116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
DES MOINES - They had to be tired of hearing the question because they faced it all season.
Did the Monticello Panthers really belong with the big boys in Class 3A?
'We'll let other people decide that,” Coach Tim Lambert said, after Monticello dropped a 59-46 decision to Pella in a boys' basketball tournament quarterfinal Tuesday night at Wells Fargo Arena. 'They kind of decided it all year with our seeds and stuff. I'm just proud of them. I think we belonged. But we'll let other people decide.”
In short, yeah, Monticello belonged. You bet it did.
If you don't know the story, the Panthers qualified last season for state for the first time in 60 years. That was in Class 2A.
Its enrollment bumped Monticello up this season, but, despite virtually the entire team returning, a lot of folks didn't believe in it, despite going unbeaten in the regular season. That its schedule included only one 3A team prior to the postseason added fuel to the naysayers' fire.
The Panthers (22-1) weren't even the top seed in their substate and were seeded seventh here. They got immediately behind Pella (23-2), trailed by 13 at halftime but whittled their deficit to as little as three a couple of times in the second half, with a tying 3-pointer missing at one point late in the third.
'I think we gave it all we had,” said Monticello's Connor Lambert. 'If anything, we came down here and gave it all we had. Obviously the start wasn't what we wanted. We came in here last year, and kind of the same thing happened. But I liked the way we battled back, had it within three. Didn't ever really give up. That is something to hang our hat on, for sure.”
'We came out slow, turnovers really killed us,” said Justin Recker, whose marvelous career ended with an 18-point game. 'If we had limited those, we would have been fine. We would have been in the game the whole time.”
Monticello turned it over 15 times, not handling Pella's trapping defense well early. Grant Nelson had 18 points, with Noah Allen adding 14 for the more athletic Dutch, who play Sergeant Bluff-Luton in Thursday's 3A semifinals.
'We were just passive,” Tim Lambert said. 'I thought if we attacked that half-court trap, we'd be fine. We were so passive against it, turned it over, turned it over, dribbled too much. You've seen us play. Dribbling around is not our game ... It got to 15-3, and that was kind of the game right there.”
Monticello's two-year record ended at 43-4, its three-year record 55-9. This senior group played a ton of basketball together growing up and at the high school level.
It won a lot of games and was fun to watch.
'Playing with my best friends was just a great feeling,” Recker said. 'Then especially to make the state tournament two years in a row. Just all the fun we had. The experiences were just great.”
AT DES MOINES
MONTICELLO (46): Justin Recker 6-10 5-7 18, Luke Lambert 1-4 0-0 3, Connor Lambert 3-8 0-0 8, Ty Kehoe 4-8 0-2 8, Tate Petersen 0-3 0-0 0, Preston Ries 4-7 0-0 9, Caleb Sauser 0-0 0-0 0, Riley Manternach 0-0 0-0 0, Ian Temple 0-0 0-0 0, Grahm Scnneiter 0-0 0-0 0, Trey Kuper 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 18-40 5-9 46.
PELLA (59): Ryan Mace 1-4 0-0 2, Karl Miller 3-8 1-2 8, Josh Warner 4-5 0-0 8, Parker Elder 4-5 0-0 8, Grant Nelson 6-13 5-6 18, Noah Allen 3-9 6-10 14, Preston Rowe 0-0 1-2 1, Keegan Hansen 0-0 0-0 0, Madi Huddleston 0-0 0-0 0, Ayden Gordon 0-0 0-0 0, Jake Van Hemert 0-0 0-0 0, Jasper Luiz Perez 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 21-44 13-20 59.
Halftime - Pella 32, Monticello 19. 3-point goals - Monticello 5-18 (Recker 1-2, L. Lambert 1-4, C. Lambert 2-5, Kehoe 0-1, Petersen 0-3, Ries 1-3), Pella 4-14 (Mace 0-2, Miller 1-4, Nelson 1-5, Allen 2-3). Rebounds - Monticello 21 (Recker 7), pella 26 (Miller 7). Total fouls - Monticello 18, Pella 13. Fouled out - Kehoe. Assists - Monticello 9 (Recker, C. Lambert 3), Pella 11 (Miller 3). Turnovers - Monticello 15, Pella 9.
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