Monticello nabs two victories at Beebe Holiday Tournament

It’s a well-known fact among basketball coaches that teams either live or die by by the three-point shot. Monticello’s Billies overcame 17 treys against them to finish as the consolation champions of the Beebe Holiday Tournament last weekend in Beebe.
In just one of the three games played did Monticello actually have more made three-pointers than did its opponent, but the Billies’ scrappiness helped them to a 2-1 tourney mark to finish the 2018 portion of their schedule at 8-4 overall.
A 77-53 loss to Little Rock McClellan last Thursday dropped Monticello into the losers’ bracket of the tourney, but the Billies refused to let that setback and a 63-56 win over Little Rock Christian Academy on Saturday.
“I think we made progress,” longtime Monticello head coach Wayne Sherrer said his his team’s trip north. “I thought Shannon Strickland and Kendevion Hughey played well. The continued development of our sophomores was key and will be vital as we move on.”
Now that the preliminaries are out of the way, moving on for the Billies means 11 straight Class 4A, District 8 games in preparation for the 4A South Region tournament in mid-February and the 4A State Championships at the end of that month. Monticello will be on the road at Star City to tip off that stretch. Three games (junior girls and both senior teams) are set to tip off at 5 p.m. Friday in Star City.
Monticello’s next home game will be against one of two conference newcomers. In the Arkansas Activities Association’s 2018-2020 reclassification, the AAA switched up its league alignment and moved eight 5A football schools down to 4A for all other sports (the organization did the same with all lower classes; hence, a couple of Monticello’s usual 8-4A foes, DeWitt and Dumas, are playing in Drew Central’s 8-3A district for at least the next two seasons).
Magnolia, usually playing in 5A South, will visit Dan Coston Field House next Tuesday for a pair of senior high games beginning at 6 p.m. Monticello will face the other 8-4A newbie, Camden Fairview (usually in 5A South with Magnolia) for the first time on Jan. 11 in Camden.
Last Saturday at Beebe, the Billies withstood a barrage of nine made three-point shots from Little Rock Christian to capture the tournament’s consolation championship. Two-thirds of those Warrior long-range bombs came in the second half as LR Christian attempted to claw its way back into the game.
Monticello established early dominance by exploding for 16 points in the first quarter while its defense held the Warriors to eight, and being even better in the second period. The Billies outscored LRCA 15-6 in those eight minutes to assume what would be an insurmountable 31-14 intermission advantage.
Even though the Warriors would reach at least the 20-point mark in both the third and fourth quarters, Monticello scored enough points to hold on for the win. Strickland, a junior three-year starter, led the Billies with 21 points againt LRCA while first-year Billie Hughey, a senior, netted 13.
In Monticello’s opening tournament game last Thursday, the three-point shot was the Billies’ Achilles heel. The Lions canned seven shots from beyond the arc while Monticello had none—and those 21 points helped McClellan to the 24-point win.
The fact that three Billies had three players—Strickland, classmate Keshaun Pippen and sophomore Kendric Burks—all of the bench with five fouls by the end of the game while the Lions had no one be disqualified because of too many fouls didn’t help matters any, either. McClellan shot 37 free throws, making 20; Monticello was just 9-for-16 from the charity stripe.
After eight minutes, the Billies were only down by two points but a 26-11 McClellan explosion in the second eight minutes helped give the Lions a comfortable 40-23 halftime lead. Monticello cut into that deficit by five points in the third period but another good quarter by the Lions, outscoring the Billies 23-11 in the fourth period, sealed Monticello’s fate.
Sophomore Nick Smith led Monticello in scoring against McClellan with 14 points off the bench while Burks finished with 12.
The Billies took out their frustrations from that first-round game on hapless Augusta last Friday. Rolling to a 12-4 lead after eight minutes, Monticello led at the half 29-14 and effectively ended the game before the start of the fourth period with a 10-2 third-quarter run.
Hughey led the Billies in scoring with 12 points against the Red Devils. He was the only Monticello player in double figures but the Billies, who actually made more treys than their opponents (3-1) for the only time in the tournament, had balanced scoring behind Hughey.

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