Monessen builds momentum with Class A 1st round win over Leechburg

Monday, February 19, 2024 | 11:01 PM

Monessen girls basketball coach Janine Vertacnik wanted to start postseason play off with a bang, and the No. 5 Greyhounds did just that with an overwhelming 63-15 home victory over No. 12 Leechburg in the Class A first round Monday night.

“We wanted a strong start and we wanted to keep it up,” Vertacnik said. “We didn’t want to run the score up, but we had to get that momentum going, because we haven’t had it in a while.”

Monessen (18-5) will now take on No. 4 Riverview in the quarterfinals Thursday at Fox Chapel. The Greyhounds lost 50-25 to Riverview on Feb. 3 in what Vertacnik called an extremely sloppy showing.

“We mentally weren’t there for a Saturday morning game,” she said about the loss. “Shots didn’t fall, and then when the shots didn’t fall, they got lazy on defense. That’s probably the second-most points we’ve given up all year defensively. … We were 8 for 62 from the field and like 8 for 20 from the free-throw line. It wasn’t a pretty shooting game, and I think they got hot that day.”

Scoring wasn’t an issue for the Greyhounds on Monday night. They forced 23 Leechburg turnovers and used those transition opportunities to find easy points.

Madison and Hailey Johnson led the charge with 16 and 15 points in the dominant display. Na’Jaziah Carter added 11 points and Sidney Campbell posted eight more. For the Blue Devils (8-11), Grace Richards led the way with five points.

The Greyhounds went to work early, jumping out to a 27-0 second-quarter lead before finally surrendering points to Leechburg.

With 4:32 left before halftime, Adalyn Zanotto made a layup to open the account for the Blue Devils.

Prior to that point, the Greyhounds forced seven Leechburg turnovers, Hailey Johnson had 12 points, and the home squad was on its way.

“We don’t score off our turnovers nearly enough, but we were tonight,” Vertacnik said. “There are days when we get 25 steals and we get 10 points off of it, whether we miss layups or rush shots, but today everything seemed to be falling.”

Hailey Johnson scored the first six points of the contest before MyAsia Majors split a pair of free throws. Majors, Campbell, Hailey Johnson and Carter scored the rest of Monessen’s 21 first-quarter points.

Madison Johnson scored her first four points of the game, with two more from sister Hailey in between, to make it 27-0.

After Majors scored four points in a spurt with less than three minutes left in the second quarter, Carter started to catch fire from beyond the arc with two straight 3-pointers. A layup from Avanti Stitch and free throws from Madison Johnson brought the halftime score to 43-6.

Leechburg scored on its first two possessions of the second half as Richards made a free throw and Zanotto added another layup. But Monessen added five more points from Campbell and Stitch before the Blue Devils drained their first 3-pointer of the game courtesy of Alyssa Foley. Her trey made the score 51-12.

The third quarter finished at 54-12 after Hailey Johnson muscled through contact and made a layup and a free throw before the buzzer.

Richards connected from downtown to open the scoring in the final quarter, but that capped off the points for Leechburg. Monessen had 3-pointers from Rayniya Lyons and Madison Johnson, including a free-throw for a four-point play for the latter, and ended the contest at 63-15 with a layup from Carter.

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