MONTICELLO- “These are the times that try men’s souls,” wrote Thomas Paine. And indeed, these times are just that. But it’s not only men’s souls that are being tried, …
MONTICELLO- “These are the times that try men’s souls,” wrote Thomas Paine. And indeed, these times are just that. But it’s not only men’s souls that are being tried, it’s all souls trying to navigate their way though the last surge (scourge) of Covid-19. The widening impact of the Omicron variant is affecting local sports teams as well, and the Monticello girls are a prime example. Not having played since December 21 and missing their motor, Aaliyah Mota, they were fortunate indeed to escape with a 41-36 win over the Chapel Field Lady Lions, who came on strong in the first quarter to take a 12-4 lead.
For Monticello Coach Ryan Jasper, the Mota-less team he had to place out on the floor looked very much like a team that hadn’t played in three weeks. Turnovers, missed free throws, spotty defense and foul trouble combined to allow Chapel Field to get out to the early lead. What Monticello did have going for it was its rebounding edge, though balls pulled down off the glass often ended up in tie ups and alternating possessions.
Chapel Field did a good job of pressing the ball up the floor and the Montis turned it over with distressing regularity. They started to right the ship a bit in the second stanza outscoring Chapel Field eight to seven to cut the deficit to seven as the Lady Lions led 19-12 at the half. The third quarter saw the Montis tie the game but the lead see-sawed back and forth. Still, neither team seemed to be able to marshal more than a two-point edge. The quarter ended in a 24-24 tie.
That deadlock continued into the early part of the fourth quarter and Monticello was making it harder with missed free throws. On the night they were an unimpressive 10-for-20 (50%) from the line. With big play from Amaiah Neals and Shayla Smalls, Monticello was finally able to put the hammer down outscoring Chapel Field 17-12 in the fourth quarter to garner the win. The victory kept the Lady Panthers undefeated at 4-0 with prior wins against Minisink Valley, Fallsburg and Ellenville. Shayla Smalls led the Montis with 20 points. Amaih Neals had 12. Chapel Field fell to 1-3. A division fray against Port Jervis on January 6 would be another test for the Lady Panthers without its best player. Mota is slated to return from quarantine on January 10.
Jasper breathed a sigh of relief after the trying game. “At this point we’ll take wins anyway we can get them. It wasn’t pretty. No excuses. Everybody’s dealing with missing pieces. What turned the game around was that Amaih Neals played the game of her life tonight. We had a couple of big plays. It took us a while to get going. We had a long layoff and had a couple of kids go away for the break. We haven’t played five-on-five basketball for a couple of weeks.”
Jasper was looking forward to the Port Jervis game as one of his former Eldred stars Alaina Gaughan is an assistant coach for the Raiders. Her former Eldred teammate, Sheila Burns, part of the Lady Yellowjackets squad that made it to the state semifinals, is Monticello’s assistant.
It will be a fun reunion for Jasper and the girls as the Lady Panthers hope to pull another one out of the hat and keep the magic going.
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