PREVIEW: After losing five starters, Panthers start fresh

The Monticello varsity boys basketball team, first row from left: Kyle Sperfslage, Taylor Manternach, Alex Kremer, Jacob Manternach and Austin Coohey. Second row: Ryan Manternach, Wesley Henderson, Josh White, T.J. Nealson and Jacob Fokken. Third row: head coach Tim Lambert, Connor Franzenburg, Andy Tjaden, Alex Nealson, Jordan Breashears and Avery Martensen. Not pictured are assistant coaches Curt Tauke and Todd Lambert. (Photo by Pete Temple)


     Nearly every basketball team in the state loses at least one starter from the previous year’s team to graduation.

     But to lose all five? Pretty rare.

     That’s the situation facing the Monticello High School boys basketball team this season. The five graduated starters represented nearly 89 percent of the team’s scoring and 76 percent of its rebounding during last year’s 17-6 campaign.

     Despite that, 19th-year head coach Tim Lambert has seen some good things so far in practice.

     “It’s just a big adjustment,” 19th-year coach Tim Lambert said. “We have a lot of kids learning new roles. But I think it’s a group that can surprise a lot of people.”

     One of the keys, Lambert said, will be to break the season into parts.

     “Early in the season, the goal will be to improve and get used to playing together,” he said. “After Christmas break, we hope they keep getting better and better.”

     The Panthers have five returning letter-winners, including two who have considerable varsity experience. They are senior forward Andy Tjaden, who was second on the team in blocks last season; and junior guard Jacob Manternach.

     Also back are senior forwards Jordan Breashears and Connor Franzenburg, and senior guards Alex Kremer, Taylor Manternach and Josh White.

     Lambert said the team plans to emphasize man-to-man defense, to push the ball up the floor when it’s possible, to execute, and to limit turnovers.

     “We want them to know their roles, take good shots and share the ball,” the coach said.

     Among the toughest River Valley Conference teams the Panthers will face this season are two North Division rivals that have a lot of returning players, Camanche and Northeast of Goose Lake.

     “Now it’s this group’s time,” Lambert said. “It will be interesting to see who steps up, who leads this group.”

     Lambert is assisted by Curt Tauke, Todd Lambert and Kolby Harms. Steve Rucker is the junior varsity coach, and Harms coaches the freshman team.



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