By Rob Potter
WALLKILL After falling behind 7-0 in the opening minutes of Monday night’s Section IX Class A basketball quarterfinal game in the Vinnie De Angelis Gymnasium at Wallkill High School and then trailing 21-13 at the end of the first quarter, the Monticello Panthers knew they needed to rally if their season was to continue.
And rally they did. With the score even at 35-35 midway through the third period, senior Jesse Kapito made a 3-point shot to give fifth-seeded Monticello a 38-35 advantage.
Although No. 4 Wallkill cut the Monticello lead to a single point on three occasions in the fourth quarter, Monticello recorded a 61-56 victory.
With the win, Monticello improved to 12-7 on the season and advanced to face No. 1 seed Cornwall in the semifinals.
But the Monties win over Wallkill (8-10) wasn’t certain until the final moments of the contest. With 1:29 to go in the fourth quarter, Wallkill’s Hunter Andrews made both ends of a 1-and-1 to cut Monticello’s lead to 57-54.
Wallkill’s Jamie Paneto scored inside the lane to make it a 57-56 game with 43 seconds on the clock.
After being fouled with 13.5 seconds left, Monticello’s Kenny Sanders Jr. swished a pair of foul shots to give his team a 59-56 lead.
With just two seconds remaining, Anthony Gray went to the basket for a layup to provide the final margin of victory for Monticello.
Kapito, Juan Pena and Sanders paced the Monties offense. Sanders recorded a game-high 23 points, while Kapito and Pena scored 13 points apiece.
“I’m very happy with the way we played,” Monticello Coach Chris Russo said. “It was great to get a win here.
“Our effort on defense was phenomenal,” he added. “Everybody did a great job.”
Monticello only attempted four free throws in the game, but made three of them. Wall-kill was 7 of 14 at the line.
Andrews led Wallkill with 17 points and Paneto netted 16 points.
Wallkill Coach Kevin Bach, who was seeking to win the 300th game of his career, noted that his team wasn’t able to take advantage of some opportunities to score, especially in the fourth period.
“We had two or three possessions where we came up empty,” he said.
Bach also pointed out that missed free throws were key factors in the game’s outcome.
“Shooting 50 percent at the [foul] line is not us,” he said. “It’s not us at all.”
Note: Monticello’s season ended on Wednesday night at Cornwall as the Green Dragons defeated the Panthers, 80-75, in overtime. Cornwall will meet No. 2 seed Red Hook in the Class A championship game tonight at 8 p.m. at SUNY New Paltz.