Monessen boys keep underdog mentality despite 10-game winning streak
Thursday, January 12, 2023 | 11:01 AM
Monessen is going streaking again.
Don’t worry, this isn’t a deleted scene from “Old School.”
Although their pressure defense can scare the pants off some opponents.
The Greyhounds boys basketball team has posted 10 straight wins and has surged to the top of WPIAL Section 2-A.
They stand at 10-1 overall and 3-0 in section.
“I hope we can keep it going,” coach Dan Bosnic said.
Last year, the Greyhounds won 16 in a row, including a 69-59 victory over Jeannette in the first round of the WPIAL Class 2A playoffs.
They lost to Greensburg Central Catholic, 61-42, in the quarters.
Many of the same qualities surround this team, not the least of which is the ability to rally late or hang on to late-game leads.
Monessen, ranked No. 3 in Class A behind Imani Christian and Union at the start of the week, has shown a propensity to win close games. It defeated Burrell, 55-53, Carmichaels, 61-60, Yough, 48-47, South Park, 63-61, and Jefferson-Morgan, 61-58.
“Our kids have shown some resiliency, as well,” Bosnic said. “They have a grit and toughness that allows them to be successful in difficult situations.”
Bosnic said his team’s defensive play has jump-started — and helped to finish off — wins.
“At times, our defensive pressure and effort has dominated parts of games,” he said.
A more experienced lineup is showing its chemistry.
Junior Lorenzo Gardner and seniors Davontae Clayton and Jaisean Blackman have provided the majority of the scoring. The 6-foot-3 Gardner is averaging more than 20 points with Blackman (6-2, 270 pounds) and Clayton adding 10 each.
Gardner has 751 career points.
Blackman said despite Monessen being a perennial power, there is an underdog vibe around which the team rallies.
“I think we’re all just staying together well,” Blackman said. “We know how good we are, but we love how we still get counted out. We just want to keep that chip on our shoulder and show the whole (Mon) Valley we aren’t just a small-town team you don’t have to worry about.”
Defensive depth has come from senior Dante DeFelices and sophomores Timmy Kershaw and Davontae Robinson, while senior Trey Thompson (6-2, 300) and sophomore guard Danny Dozier have played key roles.
Three freshmen — TyVaughn Kershaw, Rodney Johnson and Will Farrow — also have made their presence known.
“We knew since last season that we would be a competitive team again,” Bosnic said. “We are a (10-1) basketball team that still hasn’t played as well as we expect. We have played good basketball in spurts but haven’t put it all together yet. We can be a much better team, and we’ll have to be if we expect to compete with some of the better teams in (Class) A.”
Bosnic said the drop from Class 2A to A has had little effect on the big picture.
“We always play a good nonsection schedule to prepare for the postseason,” he said. “Our goal is always to win in the playoffs. That’s how we’ll determine if our season is a success.”
A tragic rallying point for the Greyhounds came in November when junior Amari Altomore, a football teammate of many of the players, was killed in a shooting.
“Our kids were very close with Amari, and that was a great loss for them to experience,” Bosnic said. “Hopefully, we can continue to help them to process that. As a coach, when your players experience something like that, you recognize the positive outlet that focusing on basketball can be for them.”
Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at email@example.com or via Twitter .
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