By Rob Potter
MONTICELLO January 28, 2005 With four seconds remaining in Tuesday nights non-league basketball game, players from visiting John S. Burke Catholic School and Monticello lined up along the lane under the Panthers basket as Monticello clung to a 50-49 lead.
The large crowd grew quiet as Monticellos Brad Cooper stepped up to the line and dribbled the basketball. The junior guard then calmly swished the first free throw of a 1-and-1 situation.
After the crowd cheered for a few seconds, Cooper made his second free throw to give the Panthers a 52-49 advantage.
Although they had to inbound the ball 94 feet away from their basket, the Eagles theoretically had a chance to tie the score with a long 3-point shot in those final four seconds. But Monticellos Sinan Tertimez denied Burke that opportunity when he stole the inbounds pass near midcourt and passed it to teammate Luis Paredes as time expired.
The Panthers and their fans then celebrated the dramatic 52-49 victory.
Moments earlier, however, it seemed as though the Eagles and their fans would be the ones cheering at the end of the contest. After a first half in which the teams exchanged the lead a couple of times, Burke (8-5) seemingly took control of the game in the third quarter. The Eagles outscored Monticello 16 to 10 in the third period to take a 39-29 lead into the final eight minutes of the game. Burke pushed its advantage to 12 points (49-37) when Jason Green hit a 3-point shot with 4:12 remaining.
But in the final four minutes, Monticello (7-4) stormed back using an aggressive defense and clutch shooting. Just 20 seconds after Green made his 3-pointer, Cooper swished a shot from beyond the 3-point arc to pull the Monties to within nine points at 49-40.
Thirty seconds later, Paredes swished a pair of free throws to cut the Burke lead to seven points. Cooper scored again at the 2:37 mark to make it a 49-44 game.
With 2:02 left in the game, Tertimez drove to the hoop for an easy bucket to bring Monticello to within three points (49-46).
Both teams could not convert in their next possessions and the Panthers had control of the basketball with 52 seconds showing on the scoreboard. Twenty-two seconds later, Tertimez scored one of the key baskets of the evening when he put back a teammates errant shot. The hoop shaved Burkes lead to a single point (49-48).
With 15 seconds left, Cooper was fouled and stepped up to the free-throw line for a 1-and-1 situation. He confidently swished both free throws to give the Panthers a 50-49 lead and set the stage for his two successful foul shots 11 seconds later that iced the Monticello victory.
We played with more passion in the last eight minutes than we did in the first 24 minutes, Monticello Coach Dick ONeill said. Our guys just went out there and played as hard as they could.
This victory and our win against Goshen are our two biggest wins this season, ONeill added.
The veteran coach was pleased with the way his squad played at both ends of the floor in the final moments.
We ended the game with a 16-0 run and that was the difference in the game, ONeill said.
Cooper finished the night with a game-high 27 points and was a perfect 8-for-8 at the free-throw line.
As a team, Monticello was outstanding at the foul line, converting 13-of-16 free throws (81 percent).
When asked if he was nervous while shooting those four foul shots in the final 15 seconds, Cooper said no.
I missed free throws at the end of the game versus Wallkill last season in sectionals and I thought about those free throws during the summer, he said. So tonight I just didnt let the pressure bother me.
While Coopers free throws were important, the Panthers defensive effort was also a key to the victory.
We have to play hard on defense all the time, that is what Coach always tells us, Cooper said.
Parades finished with nine points and Tertimez and Matt Goodin each netted eight points in the contest.
Green paced the Eagles offense by scoring 16 points. Andrew Jackson recorded 15 points and Dan Burke added eight.
In the last few minutes, they made some key shots and controlled the tempo of the game, Burke Coach Chris Neidig said. We built a lead and controlled the tempo in the third quarter. But in the fourth quarter, they did to us what we had done to them earlier in the game.
While disappointed with the defeat, Neidig remained optimistic about his young team. The Eagles roster includes nine juniors and two sophomores. Dan Burke is the only senior on the squad.
This loss will make us better, Neidig said. Sometime in the future, maybe in the next couple of weeks or in sectionals, we are going to be able to use the experience we gained in this game to make us better.