Successful Panther teams carry potential into new year

Tate Petersen drives with the basketball for Monticello in the Dec. 18 game against Tipton. (Express file photos)

Karli Recker of Monticello looks for an open teammate in the Dec. 14 Bellevue game.
Pete Temple
Express Sports Editor

     Monticello High School’s five winter sports teams ended 2020 with largely successful results, and in each case have had moments where they have shown the potential for even better things in the new year.

     Here’s a capsule look at how the Panther teams have performed to this point:


Boys basketball

     Most things have gone Monticello’s way to start this boys basketball season. The Panthers are 6-0 with six blowout victories, and had senior Justin Recker achieve two milestones on the same night – setting the all-time school boys basketball scoring record, and reaching 1,000 career points.

     Recker, by the way, went into the holiday break ninth on the Class 3A scoring list with an average of 19.0 points per game.

     Luke Lambert is averaging 14.3 points per game, to go along with team highs in rebounds (7.0) and blocks (1.3), and shares the assist lead with Tate Petersen, each with 5.5 per contest.

     Petersen averages 12.3 points per game. Connor Lambert and Recker average 6.8 rebounds. Freshman Preston Ries, often the first player off the bench, is fourth on the team in both scoring (9.7) and rebounding (5.0). Steal leaders are Ty Kehoe (1.8 per game) and Recker (1.7).

     That this might be an enjoyable season for Panther fans was made evident in the season opener, an 87-23 rout of North Cedar Dec. 4.

     “We shared the ball really well, and the defensive pressure was good,” coach Tim Lambert said. “We had contributions from a lot of people. Everyone who came in played hard, and played the right way.”

     The coach said that hasn’t always been the case this season. In a Dec. 22 game at Durant, the Panthers took a 16-point halftime lead, but weren’t fully in control until they scored the first 18 points of the second half.

     “Everything’s better when you play hard,” Lambert said. “The defensive intensity has to be much better for four quarters.”


Girls basketball

     Monticello took a 6-2 record into the break, with one of those wins giving head coach Donnie Kremer his 300th career victory.

     The Panthers play a high-pressure, fast-paced style, with much of the credit going to senior Gabrielle Guilford. She not only leads the team in scoring at 12.5 points per game, but her 5.0 steals per game rank her fifth statewide in Class 3A.

      A key point early in the season for the Panthers was a Dec. 15 loss to Bellevue. A fired-up Monticello squad came back the next night to score a 59-30 win over rival Anamosa.

     “I think the girls learned a valuable lesson,” Kremer said of the Bellevue loss, “that if you do not give effort, the result is not the one they want. Their mindset was way different against Anamosa, and it showed.

     “These girls are very resilient. We knew if we could get a stop on defense (against Anamosa), that we could push the tempo and get some easy shots.”

     Beka Prull is second on the team in both scoring (8.1 per game) and rebounding (5.5). Lydia Recker averages 6.9 points per game. Tori McDonald averages four steals and 3.4 assist per game. Bronwyn Hodge leads the team in rebounding at 5.8 per game.



     Monticello held a 12-2 dual meet record at the end of 2020, and got to be part of a milestone when Kain Luensman recorded his 150th career victory, the fourth Panther ever to do so.

     Luensman has a 19-0 record this season, and there are no fewer than nine Panthers who have reached double digit wins so far. Kale Hansen is 17-1, Mark Sunlin is 11-1, Cael Sampson is 17-2, Dylan Monk is 10-2, Owen Ray is 14-3, Tyler Luensman and Bo Kramer are both 15-4, and Ethan Tallman is 14-5. Interestingly, all of these top records are in the weight classes 160 and lower.

     “We are a very solid team in the lower weights,” coach Ryan Luensman said.

     The coach said among the reasons for the team’s success are “consistency throughout the team, and sacrifice. We have guys moving weights and giving up weight in certain situations.

     “We just take it one day at a time. We have some bumps and bruises, but the boys have battled through them to this point.”


Boys bowling

     After reaching the state tournament last season in just the third year of the program, and returning all six bowlers from that team, Monticello came into this season with high hopes.

     That led, coach Brian Meyer said, to the boys putting too much pressure on themselves.

     That trend changed dramatically Dec. 8 against Bellevue, when the Panthers recorded their third-highest team total in program history, 3114, and won by 290.

     “They bowled so well as a team,” Meyer said. “They made spares; I think in the whole day, as a team, we had 12 missed makeable (spares). You’d like to have that number be zero, but you know what? That’s great. And they had several clean games in Baker (five games of team bowling, with each member bowling two frames per game).

     Four Panthers are either averaging better than 200 per game or close to it: Caleb Gillmore is at 215.75, Levi Temple 200.13, Easton Lee 197.63, and Gary Pasker 197.25.

     Monticello is 3-1 on the season.


Girls bowling

     Monticello has a team of mostly newcomers this season, but many of them have performed well so far this season. Of the top four Panthers in per-game average this season – Emma Hynick at 145, Aubree Fairley at 142.25, Nora Sperfslage at 123.38, and Karle Kramer at 122.88 – only Fairley was on the team last season.

     “We’ve got some athletic girls,” coach Brian Meyer said. “New to bowling, but they’re athletic. They understand motion and balance. The other coaches in the community have done a good job of teaching that before they even got here. They have the understanding of body awareness, so they benefitted us quickly.”

     The Panthers are 1-3 this season, but have shown promise, particularly in a 1933 to 1546 home win over Bellevue Dec. 8.

     Early in the season, the team had a goal of reaching 100 in at least three of their five games in the Baker round (team bowling, with each member bowling two frames).

     Against Bellevue, all five were over 100, and three were over 130.

     “Maybe that’s not a huge number, but it is for us,” Meyer said.



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