The tightest playoff race in WPIAL boys’ basketball may be found in Section 3-A. With last year’s section champs, Clairton, starting their season later than usual and three other teams showing consistency on both ends of the court, this week’s slate of games could play a pivotal role in who will reach the playoffs.
The most exciting matchup can be found on Tuesday night when Carmichaels plays host to Monessen to determine first place in the section. After seeing their undefeated season come to an end in a non-section game against Frazier, the Mikes bounced back last week with an 87-38 win over Geibel.
Pacing Carmichaels’s offense, which has averaged 65 points per game this season, is senior Brandon Lawless. Lawless combines a smooth perimeter shot with a knack for driving the lane; averaging 26.1 points per game. The Mikes (2-0, 10-1) have two other seniors who have been contributing to the fast start since the season tipped off. Cory Fuller is averaging 13.1 points per game and Ty Aeschbacher has chipped in 11.3 a game for head coach Don Williams’s squad.
The x-factor in the Mikes’ offense could be a new, but familiar face. Point guard Ty Cole, who missed the first month of the season with mononucleosis, is a two-year starter who is averaging 17.3 points per game since his return. The plethora of experience should make the Mikes the odds-on favorite to win the section, but Monessen’s lineup matches that experience and adds a brand of physical basketball that not many teams in Class A can handle.
Senior Clintell Gillaspie paces the Greyhounds’ offense with 19.6 points per game and like Lawless, can match a strong interior game with an outside scoring touch. Joining Gillaspie on the court for Monessen is a defensive force who can match up with the opposing team’s best player and still provide double-digit scoring for the Greyhounds. Senior Javon Brown, who is averaging 14.9 points per game, displayed his defensive prowess on Friday when Monessen faced Mapletown. The Maples’ top player, Dereck Riggleman, scored 51 points in Mapletown’s 66-60 win over Geibel on Thursday. He eclipsed the 1,000-point mark for his career and when the Maples faced Monessen on Friday, was matched up against Brown.
Brown shut him down; allowing Riggleman to score just 13 points in Monessen’s 84-30 win over Mapletown. The storylines are plentiful and with both teams showing no signs of slowing down, it will be interesting to see who prevails once the two storied programs face one another on Tuesday night at Carmichaels High School.
· Depending on the outcome of Tuesday night’s matchup, there are two more Section 3-A games this week to keep an eye on. Monessen plays last year’s section champions, Clairton (1-0, 3-2), on Fridaynight. Clairton did not start the season until late December and it is unknown whether the Bears have the same amount of fire power as last year’s team, which finished section play with an undefeated record before losing in the WPIAL title game to Vincentian Academy, 86-74.
· Carmichaels will host to Mapletown on the same night and it will be interesting to see who the Mikes will use to contain Riggleman. It is obvious that his play has earned him the same respect as Lawless and Gillaspie. Despite the Maples needing every one of his points to defeat Geibel last week, Riggleman is the type of player who can determine the outcome of a game.