Class A boys: Monessen beats Vincentian at its own game

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When high-scoring Vincentian took on Monessen in a WPIAL Class A semifinal Tuesday night, one of the teams broke a WPIAL playoff record for most points in a game.

Surprisingly, it wasn't Vincentian.

In a game that might have been faster than even Vincentian is used to, Monessen got a big effort from its star player and career performances from two freshmen to defeat the Royals, 110-99, at Montour.

The loss by the defending champion and No. 2 seed Royals (22-3) means a new king will be crowned in Class A. Monessen (20-5), the No. 3 seed, will take on No. 1 Lincoln Park Friday in the final at Palumbo Center.

Not only was Monessen's total the highest in WPIAL playoff history, but the teams combined for the most points in a WPIAL playoff game.

Asked if he had ever played in a game that frantic, Monessen's Clintell Gillaspie replied, "No. Never."

Gillaspie poured in a game-high 32 points, including 17 in the first 10 minutes.

But, like it was for most players, foul trouble became a major obstacle for Gillaspie. There were 32 fouls called in the first half, and he picked up his third with 5:17 left in the second quarter. He was forced to the bench with Monessen leading, 35-27, and did not play again until the third quarter.

With Gillaspie out, Monessen's unheralded freshman guards came off the bench and shined on the big stage. Justice Rice scored 11 of his 22 points in the second quarter -- he added eight more in the third -- and Jaden Altomore scored 18.

"I knew coming into the game, I'd have to step up," Rice said. "I couldn't sit back and let the starters handle everything. When Clintell went down, that just pushed me 10 times harder."

Vincentian coach George Yokitis said he didn't expect the hefty scoring numbers from Monessen's freshman tandem.

"They played with ice in their veins. And against us, it's sort of hard to play because we're around them all the time. Those kids looked like they were seniors," Yokitis said.

A poor-shooting effort might have been Vincentian's biggest problem. The Royals struggled early on and didn't get much better as the game progressed.

Vincentian, which averages a WPIAL-high 92 points per game, was led by Jim Kenna's 22.

Other semifinal

■ Lincoln Park 75, North Catholic 58: Maverick Rowan's 35 points helped No. 1 Lincoln Park reach the championship for the fourth time in five years with a victory against No. 4 Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic (15-10) at Montour. Lincoln Park led by just one after the first quarter, but went ahead by seven at halftime and then slowly pulled away. Rowan has scored 95 points in three playoff games. "I'm trying to continue to play well and help my team play well. That's how we got here," he said. Elijah Minnie and Nelly Cummings chipped in 16 points apiece for Lincoln Park, and Dom Robb paced North Catholic with 27.

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