Win over Camanche, deal give Panthers share of North crown

Luke Lambert celebrates with teammates after Monticello’s home win over Camanche Feb. 11. (Photos by Pete Temple)

Ty Kehoe of the Panthers (11) tries to work around Cameron Soenksen of Camanche Feb. 11 in Monticello. (Photo by Pete Temple)
Pete Temple
Express Sports Editor

     It was a district playoff-atmosphere game and a dramatic victory, followed by a series of bizarre events involving the weather, scheduling, and a series of phone calls.

     First, Monticello avenged an earlier lopsided loss, scoring a spirited 49-45 victory over Camanche Tuesday, Feb. 11 at Monticello High School.

     Then, a makeup game at Mid-Prairie that was supposed to be played Feb. 13 was called off due to poor weather, and not rescheduled, setting off a series of phone calls trying to determine how the conference standings would play out.

     When the weather had cleared and the last phone call had been made, the Panthers were co-champion of the River Valley Conference North Division, sharing the honor with Camanche (see Home Stretch column below) even though the Indians finished 18-1 in conference play, the Panthers 17-1.

     It was the first division title for Monticello 18-2 overall) since to formation of the River Valley Conference, which is in its seventh season. The last previous conference title for a Panther boys basketball team was in 2011-12, when Monticello was in the Tri-Rivers Conference.

     To get there, Monticello pulled out the four-point victory Tuesday in front of a noisy, often-standing crowd that made it seem, on both sides, as though the teams were playing for a district championship instead of a conference one.

     “The crowd was unbelievable,” Monticello coach Tim Lambert said. “We’ve had great crowds all year, and it really helps.”

     This one started out as an absolute reverse of Monticello’s 77-55 loss at Camanche Jan. 14. Whereas the Indians jumped to leads of 12-3 and 18-6 that night, this time the Panthers delighted their enthusiastic fans by hitting five straight three-point baskets in the first quarter. Monti held margins of 11-3 and 17-6. By quarter’s end, Monticello led 22-13.

     “When we played them down there, they ran us off the court,” Lambert said. “So, we changed a lot of what we do.”

     Instead of trying to guard the athletic Indians man-to-man, the Panthers went to a 2-3 zone. Instead of trying to run with them, the Panthers passed the ball around the perimeter and kept possession.

     “A slow tempo was a good thing for us,” Lambert said. “It got us a lot of good shots, and we knocked them down.”

     A big part of it, the coach said, was confidence.

     “We told them, ‘You have to believe in yourself.’ Camanche has some unbelievable players, but I think we do too,” he said.

     Camanche battled back several times in this game, largely on the shooting of Cameron Soenksen, who made four three-pointers of his own and finished with 19 points. The Indians ended the half on a three-point play by L.J. Henderson at the buzzer, and trailed by just three, 27-24, at the break.

     It set up a memorable second half. Camanche tied the game 30-30 midway through the third quarter, but the Panthers inched to a 35-31 lead by the end of the period.

     The game was tied three more times, at 35, 38 and 40; before a three-pointer by Tate Petersen – his fourth of the game – put Monticello up 43-40. With less than two minutes left the Panthers led 46-43, and Justin Recker fouled out with exactly one minute left.

     Camanche had four free throws in the next few seconds and missed three of them. For the game, the Indians missed 13 at the line, going 12-for-25.

     The Indians, down 46-44, had a chance for a tie or to take the lead, but a miss was rebounded by Petersen. He got the ball to Connor Lambert, who was immediately fouled, and went to the line with 16.7 seconds left. He sank both free throws to make it a two-possession game at 48-44.

     Camanche made one of two free throws on the other end with 12.3 to play, and with 8.4 left, Petersen was fouled, and made the second free throw for a four-point margin to seal it.

     Petersen finished with 12 points, Connor Lambert and Recker with 11 each, Luke Lambert with nine, and Ty Kehoe with six. The team shared rebounding duties, with Connor Lambert getting five, and Luke Lambert, Brayden Cleeton, Recker and Kehoe getting four each. Luke Lambert had five assists; Kehoe had four.

     “We couldn’t be more proud of the kids,” coach Lambert said. “It was a huge, huge game, and they delivered.”

Districts begin Thursday

     The Panthers received a first round bye in the Class 2A, District 8 tournament, and will host a semifinal game Thursday, Feb. 20, 8 p.m. against either Northeast or Tipton. The winner will move to the district final Feb. 25 at Solon.


Feb. 11

Cam      13  11  7 14 – 45

Monti   22    5   8 14 – 49

     CAMANCHE (45) – L.J. Henderson 2-6 4-10 8, Caleb Delzell 4-9 4-7 13, Zach Erwin 1-3 1-2 3, Cameron Soenksen 6-10 3-4 19, Jordan Lawrence 0-2 0-2 0, MIke Delzell 1-3 0-0 0, Zayne Feller 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 14-33 12-25 45.

     MONTICELLO (49) – Justin Recker 5-6 0-0 11, Luke Lambert 3-7 0-0 9, Connor Lambert 3-8 2-2 11, Ty Kehoe 2-5 2-4 6, Tate Petersen 4-8 2-5 12, Devin Kraus 0-0 0-0 0, Brayden Cleeton 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 17-35 6-11 49.

     Three-pointers: Soenksen 4, C. Delzell; L. Lambert 3, C. Lambert 3, Petersen 2, Recker.

     Rebounds: Monticello 23 (C. Lambert 5, Recker 4, L. Lambert 4, Kehoe 4, Cleeton 4), Camanche 20.

     Total fouls: Monticello 18, Camanche 15.




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