Panthers open with River Valley wins

Tyler Luensman of Monticello drives to the hoop during the season-opening win over Bellevue Nov. 27. (Photos by Pete Temple)

Justin Recker finds room to drive for the Panthers against Bellevue at Monticello High School.
Pete Temple
Express Sports Editor

     Monticello got off to the kind of start any boys’ basketball team would hope for, winning its first two games of the season.

     The Panthers (2-0) turned an early lead into a 63-53 victory over Bellevue Nov. 27, and controlled the second and third quarters in a 53-42 triumph over North Cedar Nov. 30.

     Both games were at Monticello High School, and both were River Valley Conference contests.

     With a fast-paced, cutting offense and few set plays, the Panthers worked their way to a 14-7 lead over Bellevue Tuesday. One set play was among the most impressive of the game; an in-bounds pass from Luke Lambert was one-handed from up high by Justin Recker back to Lambert, who scored on a lay-up.

     Monticello led 19-11 after one quarter.

     “We loved the energy early in the game,” Monticello coach Tim Lambert said.

     In the second quarter, the Panthers went on a 10-1 run to open a 29-11 lead, before the Comets scored the final eight points of the first half. Monticello held a 29-19 lead at the break.

     Despite the high-powered pace, the Panthers took care of the ball, committing just four turnovers in the first half, three of those in the last two minutes of the half.

     The second half was a story of Monticello trying to pull away – the Panthers led by as many as 17 in the third quarter – and Bellevue trying to close the gap. The closest the Comets came was getting the margin to nine four different times in the fourth quarter. The Panthers made enough free throws – 7-for-10 in the final two minutes – to keep it from getting close.

     Connor Lambert was 5-for-12 from three-point range and led all scorers with 19 points. Recker had 14 points, shooting 6-for-11 from the floor. Luke Lambert and Tyler Luensman had nine points apiece, and Devin Kraus scored six.

     Brayden Cleeton had 10 rebounds, and Recker pulled down eight. Luensman had five assists and four steals, and Kraus made three steals.

     “It was great to get our first win, to get a conference win, and to start building more experience,” coach Lambert said. “We were proud of the team for its attitude and energy.”

     The North Cedar win played out differently. Instead of jumping to a lead, the Panthers found themselves trailing 13-10 after the first quarter.

     “We had trouble containing their point guard,” coach Lambert said. “And we had too many turnovers and empty possessions in the first quarter.”

     It changed then the Panthers switched to a matchup zone defense in the second quarter.

     “We thought maybe it would slow them down offensively,” the coach said. “I thought it was pretty effective.”

     Monticello took a 23-20 lead by halftime, and then outscored the Knights 13-4 in the third quarter to open a 12-point advantage, which the Panthers were able to ride to the finish. In all, Monticello outscored North Cedar 26-11 in the middle two quarters.

     “We got a lot of stops and got a lot of rebounds,” Lambert said.

     Monticello had an extremely balanced scoring attack, with Luke Lambert and Connor Lambert scoring 12 points apiece, Luensman adding 11 and Recker contributing 10.

     Luke Lambert had eight rebounds and four assists. Connor Lambert had five assists. Luensman had three assists and three steals. Recker blocked three shots.


Nov. 27

Bellevue  11 10 16 18 – 53

Monti        19 10 19 15 – 63

     BELLEVUE (53) – Trey Daugherty 6-15-4-8 18, Paxton Felderman 5-11 2-3 14, Lucas Tennant 3-7 3-6 9, Riley Konrardy 0-2 0-0 0, Trevor Hager 5-7 0-0 10, Jackson Wagner 1-5 0-0 2, Andrew Swartz 0-2 0-0 0, Cole Heim 0-0 0-0 0, Colby Sieverding 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 20-50 9-17 53.

     MONTICELLO (63) – Tyler Luensman 4-7 0-1 9, Justin Recker 6-11 2-3 14, Luke Lambert 2-4 5-7 9, Connor Lambert 6-14 2-4 19, Brayden Cleeton 2-3 0-0 4, Devin Kraus 2-6 1-2 6, Jeff Carlson 1-3 0-0 2, Gavin Cooper 0-1 0-0 0, Riley Manternach 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-49 10-17 63.

     Three-pointers: Daugherty 2, Felderman 2; C. Lambert 5, Luensman, D. Kraus.

     Rebounds: Monticello 39 (Cleeton 10, Recker 8), Bellevue 25.

     Total fouls: Bellevue 16, Monticello 15.


Nov. 30

N. Cedar  13    7   4  18 – 42

Monti        10 13 13 17 – 53

     MONTICELLO (53) – Tyler Luensman 3-9-2-4 11, Justin Recker 4-9 2-3 10, Luke Lambert 6-12 0-0 12, Connor Lambert 3-6 4-4 12, Brayden Cleeton 0-1 0-0 0, Devin Kraus 1-2 3-5 6, Jeff Carlson 1-3 0-0 2, Gavin Cooper 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 18-42 11-16 53.

     Three-pointers: Luensman 3, C. Lambert 2, Kraus.

     Rebounds: Monticello 28 (L. Lambert 8, Recker 6),

     Total fouls: Monticello 11.



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