Panthers edge Beckman, reach State for first time since 1960

Monticello Panther players and coaches celebrate after the final buzzer in the sub-state win over Dyersville Beckman Feb. 29. (Photos by Pete Temple)

Posing with the state qualifying banner are the Monticello Panthers, first row from left: Jasper Nietert, Cade Folken, Ethan Martensen, Ty Kehoe, Tate Petersen, Luke Lambert, Tyler Luensman, Riley Manternach, head coach Tim Lambert and assistant coach Curt Tauke. Second row: assistant coaches Steve Rucker, Kolby Harms and Todd Lambert; Tyler McAtee, Grahm Schneiter, Brady Cleeton, Justin Recker, Jeff Carlson, Devin Kraus, Connor Lambert, and assistant coaches Chance Manternach and Jarrett Easton.

Justin Recker puts up a shot over Michael Keegan of Beckman in the sub-state final Saturday.
Pete Temple
Express Sports Editor

     Monticello’s motto for this boys basketball season has been “Ignore the Noise,” a reference to the pre-season hype this loaded Panther team received.

     Saturday night in Manchester, the noise was impossible to ignore as the Panthers wildly celebrated their first trip to a State Boys Basketball Tournament since 1960.

     Monticello (21-2) rallied from a nine-point third quarter deficit, took a three-point lead in the final minute, had a one-point edge with 6.7 seconds left, then held on when Justin Recker batted the ball off the knee of Dyersville Beckman star Michael Keegan and out of bounds in the closing seconds.

     The final tally: Monticello 42, Beckman 41, a sub-state championship and a trip to Des Moines next week for the State Class 2A Tournament.

     “It’s been 60 years, so it’s obviously big,” junior Luke Lambert said after the game. “We’ve all been working for this. It’s amazing for the seniors, for the town, everyone. It’s just a huge moment.”

     For head coach Tim Lambert and the entire program, it was an over-the-hump moment that he said past Panther teams share in as well.

     “It feels amazing,” coach Lambert said. “It’s for every group that came before them. We’ve had so many groups that deserved it as much as these guys do, and just didn’t get there for one reason or another.”

     This group had to overcome a number of struggles against a strong Beckman team that took advantage of early Panther turnovers, and then built a nine-point lead in the third quarter.

     Beckman took early leads of 3-0 and 5-2 before Luke Lambert sank a three-pointer to tie it 5-5. The Trailblazers then went on a 7-0 run to lead 12-5 with less than two minutes left in the first quarter, and still led 14-9 by quarter’s end.

     “I thought in the first half, Beckman got every 50-50 ball, and when they got them, they scored,” coach Lambert said. “And we had so many turnovers in the first half.”

     Down 16-11 early in the second quarter, the Panthers scored six straight points to take their first lead, on a basket by Ty Kehoe, a layup by Justin Recker and two free throws by Recker.

     Only four points were scored in the final four minutes of the half, all by Beckman, as the Blazers took a 20-17 lead into the locker room.

     “At the beginning we obviously had a lot of turnovers,” Luke Lambert said, “and that’s where they got most of their scoring, so we knew we had to come out in the second half and become more poised, and keep playing our game.”

     Beckman had other ideas, scoring the first five points of the third quarter for a 25-17 lead. Tate Petersen hit a three-pointer for the Panthers to cut it to five, but the Blazers lifted their lead to nine, 31-22, with 4:45 left in the period.

     Recker, a junior, said: “We had to just stay poised, keep grinding out possessions, and just play defense. We take a lot of pride in defense.”

     The Panthers whittled away at the deficit. Recker scored and was fouled, sinking the free throw to cut the margin to six. Petersen drove into the lane and lofted a short shot that trimmed the deficit to four. Following  a basket by Beckman’s Mason White, Petersen converted a three-point play to pull Monticello to within 33-30.

     The quarter ended in dramatic fashion. Jack Gehling gave Beckman a six-point lead with a three-point play with five seconds left, and Luke Lambert answered with a layup at the buzzer. At the end of the quarter, Beckman led 36-32.

     Monticello’s lock-down defense was the difference in the fourth quarter. The Panthers held Beckman off the scoreboard for the first 7 minutes, 9 seconds of the period.

     “We told them, ‘You guys have lived with your defense all year, and it’s gotten us to where we’re at. Don’t miss out on the state tournament trip by not playing defense, rebounding and getting loose balls,’ ” coach Lambert said.

     The scoreless streak allowed the Panthers to take the lead. Recker scored on a drive to the hoop with 5:09 left, pulling Monticello to within 36-35. Petersen was fouled with 3:11 to play, and made two free throws, giving the Panthers a 37-36 lead.

     Ty Kehoe stole an inbounds pass under the Beckman hoop and quickly scored to make it a 39-36 Panthers lead with 1:56 to play.

     Beckman’s Mason White sank a three-pointer – the Blazers’ first points of the quarter – to tie the game 39-39 with 51 seconds left.

     Then it was Kehoe again, taking a pass from Petersen and driving to the basket when a Beckman player stumbled, and laying the ball in for a 41-39 Panthers lead with 32 seconds left.

     After a Beckman time-out with 27.7 seconds left, Kehoe tipped a Blazer pass into the hands of Recker. He got the ball to Petersen, who was fouled with 17.6 seconds left. Petersen missed the first free throw but made the second, putting Monticello up 42-39.

     Keegan scored on a layup for Beckman with 6.7 seconds left, and after a time-out for each team, Recker was fouled with 5.7 to play. He missed two free throws, but made the play to save the game at the end. Keegan got the rebound, Recker moved to him, and with a swipe of his left hand was able to bat the ball so it deflected off Keegan’s knee and bounced out of bounds.

     “I came up on him, pressed him a little bit, and just got a hand on it,” Recker said.

     It gave the Panthers the ball with 1.9 seconds left near midcourt. Connor Lambert got a pass into Petersen, who dribbled away from a defender so that by the time he was fouled, time had expired.

     The Panther bench players and coaches exploded onto the court, leaping in celebration of a trip to the state tournament.

     “It’s an amazing feeling,” Recker said.

     Recker finished with 17 points, Petersen had 13, Kehoe had seven, and Luke Lambert had five. Recker also had five rebounds, two assists, two steals and two blocks. Lambert had two assists and two steals, and Kehoe finished with two steals.


Feb. 29

Class 2A, Substate 4


(at Manchester)

Monti     9   8 15 10 – 42

DB         14   6 16   5 – 41

     MONTICELLO (42) – Justin Recker 6-10 5-7 17, Luke Lambert 2-2 0-0 5, Connor Lambert 0-3 0-0 0, Ty Kehoe 3-5 1-5 7, Tate Petersen 4-7 3-4 13, Devin Kraus 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 15-27 10-18 42.

     DYERSVILLE BECKMAN (41) – Luke Goedken 0-2 0-3 0, Tom Jaeger 2-8 0-0 4, Michael Keegan 6-11 0-0 14, Mason White 4-7 0-0 10, Jack Westhoff 2-5 0-0 6, Jack Gehling 2-6 3-5 7. Totals 16-39 3-8 41.

     Three-pointers: L. Lambert, Petersen; Keegan 2, White 2, Westhoff 2.

     Rebounds: Beckman 26, Monticello 16 (Recker 5).

     Total fouls: Monticello 12, Beckman 12.




Panthers win

district crown

over Cascade

     Prior to the sub-state game, the Panthers took on Cascade in the district championship game Feb. 25 in Solon, and scored a convincing 52-33 victory.

     Monticello had four players score in double figures, held Cascade to just six points over the entire first half, and spent most of the fourth quarter on the free throw line.

     Cascade has had a history of disappointing the Panthers in postseason play; going into this game the Cougars had posted a 7-0 record against Monticello in playoff games played since 2005.

     This one seemed different from the start. While the Panther defense kept Cascade off the scoreboard for the first 6½ minutes of game time, Connor Lambert sank a pair of three-point baskets to give Monticello a 6-0 lead. By the end of the quarter, the Panthers led 8-4.

     Monticello scored just nine points in the second quarter, on three-pointers by Devin Kraus, Luke Lambert and Tate Petersen; but held the Cougars to a single basket in the quarter while taking a 17-6 lead.

     “Our kids’ commitment to being better defensively has been really impressive,” coach Lambert said. “We played hard, rebounded, and executed the game plan. They didn’t get many second chance points.”

     That lead grew to 17 points, 33-16, when a triple-teamed Connor Lambert somehow launched a high arc of a three-point shot from the right corner, which dropped through just after the buzzer sounded, sending the Panther bench into a frenzy.

     Overall, the Panthers were eight of 16 from three-point range, with Connor Lambert and Luke Lambert making three apiece.

     Cascade spent the fourth quarter fouling the Panthers in an attempt to get back in the game.

     “Their strategy of putting us at the free throw line was the only way they could come back,” coach Lambert said.

     The ploy appeared to be working when Monticello made just five of its first 12 free throws in the quarter, allowing the Cougars to pull within 11, 38-27, with 3:23 to play.

     Monticello righted the ship at the foul line the rest of the way, however, making 14 of its final 16 to pull away to the 19-point win. Petersen sank nine of 10 free throws in that span.

     “We made enough to hang on,” the coach said.

     Rebounding was also a factor, as the Panthers pulled down twice as many as did the Cougars, 30-15.

     Petersen finished with 16 points. Justin Recker had a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds, along with three blocks and four assists. Luke Lambert had 10 points and four assists, and Connor Lambert finished with 10 points and five rebounds. Kraus came off the bench to score five points.


Feb. 25

Class 2A, District 8


(at Solon)

Monti      8   9 16 19 – 52

Cascade 4   2 10 17 – 33

     MONTICELLO (52) – Justin Recker 3-11 4-4 10, Luke Lambert 3-3 1-5 10, Connor Lambert 3-7 1-2 10, Ty Kehoe 0-0 1-2 1, Tate Petersen 1-3 13-17 16, Devin Kraus 1-3 2-2 5, Tyler Luensman 0-0 0-0 0, Ethan Martensen 0-0 0-0 0, Cade Folken 0-1 0-0 0, Jeff Carlson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 11-28 22-32 53.

     CASCADE (33) – Carter Green 2-9 0-0 5, Cooper Rausch 1-3 1-2 4, Michael Trumm 1-9 0-0 3, Caden Reinke 2-2 0-2 4, Alex Aitchison 4-9 0-0 8, Eli Green 2-4 2-3 6, Will Potter 1-1 0-0 3, Hugh Molony 0-1 0-0 0, Brody Supple 0-1 0-0 0, Jackson McAleer 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 13-39 3-7 33.

     Three-pointers: C. Lambert 3, L. Lambert 3, Petersen, Kraus; Green, Rausch, Trumm, Potter.

     Rebounds: Monticello 30 (Recker 10, Kehoe 7, C. Lambert 5), Cascade 15.

     Total fouls: Cascade 24, Monticello 11.



Subscriber Login