By Jeanne Sager
JEFFERSONVILLE December 11, 2001 Friday nights match-up between Sullivan West (1-1) and Monticello (2-1) probably wasnt the outcome SW Co-coaches Bob Menges and Rick Ellison were hoping for in the Bulldogs first game in their new home.
The newly-formed Bulldogs of Sullivan West which for the first year is made up of boys from the Delaware Valley, Narrowsburg and Jeffersonville-Youngsville campuses dropped a hard-fought non-league game to the visiting Panthers, 73-53.
For the first half, the teams seemed to pace each other, with senior John DeGroat dunking and racking up points for the Panthers and senior Matthew Parks sinking four three-point shots to keep the Bulldogs going.
The half ended with a small lead for the Bulldogs, 30-23, but the Panthers returned from halftime with a renewed energy.
Halfway through the first quarter they played a little harder and put doubt in our psyche, said Monticello Coach Dick ONeill. But in the second half we realized theyd be playing a little more conservatively and we got it going.
The Panthers quickly pulled ahead, grabbing rebounds and taking advantage of a number of Bulldog turnovers.
Led by sophomore Ricky Villegas, who added 15 points during the quarter, the Panthers more than doubled their entire first half score in the third quarter, while their defense held the Bulldogs to just eight more points.
That was when they turned on the pressure and we couldnt handle it, Menges said.
DeGroat ended the game with 23 points for the Panthers. Villegas added 22 and Deon Morgan, a junior, had nine.
Parks contributed 20 points for the Bulldogs, including six three-pointers. Senior Mike Ahnstrom contributed 16 points.
Theyre going to be very good in their class, said ONeill. I think we came out tonight and didnt take them lightly.
Theyre very well-coached and if the kids hang in there and play, this is going to be a very good season.
ONeill credited Villegas and DeGroat with leading the team to victory.
Morgan and Mike Watson, who stepped in when junior Geraldo Fernandez suffered an ankle injury, also contributed to the team, ONeill said.
According to Menges and Ellison, Fridays game was a building experience for the newborn team.
Were just glad to play a team like that, Ellison said of Monticello. Games like this are going to make us a better team.
Sullivan Wests coaching staff credited a number of their players for stepping forward for the team, including Parks, whose three-point shooting led the team in the first half.
He just got hot, Ellison said. And Evan Kraack handled the pressure well, when [point guard] Justin [Pinkel] got into foul trouble, Evan stepped in.
The trouble was, the new position made it more difficult for Kraack to focus on shooting the ball, which held the Bulldogs back, Ellison said.
Monticello is just a really good team, he added. They were a lot more athletic than we are.