When Monessen High School's boys basketball team is playing well, few teams in the WPIAL are more enjoyable to watch. The Greyhounds blend athleticism, depth and great shooting with team-oriented players molded by veteran coach Joe Salvino.
Monessen ranks as one of Pennsylvania's more tradition-rich athletic programs, and the basketball team ranks among all-time WPIAL leaders in section titles, district titles and state championships.
Last year, Monessen won the WPIAL Class AA title and made it to the PIAA semifinals. This year, behind a balanced blend that includes point guard Jalen Madison, athletic wing Jaisen Irwin, Division I football prospect Chavas Rawlins and tough guy Earl Pinkney, Monessen once again is in the championship conversation.
Monessen, the Observer-Reporter's No. 1 Class AA team, is 20-1 - the lone loss by one point to Imani Christian, a charter school waiting on WPIAL membership. The Greyhounds take on all comers - be it Class AAAA powers or Class AAA traditional powers. And, behind the legendary Salvino, they normally win.
Over the past 43 games, Monessen is 41-2.
Monessen's racial makeup and the program's incredible success playing up in classification (remember the school is small even by Class A standards), sadly make them the occasional target of student sections. Such was the case when Monessen played a Section 3-AA game last Friday at predominantly white Brentwood.
When Monessen called the game results to the Observer-Reporter, I took the call and was told, "They don't like us up there. It was ugly."
Part of the conversation also included hearing how Rawlins, a quarterback being courted by numerous Division I programs, was run into the wall behind the basket by a Brentwood player and allegedly kneed. Rawlins returned to the game, but he mentioned being in pain following the game on his Twitter account.
Then, I read this column in the Valley Independent.
The story is gaining considerable momentum nationally and Monessen, deservedly so, wants answers for what happened. That's why parents of players turned to area television stations.