|Monessen junior Noah Rullo|
Once again, there was Monessen holding its own against one of the state’s top Class A teams and through three quarters, more than held its own. The Greyhounds held a 10-point advantage with 1:10 remaining in the third quarter before Bishop Carroll went on a 22-0 run.
The Huskies’ scoring onslaught lasted over four minutes and they did not miss a shot during that span. On the other hand, Monessen could not find an answer. Instead of continuing to push the ball up the court and find the open man, the team forced three-point shots and unlike the first half, the shots did not fall.
Up until that run began, it seemed all but guaranteed that Monessen would advance to the PIAA quarterfinals. Bishop Carroll’s Marcus Lee, who was excelling on the defensive end and grabbed 14 rebounds, recorded his fourth fall at the end of the third quarter. Without Lee and with the Greyhounds’ offense truly excelling for the first time since they defeated Vincentian in the WPIAL semifinals, most thought the game was in the bag.
Bishop Carroll had other plans and front and center for the Huskies was junior guard Brandon Martinazzi, who scored a game-high 28 points and is the team’s leading scorer this season.
Martinazzi could not miss in the second half of Tuesday night’s game. He averaged over 19 points per game entering the contest and reinforced his standing as one of the best point guards in Class A.
He is truly a player you cannot ignore. When he was given the slightest room to hoist a shot, he drained it – hitting mid-range jumpers and driving to the net on the baseline.
You have to hand it to Monessen. The team is built around a group of football players who were still learning the game of basketball. Greyhounds head coach Joe Salvino believed the lack of true basketball knowledge led to the 22-0 run. His team did not need to speed up its offense, but needed to slow down and approach the game the same way for 32 minutes. Its response to the Huskies’ awakening on offense was reactionary. Instead of playing their game, the Greyhounds attempted to outrun their opponent and turned to the three-point shot.
Unfortunately for Monessen, there is little room for error against a team like Bishop Carroll, who may not have the athleticism of Lincoln Park, but are a sound group of players with state playoff experience. The season may not have ended with a state title for the Greyhounds, but this season will be one to remember for the school and the program.
No one expected them to reach the WPIAL title game, let alone the second round of the state playoffs. When the WPIAL playoffs began, I asked many people how Monessen stacked up against Vincentian. I was laughed at for believing the Greyhounds could defeat the Royals. Well, Clintell Gillaspie, Javon Brown, Justice Rawlins and a solid core of role players proved the basketball community wrong.
It’s nothing new for Monessen basketball.