By Nathan Mayberg
Monticello January 25, 2005 James I. ONeill bested Monticello by a score of 37-25 in a non-league girls basketball game on Friday evening in Monticello.
The contest was a story of two halves. The first half belong to the full-court pressing ONeill squad, which capitalized on Lady Panther turnovers to take a big lead.
The second half was won by the Lady Panthers, who used a half-court press to force the Lady Raiders into multiple turnovers.
Monticello (3-6) dominated ONeill (6-6) on the glass throughout the game, but had trouble converting its field goals.
ONeill was led by the strong play of junior center Katelyn Kort, who finished with a game-high 15 points. The tall athlete was tough for the Monticello defenders to handle on the boards and in the paint. Lady Raider point guard Elizabeth Cannon had an exceptional game as well, racking up 12 points.
The Lady Panthers were led by the dynamic play of forward Liila Mack. She was a rebounding powerhouse, piling up double-digit rebounds and finishing with nine points. Monticello also received spirited and energetic performances from Iris Robinson and Shaheedra Walker.
The Lady Panthers faced an uphill battle from the outset as Cannon nailed a 3-pointer to begin the game. ONeill then employed a tenacious full-court press which Monticello found tough to break, particularly during the first quarter.
The Lady Raiders caused multiple turnovers, giving them a 13-2 lead halfway through the first period.
However, Monticello was not to be discounted, and never gave up. The Lady Panthers finished the quarter strong off the strong defensive play of Robinson and Walker, which led to layups. They closed the gap to 16-8 by the end of the quarter.
Indeed, the Lady Panthers held the momentum in the second quarter, grabbing a multitude of rebounds. However, they had trouble connecting on their field goals and free throws.
Kort, meanwhile, did not allow Monticello to get back in it, using her height advantage to score key baskets.
The ONeill press never let up. As a result, the Lady Raiders converted several easy baskets to take a 26-8 lead into halftime.
Monticello charged back in the third quarter. Following a 3-point play by Mack, the Lady Panthers employed a half-court press. ONeill had tremendous difficulty with the pressure.
The Lady Panthers brought down the lead to 29-19, but that was as close as they would get. Monticello ran into the wall that was Kort, who was nearly unstoppable down low.
ONeill held a 32-20 advantage after three quarters.
During the fourth quarter, Mack outworked most of the players on the floor, but the team had no answer for Kort.
ONeill Coach Tom Mrazek said that the game was played at a hectic pace.
I give Monticello a lot of credit, he said. They didnt give up at all.
He noted that his teams strong play in the first half gave them the cushion they needed to win. He said the Lady Raiders relied on the up-tempo play their defense caused with the full-court press. Mrazek complimented the aggressive play of Monticello in the second half.
We gave it everything we had. I am very proud of them, Monticello Coach Karen Atack said. They never ever gave up.
She also noted that her team deserved credit for its second half comeback.