The Monessen boys basketball team barely escaped the PIAA Class A playoffs’ first round Friday when it played Erie First Christian Academy at Chartiers Valley.
The Greyhounds (21-6) overcame early turnovers, forced shots and missed layups before fighting their way into overtime. Monessen head coach Joe Salvino admits the Greyhounds “dodged a bullet” with the 87-78 double-overtime victory. They were able to hold on for an appearance in the second round, but their opponent tonight at Gateway High School is a more polished, playoff-tested team with a history of excellence on the basketball court: Bishop Carroll (26-0), the District 6 champion.
“We were lucky,” Salvino said. “We were lucky that we were able to do that against Erie First. If we play that way through the whole course of the game, I don’t know how good of a contest the game will actually be, but we were lucky to make some shots that didn’t fall in the beginning and I thought our mental attitude had a lot to do with that.”
Led by 6-6 senior forward Marcus Lee, who averages 16.7 points and 7.5 rebounds per game, as well as senior guard Brandon Martinazzi’s 19.8 points per game, Bishop Carroll averages 70.5 points per game and are ready to redeem last year’s loss in the state playoffs to Lincoln Park.
Fielding a roster of four players who are 6-5 or taller – Lee (6-6), junior Scott Holsinger (6-8), junior Darrin Weinzierl (6-5) and senior Nick Burk (6-5) – Bishop Carroll has rolled through its schedule with 26 straight wins and advanced to the second round with an 81-42 victory over Clarion-Limestone.
While the Huskies return a vast majority of their roster from last year’s state playoff run and have a size advantage over Monessen, Salvino is not overly concerned with Bishop Carroll’s play. After seeing his team come close to losing to EFCA, the 31-year head coach is focused on the Greyhounds’ desire for competing in the PIAA playoffs.
“The thing it comes down to in the state playoffs is how much more basketball do you really want to play,” Salvino said. “Sometimes, after you have made this run and have made it to the WPIAL championships, whether you win or lose, it’s do I want to do this all over again? Some kids don’t want to do it. I’ve seen a lot of teams lose in the state playoffs because of that.”
Salvino and Monessen are trying to avoid being the next in line. He gathered his team before practice and stated his concerns by boldly asking the group, “Do we want to move on?”
Preparation for the District 6 opponent has not revolved around the Huskies’ style of play. Salvino has not watched a minute of video on Bishop Carroll. Instead, he is insisting his team make the decision whether they want to advance to the PIAA quarterfinals or pack it in.
“These days, with young players, it’s more mental than physical,” Salvino said. “It’s how are you going to mentally prepare yourself for each and every game now? It’s not whatever other teams do, it’s what Monessen basketball is going to be able to do.”
Aeschbacher picks A-B
Carmichaels senior wide receiver Ty Aeschbacher, an Observer-Reporter Elite 11 selection this fall and forward on the Mikes’ basketball team, decided to wait until after basketball season to pick what college he would attend to continue his football career.
Aeschbacher made it official last week when he informed the coaches at Alderson-Broaddus, a member of NCAA Division II’s Great Midwest Athletic Conference, that he would be attending the school in Philippi, W.Va.
Aeschbacher’s 2013 football season will not be forgotten anytime soon. The 6-0 wide receiver ranked third in the WPIAL with 62 receptions for 971 yards and 17 touchdowns. He had at least one touchdown in nine of the Mikes’ 10 games and caught six passes for 215 yards and three touchdowns in the season-opener against Carmichaels’ biggest rival, Jefferson-Morgan.
“He’s the ultimate competitor,” Carmichaels head coach Ryan Krull said. “He has the ‘it’ factor. When the lights come on, he really steps his game up. He’s got the skillset to play at the next level and I’m sure that he’ll perfect the things he was average at, or good at, to become great. He’s the kind of kid who wants to get better.”
Wise excels at Indoor Championships
Wash High’s Alyssa Wise, who won PIAA Class AA titles in the 100- and 200-meter dashes last year, has continued her dominance as a sprinter during the indoor track season.
At the TSTCA Championships held Feb. 22 at Edinboro University, Wise finished first in the 60-meter dash with a time of 7.77 and third in the 200-meter dash in 26.41.
Other Washington County athletes excelled at the TSTCA Championships, which is the indoor track and field season’s marquee event. Canon-McMillan’s girls 4x200-meter relay team placed second and in the boys competition, South Fayette’s Ryan Landa and Mitch Valko earned top-three finishes.
Landa finished third in the one mile with a time of 4:29.13 and Valko earned second place in the 60-meter hurdles with a time of 8:05. Canon-McMillan’s distance medley team captured second place and C-M’s Alec Rideout placed third in the shot put.
The WPIAL’s outdoor track and field season begins March 27.