Greyhounds again in underdog role
Being an underdog is nothing new to the Monessen Greyhounds this season.
After all, the Greyhounds were decided underdogs against Vincentian and Lincoln Park in the WPIAL playoffs.
And playing with a substantial size disadvantage is also not new for Monessen (21-6) as both Lincoln Park and last week's PIAA first round opponent, Erie First Christian Academy, had several players who towered over Monessen's tallest starter.
While tonight's PIAA second round foe, Bishop Carroll, will have both advantages — that of being favorite and height — the Huskies will bring a new distinction into the picture when the teams tip off 7:30 p.m. at Gateway.
Bishop Carroll, ranked third in the state, will bring an unbeaten record into the contest.
The District 6 champion Huskies are 26-0 and are led by two players who eclipsed 1,000 career points earlier this season.
Brandon Martinazzi, a 5-9 senior guard, leads the way, averaging 19.8 points per game, while 6-6 senior Marcus Lee averages 16.7 ppg and 7.3 rebounds.
In the Huskies' 81-42 first round win over Clarion-Limestone, Martinazzi scored 27 points, including 13 in the first quarter, and Lee had nine points and 16 rebounds.
“There is no doubt they have two really good ball players,” Monessen coach Joe Salvino said. “(Martinazzi) is a good outside player and (Lee) is pretty good inside. We will have our work cut out for us, but this time of the year everybody is good.”
Salvino did see some bright spots in going up against the Huskies.
“Other than the big kid inside, their overall height doesn't seem much different from us,” he said. “And I know they are undefeated, but to be honest, I don't know much about the competition in that district.”
The veteran Monessen coach said he thinks it is more important to worry about his team instead of the opponent.
“I just think we're better off worrying about what we need to do than worry about what they like to do,” he said. “We need to do what got us this far. And if we do everything we are supposed to, then everything else will take care of itself.”
And Salvino saw plenty about last week's 87-78 double-overtime win over EFCA that he did not like.
“We've had to make some adjustments with our defense because for some reason, we did some things in that game that we normally don't do,” he said. “And on offense, we have to be able to finish. We had a lot of open, easy shots that we didn't make. When we get in position to take a shot, we have to finish.”
Salvino was pleasantly surprised when he found out the game will be at Gateway, a facility where the Greyhounds have played in the past.
“Honestly, I was surprised and kind of happy because I thought for sure we would be going somewhere up in their district,” he said. “But when you look at it, Gateway is almost a mid-point for the schools, so I guess it's fair. I'm just glad we aren't making as long of a trip as I was expecting.”
Salvino is just hoping to make another trip after tonight.
“I like this time of the year,” he said. “I'd like to see us move on and go as far as we can. But that's me. Hopefully, the players want to keep playing, too.”
PLAYOFF TIDBITS: Monessen is ranked seventh in the latest state rankings ... Bishop Carroll will continue another trend for the Greyhounds in that the Huskies will be the fifth private school that Monessen will have faced in six playoff contests. Wilkinsburg was the lone public school the Greyhounds have seen so far in the postseason ... Although Monessen has faced numerous District 6 opponents in the state playoffs over the years, Salvino says he can't remember ever playing against Bishop Carroll before.
Jeff Oliver is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2666 or firstname.lastname@example.org.