Lincoln Park hands Monessen record-setting loss
Not one time. Not once.
With a smile on his face, that's how many times Monessen head coach Joe Salvino said his team quit during an 85-41 loss to highly touted Lincoln Park in Friday night's WPIAL Class A championship game.
In Salvino's eyes there's a lot to be proud of, even though the defeat was the biggest in Class A championship history.
“They didn't quit. They will never quit. I won't allow them to quit,” Salvino said. “Out of 24 Class A schools, there were two teams left and we were one of the two.
“In our team's defense, we still haven't lost to a Class A school. That's not a Class A school over there.”
The Greyhounds raced out of the gate, jumping to a 7-0 lead behind a 3-pointer from Noah Rullo and two consecutive transition baskets by Javon Brown.
“To negate their height, we had to run,” Salvino said. “That was the game plan. We couldn't let them set up their trap defense.”
Unfortunately for Monessen (20-6), 6-7 guard Maverick Rowan wreaked havoc at mid-court once the Greyhounds' offense slowed down.
Using his long wingspan and height, he helped force seven Monessen turnovers in the first quarter, four by freshman Jaden Altomore.
The Leopards used Rowan at half court, which helped lead to a cherry-picking offense that racked up fast break points.
Rowan finished with a game-high 26 points.
While Rowan was setting up the trap defense, 6-9 Elijah Minnie, a Monessen resident, dominated the inside along with 6-7 Ryan Skovranko. Minnie finished with a triple-double against his former teammates, tallying 20 points, including three dunks, 16 rebounds and 12 blocks.
Antonio Kellem added 16 for the Leopards (25-1), who won their second Class A title.
With Monessen losing momentum and clinging to a 12-10 lead, Lincoln Park went on a 10-0 run to help vault them to a 22-16 lead at the end of the first quarter. It was more of the same in the second as the Leopards continued applying pressure and went on another run, this time a 14-3 advantage that gave them a 36-19 lead.
Clintell Gillaspie, the Greyhounds' leading scorer, got his first points of the game with two free throws with 3:22 left in the half. After that, the Leopards went on an 11-0 run to end the half with a 47-21 lead.
Brown, whose penetrating ability was limited by the Leopards defense, led the Greyhounds with 10 points, eight of which came in the first quarter. Gillaspie didn't score a field goal until he hit a 3-pointer with 6:23 left in the game. Altomore added nine points.
Salvino removed his starters from the game with more than two minutes remaining.
As disappointed as they were taking home silver medals, some Greyhounds remained upbeat during the awards ceremony.
“What are you going to do? ... Our season isn't over,” Salvino said. “We still have the states. This one loss shouldn't ever bring us down. Like I said, we didn't lose to a Class A school. We'll get in the gym on Tuesday and start getting ready for the state (playoffs).”
The Greyhounds will play Erie First (15-9), the second-place team from District 10, in the first round of the PIAA playoffs Friday.