Monessen's PIAA run ends, 69-65
Things didn't look good for Bishop Carroll in the third quarter of the District 6 champs' PIAA Class A second round playoff game against Monessen.
The undefeated Huskies went into halftime trailing for the first time this season, 43-37.
Their 6-6, 1,000-point scoring center, Marcus Lee, picked up his fourth foul with 3:16 left in the third quarter.
Their coach, Cosie Aliquo, was hit with a technical foul for leaving the coach's box.
And after all that, Monessen's Justice Rice hit a basket with 1:10 left in the quarter to give the Greyhounds a 53-43 lead.
No, things didn't look good for Bishop Carroll.
But it didn't take long for the Huskies to turn the tide.
After all, a 22-0 run will do that for you.
After Rice hit that basket the Greyhounds didn't score again until Rice hit another 3-pointer with 3:20 to play in the game.
By that time, their 10-point lead had turned into a 65-56 deficit.
When the game was over, Bishop Carroll owned a 69-65 win and was still undefeated.
And the Greyhounds were left wondering what happened to their season.
“We had them, but the third quarter beat us up,” said a disappointed Monessen coach Joe Salvino. “We made some mental mistakes and we got away from the things that worked well for us in the first half. We turned the ball over too many times and we took some bad shots. We quit pushing the ball and started taking outside shots that we didn't need.
“With their big man out, instead of us trying to take the ball inside where we could be effective, we decided to shoot threes. That's what happens when you get tired and you don't want to work hard. We got fatigued and we threw the ball away.”
The last 9:10 of the game were nothing like the first 22:50 when the Greyhounds (21-7) had the Huskies (27-0) on the ropes with a fast-paced game and some hot shooting.
Monessen used a big first half by Javon Brown (14 points) and Justice Rawlins (10) to take a 43-37 halftime lead. The Greyhounds led the whole first half and led by as many as nine points on four different occasions.
In the third quarter, it seemed like the Huskies let their frustrations show when Lee was whistled for two fouls in a matter of seconds to get four for the game.
And Aliquo's technical within 2:31 left in the quarter seemed to stoke the Greyhounds' fire.
Rice made both technical foul shots and then added the basket over a minute later to give Monessen its biggest lead of the night, 53-43.
But the Huskies closed to with 53-50 by quarter's end with a 7-0 run. That was only the beginning of the end for the Greyhounds.
Bishop Carroll opened the fourth quarter on fire as Nik Suckinos hit back-to-back 3-pointers and teammate Brandon Martinazzi scored seven of his game-high 28 points to move the Huskies out to a 65-53 lead with less than four minutes to play.
“I tried to slow them down. I called two timeouts, but they got hot and we kept turning the ball over and taking bad shots,” Salvino said. “They got the momentum and we couldn't get it back.”
The Greyhounds didn't wilt, however, as they battled back and closed the gap to 69-65 on a layup by Brown with 42 seconds to play.
And after the Huskies missed twice on two one-and-one's at the foul line, the Greyhounds failed to convert each time as Brown missed a short jumper in the lane with 16 seconds left and Rawlins was short on a three-point attempt with two seconds on the clock.
Brown closed his career with 19 points and 10 assists. Rice scored 13 points and Rawlins added 12 points and 13 rebounds.
Martinazzi led Bishop Carroll 28 points while Suckinos added 14, 11 in the second half..
Although he was disappointed with how the season ended, he had high words of praise for his team.
“This team went further than anyone thought it could go at the beginning of the season,” Salvino said. “We went to the WPIAL title game and the second round of the states.
“This team really over-achieved. We had a bunch of football players who learned how to play basketball. Nobody is happy right now. But I couldn't be any more proud of a team than I am of this one. It was a great ride.”
It just needed to last two more quarters.
“For a little more than two quarters, we were definitely the better team,” Salvino said. “But the game is 32 minutes. That's the way it is.”
PLAYOFF TIDBITS: The Greyhounds made six three-pointers in the first half, but one in the second half. ... After combining for 24 points in the first half, Brown and Rawlins had just seven in the second half ... Monessen's leading scorer Clintell Gillaspie was held to six points ... Lee, who scored five points in the first quarter, finished with nine points.
Jeff Oliver is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2666 or firstname.lastname@example.org.