Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Monessen ready for lengthy run in Class A

One thing was apparent at Carmichaels High School on Tuesday night.  Carmichaels and Monessen don’t like each other.

The opening minutes of the Section 3-A matchup were fast paced, but emotions were in check.  The remainder of the game was filled with verbal exchanged between players and fouls kept adding up.  It was obvious that the referees were trying to send a message to both teams that while physical play would be tolerated, neither team could take it too far.

The Greyhounds made a statement Tuesday night with a 78-55 road win over the Mikes.  Their combination of speed and physicality will be tough for Class A teams to matchup with.  Justice Rawlins and Clintell Gillaspie are extremely athletic players who mix strong perimeter shooting with impressive post play.  The two combined for 37 points on offense and frustrated Carmichaels’ offense throughout the game.

Monessen head coach Joe Salvino used Gillaspie and Rawlins to clog the lane.  The goal was to prevent  Mikes senior Brandon Lawless from driving to the net.  The strategy worked throughout the game, but it was the play of Javon Brown that stood out.  Salvino uses Brown to guard the opposing team’s best player and the results have been beneficial to Monessen during their run to the top of the standings.

“Javon is one of our better defensive basketball players,” Savlino said.  “We tried jumping Lawless whenever he had possession and it worked.  We were sloppy at times, especially when we had the lead.  We took our foot off the gas pedal a bit and let them hang around.”

Savlino demands perfection from the Greyhounds and I’m sure Lawless finishing with 17 points did not please him.  Lawless eclipsed the 1,000-point mark for his career and while Carmichaels struggled with consistency, the Mikes’ leading scorer never gave up.  Frustration did get the best of him at times, but he did his part for Carmichaels.

I do think the next matchup will be just as chippy, but Monessen made a statement.  The Greyhounds are one of the best teams in all of Class A.  They have everything great teams need to succeed and no one should focus on the team’s overall record.  Monessen began the season with losses against Upper St. Clair, Franklin Regional and Norwin.  Later in the season, they lost by just 10 points to Class AA’s top team, Seton-La Salle, and defeated Uniontown on the road.

Rawlins believes their experience against top competition has made the transition into section play a successful one.

“Those games were huge for us,” Rawlins said.  “We played against guys who were six-foot-five and up.  Now that we are playing Class A teams, we are outrebounding everyone and playing at the top of our game.”

That they are.  It will be interesting to see how Monessen matches up with Clairton on Friday when they host the Bears, who are the defending champions in Section 3-A.

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