Monessen dumps Eden Christian; Wilkinsburg up next

| Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014, 12:16 a.m.

Monessen coach Joe Salvino has often said that the first playoff game is the toughest one to win.

But after a slow start in a WPIAL Class A first round playoff game Friday night against Eden Christian at Chartiers Valley, the Greyhounds lived up to their name and ran past the upstart Warriors, cruising to a 78-54 win.

“We didn't get to practice (Thursday) because there was no school so we were a bit sluggish,” Salvino said. “But once we got things going, I thought we played pretty well. We picked up our defense, especially in the second half and forced a lot of turnovers that we turned into quick points. When we play defense, we can be pretty good.”

Known for making big scoring runs in games, the Greyhounds (18-5) made several against Eden Christian (9-13), in its fourth year as a WPIAL member.

A 13-0 run in the second quarter turned a 23-20 lead into a 36-20 bulge that only grew as the night went on.

There was a 20-10 spree in the third quarter and a 16-5 spurt in the fourth quarter.

In the third quarter, Javon Brown took over the game almost single-handedly with 11 points and creating several turnovers as Monessen widened its lead to 60-40 going into the fourth quarter.

“Javon signed with (Lackawanna) for football, but he might want to re-think that,” Salvino said with a smile. “The kid can play basketball on the small college level. He is light years different from the kind of player he was a year ago. He runs our offense, spearheads our defense and when he drives to the basket, he creates a lot of opportunities for himself and other teammates. He means a lot to us in so many ways.”

Brown made 8 of 11 shots from the field and was a perfect 5 for 5 from the foul line as he finished with 20 points.

Teammate Clintell Gillaspie, who scored 10 points in the first quarter to give the Greyhounds an early spark, led Monessen with 22 points and he also grabbed nine rebounds. Gillaspie made 8 of 13 shots from the field.

Justice Rawlins had another solid game doing a lot of the dirty work for the Greyhounds as he finished with a double-double, scoring 11 points and grabbing 12 rebounds. He also had six steals.

“Justice always works hard,” Salvino said. “He epitomizes the work ethic of this team. Really, I thought everyone played well. Clintell hit a couple big threes early, as did Noah Rullo. Lavelle Rush had some big plays and Kayne Jackson played well, too.

“It was a team effort.”

Salvino also was happy with how the smaller Greyhounds battled the bigger Warriors on the boards.

“I the first half, we outrebounded them 24-14,” he said. “Again, our kids battled for the ball. We just have to keep doing those kind of things if we are going to keep playing games.”

Monessen had the lead as high as 31 points when Jaden Altomore drilled a three-pointer with 2:53 to play in the game.

“This was a good win, a good way to start,” Salvino said. “But it's just one game. We have to get right back to work in the gym and get ready to play Wilkinsburg.”

The Greyhounds will meet Wilkinsburg in the quarterfinals Friday at a site to be determined. Wilkinsburg (13-7) eliminated Union, 74-62, in a first-round game.

The Greyhounds played Wilkinsburg earlier this season, handing the Tigers a 73-51 defeat Dec. 21.

“That was a long time ago and, obviously, they are doing better now because they are still playing,” Salvino said. “At least we do know a little about them, which is a good thing.”

PLAYOFF TIDBITS: After making just 5 of 14 free throws in the first half, the Greyhounds made 11 of 13 in the second half ... Eden Christian was led by Carter Ehms with 21 points, including eight of 10 at the foul line ... As a team, the Warriors made 15 of 22 free throws ... The Greyhounds were hit with a technical in the fourth quarter because Brandon Lenhart was not in the official scorebook when Salvino emptied his bench.

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