When undefeated section records are on the line and first place is at stake, every aspect of the game has a tendency to become amplified.
It can be the loud, impassioned voices scattered across the crowd reverberating in the small confines of the Clairton gym, the back-and-forth banter in the first half between opposing point guards Bryon Clifford and Javon Brown, or players like Monessen's Luke Doptis diving into the second row of the stands for a ball with plenty of time remaining.
In a game -- a rivalry one, at that -- in which every small aspect seemed magnified, it was Clairton that was able to reap the rewards of a win that clearly meant a lot.
Clairton 56, Monessen 38
Clairton defeated Monessen 56-38 at home. (Video by Rebecca Droke; 1/19/2013)
Central Valley 63, West Allegheny 54
Central Valley takes on West Allegheny in Friday night high school basketball action. (Video by Lucas Good; 1/18/2013)
Vincentian Academy 73, Aquinas Academy 30
Vincentian Academy takes on Aquinas Academy during Friday night basketball action. (Video by Andrew Rush; 1/18/2012)
Mt. Lebanon 57, Canon-McMillan 23
Mt. Lebanon beat Canon-McMillan 57-23 in a Thursday night high school girls basketball game. (Video by Lake Fong; 1/17/2013)
The Bears got a game-high 15 points from Clifford and used big runs at the beginning of both halves to pave the way to a 56-38 victory against Monessen Friday in a matchup of teams that began the night with 4-0 records in Class A Section 3.
For first-year Clairton coach Matt Geletko, it was a game that carried added meaning, and he not only wanted his players to know that, but was pleased with how they responded.
"We stressed to them before the game that this was for first place in the section," Geletko said.
"We were both 4-0 coming into this game, so now we have a leg up on the section title. That's our first goal -- we're going to try to win the section, get into the semifinals and qualify for the state playoffs, then make a run at the WPIAL. I think this gives them a lot of confidence.
"It's a football rivalry and the guys get jacked up for it -- that's just how they are. It's going to carry a long way."
Titus Howard, a Pitt football commit playing his second game of the season, added 11 points and was an imposing defensive force down low. Tyler Boyd, another football star did not play.
Fueled by its boisterous student section, Clairton (7-3, 5-0) took control early. The Bears started with a 7-0 run and held the Greyhounds (5-9, 4-1) scoreless the first 3:18. Monessen answered by scoring eight consecutive points to take a 10-9 lead after two free throws from Doptis.
That proved to be one of the few times the Greyhounds would threaten what was mostly a comfortable Clairton lead.
The Bears extended their advantage to as many as 12 points beforetaking a 10-point lead at halftime. The deficit grew at times in the second half, and Monessen got no closer than 10. Overall, it was the kind of performance that has given the Bears an optimistic view of their chances the rest of the season.
"I really feel good about our team this year," Clifford said. "Once everyone gets back in sync, I really think that we're going to make our road to [the WPIAL finals] this year."
Brown scored a team-high 11 points for the Greyhounds, who entered the game on a four-game win streak, and guard Clintell Gillaspie scored 10.
Clairton, the No. 5-ranked team in Class A, held Monessen well below its season average of 54.4 points per game. It was one of manythings that bothered coach Joe Salvino about his team's performance.
"We can't play like that," he said. "If you're going to be a good team, you have to meet a challenge. We were challenged today and we couldn't meet it.
"I'm not talking about winning, because winning's not everything, but you don't quit and you don't give up and you meet the challenge."hsbasketball
Craig Meyer: email@example.com and Twitter: @craig_a_meyer. First Published January 19, 2013 5:00 AM