116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
MAQUOKETA — The Iron Five, a 22nd straight win and another trip to the boys' state basketball tournament. This time in a higher class.
Monticello felt it proved itself to what it perceived to be a number of doubters Monday night with a 45-39 win over Solon in a Class 3A substate final.
The second-ranked Panthers (22-0) qualified for the state tournament last year for the first time in 60 years, though that was in 2A. The school was bumped up this season because of enrollment and didn't play a 3A team until the regular-season finale, a one-point win over Decorah in which it trailed by eight points with under two minutes to go.
Despite its spotless record, Monti was a second seed in this substate. None of that stuff mattered.
'We came out here and proved that we're a pretty good two seed,' said Monticello guard Ty Kehoe, who had a game-high 16 points. 'And that even though we haven't played many 3A teams, we came out and showed them how we play.'
How they play is cohesive, very tough defensively and with the utmost patience offensively. How they played Monday was with only five guys: starters Kehoe, Connor Lambert, Luke Lambert, Justin Recker and Tate Petersen going all 32 minutes.
When was the last time you saw that?
'Us starting five, we know we have to come out ready to play,' said Recker, who added 11 points in this game. 'We know we're going to play most of the game, we only have a couple of people that (usually) come off the bench. We just didn't need them tonight.'
'They're high school kids,' said Coach Tim Lambert, who broke his left arm in a fall on ice a couple of weeks ago and led his team with that arm in a sling. 'When you're 17 years old ... We just think we need to ride that experience. We have good bench players, too, but we just think our defense with those five is so good. I hate to break it if we don't need to.'
A Connor Lambert 3-pointer at the end of the first quarter gave Monticello a 9-7 lead, then the game was stopped and both teams sent to the locker room for several minutes after Solon assistant coach Matt Morrison suffered a seizure at the Spartans bench and had to be tended to by emergency medical personnel. Solon head coach Jared Galpin said Morrison was transported to a local hospital but is expected to be OK.
When the game resumed, Monticello scored the first 12 points and took a 22-8 halftime lead. Kehoe had seven of those 12.
'It was really hard going into (the locker room),' Kehoe said of the delay. 'We had just gotten our legs moving and were feeling pretty good. We got to talk about the first quarter and things we did wrong. We came out and went on a very good run. We talked about things, and then we executed them out on the court.'
Solon (21-3) went the entire quarter without a field goal, then the first 4:22 of the third quarter before Ben Cusick finally broke the extensive drought.
'I think what really affects the defense is that they're so patient offensively. They don't take bad shots,' Galpin said. 'They run their stuff to get a really high-percentage shot, they make you guard on defense. Then, obviously, what we didn't do in the first half, we did not make them work hard enough defensively, especially the second quarter. We got down a little bit, and I think we tried to get it all back on one play.'
The eighth-ranked Spartans did not go away, getting as close as six, 28-22, on a Carson Shive trey fairly early in the fourth. But the Iron Five stabilized and hit enough free throws to grow the lead back to as many as 11.
'Last year not doing it for (60 years), it was so exciting,' Coach Lambert said. 'Obviously everyone is still excited. But I think this year it's more a sense of pride because I think so many people have doubted us all year. Moving up to 3A, (they think), oh, the physicality of this and of that. All of that is true. It's a different beast, for sure. All the teams are bigger. But they knew last spring what they needed to do. They all played pretty high-level AAU, they just worked at their game continuously. Here we are. I could not be more proud of them.'
Monticello will not find out its state tournament opponent until Tuesday night, since there are two substate finals in the class yet to be played.
MONTICELLO (45): Connor Lambert 2-3 1-1 6, Justin Recker 4-11 3-5 11, Tate Petersen 2-5 4-4 9, Luke Lambert 0-3 3-5 3, Ty Kehoe 4-5 8-11 16. Totals 12-27 19-26 45.
SOLON (39): Ben Cusick 4-7 1-2 10, David Bluder 3-7 1-1 7, Kinnick Pusteoska 2-3 0-2 4, Will Noonan 1-5 0-0 2, Carson Shive 2-5 2-4 7, Bo Janssen 1-1 1-2 3, Jake Quillan 2-7 0-1 4, Drew Turner 1-1 0-0 2, Jacob Timmons 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 16-36 5-12 39.
Halftime — Monticello 22, Solon 8. 3-point goals — Monticello 2-11 (C. Lambert 1-2, Recker 0-3, Petersen 1-3, L. Lambert 0-2), Solon 1-9 (Cusick 1-1, Noonan 0-4, Shive 1-1, Quillin 0-3). Rebounds — Monticello 22 (C. Lambert, Recker 5), Solon 23 (Cusick 8). Total fouls — Monticello 10, Solon 24. Fouled out — Noonan, Shive. Turnovers — Monticello 13, Solon 12.
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