WINTHROP —What a difference a few weeks makes.
On Jan. 17, the Monmouth boys basketball team was overwhelmed by Winthrop and its pressing defense. Wednesday night, with a tournament berth on the line and the teams meeting on the same floor again, Monmouth rose to the occasion, upsetting the No. 7 Ramblers, 36-32, in a Western Maine Class C tournament prelim game.
The win earns the 19th seeded Mustangs (7-12) a trip to the Augusta Civic Center next Monday where they’ll meet No. 2 Waynflete in a quarterfinal game. Winthrop closes its season at 11-8.
Monmouth never gave up the lead after taking it early in the second quarter, but it did have to survive a hectic final two minutes in front of a gymnasium packed with screaming partisans from these towns, just three miles apart.
“Coming into this game we just wanted one more game,” Monmouth senior Billy Cummings said. “To get to play one more game is incredible.”
Cummings made 3 of 4 free throws in the final minute while teammate Brett Wilson made another to help seal the win. Cummings scored a team-high 12 points, and helped the Mustangs regain momentum after the Ramblers tied the game at 20 midway through the third quarter.
The senior guard responded with a 3-pointer and two fast-break layups to restore the lead and hold off the charging Ramblers.
“We knew once we drew Winthrop it was going to be a heck of an atmosphere no matter who wins,” Monmouth coach Lucas Turner said.
In losing Jan. 17, the Mustangs could handle Winthrop’s press. They did a better job Wednesday, despite committing 32 turnovers.
“A lot of those were in the front court instead of the back court,” Turner said.
The Ramblers had a case of the jitters themselves, committing 26 turnovers and making just 13 of 42 shots from the field. They scored just two points in the second quarter and trailed 18-10. They missed some good shots but were also slowed by Monmouth’s 3-2 zone.
“They were able to control the pace,” Winthrop coach Todd MacArthur said. “It was definitely to their liking.”
The Ramblers opened the second half with an 8-2 run to tie the game as Matt Sekerak (12 points) hit a 3 and Taylor Morang converted a three-point play. They would draw to within a point 32-31 on a baseline jumper from Hunter Kilgore (11) but the Mustangs made some made scrambling plays down the stretch, including an over-the-head save on the baseline by Marcques Houston to preserve the win.
“All year long we’re kind of gotten the breaks,” MacArthur said. “We haven’t had a stinker. Tonight, everything went the other way.”
Gary Hawkins — 621-5638