SULLIVAN — Throughout the season, Monticello’s eight seniors were looking to make memories.
Most of the group has played together for years, but they haven’t had that one postseason triumph that connects them for the rest of their lives.
Ryan Donohue scored 14 points to lead top-seeded Monticello to a 53-37 victory against third-seeded Unity in a Class 2A regional championship game Friday.
“We’ve been to this many times, and Unity’s always knocking us out of our seasons,” Donohue said. “It’s just really great to finally get that regional championship and move on to something we’ve never been to.”
The regional title is Monticello’s first since it won back-to-back championships in 2007-08, and it is a reversal of last season when Unity ended the Sages’ year.
Beating a conference rival makes it all the more sweet for Monticello (22-5).
“I mean (there’s) nothing better than beating Unity in the regional championship,” senior Tyler Taylor said. “They’re my favorite team to beat.”
The Rockets (14-16) built an early 11-4 lead in the first quarter, but Monticello adjusted to the physical play and took its first lead at the start of the second quarter on a Donohue trey.
The Sages’ lead grew to four by halftime as Unity went the second period without a field goal. A free throw by sophomore Josh Larson prevented the Rockets from being shut out as Monticello outscored Unity 8-1 in the period.
Unity knotted the game at 18 in the third quarter, but Monticello scored on its next three possessions to take a six-point lead.
The Rockets cut the lead to five by the end of the third quarter before Monticello put the game away in the fourth quarter.
Seniors Matt Kruse (10 points) and Bryan Phipps (eight) fouled out for the Sages. Senior Parker Trice and junior Nick Stokowski finished with eight points apiece.
Senior Matt Restad had 18 points for Unity, and senior Mitch Negangard added seven.
“I think everyone came out sluggish,” Donohue said. “We knew it was such a big game. One and done, there’s no tomorrow.”
Monticello will play in the sectional semifinal Tuesday in Tolono.
It’s another opportunity for the Sages to add to their memory bank.
“We expect even more physical play than we had tonight,” senior Isaac Bales said. “Everybody’s going to come out and leave it all on the floor. It’s the last game for one of the two teams.”
In Class 1A action:
Cissna Park 52, Heritage 46. The Timberwolves built a seven-point halftime lead and held off the host Hawks to win the Broadlands Regional.
Cole Hasselbring racked up 26 points for Cissna Park. John Taylor led Heritage with 16 points.
St. Anne 55, Iroquois West 46. The Raiders cut a nine-point deficit to three with about 40 seconds left but could get no closer in a regional title loss at Gilman. Keaton Zirkle scored a game-high 17 points and had four assists for IW. Michael Farmer grabbed 11 rebounds for the Raiders.
Ridgeview 53, Lexington 42. The host Mustangs outscored Lexington 13-2 in the third quarter to take command en route to capturing the Colfax Regional title. Trevor McIntosh scored 15 points for Ridgeview. Matt Barnes and Josh Weier added 12 and 11 points, respectively.
Arthur-Lovington 58, Okaw Valley 37. The Knights raced to a 34-17 halftime lead en route to a semifinal win in the Arcola Regional. Andrew Maxwell scored 16 points for A-L, and Tyler Schuring hit three three-pointers and added 11 points.
Central A&M 65, Cerro Gordo 50. The Broncos were unable to hold on to a 43-36 lead through three quarters and lost in the semifinals of the Arcola Regional. Nathan Lovekamp scored 16 points for Cerro Gordo, which led 29-18 at halftime. Cole Blickensderfer added 11 points for the Broncos.
Salt Fork 53, Shiloh 47. Ross Learnard’s 27 points carried the Storm to victory in the Chrisman Regional title game. Andrew Donithan paced Shiloh with 18 points.