By BOB ETTINGER
For the Star Beacon
MADISON TOWNSHIP —
It is easy to understand why the focal point of the Geneva defense was on Madison’s Stephon Ortiz on Friday night. After all, the senior guard scorched the nets for 35 points the first time the Blue Streaks faced the Eagles.
In the rematch, the Eagles were determined not to let it happen again. That determination opened the door for Brett Monty, who pulled Madison to a 72-52 victory over the Blue Streaks.
“We know Ortiz and Monty are a duo,” Geneva coach Scott Torok said. “We were concentrating on stopping Ortiz because he dropped 35 on us last time. I guess we forgot about Monty.”
Monty finished two assists shy of a triple double with 32 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.
“I knew Stephon would be their main focus for the night,” Monty said. “I knew I would be open for a lot shots. I kept hitting them so I kept taking them.”
“We had some guys knock down some shots,” Madison coach Pat Moran said. “The last time we played them, Ortiz had 27 points at the half. I figured they’d shade toward him.
“We have two guys in Stephon and Monty. If you want to call Stephon scoring 14 points an off night, it was nice to have other guys step up. Monty stepped up and took what they gave him.”
It was Brandon Smith, however, who fueled the Blue Streaks (10-4, 6-3 in Premier Athletic Conference) in a 16-4 run to open the game. Smith knocked down 3-pointers in consecutive possessions to put Madison up, 11-2, three minutes into the contest.
“Brandon hit a couple of shots to start the game for us,” Moran said. “I’m very comfortable with the other guys shooting the ball. I like balance, but I’ll take what I have over having four guys averaging eight points any day of the week.”
Two minutes later, Jordan McClure added his own triple for the Blue Streaks.
“That gave us a lot of momentum and we didn’t let up,” Monty said. “In the second half, we dropped off a bit, but we built a big enough lead we were able to hold it.”
Monty spread his first 10 points throughout the first eight minutes as Madison held a 21-8 lead heading into the second period.
“We’ve been fighting that hole all season long,” Torok said. “We know they can shoot. The goal was to keep it close in the first half.
“That’s our Achilles’ heel, that first quarter. We always play catchup.”
A putback from John Dahlhausen and consecutive buckets from Ortiz had the Blue Streaks up, 30-12, with three minutes to play in the half.
Monty finished the half with 15 points and added 12 more in the third quarter.
The game was almost in lesson in the complete unimportance of a shooting percentage. The Eagles matched the Blue Streaks percentage — 45.8 — but the number of shots taken, and made, was the ultimate difference in the outcome. Madison made 27 of its 59 attempts while the Eagles were 22 of 48 from the field.
“We want a quantity of shots,” Moran said. “I thought we had good shots. I told them at the half to keep shooting. No one had the red light. We were able to knock them down.
“The guys are so unselfish. They made the extra pass and attacked gaps to open up teammates. With kids that unselfish, it makes it easier to coach. There are no egos in that locker room. Any coach will tell you that makes the job easier.”
“We were about working the ball for a good shot,” Torok said. “We didn’t care how long it took. There isn’t a shot clock. We gave them two and three shots each time down the court. We can’t give them that many rebounds.”
Among those 27 field goals, the Blue Streaks struck for 13 triples, six by Monty, three by Smith and two each by McClure and Ortiz.
“We worked on that,” Torok said. “We needed to get to their shooters, not just to the 3-point line. We had to go two or three steps past it. They reversed the ball well and we weren’t quick enough getting there.”
Despite losing by 20, the Eagles (0-13, 0-8) showed a good deal of improvement over the first time the teams met.
“They beat us by 40 last time,” Torok said. “To lose by 20, it was more fun to coach. I thought we were in it most of the game, even if it was an 18- or 20-point difference.
“If we make our short shots, we’re in it. I thought our effort was better tonight.”
Ortiz netted 14 points for the Blue Streaks, Smith scored 11 and McClure added nine.
Vern Thompson led the Eagles with 16 points, Zac Sweat and Matt Mackynen each scored eight and David Smalley added seven.
Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula.