MONTICELLO — Noah Freemon is one calm, cool and collected player on and off the court. It’s one of the reasons the Monticello sophomore has adjusted so well to the varsity game as an underclassman.
But Freemon’s coaches would like him to trade in a little of that laid-back approach for some more aggression, because the Sages are a completely different team when he’s attacking.
Fans saw both sides of Freemon in Friday’s matchup between Okaw Valley Conference rivals Unity and Monticello. The 5-foot-9 guard took only two shots in the first half, going scoreless in his 14 minutes of play.
Freemon flipped the switch after intermission, scoring all of his career-high 18 points to lead the Sages to a 60-54 win in Miller Gym.
“The coaches and the other players have helped me gain my confidence, and that’s really helped me,” Freemon said. “My teammates got me open, and the coaches encouraged me to keep shooting. I got a couple nice screens from Nick (Stokowski) and Mac (Maclaine Stahl) that really helped me out.”
Seniors Stahl (career-high 15 points) and Stokowski (13 points) kept Monticello in it early, each scoring six points in the first quarter as the Rockets and Sages played to a 12-12 tie after the opening period.
The teams finished the second quarter just like the first, ending the half knotted at 24 before Freemon got hot. He hit 6 of 9 shots in the final two periods, including 2 of 3 three-pointers to give the Sages (7-7, 3-1 OVC) the spark they needed.
“He just needs to attack,” Monticello coach Kevin Roy said of Freemon.
“He’s got to be more aggressive. He’s got to be a little bit more offensive-minded. As a point guard, he’s always looking for his teammates — he makes everybody around him better — but he’s got to look for himself to make the defense come out.”
Monticello opened a one-point lead midway through the fourth with its transition offense, and a 6-0 run gave the Sages some breathing room. Freemon connected on two fastbreak layups and found junior Daniel Caldwell for another.
Monticello had 15 fastbreak points in the game.
“That stemmed from our defense,” Roy said. “We were able to get some runouts. I know Caldwell got a layup in transition and (Nathan) Mumm did as well just by pushing the ball.”
Unity’s Josh Larson hit a trey to cut the lead to three with less a minute to go, but Clay Becker and Stokowski sank two free throws apiece to close the game.
Larson had 16 points for the Rockets (11-4, 2-2), while Zach Thorson led the team with 18.
Starting center Zach Shotton played only nine minutes due to foul trouble.
“We had foul trouble, especially in the first half. I thought we handled it well being tied at the half,” Unity coach Bill Ipsen said. “Zeke (Eisenmenger) stepped in and did a nice job.”
The Rockets switched to zone at points in the game to limit fouls, but Freemon and his fellow Monticello guards found the seams and slithered in for easy looks.
“We knew it was going to be down to the wire,” Ipsen said. “We played hard, they played hard. We just came out on the short end (Friday).”
Next up for the Sages is OVC leader St. Teresa on Tuesday.
Monticello is going to need the aggressive Freemon in hand to spring the upset.
“He’s just got that ability,” Roy said. “He’s got the knack to get to the basket and finish, and he’s a tremendous asset for us.”