Boys Basketball: 2017 WPIAL Class 1A Championship Preview - Monessen vs. Imani Christian

Written by Brad Everett on .

The game: WPIAL Class 1A championship
The teams: Monessen vs. Imani Christian
Where and when: Petersen Events Center, Thursday, 7 p.m.

Monessen Greyhounds
Record: 17-7
Seed: No. 1
Coach: Joe Salvino
WPIAL titles: 7 (1919, 1923, 1995, 2001, 2002, 2011, 2015)
Last time in WPIAL final: 2015
How they got here: (Quarterfinals) Defeated Eden Christian, 79-61; (Semifinals) Defeated Union, 88-64.
Scoring offense: 79.7 points per game
Scoring defense: 55.6 points per game
What you should know: Monessen was penciled in as the championship favorite in the preseason and has done nothing to suggest that it isn't the team to beat. The Greyhounds are unbeaten against 1A teams and lead the WPIAL in scoring with 79.7 points per game. That offense has been on point in the postseason. The Greyhounds scored 79 points in the quarterfinals and 88 in the semifinals to reach the title game for the third time in four years. The outstanding senior guard tandem of Justice Rice and Jaden Altomore has led the way all season.
Player to watch: Justice Rice. You could say Rice was cooking in the semifinal win against Union. Rice poured in a career-high 38 points to vault Monessen back to the title game. That came after he scored 22 in the quarterfinals. He's averaging 19 points this season. Rice started on the 2015 team and led the Greyhounds with 22 points in a 73-57 championship win against Jeannette.

Imani Christian Saints
Record: 15-6
Seed: No. 3
Coach: Anwan Wesley
WPIAL titles: 0
Last time in WPIAL final: First appearance
How they got here: (First round) Defeated Avella, 74-45; (Quarterfinals) Defeated Cornell, 92-57; Defeated Vincentian, 80-71.
Scoring offense: 70.6 points per game
Scoring defense: 61.5 points per game
What you should know: Welcome to the big time, Imani Christian. In only their third season being postseason eligible, the Saints have marched to their first final. It's been a big turnaround, too. Just a season ago, the Saints finished 3-14. Kenny Robinson, a transfer from University Prep, has played a big role in the surge. He's fueled a strong offense that ranks third in 1A in scoring with 70.6 points per game. After winning their first two postseason by lopsided margins, the Saints rallied from an 11-point deficit in the fourth quarter to knock off No. 2 Vincentian.
Player to watch: Kenny Robinson. A West Virginia football recruit, Robinson has been instrumental in the school's success on the basketball court. He's led the Saints in scoring all three playoff games, scoring 25 in the first round, 27 in the quarterfinals and 19 in the semifinals. For the season, Robinson averages 25 points a game, which ranks first among all 1A players.

Prediction: Monessen 90, Imani Christian 75