GCMS boys basketball's season ends with 45-43 loss to Monticello

HOOPESTON — The Monticello boys’ basketball team is at it again.

One year after the Sages thrilled fans with an overtime win against Paxton-Buckley-Loda in the sectional championship and a Johnny Dawson game-winning shot at the end of regulation in the super-sectional to send them to state, the 2017 fourth-place finishers in Class 2A have regained their knack for dramatic postseason wins in 2018.

Benton Singleton drove the right side of the lane and hit a leaning shot off the backboard with 0.8 seconds left in the fourth quarter to give Monticello a 45-43 win against Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley in the 2A Hoopeston Area Regional championship game on Friday night.

“We knew we needed to get to the basket,” Singleton said. “That’s what our goal was the whole time. Work the ball around and get us an easy layup like we did so much this year. I saw an open lane and I took it.”

The Sages junior greeted fans and family on the court with the cut-down net around his neck and the game ball secured safely underneath his right arm — the one that advanced Monticello into next week’s Maroa-Forsyth Sectional.

“It feels great,” said Singleton, who scored a game-high 17 points. “I got an opportunity to step up and I finished. We’re moving on.”

The Falcons (25-4) led 25-23 at halftime before the Sages (24-1) came out hot in the third quarter, making their first eight shot attempts to build a 41-35 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

The Falcons trailed Monticello by that six-point margin with 1:30 left but back-to-back three-pointers from Ben Freehill (team-high 13 points) tied the game with a minute remaining, setting up Singleton’s chance to add to the Sages’ postseason highlight reel.

“It was great,” Monticello’s Calvin Fisher said. “That’s his shot. A little two-handed layup on the right side at that weird angle.”

The road back to state remains difficult as the Sages meet St. Joseph-Ogden on Wednesday and potentially Bloomington Central Catholic next Friday — two Illini Prairie Conference teams they beat earlier in the season.

“Every team wants to beat Monticello, especially this year,” Fisher said. “Every game is going to be close from here on out. We’ve been through it once. We’re ready.”

Monticello 45, GCMS 43

GCMS        13   12   10    8    -- 43
MON        13   10   18    4    -- 45
Nathan Garard 0-0-0, Ben Freehill 5-0-13, Mitch McNutt 2-0-5, Connor Birky 4-0-12, Caleb Bleich 0-0-0, Ryland Holt 1-0-2, Bryce Barnes 3-5-11. Totals 15-5-43.
Graham 0-0-0, Bundy 0-0-0, Fisher 4-2-10, Wright 1-0-3, Stokowski 4-1-9, Singleton 6-2-17, Dawson 3-0-6. Totals 18-5-45.
3-pointers -- GCMS 8 (Birky 4, Freehill 3, McNutt). Monticello 4 (Singleton 3, Wright).


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