MONESSEN – Luke Doptis isn’t content with where the Monessen High School boys basketball team is right now.
But he won’t deny that things are a lot more enjoyable than they used to be, that’s for sure.
Doptis led Monessen with 19 points during Tuesday’s 69-35 rout of Carmichaels, the Greyhounds’ fourth straight win – following a 1-8 start – all over section opponents, all blowouts.
“We dug ourselves a hole,” Doptis said. “But we’re working our way out of it. We’re not completely where we want to be. Our goal is to win section, get a high seed in the playoffs and we’ll go from there.”
Judging by Tuesday night’s game, which Monessen led by 40 less than two minutes into the second half, that seems like a fairly reasonable goal.
Especially considering Monessen (4-0, 5-8) has won its four Section 3-A games by an average of 41 points. Oh, and the Greyhounds have been to the WPIAL playoffs a record 31 consecutive times.
On Tuesday, Monessen set out to limit Brandon Lawless, who scored a career-high 39 points during a 76-50 win over Geibel last Friday.
Monessen wanted to hold Lawless to less than 10 points. Though Lawless finished with 12, they all came in the second half.
“We really wanted to focus on him, shut him down,” Doptis said. “We did.”
Monessen forced Carmichaels into 24 turnovers, 14 of those coming in the first half. Justice Rawlins had a team-high 10 steals, and Clintell Gillaspie added eight.
“I thought our defense created everything we got done,” Monessen coach Joe Salvino said.
The Greyhounds swarmed Carmichaels with a full-court press while holding a 9-7 lead three minutes into the first quarter.
What happened next was a 19-0 run that pushed Monessen in front, 28-7, following a 3-pointer from Doptis, his third in less than nine minutes.
“Our first eight games, defense was terrible,” said Gillaspie, who contributed 14 points, 11 after halftime. “We just kept picking it up. We just kept saying, ‘Defense, defense, pressure, pressure.’ “
“We rushed them, full-court press,” Gillaspie added. “They couldn’t get the ball up the court.”
Which is awful similar to what happened to Monessen during losses to Chartiers Valley, Franklin Regional, Norwin and Jeannette, among others.
The Greyhounds struggled to put together a complete game and, at times, lacked the effort Salvino wanted.
They also were unable to stop anybody, with all but one of those eight teams scoring 65 or more points. (The Greyhounds’ only win was a forfeit over Imani Christian.)
“We weren’t communicating at all, not switching on picks,” Gillaspie said. “Nothing.”
It was an ugly stretch, to be sure, though one Salvino knows will help his team come playoff time. Now, they’re working on making that win-loss column look a bit more palatable.
“We’ve build a little bit of confidence,” Salvino said, “and the players are starting to understand what I want ... what needs to be done.”
Tyler Yuille finished with 11 points and 12 rebounds, while Rawlins added 10 boards. Freshman Nicademus Payne had a strong game with 10 points and six rebounds. Besides Lawless, Josh Mundell finished with eight points for Carmichaels (2-2, 11-3).