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Driving for outright title
Monticello senior guard Jacob Marty is not expected to play against Barneveld tonight after he suffered a knee injury Monday night against Albany.
MONTICELLO - From day one of practice, Monticello boys basketball coach Mark Olson knew that he was taking over a talented and deep team with aspirations of repeating as Six Rivers East Conference champions.

Monticello (16-2, 10-0 Six Rivers East) and ranked fourth in the Associated Press Division 4 state poll, can clinch an outright conference championship if they beat Barneveld tonight. However, that depth will be tested since the Ponies are expected to be without senior guard Jacob Marty, who injured his knee in a 42-37 win over Albany Monday night. Two minutes into the game, Marty drove to the basket and his leg buckled.

"It's pretty doubtful," Olson said of Marty playing. "We will miss his defensive ability and ability to get to the rim."

Marty has averaged 11.9 points per game and is one of three Monticello players averaging double figures along with junior Tyler Ritschard (15.3) and senior Tyler Meier (11.1). Olson is still confident that the Ponies will have the scorers and defensive presence to succeed.

"We have been a balanced scoring team all year," Olson said. "We certainly have the ability and depth to do it. I don't think it's something we can't recover from."

The last time Monticello played Barneveld the Ponies erased a seven-point deficit in the last 1 minute, 42 seconds and Ritschard made a game-winning shot in overtime to lift the Ponies to an improbable 50-49 win.

The Ponies were conference co-champions with the Golden Eagles last year. Being in a position to repeat as conference champions was a goal since the first day of practice.

"It certainly validates a lot of the work they did in the summer," Olson said of the position the Ponies are in. "They are motivated to have it on their own this year. I think it would be something special for the guys."

The Ponies will rely on sophomore Lukas Kolasch and junior Chris Voegeli to step up in Marty's absence.

"We will need big contributions from Chris Voegeli and Lukas Kolasch," Olson said. "They will be ready."

Olson thinks one of the biggest impacts of losing Marty will be to the team's bench players.

"It changes our rotations," he said of dealing with Marty's injury. "Someone else has to be ready at the beginning of the game. That's one less person you can bring off the bench."

Olson understands that taking care of the basketball and limiting turnovers is key.

He said the Ponies need to do a better job of attacking the Eagles' press.

"I don't think we were ready for how well they could pressure and trap last time," he said.

In addition to playing for an outright conference title, the Ponies are still in contention for a No. 1 regional seed along with Racine Lutheran. Racine Lutheran, which is 15-3 and ranked seventh, has played some top competition. Racine Lutheran lost 51-47 to Racine Park, which is ranked first in Division 1.

"I don't know if we are looking that far ahead," Olson said. "Certainly a win Thursday will help us in the seeding meeting. That's not our focus. We are playing hard because we want to win a conference championship ourselves. We will play the game and let the seeding fall where it may."