Section champ Monessen ends Clairton's winning run
After nearly a dozen cancellations due to poor weather, Clairton basketball coach Matt Geletko finally believed that his team turned the corner this past week.
Wins over Avella, Geibel and Carmichaels within a span of four days gave Clairton's second-year coach hope that a run just like the one from a year ago that landed the Bears in the Class A championship game was quite possible.
No offensive to Avella, Geibel and Carmichaels, but they can't be compared to Monessen.
Monessen — the Section 3-A champ — gave the upstart Bears a dose of reality Friday with a 64-58 win in front of a standing-room-only crowd at the Bears Den in a game that featured 47 fouls and 61 foul shots.
It was Monessen's 13th win in 14 games and kept the Greyhounds undefeated against Class A teams this year. Clairton (8-6, 6-3) fell into a second-place tie with Carmichaels with one game left.
“You know what,” Geletko said, “I think we can beat anybody but I think we could struggle with anybody as well. We thought we found a groove heading into this game, but we made the same mistakes that we've made the entire year.”
Those mistakes would be turnovers and missed foul shots.
Clairton turned the ball over 19 times and missed 13 of 22 foul shots.
“You can't beat teams like that let alone good teams like Monessen,” Geletko said.
Monessen (16-5, 10-0) used a heavy dose of driving to the basket to force Clairton into 25 fouls that resulted in 39 foul shots for the Greyhounds.
Nobody was more effective doing that than Javon Brown. He scored a game-high 21 points with the majority of his damage coming from the foul line. Brown shot 24 free throws.
Clintell Gillaspie overcame early foul trouble to hit three key second-half 3-pointers to finish with 13 points while Justice Rawlins and Lavalle Rush added 11.
Rasheed Pacley led Clairton with 20 while Jaquan Ford added 13 and Isiah Hollis 12. Aaron Mathews managed only four points on 1 of 4 shooting but did grab 10 rebounds.
“Hey, it's a win,” Monessen coach Joe Salvino said. “I knew it was going to be tough here, but we hung in there and did what we had to do to win.”
Despite the game starting an hour late because of the girls basketball game before going long, Clairton got off to a strong start.
The Bears outrebounded Monessen, 16-6, in the first quarter but only led 13-11.
“We couldn't get in a flow offensively and that's kind of how we played in the first game against them,” Geletko said. “We had a lead here but just couldn't build on it.”
Monessen used an 8-3 run to end the first half to take a 27-23 lead into the break. Clairton tied the game early in the third, but Monessen rattled off a 10-2 run to open up a 44-34 lead.
Clairton got back to within 44-40 but a couple long-range shots by Gillaspie secured a lead for Monessen that the Bears couldn't cut into until late in the game.
“We put pressure on them late, and we were down six and we gave it right back,” Geletko said. “Same mistakes we've made all year we made down the stretch.”