By Rob Potter
HAWLEY, PA There would be no three-peat for the Monticello Panthers last Saturday night.
Monticello’s bid for winning the Hawley (Pa.) Rotary Tip-Off Basketball Tournament for the third straight year was turned back by the host Wallenpaupack Buckhorns who won the championship game over the Panthers, 47-35.
Following the game, Monticello Coach Chris Russo knew exactly what made the difference in the contest.
“We just weren’t able to answer their run,” he said. “They started the second half with a good scoring run and we couldn’t respond.”
Wallenpaupack (2-0) held a 19-16 lead at halftime and then opened the third quarter with a 7-1 run to extend its advantage to 26-19 with 5:03 remaining in the quarter. Alexander Moit scored in the lane and Anthony Bouselli made a pair of free throws to key the Buckhorns’ run.
Four times in the stanza, Monticello (1-1) cut the deficit to five points. The last time was when Ben Kapito swished two foul shots with 1:18 on the clock to make it a 33-28 game.
But the Buckhorns responded by making some free throws of their own to take a 38-31 lead into the fourth period.
Wallenpaupack gradually increased its advantage in those final eight minutes to pull away with the 12-point win.
Leading the Buckhorns to victory were junior guard Jake Brown and Nicolai Tereschak, a junior forward. Brown scored a game-high 24 points, while Tereschak added 11 points.
“We had a good defensive effort tonight,” Wallenpaupack Coach Rich McGinnis said. “We were able to slow Monticello down.”
McGinnis also praised his team’s offense.
“Jake Brown had a big game tonight by scoring 24 points,” McGinnis said. “But some of our other guys also stepped up. It was a good team effort.”
Senior forward Anthony Gray and junior center Rob Riley each scored eight points to lead Monticello.
“We had to get used to playing without a 35-second shot clock,” Russo said, referencing Pennsylvania high school basketball rules in which there is no shot clock . “Once Wallenpaupack had the lead in the second half, they were able to use up a lot of time on every possession.”
While he would have liked to have won the game, Russo knows that the season is still very young.
“We’ll be OK,” he said. “This is a small bump in the road. We’ll keep trying to improve with each game.”
Russo noted that playing in the tournament for the past several seasons is good for the Panthers.
“We enjoy coming over here to play in this tournament,” he said. “It’s a good tournament and the other teams are always very competitive. We can try some things out against teams that we won’t see again during the season. They give our kids pizza after the game and treat us very well.”
Notes: Monticello reached the title game by defeating Western Wayne (Pa.), 61-39, in Friday night’s opening round.
Gray led the way for the Panthers by scoring 13 points, dishing out six assists and making four steals. Teammate Ros Djonbalaj added 12 points.
Brown was selected as the tournament MVP. Monticello’s Rob Riley was named to the All-Tournament Team. Joining him on the team were Adam Gillis of Western Wayne, Joel Madas of Mountain View and Wallenpaupack’s Alexander Moit and Nicolai Tereschak.
Monticello 10 16 15 4 35
Wallenpaupack 9 10 19 9 47
Monticello: Anthony Gray 8; Rob Riley 8; Latique Liles 6; Ros Djonbalaj 5; Naquan Holman 4; Ben Kapito 4
Wallenpaupack: Jake Brown 24; Nicolai Tereschak 11; Anthony Bouselli 6; Alexander Moit 6