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Democrat Photo by Rob Potter

MONTICELLO’S GERALDO FERNANDEZ (33) and Rick Villegas both reach for this loose ball in Saturday’s Class B championship game. Looking on at left are Monticello’s John DeGroat (in background) and Onteora’s Anthony Martin.

Monticello Captures

Class B Crown

By Rob Potter
WEST POINT – March 05, 2002— Another strong performance by forward John DeGroat and a great fourth quarter by the entire team were the keys to a Monticello victory Saturday afternoon at West Point’s Christl Arena.
DeGroat scored a game-high 28 points to lead Monticello to a 65-50 win over Onteora in the Section IX Class B championship game.
Monticello (21-2) received a bye in the first round of the state tournament. The Panthers next game will be at 6 p.m. Saturday at Christl Arena, where they will face either Peekskill (Section I) or Norwich (Section IV).
(Those teams meet tonight in a Class B quarterfinal game.)
The Panthers, who were the top seed in the Class B tourney, grabbed a 13-5 lead at the end of the first quarter and held the advantage through much of the game.
But seventh seeded Onteora (15-8), which upset second seed Wallkill and third seed Red Hook to reach the final, mounted a late comeback.
With 1:17 left in the third quarter, Onteora’s Ray Brundage scored a layup to pull the Indians to within 37-35. Then, just 13 seconds into the fourth period, Onteora forward Will Ricciardella hit a short jumper to tie the score at 37-37.
But in the next three minutes, DeGroat scored twice and Rick Villegas hit a runner in the lane to give Monticello a 45-39 lead.
Following an Onteora timeout, DeGroat swished a pair of free throws and Villegas scored again to give the Panthers a 49-39 lead.
“We started to chip away, but they made some key plays and played some nice defense,” Onteora Coach Chris Felicello said. “They just had a nice run at the end and were able to pull away.”
In addition to his 28 points, DeGroat had 15 rebounds in the contest. Villegas, a junior guard, added 12 points and senior forward Chris Robinson had nine.
J. C. Gonzalez scored 24 points to lead the Onteora offense. Ricciardella added 13 points for the Indians.
“We wanted to get the lead early and make them play a different game,” O’Neill said.
While Monticello was able to do that, Onteora was able to turn the tables in the second half.
The Indians clamped down defensively, forcing DeGroat to make some baskets from outside the paint. DeGroat responded, knocking down some short range jumpers as Monticello pulled away.
“John had another strong game for us,” O’Neill said. “He did a great job today.”
While the sectional title is the sixth that Monticello has captured with O’Neill as its coach, this one might be extra special.
“We’re 21 and two now and this is the first team in school history to have more than 20 wins in a season,” O’Neill commented. “It was a total team effort out there. These kids are very deserving.”
Robinson noted that he and his teammates were a bit nervous at the beginning of the contest, since “it was such a big game.” But any butterflies they had early on flew away as the game wore on and the Panthers clawed their way to the sectional title.
“This was a goal of ours since the beginning of the season,” Robinson said of capturing the Class B crown. “We wanted it bad.”

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