Monessen locks down Ellwood
Monessen (61) Vs. Ellwood City (38)
Feb 25, 2011
By JOE SIMON
CANONSBURG — Pick an Ellwood City Lincoln player, any player. It doesn’t matter because every one of them tried it all.
They dribbled to their left, back to their right, pump-faked, head-faked, set screens, crossed over, jump-stopped, used the pick-and-roll and attempted any other basketball move that’s out there.
No matter what the Ellwood players did, a Monessen defender was right in his face.
A swarming defensive effort by the Greyhounds led them to a 61-38 victory last night in the first round of the WPIAL Class AA playoffs.
The Wolverines (12-11) hung tough with a team that boasted superior size and athleticism at nearly every position — for the first quarter. The Bulldogs (20-4) began the second stanza on a 9-2 run and took a 35-17 lead into halftime.
Monessen’s defenders utilized their speed and size to force nine turnovers in the decisive quarter, and their on-the-ball defense was smothering throughout the game.
“It did unravel,” said Wolverines coach Al Campman of the second quarter. “You know they’re going to make a run. We tried to use a few timeouts, tried to change the defenses, but their ball pressure really took us out. If you could put a circle around something, that was it.”
The Bulldogs held Ellwood City’s leading scorer, Ryan Horgan, to four points (he came in averaging 14.4 per game). Second-leading scorer Gino Ceriani produced three points (he averaged 10.4). A fast-paced team such as the Wolverines never had a chance to get on the run because someone was always stripping the ball, squaring up a defender or jumping over top for a rebound.
“I don’t think it was a matter of us playing badly, it was how good they are,” Campman said of Monessen. “They were strong, tall — everything — and they guard the ball hard, they guard the ball real hard.”
Monessen, which plays Jeannette (15-6) tomorrow, possesses nine players more than 6-foot tall, and four of them are 6-5 or bigger. The Greyhounds also rotate as many 10 players a game, and because that depth has been called on all season, the reserves are as experienced and smart as the starters, coach Joe Salvino said.
They’re also just as athletic, which made the Greyhounds’ defense nearly impenetrable.
“Our defense is a team concept,” said Salvino, who recorded his 500th career victory last night. “It’s not one person. Everyone has to play their role. With the amount of kids we play, that wears some teams down a little bit. It just seemed like our defense was forcing turnovers, like it should, and that created easy buckets for us.”
Ellwood City trailed by as many as 23 in the second half, but it cut the deficit to 17 at one point, thanks in large part to Brandon Lucarelli and Marcus McCowin. Lucarelli led all scorers with 13 points, while McCowin came off the bench to register 10. Yet, the Greyhounds found a way to create a turnover or score on a second-chance opportunity every time Ellwood City started to make a run.
Monessen senior point guard Nick Boilas played well on both sides of the ball. He tied Earl Pinkney for a team-best 12 points as the Greyhounds received scoring from 10 different players.
“They’re a terrific team,” Campman said. “They have a great point guard. It starts with that, and after the point guard, they have guys who know their roles offensively. It just comes down to that’s a darn good team.”
Despite the loss, the Wolverines did have a successful first season under Campman, who returned to coaching after 10 years away from the sport. They made the playoffs for the first time since 2000-01, Campman’s last season with Ellwood City.
“We only practiced together three months and five days, that’s it,” said Campman, who was hired two months before the season started.
“They’re used to doing things differently with every coach, so they had to learn the demands of the coaching staff. But I think they learned what those demands are, because not once did they embarrass us on the floor. Those are the things that you’re proud of, and they played the game the right way.”