WPIAL baseball teams head south for pivotal preparation
The WPIAL baseball is just getting underway and while we are a few weeks away from section play, next weekend's opening slate of games will help determine which teams will compete for a playoff spot.
Teams like Peters Township are heading to Myrtle Beach to play some of the best competition in the country and as is the case with many teams, will need to figure out their strengths and weaknesses, as well as carving out roles for players. These tournaments may not hold much merit when it comes time for playoff seeding, but how a team responds to playing this competition could spark a run.
Last year, Canon-McMillan struggled at the Cal Ripken Tournament in Myrtle Beach, but they responded perfectly. The Big Macs found its strength on the mound and position players accepted their roles. The result was a section title and a push in the Class AAAA playoffs. Peters Township head coach Joe Maize praised Canon Mac's Frank Zebrasky for his ability to bring the Big Macs together. As is the case with a lot of coaches in WPIAL baseball, Maize struggled with the task of getting players to accept their roles and to put team success before individual performance.
The size of a baseball roster requires some players to see limited playing time or playing time in particular situations. Teams need to accept what it takes to battle for a section title and after the Indians missed the playoffs because of player reluctance, Maize took full blame.
"That was my fault for not getting the message across to some of the players and some of the parents the last couple of years," Maize said. "There were too many people worried about playing time issues. I try to play people as much as I can and when some werenít playing, negative things came and you could feel it. It wasnít a bad attitude, but sometimes when kids are sitting in the dugout pouting, that rubs off."
The lack of team-first mentality led to the Indians missing the playoffs for only the second time in 16 years. Another aspect of next weekend's tournament play that will play a pivotal role once section games begin is how coaches prepare their team for the inevitable spring weather in Western Pennsylvania. With rain expected to postpone games, teams will be forced to play three days in a row and sometimes four. How coaches juggle their starting rotation, as well as the rest of their lineup, is critical for a playoff run.
Some see these trips to Myrtle Beach or Florida as an excuse for the kids to get a nice vacation, while starting the exhibition season, but these games often say a lot about what is to come in WPIAL baseball.
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Monessen's 2013-14 season is one to remember
|Monessen junior Noah Rullo|
Once again, there was Monessen holding their own against one of the stateís top Class A teams and through three quarters, more than held their own. The Greyhounds held a 10-point advantage with 1:10 remaining in the third quarter before Bishop Carroll went on a 22-0 run.
The Huskiesí scoring onslaught lasted over four minutes and they did not miss a shot during that span. On the other hand, Monessen could not find an answer. Instead of continuing to push the ball up the court and find the open man, the team forced three-point shots and unlike the first half, the shots did not fall.
Up until that run began, it seemed all but guaranteed that Monessen would advance to the PIAA quarterfinals. Bishop Carrollís Marcus Lee, who was excelling on the defensive end and grabbed 14 rebounds, recorded his fourth fall at the end of the third quarter. Without Lee and with the Greyhoundsí offense truly excelling for the first time since they defeated Vincentian in the WPIAL semifinals, most thought the game was in the bag.
Bishop Carroll had other plans and front and center for the Huskies was junior guard Brandon Martinazzi, who scored a game-high 28 points and is the teamís leading scorer this season.
Martinazzi could not miss in the second half of Tuesday nightís game. He averaged over 19 points per game entering the contest and reinforced his standing as one of the best point guards in Class A.
He is truly a player you cannot ignore. When he was given the slightest room to hoist a shot, he drained it Ė hitting mid-range jumpers and driving to the net on the baseline.
You have to hand it to Monessen. The team is built around a group of football players who were still learning the game of basketball. Greyhounds head coach Joe Salvino believed the lack of true basketball knowledge led to the 22-0 run. His team did not need to speed up their offense, but needed to slow down and approach the game the same way for 32 minutes. Their response to the Huskiesí awakening on offense was reactionary. Instead of playing their game, they attempted to outrun their opponent and turned to the three-point shot.
Unfortunately for Monessen, there is little room for error against a team like Bishop Carroll, who may not have the athleticism of Lincoln Park, but are a sound group of players with state playoff experience. The season may not have ended with a state title for the Greyhounds, but this season will be one to remember for the school and the program.
No one expected them to reach the WPIAL title game, let alone the second round of the state playoffs. When the WPIAL playoffs began, I asked many people how Monessen stacked up against Vincentian. I was laughed at for believing the Greyhounds could defeat the Royals. Well, Clintell Gillaspie, Javon Brown, Justice Rawlins and a solid core of role players proved the basketball community wrong.
Itís nothing new for Monessen basketball. Read full post: Monessen's 2013-14 season is one to remember