By Pete Temple, Express Sports Editor
A shooting barrage in which the Monticello Panthers made 11 baskets from three-point range turned the Jan. 11 boys basketball game at fifth-ranked Cascade into a nail-biter.
Cascade rallied from a 17-7 first quarter deficit, then held off Monticello’s final surge to escape with a 51-49 victory.
The Panthers were (7-2, 7-5)outstanding from three-point range. They made 11 of 21 attempts (52 percent), including 6-for-9 from Sawyer Herman and 4-for-5 from Michael Melchert.
“We figured we’d get a lot of open ones against them, and we did, and we knocked them down,” Monticello coach Tim Lambert said.
Ultimately, however, free throws proved to be among the biggest reasons the Panthers couldn’t quite pull off the upset. They made just 10 of 18 (56 percent).
“In the fourth quarter we had chance after chance,” Lambert said. “We stepped up and missed one out of two or two out of two, too many times.”
If Cascade had hopes of burying the Panthers early, they were dashed early. Sawyer Herman had nine of his 21 points in the first period, as Monticello dashed to a 17-7 lead.
“I don’t think it was a shock to anyone on our bench,” Lambert said.
Cascade fought back in the second period, but still trailed at halftime, 24-23.
The second half was close throughout. The Cougars opened a six-point lead midway through the third quarter, and led by three, 39-36, going into the final period.
Three-pointers by Melchert and Herman got the Panthers to within two, 48-46, midway through the fourth quarter. Cascade scored just three points the rest of the way, and led 51-48 after Tim Norton sank two free throws for the Panthers with 1:06 to play.
Herman made a steal and passed to Matt Holmes, who was fouled with 56.0 second left. Holmes made one of two free throws, and the Panthers were down 51-49.
After a Cascade turnover, Monticello had one more chance to either tie or win the game, and called time-out with 14.1 seconds left.
But a last-second shot attempt was blocked, and the Cougars prevailed.
Lambert said he had prepared the Panthers for a zone defense to set up the final shot.
“Al (Marshall, the Cascade coach) outcoached me in that last time-out,” Lambert said. “They came out (with a man-to-man defense), and I didn’t have anything ready for it. I take the blame for that.”
Despite the loss, the team has shown signs of coming together, the coach said.
“I think the whole team is getting it,” Lambert said. “I couldn’t be prouder of them. I felt sick for them afterward; I thought they played their hearts out.”
Melchert finished with 13 points, and Norton had 10. Norton also had five assists. Herman had five rebounds, three assists and three steals.
Earlier in the week, Monticello defeated Maquoketa Valley 58-46 Tuesday, Jan. 8 in Monticello.
The Panthers jumped out to a 12-4 lead midway through the first quarter, and the Wildcats battled back with nine straight points to take a 13-12 lead by period’s end.
”We got off to a good start,” Maquoketa Valley coach Troy Osterhaus said. “We hit some early shots. The second quarter was a different story. We had 12 turnovers in the first half, of which many led to easy baskets for Monticello.
”Monticello did a good job of applying pressure with their run and jump man defense in the full court and half court, and we did not do a good job of being strong with the ball, coming back to the ball and then attacking.”
The Panthers outscored MV 13-3 in the second period, including an 11-2 run in the first four minutes. That proved to be the difference.
”It was probably the hardest we’ve played defensively all year,” Lambert said.
The Panthers shot well from three-point range, hitting seven of them. For the game, Monticello shot exactly 50 percent from the field (21-for-42), including 7-for-18 from three-point range (39 percent).
”We shot the ball better than we’ve shot all year. We also did a better job of valuing the ball.”
Holmes had an outstanding game, scoring 20 points on 8-for-17 shooting from the field, including a trio of three-point shots. He also led the team in rebounds with six, including five off the offensive boards.
“He played like a senior,” Lambert said. “For a wing, that (offensive rebounding total) is outstanding.”
The Panthers also got 12 points from Dallas Lumpa, and Herman scored 11. Herman also led the team in assists with nine, and in steals with four.
The Wildcats had three players score in double figures: Ben Dzaboff with 14, Jobe Ellison with 13 and Aaron Dzaboff with 12. Mitch Manternach led the team in rebounding with eight. Aaron Dzaboff made three assists.
Monticello was scheduled to play host to Alburnett Jan. 15, and at Central City Jan. 18.
PHOTO: Tim Norton of Monticello is guarded by two Cascade players as he puts up a jumper Jan. 11 in Cascade. (Photo by Pete Temple)