Vincentian Academy boys defeat Monessen to reach PIAA Class A championship

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Monday, March 18, 2019 | 10:02 PM


Ethan Embleton led the fast-break and found teammate Angelo Reeves crashing in from the weak side toward the basket.

Embleton tossed the ball up, and Reeves finished it with an emphatic dunk to put Vincentian Academy ahead by a dozen and send the Royals’ fans into a state of delirium.

Reeves’ dunk ended up as the game’s final field goal as Vincentian overcame a slow opening quarter to defeat Monessen, 57-43, in a PIAA Class A semifinal Monday at Mt. Lebanon.

“The alley-oop, I just knew the game was over,” Reeves said. “We had so much momentum.”

Vincentian (20-8) advances to Thursday’s state title game against Sankofa Freedom Academy at 2 p.m. at Giant Center in Hershey.

Monessen’s season ended at 18-10. It was the Greyhounds’ second straight defeat at the hands of Vincentian as the Royals knocked off Monessen, 61-49, in the WPIAL semifinals Feb. 25.

Vincentian’s march to the state title game is all the more impressive given its roster bereft of seniors. Reeves, a sophomore, led the Royals with 16 points, and juniors Nate Cullo and Embleton chipped in 13 and 11, respectively.

“It really says a lot about the kids that we have in our program,” said Vincentian coach Tim Tyree, himself a Monessen graduate. “High-character kids, kids that come in and work every day, great in the classroom. They’re able to go out there and really respond to what myself and the staff is out there coaching them up to do.”

On Monday, that coaching meant staying in a half-court zone defense in an attempt to take away Monessen’s athleticism inside and force it to shoot from the outside. It worked as the Greyhounds made just one 3-point shot on the night, coming from the hand of freshman standout Devin Whitlock.

“(Whitlock) is a tremendous athlete,” Tyree said. “When he gets going in transition or in the half-court, he brings a lot of momentum to the team. You gotta cut the snake off by the head.”

The 5-foot-7 Whitlock led all scorers with 18 points, but no other Monessen player reached double figures.

“Shots weren’t falling, and we struggled with that all game,” Monessen coach Dan Bosnic said. “We didn’t do a good enough job with our pressure. We were a step behind today. We didn’t have the same energy and intensity that we played with over the past couple weeks, and it was the difference in the game.”

The Royals led 45-33 after three quarters.

Monessen thrice cut the deficit to eight in the final quarter, and was within 53-43 after a pair of Dishon Howell free throws with 2:10 to play before Reeves’ dunk sealed the contest.

Vincentian led 28-25 at the half, and its lead swelled to 42-29 with a 12-2 run in the third quarter. Matt McDonough’s 3-pointer with five seconds to go in the third quarter gave Vincentian a 45-33 lead heading into the fourth.

“We usually pick it up in the second half,” Reeves said. “I’d say we’re more of a second-half team, but we play together. We don’t usually play selfish.”

The Greyhounds led 13-8 after one quarter, but Cullo scored six points as part of a 12-3 run to end the opening half as the Royals led 28-25 at the intermission.

“We historically start slow,” Tyree said. “We just always come out lethargic. I don’t know if we’re kind of just surveying to see what they’re doing, but we start slow, so it’s on us. We never really panicked, we just remain calmed and collected, and got back into the game in the second quarter.”

Monessen jumped out to a quick 6-0 lead, and Whitlock tallied the final seven points of the frame as the Hounds led 13-8 after the first quarter. But the Royals took the lead with 2:01 to go in the first half and never relinquished it.

“They’re a talented team, and we struggled when we did have open opportunities to score the basketball,” Bosnic said. “I thought the biggest part of that game was rebounding the basketball and our intensity on defense. We just didn’t have it today. We were a step slow with everything we did, and it wasn’t to the level that we needed it to be.”

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