HOME STRETCH COLUMN – PETE TEMPLE, SPORTS EDITOR
In case you’ve forgotten, this basketball season will be the final go-round for Monticello in the Tri-Rivers Conference.
There may not be a lot of tears shed around here when the Panthers close the book on the TRC in February. Still, the old conference had its moments.
A few thoughts as Monticello prepares to join a new, still-unnamed league next year:
What I won’t miss:
• Games against much smaller schools that are decided by the time the first quarter ends.
• Looking at the schedule and realizing that only a handful of games will begin with the outcome in doubt.
What I’ll miss:
• Keen rivalries. While Monticello’s outstanding showdowns with Cascade will continue in the new conference, the Panthers will no longer face Maquoketa Valley teams with conference standings on the line.
Also, (for girls only), Monticello and Maquoketa Valley will be in different classes for the post-season for the first time this season, so the Jan. 8 meeting between the teams in Monticello will be the only one this season.
Another good rivalry that has developed for Monticello is with North-Linn. Here’s hoping the Panthers will continue to schedule both MV and N-L in non-conference play.
On the bright side, at least from my point of view, Midland will join Maquoketa Valley in the new, expanded Tri-Rivers next season, so some new rivalries could be established there.
What should change:
• In the Tri-Rivers, even though there have just been 10 schools in the conference in recent years, the basketball schedule was formed so that the Panthers would play certain teams just once each.
When those opponents have been smaller schools, a second game against them hasn’t been missed.
But when it’s against one of the other contenders, it’s not only unfortunate, it’s unfair in terms of the conference standings.
It was most noticeable last season, when Monticello played Maquoketa Valley just once during the regular season. That will be the case again this season, Jan. 8 in Monticello. Since both schools, in both genders, figure to be among the title contenders, to meet just once is a crime.
The new conference will have 13 schools, with two divisions. I would hope that Monticello plays its division opponents twice each.
What should stay the same:
• This is a selfish one, but I also think it has its advantages. I’m referring to the practice of playing back-to-back varsity basketball games, girls and then boys.
It’s obviously a one-stop-shopping thing for me, being able to get photos of the two Panther varsity teams on the same night. But I also think it contributes to the outstanding atmosphere we’ve experienced in recent years, particularly when the opponent is Cascade, Maquoketa Valley, North-Linn or Ed-Co.
The Cedar Valley Conference, which will absorb Monticello, Cascade and others into the new conference, has the same practice of back-to-back varsity games, so I’m hoping that will continue.
I’ll have more on the new conference as more information becomes available.