Monessen boys aim to stay consistent

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Wednesday, November 29, 2017 | 4:51 PM


If there is one thing that remains consistent in Monessen athletics, it is the play of the boys basketball team.

The Greyhounds, during Joe Salvino's 34-year tenure as coach, have been a consistent winner and one of the top programs in the WPIAL.

The returning WPIAL Class A champions have won six titles and two PIAA championships under Salvino's tutelage. The Greyhounds return two starters from a squad that finished 21-8 and defeated Imani Christian in the WPIAL finals before falling to Kennedy Catholic in the PIAA semifinals.

“When you win, kids want to play for the program,” Salvino said. “I had 25 kids tryout. Basketball has probably taken over as the top sport at the school. I think the football team will be making a comeback.”

Salvino said one of his concerns is replacing the nearly 50 points per game from the players who graduated — Justice Rice (21 ppg), Jaden Altomore (18 ppg) and Jaron Youngblood (7 ppg). Rice, Altomore and Youngblood all played four seasons.

Rice is now playing at Grove City, and the fourth player who graduated, Marc Gibson, is playing football at Cal (Pa.).

Monessen's two starters returning are 6-foot-5 junior Lyndon Henderson and senior Cory Fleming. Salvino said juniors Vaughn Taylor and Elijahwa Smith-Payne and senior Isaiah Allums will be counted on, as well.

Taylor, Smith-Payne and Allums all contributed last season.

“The style we play, we need a lot of players to contribute,” Salvino said. “We pressure all over the court and try to create a lot of turnovers.”

Monessen dominated Section 2-A last season. Clairton was 8-2, and Salvino expects the Bears to be a lot stronger. West Greene finished third, and Avella and Geibel tied for fourth.

While the section doesn't always test the Greyhounds, Salvino makes sure a tough nonsection schedule challenges his team.

That includes tournaments at Upper St. Clair, Franklin Regional and New Castle and games against Aliquippa, Jeannette, Washington, Belle Vernon, Southmoreland and Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic.

Salvino said he expects Vincentian and Imani Christian will be challengers in Class A.

“Right now we're finding ourselves and trying to find our own identity,” Salvino said. “We're getting them ready for some tough challenges ahead.

“With the tough nonsection schedule, we want to see how we stack up and what we need to work on. We like to use the tough schedule to prepare us for the playoffs.”

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at pschofield@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Schofield_Trib.

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