Sages reach sectional title game
TOLONO — The goals were identical for the semifinalists Wednesday in Unity’s Class 2A boys’ basketball tournament.
It was all about advancing to Friday’s championship game. Nothing else between the teams was similar.
The methods that Monticello and Clifton Central chose were contrasting from their defensive differences to their offensive philosophies and to their personnel.
“It was their speed against our size,” Monticello coach Kevin Roy said.
On this night, the bigger team was the better team.
Monticello withstood a three-point barrage by the Comets and posted a 59-52 triumph at the Rocket Center.
Fifteen of Clifton’s first 20 shots were from three-point range. By game’s end, 35 of the team’s 53 attempts were from long range. Twelve of them were good.
“With our size, we hoped to keep them out of the middle,” Roy said. “They were going to have to beat us from back there.”
The teams were tied in each of the first three quarters and were deadlocked at 31 when 6-foot-8 Matt Kruse connected on an 8-foot shot with 1 minute, 6 seconds left in the third period.
“Their big boys hurt us down low,” Clifton Central coach Josh Sertich said.
Though his team had no player taller than 6-1, the Comets played man-to-man against an opponent that started Kruse and 6-6 Bryan Phipps, who scored 16 points to go with a game-high nine rebounds and a team-high six assists.
“We’ve played zone two possessions all year and maybe 10 times in my three years,” Sertich said. “We don’t think because a team is bigger you’ve got to play zone. I’m not second-guessing myself on that one.”
Phipps hit 6 of 9 shots, Kruse was 2 for 3 from the field and teammate Nick Stokowski, who had 19 points, was 8 for 10 from the floor.
Thanks to a 9-for-10 showing in the fourth quarter, the Sages made nearly two-thirds of their attempts (24 of 37, 64.9 percent).
“We’re senior-laden, and their expectation was to be in this situation,” Roy said. “This group saw success throughout junior high. When they expect success, it’s easier to coach.”
Ryan Donohue scored a game-high 20 points, 11 coming in the last 71/2 minutes.
“He attacked the basket well,” Roy said. “He was being a senior leader. Obviously, he wanted to advance.”
The Sages get a day off before returning to action against tonight’s survivor, but Roy isn’t sure that’s an advantage.
“We don’t know who to prepare for,” he said, “but I certainly appreciated the extra day to prepare for Central. It’s fun and exciting to be playing this time of the year.”
The only non-senior who played for Monticello was Stokowski, a 6-2 junior, who played all 32 minutes along with Donohue and point guard Isaac Bales.
Class 1A Schlarman Sectional
Cissna Park 56, St. Anne 48. Cissna Park avenged a recent seven-point loss to St. Anne, recovering from a halftime deficit to pull away in a semifinal game.
The Timberwolves (20-10) reached the 20-win mark thanks to their free throw prowess. Alex Rabe sunk 10 of 14, and Cole Hasselbring hit 8 of 12. They were the top Cissna Park scorers, with 16 points apiece. Teammate Ben Jennings added 12 points, including 3 of 5 from the free throw line.
Overall, coach Kevin Long’s Cissna Park team netted 26 of 39 foul shots. St. Anne was 7 for 11 from the line, with just five of those attempts coming in the second half.
Class 3A Herscher Regional
Morris 50, PC 47. Prairie Central (16-10) couldn’t hold a 21-7 lead it built after one quarter and saw its season end with a three-point loss to Morris. Lane Maurer hit three first-quarter three-pointers and led the Hawks with 13 points. Teammate Ed Shafer had 11 points. Addison Bounds and Kyler Hoffman each scored nine points.