MONTICELLO – Nothing could have made the New Year sweeter for the Monticello Panthers than vanquishing the Washingtonville Wizards in their non-league tilt, the first home game to be played by …
MONTICELLO – Nothing could have made the New Year sweeter for the Monticello Panthers than vanquishing the Washingtonville Wizards in their non-league tilt, the first home game to be played by the boys team in 2023.
But alas, a woeful second quarter in which the Panthers were outscored 18-10 after trailing by only one point after the first quarter, created a deficit the Montis could not overcome. They trailed 28-19 at the break. After hoping to turn things around in the second half, the third quarter imbalance persisted that resulted in a 41-27 Wizards’ lead heading into the final stanza. Sensing the urgency, the Panthers outscored their opponents 17-11 in the fourth quarter, but it just wasn’t enough.
The night began with a solemn remembrance of 2015 Monticello graduate and hoops star Rafael Ortiz who tragically lost his life on December 31 in an automobile crash. Ortiz was a key member of the Division Championship team of that year that went on to sectionals but lost in the semifinals to Saugerties. Ortiz who wore number 24 during his four-year tenure was a beloved warrior with an engaging smile and a sweet shot. He was just 26 years old upon his passing.
His untimely death behind the wheel of a car was sadly reminiscent of the passing of 2012 grad and hoop standout Ros Djombolaj who suffered a similar fate in 2016. Both young men were part of the memorable legacy of Monticello basketball, something this year’s team would love to continue.
The Montis are now 2-4 but there is plenty of season up ahead. Washingtonville is a Class AA team, while Monticello is a Class A squad. Next year with the realignment, they will both be AA rivals. Washingtonville Coach Todd Rose and Monticello Coach Chris Russo are great friends with a ton of mutual respect.
Monti senior Joseph Russo led the Panthers with 14 points, while sophomore point guard Daevion Sandoval posted 12. Big man Dylan Hardy netted nine but pulled down 11 rebounds. The Wizards were paced by Zion Lynch’s 12 points. Washingtonville improved to 3-4.
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