Both Monticello squads finish tourneys with wins
When a team is struggling to find itself, the best thing to do is play, most coaches agree. Practice can certainly help but until athletes get in game-type situations, neither they nor their coaches know how they’ll react.
This season, Monticello just suffered through a forgettable 2017 on the basketball court. A victory in the last game of last year coupled with a good beginning to 2018, though, just might have the Billies headed in the right direction.
Monticello totally destroyed Augusta 63-30 in the seventh-place game of the Beebe Holiday Tournament Saturday before starting the new year off right with a 58-51 win at Smackover Tuesday.
Unfortunately for Monticello, its first two games at Beebe didn’t go as anyone connected with the program had planed. The Billies dropped a first-round game 59-47 last Thursday to Searcy before being humbled 58-37 in the consolation semifinals by Class 4A, District 8 neighbor Dumas on Friday.
“Our issues are the same as they have been to this point in the season,” longtime Monticello head boys’ basketball coach Wayne Sherrer lamented, “poor chemistry resulting in porous team defense and inconsistent offensive production. We have shown flashes of good play but to this point have been unable to sustain it for 32 minutes.
“That is our challenge moving forward. I am confident we’ll get there.”
The split of the last four outings left Monticello’s overall record at 6-9. The Billies are still one of the top teams in the Arkansas Activities Association’s “blended” 12-3A4A league, however. The win at Smackover improved Monticello’s league record to 5-2.
A Friday trip to Fordyce now is all that stands between the Billies and a rematch against crosstown rival Drew Central in the second “Showdown In M-Town” matchup of 2017-18. Three games (junior boys and both senior teams) tip off at 5 p.m. Tuesday at Dan Coston Field House.
Monticello will be gunning for the Pirates this time after being edged by Drew Central 53-52 on Dec. 5, 2017 at Drew Central Auditorium. To date, that remains the closest any team has gotten to the now 13-1 Pirates (except for DC’s loss to Valley Springs, of course).
The big win over the Red Devils at Beebe just may have awakened a sleeping giant. After playing Augusta point-for-point in the first eight minutes, Monticello outscored the Red Devils 48-15 in the remainder of the contest to claim seventh place in the tournament.
An 11-3 second-period onslaught began the carnage. The Billies’ defense held Augusta to just 12 points after intermission. In fact, the Red Devils scored as many points in the first quarter as they did the rest of the game.
Junior Trenton Napier, a 6-foot-6 inside presence, led Monticello in scoring against Augusta with 14 points, becoming the seventh different player already to post a team-leading point total. Senior Jase Whitfield added 10 in the seventh-place victory.
Before that game, things had not got so well for Sherrer and his Billies in White County. Trailing Searcy by just three points heading into the fourth quarter, Monticello allowed the Lions to go on a 16-7 run that sealed its first-round fate.
And in the meeting with Dumas, the Billies were never in the contest. Whitfield led Monticello in scoring against Searcy with 19 points and junior A.J. Davis paced the Billies against Dumas with 10.
The only other double-figures scorer in the first two games of the Beebe tournament was senior Devario Ballard, who chipped in with 11 points against Searcy. Tuesday, it was a different story.
While Davis scored 14 points to lead Monticello over Smackover, three teammates also reached double figures. Ballard and senior Ryan Lambert netted 11 points each and Ballard added 10, as the Billies broke open what had been a nip-and-tuck contest with a 23-point fourth-quarter explosion.