By Ted Waddell
MONTICELLO Things started out pretty well on Monday night for the host Monticello Panthers in their first game of the 2009-2010 basketball season as they jumped out to a 4-0 lead against the John S. Burke Catholic School Eagles.
Marcus Daniels-Penn converted two free throws and Austin Billig scored a basket to give Monticello the early advantage in the non-league contest.
But then the game began to unravel for the Panthers as the Eagles found their wings. Burke outscored Monticello in the first three quarters by respective margins of 19-12, 27-12 and 20-12 on its way to an 80-50 victory.
Burke (2-1) kicked off the second period with a steal which translated into a basket at the other end of the court. The Eagles then held a 46-24 lead at halftime.
“We’re big, and I though we did a very good job,” Burke Coach Doug Janeczko said. “We’re balanced, and we get up and down the floor.”
He said his post players work the floor with speed and get the ball out to the guards who can then penetrate and shoot.
With a 15-player roster, Janeczko said it’s sometimes frustrating for a squad which goes 10-deep in strength, as five players have to sit it out watching the other five players score the points.
His take of the Eagles’ defense?
“We were getting there tonight,” Janeczko said.
Monticello Coach Chris Russo said he lost to a team he described as “very solid and very disciplined… they were bigger and stronger at every position.
“I’m disappointed that we didn’t respond to the challenge that was in front of us,” he added.
Russo said the goal of the Panthers’ rising to meet challenges on the court is a work in progress.
“We’re still working on that until we get to the point where the ‘x's' and ‘o’s’ of things don’t really matter,” he commented. “We’re still struggling with what our roles are on the team.”
Monticello is taking to the court this season without senior Briar Patterson, who is recovering from injuries he sustained as a passenger in a motor vehicle accident during the summer.
Against Burke, Monties’ point guard Austin Billig was sidelined with what appeared to be a serious knee injury. If he’s out for any time at all, that loss would effect the team’s ability to put points on the scoreboard.
“We gave up 46 points in the first half, and in the second half we followed that up by giving up 20 points in the third period,” said Russo, now in his second season at the helm of the Monticello program.
“That’s really not anything to get excited about…[but] I think we rebounded OK against a much bigger team.
“I think better days are ahead for us,” Russo added.
The leading scorers for Monticello (0-1) were Matt Strong with 12 points and Jesse Kapito with 10 points.
Billig swished a 3-point shot before leaving the game with the aforementioned knee injury.
Burke didn’t have a single player in double figures, but the team demonstrated a balanced scoring attack.
Two players, Jeff Cochi and Vinny Yates, posted nine points each. Zach Rufer, Brian Clarke, Dante Cowart, Sean Duurloo and Zach Rufer added eight points apiece for the Eagles.