By Jeanne Sager
MONTICELLO January 8, 2002 - It was a battle to the end.
Monticellos Lady Panthers dropped a hard-fought game Friday night 59-56, but they certainly gave the visiting Cornwall Lady Dragons a run for their money.
The one thing I can say is we never gave up, commented Monticello coach Karen Atack.
Cornwall (6-3) jumped out to an early 18-0 lead, holding Monticello (3-3) scoreless for the first five minutes of the contest, thanks in part to a number of Lady Panther turnovers.
Erin Gregonek paced the Lady Dragons, scoring her first basket in the first few seconds of play and contributing five points in the first period.
But the Lady Panthers rebounded from their 18-point deficit thanks to the sharp shooting of leading scorer Deirdre Smith, who scored a basket at the end of the first period to break the Lady Dragons hold on the scoreboard.
Smith ended the evening with a game-high 27 points. She also added nine rebounds and six steals.
The Panthers continued to gain momentum throughout the first half tying the game in the second period while taking advantage of a number of Cornwalls missed shots.
Monticellos Nakita White dominated the Cornwall offense, stealing the ball and heading back upcourt to sink a number of three-point shots.
White racked up four steals, grabbed four rebounds and posted 14 points for Monticello.
The Lady Panthers ended the first half with a slim 29-28 lead thanks to a basket by Bagina McCline just before the buzzer sounded.
The two teams battled it out for the lead throughout the second half, with one team tying the game, then pulling ahead, then the other team regaining its lead.
But the Lady Panthers, who have no seniors on the roster this season, were unable to maintain any momentum. In fact, Monticello turned the ball over several times and committed several fouls, which gave Cornwall the advantage.
The Lady Dragons Kathryn OKeefe dominated the board in the second half, racking up nine points to lead the team to victory.
The game was a typical matchup of the two teams, noted Cornwall Coach Tito Maisonet.
In the past we have been in the unfortunate situation of being bumped off from sectionals by Monticello, he explained. But in the end, our girls managed to hold off and settled down.
The teams seemed to be on pretty equal footing, Atack added.
But counting up her teams statistics, Atack noted at least 34 turnovers by Monticello players.
Youre not going to win too many ball games with 34 turnovers, she said. But we never gave up we have a youthful team and we still have a lot to work on.
The teams foul stats have improved greatly since the beginning of the season, Atack explained, and their technique is improving.
Weve been working on passing on the move, which they did better tonight and theyve been working very hard on their technique for shooting.
The Monticello scorers were led by Smith and White, with Brady Dollard contributing 10 points and McCline posting five.
Cornwall was paced by Gregonek who had a team-high 14 points. OKeefe posted 13 points and Erika Edsall had 12 for the Lady Dragons.