PREVIEW: Monticello team has depth, talent

The Monticello High School varsity boys basketball team, first row from left: Ryan Manternach, Connor Lambert, Gavin Cooper, Kyle Sperfslage, Jacob Manternach, Devin Kraus, Mason Kraus, Ty Kehoe, Tyler Luensman and Luke Lambert. Second row: assistant coach Curt Tauke, T.J. Nealson, Harrison Eastburn, Daltyn Kramer, Alex Nealson, Justin Recker, Avery Martensen, Will Rieniets and head coach Tim Lambert. (Photo by Pete Temple)
Pete Temple
Express Sports Editor

     Monticello has an intriguing mix of experienced returning players and talented newcomers as it heads into the 2017-18 high school boys basketball season.

     “We’re deeper than we’ve been in a while,” said Tim Lambert, who is now in his 20th year as head coach. “We’ve got good senior leadership. But we’ve also got some young kids who can press the older guys. It makes it more competitive in practice.”

     Monticello has three returning all-conference players, who were also last year’s scoring leaders on the team. Senior guard Jacob Manternach made the North Division all-conference team after averaging 12.6 points and 2.4 assists per game. Senior center Alex Nealson also made the North team, averaging 8.3 points a team-high 5.7 rebounds per game. Senior guard Kyle Sperfslage averaged 10.2 points and 1.7 steals per game, and received honorable mention.

     Senior forward Ryan Manternach and junior forward Avery Martensen are the other returning letter-winners. The roster also has six juniors, one sophomore and five freshmen.

     The Panthers will have plenty of strong opponents in the River Valley Conference, including Cascade, Northeast and Camanche in their own North Division, and Iowa City Regina in the South.

     “Cascade was a state tournament team and has almost everybody back,” Lambert said. “Northeast and Camanche are always good, and Bellevue will be better than they’ve been in a while. Regina is set up to be very good for a long time.

     “Our league is a lot of fun because it’s so competitive, but it’s a grinder.”

     The Panthers went 11-12 last season, including 8-9 in the RVC, which Lambert said was partly due to a slump during which they lost several close games.

     “Last year we were pretty inexperienced,” the coach said. “We hope this year that experience will get them over the hump in a lot of those close games.”

     He is assisted by Curt Tauke, Steve Rucker and Kolby Harms.




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