Greyhounds run by Leopards in final minutes
It's not too often after a high school game that both coaches come away fairly pleased, but that's how Monessen's Joe Salvino and Belle Vernon Area's Kyle DeGregorio felt after Saturday's entertaining nonsection boys' basketball game.
The Greyhounds outlasted the Leopards, 70-60, scoring the game's final 10 points in the last 1:28 before a large, vocal crowd.
Salvino was pleased because his team received a highly-competitive test before the playoffs. DeGregorio was pleased because, as has been the case all season, his team fought and scratched the entire game.
“I was glad that we came over here,” Salvino said. “Belle Vernon's kids played hard and never quit. A couple times when we got up on them, I thought we would put them away, but they came back. And I have to give them credit for that.
“This is exactly the kind of game that will help us down the road.”
“I thought both teams played really hard,” said DeGregorio. “They just played a little bit better than us at the end. We practice really hard and I've got great kids. I thought all of our kids played as hard as they possibly could.
“We're just not at a point where we are ready to win and I told the guys that in the locker room. No matter how hard you work, you won't get tired of losing until you make enough plays at the end to win. But there is no doubting our effort. We just need to learn how to win.”
The Leps (6-12) three times battled back from big deficits.
In the second quarter, Monessen (14-6) went up 34-23 with 2:50 left on two free throws by Dwight Moore. But BVA scored the next 10 points to cut the deficit to 34-33 before Monessen settled in on a 36-34 halftime lead.
In the second half, Monessen got out to seven-point leads twice before making a charge.
Trailing 52-45 going into the fourth quarter, the hosts managed to pull into a 58-58 tie when Phil Baldini made the second of two free throws with 2:10 to play.
After Jaden Altomore scored to give Monessen a 60-58 lead, Devin Hannan made a layup with 2:00 remaining to tie the score at 60-60.
Hannan played a particularly inspired game for the Leps with 14 points and 11 rebounds.
“Devin gave us a big advantage inside with his size,” DeGregorio said. “He's a football player playing basketball, but he battled and was a difference on the boards.”
However, that was the last basket BVA would score as Monessen ran off the game's final 10 points, including six free throws by Lavelle Rush who led all scorers with 25 points.
“Both teams were really tired and I thought played a good game,” said DeGregorio. “We made a couple mistakes at the end that allowed them to split our defense a couple times and it hurt us.”
The bigger Leps dominated the boards the entire game as Noah Bukowski (12) and Hannan (11) combined to grab more rebounds than the entire Monessen team (21).
“There's no doubt their size and physical play gave us trouble inside,” Salvino said. “Even at times when you do a good job boxing out, a bigger player is still going to get the rebound. That's basketball.”
Joining Rush in double figures for Monessen were Altomore (15) and Justice Rice (13). Moore scored eight points off the bench.
BVA got 16 points from Baldini, including eight in the last quarter, and 11 from Travis Snyder. Tommy Rodriguez added 10 points. Bukowski had seven points to go with his 12 rebounds.
BVA resumes section play tonight by hosting Ringgold.
Belle Vernon Area 61,Laurel Highlands 47
BVA (14-6) won the nonsection road game Saturday as Kaitlyn Slagus had a double-double with 19 points and 18 rebounds.
Teammate Kaitlin Thomas added 10 points.
Laurel Highlands (7-12) got 17 points from Ashley Galderisi.
After trailing 14-11 after one quarter, the Leps broke the game open in the second quarter by outscoring the hosts 21-2 for a 33-16 halftime lead.
BVA resumes section play tonight at West Mifflin.
Jeff Oliver is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2666 or email@example.com.