After a good season with a bad ending, expectations remain high for strong Monessen boys roster

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Wednesday, November 22, 2023 | 3:48 PM


How far can Monessen go this year? A fair question in the Mon Valley, where things can get gritty.

And the tough-minded Greyhounds, indeed, are a part of it.

Pause.

There’s the matter of last season’s ending, a sore chapter in Monessen’s storied basketball program. Nevertheless, in this new year with a new team, there’s hope for a chance at penning another exciting excerpt.

“The expectations are high here,” coach Dan Bosnic said. “That’s kind of how we’re approaching the season. We think we can be one of the better teams in Single-A, but we’ve got to put the work in to put us in that position.”

It was much the same way for Monessen last season, no?

“We’ve been going in the right direction,” Bosnic said, “but we didn’t like how last season ended.”

Actually, it wound up pretty great, despite No. 6 Monessen stumbling to a 62-39 loss to No. 3 Carlynton in the WPIAL Class A quarterfinals, ending the Greyhounds’ season with a thud.

Most teams drool when they recall Monessen’s 21-4 record, highlighted by winning streaks of 15 and eight games.

“Yes, we understand it was a good season,” Bosnic said.

But, the Greyhounds must overcome the losses of three key players, including Jaisean Blackman, who averaged 14 points and 10 rebounds last season. Davontae Ross (10 ppg) and point guard Dante DeFelice also have departed.

Monessen’s only Section 2 (9-1) loss was a resounding 75-55 decision against Geibel, which entered the playoffs as a No. 4 seed and reached the semifinals before losing to eventual WPIAL and PIAA champion Imani Christian, 75-57.

Pretty impressive just the same for a Monessen program that’s qualified for the WPIAL playoffs an astounding 41 consecutive times.

So, how far can Monessen go this year?

For starters, four of them return, but one — sophomore forward Rodney Johnson — is sidelined with football-related injuries. So are a pair of the team’s top newcomers, sophomore forward TyVaughn Kershaw and freshman forward Dennis Hawkins.

“I expect all three to return early in the season,” Bosnic said, adding that he expects senior forwards Matt Sawa and Darryl Ray to step into the lineup in the injured trio’s absence when the Greyhounds open their schedule Dec. 5 with a trip to Class 3A Charleroi.

Senior forward Lorenzo Gardner, a career 1,000-point scorer, heads the Greyhounds’ returning starters after leading Monessen in scoring (23.0 ppg) last season.

Besides, Johnson, junior forward Timmy Kershaw and junior guard Davontae Robinson are the others.

Bosnic also was hoping for significant playing time for junior guard Tory Williams and sophomore forward Tayvin Craggette.

“Our older guys — Lorenzo Gardner, Matt Sawa and Darryl Ray — have kind of laid a foundation in our season early on with the work we’re putting in in practice,” Bosnic said. “They’ve helped us have a good approach to the season by sacrificing for everybody. Obviously, you want the veterans to carry over the things from last season that made us successful. If you do that, it can only benefit us as a team.

“As far as who’s playing and when, the minutes will take care of themselves. The kids will dictate the minutes if they’re willing to sacrifice. We expect our team to play good defense and really use that as our anchor for playing out of transition and playing fast.”

How far can Monessen go this year?

It’s an intriguing question in the Mon Valley … and beyond.

Imani Christian. Obviously, they’ll still have a good team,” Bosnic said. “Union, (the WPIAL runner-up), we expect them to be good again. Neighborhood Academy will be a good team. We hope we can put ourselves in that group.”

Monessen boys at a glance

Coach: Dan Bosnic

Last year’s record: 21-4 (9-1 Section 2-A)

Returning starters: Lorenzo Gardner (Sr., F), Timmy Kershaw (Jr., F), Rodney Johnson (Soph., F), Davontae Robinson (Jr., G)

Top newcomers: Tayvin Craggette (Soph., F), Dennis Hawkins (Fr., F), TyVaughn Kershaw (Soph., F), Tory Williams (Jr., G)

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