By Rob Potter
HAWLEY, PA December 5, 2006 The Monticello varsity boys’ basketball team began its 2006-2007 season in an unusual way.
On Saturday night, Monticello played in the championship game of the ninth annual Hawley (Pa.) Rotary Tip-Off Tournament at Wallenpaupack High School. Due to the inclement weather on Friday afternoon and evening and the fact that the tournament’s would-be fourth team had to withdraw, the Panthers met the host Wallenpaupack Buckhorns in the event’s title contest.
Wallenpaupack (1-1) advanced to the final with a 59-28 victory against Western Wayne (Pa.) High School in Friday night’s lone opening round game.
The Panthers opened up a small lead at the half and then withstood a Buckhorns’ comeback attempt late in the fourth quarter to post a 52-46 victory.
At the end of the third quarter, Monticello (1-0) held a 32-31 advantage.
But the first five minutes of the fourth period featured four lead changes and two ties. Wallenpaupack’s Jonathan Schmalzle gave the hometown crowd reason to cheer when he drilled a 3-point shot with 6:30 remaining to knot the score at 37-37.
However, three minutes later, Monticello’s Omar Diaz drove to the hoop and scored an easy basket to give his team a 43-42 lead. Less than a minute later, Diaz made a 3-pointer to extend the Panthers’ advantage to 46-42.
In the final minute, the Buckhorns missed a few shots and then had to commit fouls in order to save time. Monticello went 5-of-8 at the foul line in those last 60 seconds to preserve its lead.
Wallenpaupack’s Richard Palazzi made a shot at the buzzer to cut the Panthers’ margin of victory to six points.
“It’s a little tough when you open the season by playing a championship game,” Monticello Coach Dick O’Neill said. “It puts pressure on you, especially when you are playing on the opponent’s home floor. But we did a good job tonight.
“I thought we did a great job on the boards on both ends of the court,” O’Neill added.
Leading Monticello to the victory were seniors Mike Normann, Diaz and Tyrone White. Normann scored a team-high 15 points, Diaz had 14 points and White recorded seven points.
In addition, Wayne Fletcher registered six points and Ernie Rosado added four points.
Three Wallenpaupack players scored in double figures Jerome “J.J.” Borges led the way with 17 points, Schmalzle had 11 points and Palazzi recorded 10 points.
Tim Silsby added six points for the Buckhorns.
“Monticello did a great job tonight,” Wallenpaupack Coach George Werthmuller said. “They deserved the victory.”
Normann was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player (MVP), while teammates Diaz and Justino Paredes were selected for the all-tournament team. Also chosen for the all-tourney squad were Wallenpaupack’s Borges and Palazzi and Western Wayne’s Matt Vitovsky.