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Democrat Photo by Rob Potter

MONTICELLO’S DEVIN BRUST holds onto the ball after grabbing an offensive rebound in last Friday night’s game against James I. O’Neill. Looking on at left are Seward defenders Kyle Harris and Mike Murphy (40).

James O'Neill's Cut
Down by Dick O'Neill's

By Rob Potter
MONTICELLO — January 29, 2002 – Veteran Monticello boys’ basketball coach Dick O’Neill was feeling much better a few minutes after last Friday night’s OCIAA Division III game versus James I. O’Neill than he did a few minutes before the contest.
Just five minutes before Monticello took the court for pre-game warmups, O’Neill learned that the Panthers would have to play without senior John DeGroat. DeGroat, who two nights before had scored his 1,000th career point in an OCIAA Division III contest versus Liberty, was sick and at home.
Unfortunately for the James I. O’Neill Raiders, the rest of the Panthers were feeling fine. And they seemed to be at their finest while shooting beyond the three-point arc.
Monticello (13-1, 6-0 OCIAA) made 10 three-pointers enroute to beating James I. O’Neill (7-6, 3-3 OCIAA) by a final score of 93-52.
“He’s a warrior and if there was a way for him to play, he would have – so that tells me he is pretty sick,” Dick O’Neill said of DeGroat. “Actually all of these guys on this team are warriors. We had to make some adjustments (without John) and do some things on the fly. But they all stepped up their games and I’m really pleased and very proud of them. I was quite pleased with the whole team effort.”
Among those players who stepped up was guard Ricky Villegas. He drilled four three-pointers on his way to a game-high 32 points.
Geraldo Fernandez netted a trio of three-pointers for the Panthers and finished with 17 points. Chris Robinson added 14 points.
Chris Donaldson scored a team-high 13 points for the Raiders, while Mike Murphy and Martin Walker added 11 and 10 points, respectively.
“In the first half, we were okay because we were only down 14 points,” James I. O’Neill Coach Debbie Crowe said. “But then Monticello started to make those outside shots. They shot very well from the outside – it seemed like everything they put up went in.”
In the third quarter, the Panthers outscored the Raiders by a 26-15 margin. That gave Monticello a commanding 66-41 advantage heading into the final eight minutes of play.
Keying the scoring spurt was Villegas. After swishing a three-pointer with 4:38 left in the quarter to give the Panthers a 52-34 lead, Villegas scored seven of Monticello’s next 14 points as the team grabbed the aforementioned 25-point lead at the end of three quarters.
“We shot well tonight, but were also able to get some points through our defense,” Dick O’Neill said. “We were able to get some baskets in transition and that was nice.”
The Monticello helmsman noted that he is enjoying how the whole team is playing heading into the final few weeks of the regular season.
“These kids really love to play basektball,” Dick O’Neill said. “They’ve developed a love and respect for the game – they want to play it at a high level. And they help each other out, that’s the key.”
Note: Dick O’Neill said yesterday that DeGroat’s absence Friday night was due to a high fever. Although DeGroat was back in school yesterday, it is uncertain when he will return to the Panther lineup.
“He’s still hurting, so we’re going to play it by ear,” O’Neill said.

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