MONTICELLO — The last time Unity and Monticello met on the hardwood, the Rockets ended the Sages’ season in devastating fashion, winning 102-70 in a Class 2A regional in Tuscola.
What a difference a year makes.
Behind senior Bryan Phipps (career-high 24 points, nine rebounds) and junior Nick Stokowski (20 points, 15 rebounds), Monticello defeated Unity by nearly the same margin the Rockets inflicted on them a season ago, winning 76-46 Tuesday night.
Monticello (19-3, 7-1 Okaw Valley) trailed 34-32 early in the third quarter before ending the game on a 44-12 run.
Senior Ryan Donohue joined Phipps and Stokowski in double figures with 16 points. Stokowski recorded his fourth double-double of the season and 16th of his career.
Mitch Negangard led Unity (10-13, 4-4) with 14 points, and Justin Deters scored 11. Matt Restad had eight points, three assists and two steals for the Rockets.
“Last year they kind of embarrassed us when they beat us by 30,” Donohue said. “Coach (Kevin Roy) really wanted to get out and pressure them so this second he said, 'Let's just play hard.’ ”
Monticello shot 15 of 24 from the field in the final two quarters — good for 62.5 percent — and made 16 of 20 free throws down the stretch.
Monticello blew the game open in the second half with an extremely efficient game plan on offense: post up their bigger, stronger guards against a tough but undersized Unity lineup.
“With our size it’s hard for teams to guard everyone. With mine and Nick’s size, sometimes we get stuck with little guards on us, so we run the offense where we post up down low,” Donohue said.
That strategy paid off for the Sages. Obviously there weren't many trips down the floor Monticello didn't come away with points.
“They do a good job getting position,” Unity coach Bill Ipsen said. “I thought Justin Deters did as good of a job as he could do against Phipps.
We held him to seven points in the first half. That was a heck of a defensive effort on him the first half.”
Phipps scored 17 of his 24 points in the second half, including nine in the pivotal third quarter.
“The size does where on you a little bit,” Ipsen said.
After losing its first seven games of the season, Unity has been playing a lot better after the winter break. Restad returned from his concussion and the Rockets had won 10 of their 16 games since Christmas until Friday.
“I thought we played hard. Again, it comes down to we can't score seven points in the third quarter and beat a team like that,” Ipsen said.