No surprises for PIAA Class A semifinalists Monessen, Vincentian Academy

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Sunday, March 17, 2019 | 7:34 PM


The last time Monessen and Vincentian Academy faced one another, a trip to the WPIAL Class A championship game was on the line.

Three weeks later, it’s time for Round 2.

And the stakes are higher.

With a trip to Hershey up for grabs, the Greyhounds (18-9) will take on the Royals (19-8) in the PIAA Class A semifinals at 7 p.m. Monday at Mt. Lebanon High School.

“They’re happy to have another opportunity to play Vincentian,” Monessen coach Dan Bosnic said. “We hope that over the last three weeks, we’ve become a better basketball team and, hopefully, that proves out.”

In a Feb. 25 meeting against the Royals, Monessen trailed by 10 points at halftime before outscoring Vincentian, 16-4, in the third quarter and taking a 45-43 lead.

But the Greyhounds, who also battled foul trouble, couldn’t finish it off as they were outscored, 18-4, in the final eight minutes of a 61-49 loss that sent the Royals to the WPIAL championship game.

“We came out in the third quarter and started playing the game at the pace and in the way we wanted to play it,” Bosnic said. “We exerted so much in that third quarter, and I felt like that kind of factored in. There is no denying that the foul situation in that game contributed to some of those things, too.”

This time around, Bosnic and his bunch are hoping for a different outcome.

The first-year coach knows how the quality of the opposition and believes rebounding and preventing the Royals from scoring easy points will be key.

“We know Vincentian is a talented team, and they have talent throughout their roster,” Bosnic said. “The difference in the game will be rebounding the basketball. That’s an area in which we have to do a better job, and then we have to make them earn everything that they get.

“In the first game, our kids played really hard, but there were times when we let them have easy baskets, and in the last couple of games, our guys haven’t allowed teams to do those things. We’ll have to do the same against Vincentian.”

Vincentian coach and Monessen graduate Tim Tyree knows what to expect from the Greyhounds, too.

“I know it’s going to be a tough, physical matchup. Playing them in the semifinals, they gave us everything they had and it was a tough game,” Tyree said. “We’re looking for the same thing, and we’re going to be prepared for their aggressiveness, intense defense and athleticism.”

Projected starters for Monessen are Devin Whitlock, Dishon Howell, Darnel Howell, Marquell Smith and Elijahwa Payne. DaWayne Howell, Antwon Tucker, Taylon Lowe, Dylan Bradshaw and Carleton Jones are expected to provide minutes off the bench.

While all have made key contributions during this playoff run, Whitlock has stood out, playing with poise beyond his years.

Whitlock, a freshman who averaged nearly 17 points during the regular season, is averaging just over 20 points in three PIAA playoff games.

“It all starts with Devin. He’s carried them all year ,and he’s been very stellar in both the WPIAL playoffs and state playoffs,” Tyree said. “We really just need to stop and contain him and slow down their athleticism. They have a lot of length across the board outside of Whitlock, so we know we’re going to have to box out and be very sound defensively.”

If the Royals can play a solid brand of defense, Tyree is confident his team will score its share of points.

Vincentian Academy’s starting lineup will consist of Matt McDonough, Alex Griggs, Angelo Reeves, Nate Cullo and Ethan Embleton.

Griggs scored a game-high 18 points, and Reeves and Cullo added 14 and 12 points, respectively, against Monessen in the WPIAL semis.

“If we can stop them, we feel confident in what we can do in executing our offensive sets,” Tyree said. “We’ll get shots and get shots to fall, but really owning it on the defensive end is going to be key.”

Vincentian’s road to the state semifinals includes wins over St. Joseph’s Academy, Elk County Catholic and Cornell.

Monessen has had to go through Jamestown, Bishop Caroll and Nazareth Prep to reach this point, coming from behind in the second half of two of those games.

Bosnic is confident his team will be ready to go again tonight as a win will give the Greyhounds an opportunity to play for a state title for the first time since 1990.

“This is what your goal is when you start out the year, to be playing at this point in the season,” Bosnic said. “It’s truly a credit to our kids cause they have stuck with it, gotten better throughout the course of the season and they’ve put themselves in this position.”

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