Trib HSSN Boys Basketball Team of the Week: Vincentian Academy Royals

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Sunday, March 17, 2019 | 6:16 PM


The Trib HSSN Boys Basketball Team of the Week reached the title game in the WPIAL Class A playoffs and is one win away from playing for state gold in the PIAA finals — the Vincentian Academy Royals.

Talk about mixed feelings.

On one side, there is the team you coached for two years and guided them to a WPIAL championship in 2018, district runner-up here in 2019 and now two wins from a PIAA crown.

On the other side is your hometown team. Your alma mater who you played for and began your coaching career.

Such is the dilemma for Tim Tyree Jr. on Monday when his current team, Vincentian Academy, faces his old team, Monessen at Mt. Lebanon in a PIAA Class A semifinals.

“Playing against Monessen is special and will always be for me,” Tyree said. “I’m a Monessen kid. I started my coaching career at the Monessen Civic Center. I watched my sister win a state championship at Monessen in 2004.

“Now 15 years later to have the opportunity to coach my team against Monessen in the semifinals for the chance to go states. This is like a movie. It’s totally surreal, and I’m truly blessed to be here with my team.”

How they got here was a pair of wins last week in the PIAA second round and quarterfinals.

In Round 2, Vincentian Academy trailed District 9 champion and unbeaten Elk County Catholic by six at halftime, but rallied and handed the Crusaders their first loss, 63-57.

“Falling behind against Elk County, it was just a matter of cleaning up the little things at halftime,” Tyree said. “Boxing out and closing out were the two biggest things killing us in the first half. After we cleaned that up we were able to control the game.”

Freshman Matt McDonough led the Royals with 17 points while sophomore Alex Griggs added 15 and junior Nate Cullo scored 10 points.

Tyree said McDonough has come up big his freshman year.

“He’s young but really understands how to play the game. He’s one the hardest working kids I’ve had a chance to be around, and it’s no surprise to me or my staff of his ability to play at a high level so early on in his career.”

In the quarterfinals, a familiar foe was the opponent. It was the third meeting of the year with Cornell after the Royals and Raiders split their two Section 1-A games.

Again, Vincentian fell behind, trailing by 11 after one quarter.

The Royals leaned on their size advantage with a pair of 6-foot-6 players on the blocks in junior Ethan Embleton and sophomore Angelo Reeves to tilt the game toward Vincentian.

“Against Cornell, Ethan and Boom (Reeves) were huge,” Tyree said. “They both had double-doubles controlling the boards, scoring inside, and blocking shots. They both will make their future college coach very happy.”

Embleton ended up with 18 points and Reeves 16 as the Royals won 69-59.

The Royals’ roster is made up of all underclassmen. So one would think they are a team built for the future, but Tyree knew all along that future was now.

“We have a great group of underclassmen in our program,” he said. “Our strength of schedule has really allowed our guys to grow throughout the season and mature. These guys are battle tested and relish the opportunity to be playing for a chance at states.”

Now it’s a rematch with Monessen. The Royals knocked off the Greyhounds in the WPIAL semifinals 61-49.

It’s another underclassman, Monessen freshman Devin Whitlock, who concerns Tyree.

“I know Devin Whitlock’s family and watched him grow up playing at the Monessen Civic Center,” he said. “He comes from a family of great athletes and now is making a name for himself. I really respect his game, and we will have to do a great job of containing him.”

Don Rebel hosts the Rebel Yell podcasts for HSSN.

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