MAROA — For the third year in a row, Monticello reached the Okaw Valley Conference tournament championship. For the third year in a row, the Sages return home without this particular feather in their cap.
Aiming for its first conference tournament title since 2003, top-seeded Monticello dropped a physical contest against sixth-seeded Meridian 46-42 in front of two sets of raucous fans in Maroa-Forsyth’s gymnasium Saturday night, the Sages’ second loss to the Hawks this season.
Trailing 44-42 with under 30 seconds left, senior forward Bryan Phipps, who led Monticello (18-3) with strong performances in the quarterfinal and semifinal games, airballed a free throw line jumper and missed the rim again on a three-point attempt after Meridian’s Brock Snarski (game-high 18 points) sank a pair of free throws to push the lead to four.
Ryan Donohue led Monticello with 12 points. Nick Stokowski added 10 points, including eight in the second half for the Sages.
“Our guard defense was better than their guard offense,” Meridian coach Jack Blickensderfer said. “Their guards are more spot-up shooters. Stokowski’s a beast inside and that’s where we felt we really had to get after them.”
It was another bruising contest between a pair of conference rivals who leave it all on the court.
The largest lead of the game came in the first few minutes as Monticello jumped out 6-0.
The Hawks (13-9) scored nine straight before a three-pointer by Monticello point guard Isaac Bales fell through to end the Sages’ drought.
Neither team led by more than five the rest of the way.
Sullivan 64, Tuscola 62. Andy Brown dropped in 18 points and Sullivan escaped with an overtime victory against the Warriors. Mitch Molzen added 14 points for the Redskins while Derrek Stain chipped in nine points, including a 6-for-6 effort at the foul line in the fourth quarter and overtime. Dustin Haake (19 points), Nick Bates (14 points) and Christian Wood (12 points) finished in double figures for Tuscola, which trailed 40-34 at the start of the fourth quarter.