It ended the way it started, with Kennedy Catholic getting a player wide open under the basket.
Two dunks by Clay O’Dell and Mohamed Konate gave the Golden Eagles a 10-point lead with a minute and a half to play on their way to a 73-59 win against Monessen in the PIAA Class 1A semifinals Monday at Slippery Rock University. Kennedy Catholic jumped to a 20-14 lead in the first quarter by getting easy layups and will play Girard College in the final at 2 p.m. Thursday at the Giant Center in Hershey.
Monessen narrowly trailed, 51-49, entering the fourth quarter before Kennedy Catholic’s depth gave it an edge. The Greyhounds had appealed the ejection of 6-foot-5 forward Lyndon Henderson in their previous game, but the PIAA ruled Henderson could not play in the semifinal.
“These two guards as just as good as anyone we’ve played,” Kennedy Catholic coach Rick Mancino said of seniors Justice Rice and Jaden Altomore. “So I kind of think what broke it [is] we have a good experienced team. They were here last year, a lot of those kids, and the year before, but that’s kind of what happened and broke it open.”
Kennedy Catholic, the defending PIAA champion, used its height to see over Monessen’s pressing defense and get behind the Greyhounds, Mancino said.
The Golden Eagles had success feeding the ball to 6-8 forward Marcin Wiszomirski, who finished with 14 points.
“I saw them two times but always sat in the stands,” Mancino said. “But on the floor, I looked at them and was like ‘We’re a little bit bigger.’ And we started going inside a bit, but that made a difference.”
Further into the first quarter, Monessen started getting back on defense but couldn’t stop Kennedy Catholic from dominating in the paint.
In the second quarter, layups by Vaughn Taylor and Isaiah Allums cut Monessen’s deficit to 20-18 seven minutes before halftime. A 3-pointer by Cory Fleming made it 22-21, and the Greyhounds kept chasing the lead with another 3 by Fleming a minute later.
Rice stole the ball and Fleming hit his third 3 in a row to give Monessen a 30-28 lead with 2:53 left in the second quarter. The Greyhounds carried a 33-32 lead into halftime.
With 3:41 left in the third quarter, Fleming made another 3-pointer to maintain a narrow lead before two layups and a free throw by Wiszomirski gave Kennedy Catholic a 45-42 lead. Monessen would not back off, and a layup and free throw by Rice put them within two points, 51-49, entering the fourth.
A 3-pointer by Altomore made it 53-52 before the Golden Eagles pulled away. Layups by Maceo Austin and Konate gave Kennedy Catholic a 10-point lead.
The Greyhounds couldn’t get their shots to fall and fell behind further after dunks by O’Dell and Konate.
“And I honestly believe that our legs weren’t there, either,” Monessen coach Joe Salvino said. “Justice and Jaden I don’t think ever left the floor, so that takes its toll, especially against a team like that.”
Rice finished with 18 points and Altomore followed with 16 points for the Greyhounds.