final quarter. He shared game honors of 10 rebounds with classmate Tyler Yuille.
“Clintell is just starting to scratch the surface of the player that he can be,” Salvino said. “He doesn't know the ability that he has.”
Salvino was pleased with the effort of all eight of the players who saw time.
“Guys stepped up and made plays,” he said. “All around, I am happy with the total team effort as we prepare to move on.”
Move on, Monessen does, and Salvino will prepare for his next checkmate.
NOTES: Junior Javon Brown had eight points and seven assists for Monessen ... John O'Malley added 12 points for Sewickley … Yuille added three blocks for Monessen.
Bill Hughes is a freelance writer.