MONROEVILLE – Bishop Carroll head coach Cosie Aliquo exited the Huskies’ locker room at Gateway High School following their PIAA boys basketball playoff game Tuesday night, wiped the sweat off his forehead and grinned.
He was in a much better mood than about 30 minutes earlier.
After seeing his team trail by 10 points with 1:10 remaining in the third quarter and the officials not calling a single foul on Monessen, Aliquo erupted in a heated tirade directed at the lead official and was assessed a technical foul.
He stomped his foot on the floor, pointed at the referee and screamed his displeasure of the way the game was being called. The Huskies did not have a foul called in their favor to that point in the second half and he was displeased with Monessen’s forwards manhandling Bishop Carroll’s players in the low post.
After Aliquo received the technical foul, his players responded to the usually mild-mannered coach’s actions. Bishop Carroll went on a 22-0 run over a span of 4:31 and forced Monessen into missed shots on the Huskies’ way to a 69-65 win in a PIAA Class A second round playoff game.
Bishop Carroll (27-0), the District 6 champioin, advances to the quarterfinals, where it will face North Catholic. Monessen’s season comes to an end with a 21-7 record.
Huskies junior forward Nik Suckinos, who finished with 14 points, made three three-point shots during the run and credited his coach with sparking the team when their state playoff title hopes looked grim.
“The run was huge,” Suckinos said. “Any time you get a run like that, it’s a good thing. Coach’s technical fired us up and got us going. It kind of turned the game around.”
The run gave Bishop Carroll leading 65-53 with 3:31 remaining in regulation.
During the scoreless run, Monessen turned to the three-point shot to extend the lead. After hitting six in the first half, the Greyhounds showed a reviberating confidence from behind the arc. It backfired in the second half, when they made only three-pointer and the Huskies capitalized on opportunities.
“That third quarter killed us,” Monessen head coach Joe Salvino said. “We stopped pushing the ball up the court and were trying for three-point shots. Those didn’t fall and we didn’t need to be trying to score that fast. We had the lead and just forced the issue.”
In the first half, Monessen drove the ball into the paint, drew Bishop Carroll’s Marcus Lee into foul trouble and forced turnovers.
Once they gained the lead, and after Aliquo’s tirade had the Bishop Carroll bench on its feet, Huskies leading scorer Brandon Martinazzi, who finished with a game-high 28 points, began making open shots. Martinazzi, who leads Bishop Carroll in scoring, averaging more than 19 points per game, shook off a tough first half while Lee sat on the bench with foul trouble.
“They’re a very quick team,” Aliquo said. “They started missing shots and we started hitting them. They are no different than any other team we’ve faced this season, but they are quicker. They are a good ballclub and we knew we’d have to scrap for a win to advance. Our guys didn’t give up.”
In the closing minutes, and with Monessen trailing by six points, the Greyhounds took too long to foul the Huskies because of Martinazzi, who entered the game having missed only three free throws all season. While attempting to foul another player, time ran out for Monessen.
Despite the devastating loss, Salvino was pleased with the effort his team has shown during its playoff run.
“I’m not mad,” Salvino said. “No one thought Monessen was going to even make the WPIAL title game, let alone the second round of the state playoffs. Sometimes, it’s a team’s time and tonight was our time. I’m happy with the season, even though we didn’t reach our ultimate goal.”