Saturday, February 1, 2014

Monessen rolling through Class A opposition; beware of Bishop Carroll

Monessen's Justice Rawlins defendes Carmichaels
point guard Ty Cole
Monessen was once again dominant on Saturday afternoon in a 100-44 victory over Avella. The win gives the Greyhounds a firm hold of first place in Section 3-A and instead of relying on one player to carry the load, Monessen's plethora of offensive talent is giving opposing teams headaches.

During Saturday's win over the Eagles, Clintell Gillaspie (18 points), Javon Brown (14), Justice Rawlins (11), Lavalle Rush (13) and Jaden Altomore (10) all chipped in double figures for Monessen (8-0, 14-5).

Monessen has yet to lose to a Class A opponent, but an intriguing section game is looming. Carmichaels (6-1, 14-2) will get a shot at revenge on Tuesday when they make the trip East to face the Greyhounds. The Mikes lost to Monessen, 78-55, in their previous meeting with the Greyhounds' physical brand of basketball throwing Carmichaels' offense off.

Gillaspie and Rawlins did a tremendous job preventing Mikes senior Brandon Lawless from driving to the basket and forced their opponent's offensive players to take risky shots on the perimeter. The result was a positive one for Monessen. Their deep lineup forced turnovers and translated the defensive prowess into points in transition. What struck me was the emotional nature of the game.

Yes, I did expect two teams battling for first place to play a great, physical game, but this was different. These two teams strongly dislike each other and that is putting it nicely. Words were exchanged early and the back-and-forth banter did not let up. Both teams are senior-heavy and have a shot at competing with Class A's top teams - Lincoln Park and Vincentian.

Lincoln Park and Vincentian are scoring points at an incredible rate against top-notch opponents. Many have all but written them in as bound for Hershey. Not so fast. There's a team from District 6 that needs to be in the mix as the best Class A team in the state.

Bishop Carroll (8-0, 17-0) eliminated Vincentian during last year's PIAA playoffs before dropping a close contest to Lincoln Park, 86-84, in the quarterfinals. Lincoln Park lost in the semifinals but the WPIAL bias in Western Pennsylvania has them as the obvious favorite to avenge the loss. Junior Brandon Martinazzi is averaging 19.1 points per game for Bishop Carroll (Ebensburg, Pa.) and senior Marcus Lee, a 6-6 center, is averaging 17 points and 8 rebounds per game.

The Huskies are loaded with talent; including six seniors who tasted defeat in the state tournament last year. They have four players that stand at least 6-5, including Lee, junior Scott Holsinger (6-8), junior Darrin Weinzierl (6-5), and senior Nick Burk (6-5).

I hear talk of Lincoln Park and Vincentian being the WPIAL favorites, but don't count Monessen out.  The Greyhounds' physical style is almost impossible to match for Class A teams. Their combination of size, speed and perimeter shooting makes them a nightmare for opposing coaches. I would be incredibly surprised if they exited early from the playoffs.  To be honest, they're my pick to win the Class A WPIAL tournament.

But before we crown a WPIAL team as the favorite to win the state championship, remember these words: beware of Bishop Carroll.

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