Monessen dominates 2nd half in win over Wilkinsburg
Much like investors in the old E.F. Hutton commercials, when Monessen coach Joe Salvino speaks, his Greyhounds listen.
And the veteran, fiery mentor was none too happy when he met his players at halftime of Friday's WPIAL Class A quarterfinal game against Wilkinsburg.
And he certainly wasn't giving them advice on stocks.
The Greyhounds blew a 21-12 lead and trailed 26-23 after Wilkinsburg's D'Shawn Adair hit an off-balance, 27-foot 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer.
“I thought we were real sloppy in the first half,” Salvino said. “We missed a lot of shots, and when we didn't score we quit playing defense.
“I told the kids at halftime, ‘If that's how you want to go out and end your season, it's a shame.' I told my seniors that if they wanted to make it to the next round they had to play the game the way they know how. I told them it was up to them.”
The Greyhounds got the message as they dominated the second half en route to a 63-49 win.
Third-seeded Monessen (19-5) will meet second-seeded Vincentian (22-2) in the semifinals Tuesday. The defending WPIAL champion Royals beat Clairton, 88-51, Friday night.
“I thought we played a lot better in the second half,” Salvino said. “We picked up our intensity on defense and forced turnovers. Javon (Brown) did a good job going to the basket, Clintell (Gillaspie) hit some big threes and (Justice Rawlins) and Tyler (Yuille) pulled down key rebounds.
“We did what we were supposed to do in the second half, but it wasn't easy because Wilkinsburg is a better team than they were earlier in the season.”
Monessen beat Wilkinsburg, 73-51, in December.
The Greyhounds seized control of the game with a 19-5 run in the third quarter that turned a 27-23 deficit into a 42-32 lead.
The Tigers (13-9) never got closer than eight the rest of the night.
In the big third quarter, Gillaspie hit two treys and scored 10 of his 21 points.
In the fourth quarter, the Greyhounds upped the lead to 13 points, 60-47, after Brown scored a basket and was fouled. After he missed the free throw, Yuille grabbed the rebound and scored.
Brown, who had just two points in the first half, scored 16 in the second half — 10 in the fourth quarter.
“When Javon controls the game out front and then drives to the basket, a lot of good things can happen for us,” said Salvino. “And he took control in the second half.”The game was helter skelter throughout with a fast up-and-down pace.
“I knew it was going to be that kind of game because I knew they would try to pressure us and we pressured them because we felt we could get them to turn the ball over,” Salvino said.
And the Monessen coach was right as the Greyhounds forced 24 turnovers in the game. Monessen committed 14 turnovers.
Joining Gillaspie and Brown in double figures for the Greyhounds was Rawlins with 10 points. Yuille (11) and Rawlins (10) combined for 21 rebounds, while Brown had 10 assists and six steals.
Wilkinsburg was led by Adair's game-high 22 points, but only one in the fourth quarter. Isaiah Pete added 11 points.
The win earned Monessen a berth in the PIAA tournament, but Salvino isn't looking past Tuesday's game with Vincentian, the highest-scoring team in the WPIAL.
Last year, Vincentian beat Monessen, 81-42, in the quarterfinals.
“They ended our season a year ago,” Salvino said. “And they are just as good this year. We have to be at our best.”