Can Hounds stop runnin', gunnin' Royals?
During his 29 years as head coach at Monessen, Joe Salvino has coached four WPIAL and two PIAA champion teams.
He has also coached 12 1,000-point scorers.
However, if you ask Salvino, what he has always hung his hat on as a coach is defense.
Salvino preaches defending the basket, denying the ball to key players and has always said that the Greyhounds' best offense is actually their defense.
Well, that philosophy will be put to the test tonight when the Greyhounds (10-13) take on second-seeded Vincentian (22-1) in a WPIAL Class A quarterfinal game at Keystone Oaks (8 p.m. tip-off).
The Royals aren't very tall with their biggest player being 6-1. But, oh, can they light up a scoreboard.
How potent is Vincentian's offense?
Fifth-year coach George Yokitis' team averages a WPIAL-leading 83.8 ppg.
While Monessen has only scored over 78 points three times this season, the Royals' lowest scoring game is 73.
As a team, Vincentian has attempted an amazing 481 three-point field goals and converted 177 (38 percent).
“We play a different style of basketball that we think is fun to watch,” said Yokitis. “We play a transition game and we are always trapping to try and steal the ball.
“We have a lot of kids who can shoot and have the green light, so the first best shot we can take, we will take it.”
Yokitis laughed and said his team rarely shoots two-point field goals unless they are layups.
“Why shoot a 15-footer? Just shoot the three,” he said.
Yokitis said his players may not look like much in warmups, but they work very hard at what they do and deserve all the credit.
“I just stand there and watch,” he said. ‘They do all the work. We average 21 steals a game. That is a stat that we actually track. That's not turnovers, just steals. So, I figure we probably force about 30-35 turnovers a game. And we get a lot of points off those steals.”
Leading Vincentian's scoring show is 5-9 sophomore guard Ryan Wolf, who averages 21 ppg.
“He is something else,” Yokitis said of Wolf. “He is so quick and shoots a lot of runners and threes. He shoots 40 percent on threes and 83 percent at the foul line.”
The Royals' second-leading scorer is the player Yokitis raves about the most, however.
Senior Tony DiNardo, a 6-1 guard, averages 18 ppg and leads the team in rebounding (9.0), steals (5) and assists (5).
“He's an amazing kid who has worked so hard,” Yokitis said of DiNardo. “He is just so much fun to watch. He shoots 52 percent from the field and 45 percent from three-point territory. He's our best-kept secret.”
Rounding out Vincentian's lineup is 6-0 junior Jim Kenna (9 ppg), 6-1 senior Matt Rathz (8.5 ppg) and 5-11 junior Kevin Fischer (7 ppg).
Yokitis said he uses 11 players in his rotation and two of his top reserves are Jay Cortese (6.5 ppg) and Jamison Nee (5 ppg).
The Royals are no stranger to the playoffs or winning.
In 2011, they won the WPIAL Class A crown and last season they reached the semifinals before losing to Lincoln Park.
“We have won 72 of our last 80 games, and that includes two losses to Lincoln Park,” Yokitis said. “This group of kids have been very successful for us.”
Yokitis said he is looking forward to playing Monessen because of the tradition of Salvino's program.
“For years I picked up the newspapers and read about the Greyhounds and what Joe has done there. They have one of the WPIAL's top programs,” he said. “They have been successful. They were pretty impressive in AA and (Salvino) has done amazing things in his career. Really, it's an honor to play them. We're very excited to play the Greyhounds and I think it will be a good game.”
Yokitis said that his team can't afford to look past Monessen, noting, “We know they won't be intimidated by us and Joe Salvino certainly won't be intimidated by me. We will have to play hard and shoot the ball well.”
Jeff Oliver is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2666 or firstname.lastname@example.org.