By Frank Rizzo
MONTICELLO January 19, 2001 Monticello boys coach Dick ONeill was more sober and critical and intense than usual in the course of Tuesdays Orange County Interscholastic Athletic Association (OCIAA) Division III game against Cornwall Tuesday night.
After his team pulled off a 72-66 win, ONeill ascribed his mood to his concern after a dreadful road loss to James I. ONeill the previous Friday and an unsatisfactory practice on Sunday.
ONeill was still ambivalent after the game, noting that his charges puzzle him sometimes.
Im trying to get them to match my intensity he said. We dont remain focused the entire game
our shot selections are bad at times.
Yet he admitted that this was a fun game to coach, and praised the performances of several players, including his promising soph point guard, Rickie Villegas.
The game started out as Monticello vs. Mike Early, as Cornwalls center, a Division I prospect, scored 11 points to lift the Green Dragons.
But Chris Robinson (eight points in the quarter), Villegas (two three-pointers), and center John DeGroat (six points) more than made up for Early, helping the Monties go on a 13-2 run and eventual 22-15 lead after one quarter.
Robinson continued to penetrate almost at will, scoring six in the second as did DeGroat and Early was held to one bucket as Monticello went into the locker room with a 43-30 lead.
But the third began ominously for the hosts, as the Green Dragons ran off eight points in a row and the Monties shooting went cold.
Monticello finally got on the board when Villegas threaded the lane and passed off to Sammie McGinnis for a layup with 4:44 remaining. McGinnis drew a foul and completed the three-point play to start a 12-2 Monticello run.
The Panthers lead grew to 15 before Cornwall closed the gap to 57-48 at quarters end.
The fourth provided anxious moments for Monticello. With 1:42 left Ryan Peters stole the ball and scored to bring the visitors to within 65-61.
Thirty seconds later, as the shot clock wound down to less than 10 seconds, Villegas launched a shot from three-point range and stunned himself and everybody else when it went in, sealing the win.
Cornwall had tightened its defense on this Monticello possession, and the Panthers had a hard time freeing a man.
I thought both teams played well tonight, said Cornwall coach Tom Howe. We had a hard time handling Monticellos quickness. In the first half they scored too many (close-in baskets) from their halfcourt offense.
The big difference in the second half, Howe continued, is that we had better help-side defense, and were able to stop their players from penetrating.
Monticello faces a difficult slate, with games against Class A Kingston Monday and Newburgh on Tuesday and Division III rival John S. Burke on January 30.
Kingston is the best team in the area right now, ONeill noted. And we play Burke at their place and its a TV game (on Cable 6) and we never play well when were televised.
He added, We have a real good solid schedule coming up. If that doesnt prepare us for the (Class B) tournament, then we have no excuses.
Robinson paced Monticello with 27 points and also in double digits were DeGroat (16), Villegas (13), and McGinnis (10).
DeGroat also had four blocks while Robinson had six steals. Phil Stewart dished out six assists, one more than Villegas.
Early (26), Sean Kramer (12), and Phil Missere (10) led Cornwall.