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Monticello shakes third-quarter blues, rolls past Pecatonica
Times photo: Howard Thomas Monticellos Lucas Marty drives against Pecatonicas Jon Hendrickson in the first half Tuesday night. The sophomore finished with 10 points in the Ponies 45-30 win.

MONTICELLO - Mark Olson didn't hesitate when asked what he liked best about his Monticello boys basketball team's 45-30 victory against Pecatonica on Tuesday night.

"Rather than coming out and having a rough third quarter, we were aggressive, stayed within ourselves and played our style of basketball," Olson said. "That turned what was a close game into one that was more comfortable for us."

That it did.

Monticello led 20-16 lead at halftime of the Six Rivers East Conference game, but Jesse Halvorsen scored on a drive and Lucas Marty hit a 16-footer in the first minute of the second half to start the Ponies on their way.

Monticello outscored Pecatonica 19-4 in the quarter - a stark contrast from some recent third-quarter efforts by Olson's squad.

"It's something we've been talking about and something we've really been focusing on is getting a score on our first possession, getting a stop on our opponent's first possession and just being crisp out of the locker room, because we've had a few that weren't that way," Olson said.

"I think tonight was good and I think (the Ponies' third quarter Thursday in a win at) Black Hawk was all right, so we've made some progress."

Senior Lukas Kolasch scored 12 points and Marty, a sophomore, had 10 to lead the Ponies (13-8, 8-3 Six Rivers East), who will finish second in the conference behind Barneveld. Halvorsen, a junior, and senior Austin Steffen added eight and seven points, respectively.

Like Olson, Marty was happiest about Monticello stretching the four-point halftime lead to a 39-20 cushion entering the fourth quarter.

"We always come out flat in third quarters and we don't know why. Tonight we wanted to really come out and be strong and finish the game," Marty said. "I think we're playing some of our best basketball. We're playing as a team, we're playing good defense, we've got each others' backs."

Pecatonica (4-17, 2-9) lost its seventh straight game, but the Vikings made things interesting early as senior Karson Feller scored nine of his 18 points in the first quarter to stake his squad to a 13-8 lead. Pecatonica struggled in the second quarter, committing seven turnovers before Feller hit the Vikings' only field goal of the period - a 3-pointer - with 3 minutes, 33 seconds left.

Still, coach Kevin Parman was happy with his squad's first-half effort.

"We finally played a solid half defensively and held them to 20 (points), and that's our goal," Parman said of a Vikings squad allowing more than 56 points per game. "We did what we talked about in practice in the first half, but to play four quarters with intensity - we haven't done that yet this year.

"The second half, Monticello did a nice job attacking the middle. That's just good basketball and we didn't take it away in the second half. They made us pay by playing great team basketball."

It was the first home game in nearly a month for the Ponies, who will remain home for their next two - the regular-season finale Friday against Albany and the regional opener on Tuesday, Feb. 28 against Princeton.

Olson likes the way his team is playing.

"We're happy about things," he said. "We all feel comfortable sharing the basketball and sharing the load. We don't feel like we have to force feed one person. Everyone is comfortable with their roles.

"Hopefully that's something that will get us through the tough games."