MONESSEN – Heading into Class 2A Section 4 action Friday night, Carmichaels, Monessen and Jefferson-Morgan sat tied atop the league with identical 2-0 records.
Thanks to its hard-fought 65-59 win over the visiting Mikes, Monessen remains unbeaten and tied with J-M in first place.
“We,” Monessen coach Dan Bosnic said referring to himself and his assistants, Craig Rice and Jack Howell, “are proud of our kids. They played really hard, and we beat a good Carmichaels team tonight, so we are happy.
“Our kids, on offense, were unselfish and that is a big thing for us. They feed off each other when they do those things.”
Carmichaels coach Ian McCombs talked about what he thought was the deciding factor.
“It was a hard-fought game, and we knew it was an important game,” he said. “Both teams came out and played their guts out but ultimately they grabbed a couple more rebounds late and that was the difference in a six-point game.”
Monessen (3-0, 6-4) jumped out to a 15-8 lead after one quarter, but Carmichaels used a 20-12 advantage in the second to take a 28-27 lead into halftime.
The Mikes (2-1, 7-3) took a 37-33 lead two minutes into the second half on a pair of free throws by Chris Barrish, but Monessen countered with a 12-3 run that was sparked by five quick points from Kody Kuhns in a brief stretch before Barrish hit two more free throws to end the quarter with Monessen leading 45-42.
While the teams combined for 32 points in the third, they each turned the ball over seven times.
Monessen slowly built an eight-point lead, 59-51, with 2:14 to play in the game, but the Mikes chipped away and trimmed their deficit to 60-57 on a Tyler Richmond basket with 51 seconds to go.
A Lorenzo Gardner layup gave Monessen a 62-57 lead, but Mike Stewart answered with a basket to make it a one-possession contest again with 29 seconds remaining.
After a Carmichaels miss, Gardner was fouled and calmly made both of his free-throw attempts with 18 seconds to play and Kuhns closed the scoring with a free throw.
Carmichaels, which made five three-pointers over the second and third quarters, rimmed out several shots in the fourth.
“We didn’t miss by much,” McCombs said. “It seemed they were going all the way in and then trickling out, but that’s the way the game goes as some bounces go your way and some don’t.”
“(Drake) Long, Barrish and Richmond are really good players, but we wanted to take them out to different spots on the court,” Bosnic said. “As the game wore on, we made changes to hopefully make things tougher on them.”
Barrish made all eight of his free throws and the Mikes hit 15 of their 16 attempts from the line while Monessen only made six of its 15.
“We know they are aggressive on defense, and whenever it came down to the end we know we have good foul shooters,” McCombs said. “I am proud of us on several levels, and one is at the line.”
Bosnic talked about how his team countered the hot free throw shooting of the Mikes.
“They were able to get to the line, I just think our kids overcame a tough challenge and we are proud of how they came together,” he said. “Late in the game, we got a lot of second opportunities from rebounding the basketball.”
Gardner scored a game-high 27 points and was joined in double figures by Kuhns (14) and Jaisean Blackman (11) while Long (20), Barrish (17) and Richmond (14) did the same for Carmichaels.
“(Monessen) has a little bit of a height advantage on us so we will have to have better position and box out when we get them at home,” McCombs said. “We have to keep them off the boards and make sure that each possession is only one shot.
“With Jefferson Tuesday, it is another important game, so we are going to look at what we can improve on from today and see some things we can take with ourselves to get ready (for the Rockets).”