Monessen girls surge into playoffs as section champs, WPIAL contenders

Wednesday, February 15, 2023 | 6:02 PM

Monessen was 2-4 and had just opened Section 2-A play with a loss at West Greene.

But then, right as rain, the streak happened. The Greyhounds won 13 in a row, captured their first section title since 2012 and established themselves a contender in WPIAL Class A girls basketball.

All without a senior on the roster.

“We have turned things around down here,” coach Janine Vertacnik said.

Vertacnik said her team was trying to fly under the proverbial radar, but Monessen isn’t going to sneak up on anybody now that the postseason is here.

The Greyhounds (15-5) were awarded a No. 4 seed and a first-round bye. They will get the winner of No. 5 St. Joseph and No. 12 Geibel (11-11) next Thursday in the quarterfinals.

The game will be at Monessen, another perk to playing well.

“I thought that this team could compete with everyone in our section,” Vertacnik said. “Knowing (defending section champion) West Greene graduated a lot, we felt good about our chances.”

Monessen starts two freshmen and plays another. Those girls played on an 11-1 team last year in middle school, and their transition to the varsity level has been seamless.

“Blend that in with five juniors who all have seen varsity time since their freshmen year, and we felt good about our chances of winning the first section title since 2012,” Vertacnik said.

Junior Hailey Johnson was averaging 9.1 points, 9.7 rebounds, 4.2 steals and 3.3 assists, while her sister, freshman Madison Johnson, was scoring 8.9 a game.

Sidney Campbell and MyAsia Majors, two more juniors, are other all-around contributors, Campbell at 8.1 points, 4.2 steals and 3.4 assists and Majors 8 points and 10.9 rebounds.

Winning streaks often come with common threads.

One has been balanced scoring. Another, defense. The Greyhounds are allowing just 33.9 points per game, the second-best average in Class A.

“Defense is what I preach everywhere I go,” Vertacnik said. “They have bought in, they are very unselfish, and they share the basketball: a coach’s dream.”

Monessen also is one of better rebounding teams in the playoff field.

“We’re just taking it one game at a time,” Vertacnik said.

The coach had the same mentality when she turned Jeannette around. A slow build, she put star Ciara Gregory in the pilot seat and the team rose to an elite level in Class 2A.

Vertacnik guided the Jayhawks to a WPIAL championship and a 25-3 mark in 2009-10.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at or via Twitter .


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