Monessen takes another step
MONACA — Excuse Major Corley if his voice sounds hoarse these next few days.
Corley constantly pleaded with his players during Wednesday’s PIAA playoff game while frantically pointing out their should-be defensive positions: “Get your man! Get back! Slide down! You’re too far out!”
“It wasn’t criticism; it was to show them where they were and who was behind them,” Corley explained. “We just learned the 1-1-3 and the 2-2-1 press yesterday and put them in.”
Ironically, the only player that didn’t make Corley jump and shout was the one who drew a standing ovation from the entire gym. Charel Allen and her 32 points carried Monessen through a 49-42 victory over Kennedy Catholic at Beaver County Community College and into the quarterfinals Saturday versus Coudersport (28-1).
Allen not only hit 3,000 career points in the first quarter, she scored two thirds of her team’s points and hit 13 of the Lady Hounds’ 14 free throws — including 5-of-6 down the stretch.
“If they were going to get beat, it was going to be Charel who beat them,” Corley said. “They were holding everybody else down and we got three offensive rebounds if we were lucky.”
Monessen may have won, but Kennedy Catholic dictated the pace while suffocating the Lady Hounds’ run-and-gun offense. The other five Monessen players totaled 17 points, with Nychole Whitlock scoring seven of those.
After hitting her first two shots, Allen misfired twice before pumping in a mid-range jumper with 2:07 remaining in the first quarter to reach the 3,000-point mark for her career. Allen would be the only player to truly shine under the dimly lit Beaver Dome, appearing poised and confident with each drive or pull-up jumper.
“When you’ve got a big cannon and you’re in a war, you better shoot it,” Corley said.
“I always say if Charel can offset the two top scorers on the other team, we have a good chance of winning.”
Good thing for Monessen that Allen came through, because Kennedy Catholic — led by senior swingman Leah Mastrian (15 points) and sophomore center Kendra Radkowski (11) — refused to retreat.
The Lady Golden Eagles had one guard constantly shadow Allen. When Allen had the ball, the other four defenders closed in toward the paint. When Allen dished off, usually to Whitlock along the perimeter, Kennedy Catholic instantly switched into a tight man-to-man.
“We had four different defensive plans coming in and the one we started with, we stayed with the entire game,” Mastrian admitted. “Allen is such a slasher, we knew we needed more than one person helping when she penetrated. It worked exactly how we had hoped.”
Twice, the Lady Hounds built a 10-point advantage only to watch the Lady Golden Eagles respond. The second time, Allen stopped and popped a perfect jumper to put the Lady Hounds up, 35-25, midway through the third quarter.
Mastrian and reserve guard Heather Brooks answered with back-to-back 3-pointers to rush back within four. Between the treys, Allen was knocked to the floor going for a fast-break lay-up. Her defender landed on top of her, but no foul was called.
A subsequent lay-up from center Kendra Radkowski cut the deficit to 35-33, but Kennedy would never inch closer. It just seemed that way.
“If we got into a running game with them, I felt we were going to push too much and our legs would get tired,” Mastrian said. “I told them to stay calm. That’s what we did and we were able to keep the game pretty close because of it.”
On the other end, even Monessen’s most experienced players looked like bewildered freshmen trying to defend the methodical Lady Golden Eagle offense. At times, their guards worked closer to mid-court than the perimeter.
“I didn’t want to freeze the ball, but I wanted to slow it down and look for a good shot,” Mastrian said. “The thing that hurt us the most was a few times we had nice easy shots, but we shot it too hard, almost waiting for them to block it.”
Trailing 42-37 with two minutes remaining, Kennedy Catholic got three straight chances to score, but no shots fell. They were forced to foul Allen and put Monessen into the bonus.
Due to the close score, Allen’s historic milestone didn’t even sink in to Corley, a coach in his 18th year who has just one focus: Hershey. Maybe then, Corley will have a good reason to shout.
“I put a smile on and every once in awhile I give a high-five,” Corley said. “But if we get to the Western finals and win, then I might jump off the bench.”
NOTES: Coudersport was a 51-39 winner over Farrell … With 3,027 points, Allen needs 29 more to pass East Allegheny’s Brooke Stewart (3,055 points) to secure second place on the WPIAL girls’ scoring list … Corley declined comment, but the Lady Hounds appeared to miss guard Charrisse Bassett. The sophomore did not make the trip after missing practices this week, but could be back Saturday if she makes all practices beforehand.