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A Major Loss

Democrat Photo by Rob Potter

GERALDO FERNANDEZ HOLDS the basketball tightly as he prepares to dribble past Peekskill defender Chris Horton in Saturday’s quarterfinal game at West Point.

History Repeats Itself

By Rob Potter
WEST POINT — March 12, 2002 – The Monticello boys’ basketball team and Roscoe girls’ basketball team had two things in common this season.
They both captured Section IX titles at West Point’s Christl Arena on March 2. But they both lost a state quarterfinal game on the same court just a few days following their triumphs in their respective Section IX title tilts.
And the common theme in the losses was the team’s performance in the third quarter. Four days after Roscoe did not score a single point during the third period of its Class D state quarterfinal loss to Southold, Monticello suffered a similar third period scoring drought in its Class B state quarterfinal loss to Peekskill.
Monticello (21-3) scored only four points in the third period of Saturday night’s game as Peekskill turned up its defensive intensity in those eight minutes of play.
Peekskill (23-2) outscored Monticello by a 25-4 margin in that key quarter. As a result, the Red Devils posted a 66-36 victory over the Panthers.
With the win, Peekskill, ranked third in the latest state Class B poll, moves on to the final four this weekend in Glens Falls.
Things were looking good for Monticello in the first half, however. While the Red Devils scored the first four points of the game and held a 8-3 lead just two minutes into the contest, the Panthers never fell behind by more than five points and held a 12-11 advantage at the end of the first period.
Peekskill held a narrow 26-24 lead at halftime and the possibility of the Red Devils eventually winning the contest by 30 points seemed remote.
But then came the third quarter. A third quarter when Peekskill used its full-court press to gain an advantage over the Panthers.
A dozen Monticello turnovers led to several easy transition baskets for the Red Devils.
“No team we played this season had their quickness,” Monticello Coach Dick O’Neill said. “We had trouble getting the ball past halfcourt.”
O’Neill noted that the Panthers scrimmaged a number of area teams earlier this season including Monroe-Woodbury, Newburgh and Kingston – which lost to Mount Vernon in the Class A quarterfinal Saturday at West Point. But he added that none of those teams had the quickness that Peekskill displayed.
“In the second half, we got to use our zone press,” Peekskill Coach Lou Panzanalo said. “We got some steals and (guards) Keith Staton and Rashard Turner were able to turn them into layups.
We had contributions from everybody tonight. I thought we got a lot of help from the bench and Hilton (Armstrong) and Brandon Jackson played well inside. They make a nice defensive team on the inside.”
In the first minute-and-a-half of the third period, Peekskill scored six straight points to take a 32-24 lead. With five minutes left in the quarter, the Red Devils had boosted their lead to 37-24.
Monticello didn’t score until junior guard Deon Morgan drove to the hoop for a layup with 4:44 remaining in the quarter. That cut the Peekskill lead to 37-26.
But the Red Devils answered Morgan’s hoop with a 10-0 run over the next three-plus minutes.
During that run, Monticello’s John DeGroat fouled out of the game. With 2:31 showing on the clock, DeGroat picked up his fifth foul as he drove to the basket and made contact with Armstrong.
With their leading scorer on the bench, the Panthers only netted eight more points during the final minutes.
DeGroat, who finished his high school career by scoring 10 points in the contest, picked up his third and fourth fouls within a three-second interval early in the third quarter. After the game, O’Neill explained that he felt he had to leave DeGroat in the game with the four fouls because the Panthers were already down a dozen and he didn’t want to fall behind by 20 points or more.
“Peekskill is a very talented team,” O’Neill said. “There are no bad teams at this point of the season. They just got that run on us and we didn’t have an answer.”
Geraldo Fernandez led the Monticello offense with 14 points. Senior forward Chris Robinson added six points for the Panthers.
For Peekskill, Turner netted a team-high 19 points, Armstrong scored 14 points and Staton had a dozen.
Despite the lopsided loss, O’Neill noted that the season was a great one for Monticello.
“I told the guys in the locker room that only four teams in the state end the season with a win,” the veteran coach said. “We talked about the fact that we had a 21 and 3 record, which is the best in school history and won the division and sectional titles. And the most important thing is that these are terrific kids. They really busted their chops all season. I’m not the easiest coach to play for sometimes, but they really hustled and played well all year.”
Like his coach, DeGroat is going to remember the overall season more than the disappointing loss to Peekskill.
“Definitely. I’m never going to forget this season,” he said. “We won the division title and then the sectional title. Everyone of these players has a special place in my heart. And no one can ever take away what we accomplished this season.”

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