The Monmouth Academy boys basketball team celebrates winning Saturday’s Class C state championship at the Augusta Civic Center. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

AUGUSTA — The Monmouth Academy boys basketball team is no strangers to big moments and big games.

That big-game experience was a factor during the regular season, playoffs and the Class C championship game on Saturday night, when the Mustangs (19-3) beat Mount View 52-50 in front of a near-capacity crowd at the Augusta Civic Center.

It’s the first state championship in program history, but far from the only title achieved by boys programs at the school. Saturday night’s victory was the third state title by a Monmouth boys sports team within the last calendar year. The Mustangs also won the Class D boys soccer championship in November, as well as the Class C baseball title last spring. Several members of the basketball team are also members of the soccer and baseball teams.

“It feels even better to (win the basketball championship) after soccer, with back-to-back (titles), just to keep the ball rolling,” said Monmouth senior forward Sammy Calder, who also plays for the soccer and baseball teams. “Three (titles) in less than 12 months is insane… We just have the right group of guys here. We love to win, and we hate to lose.”

“I can’t put (the success) into words, added senior forward Lucas Harmon, also a member of the soccer and baseball teams. “I love these guys like family. That’s how our community is. All three of our coaches — for soccer, baseball, basketball — they’re in cahoots with each other. They’re at our games, they’re at every game for each sport, watching, cheering us on, communicating with each other. That’s something that’s really special for Monmouth. Our rec programs are super involved. That’s the key to having programs that are successful. Make it communal, make it like a family.”

Monmouth’s experience came into play during the regular season. On the back half of the regular season, the Mustangs won three games by three points or less. Monmouth edged Spruce Mountain 59-56 on Jan. 25, beat Class D South champion Valley 56-55 on Feb. 1, and then defeated Hall-Dale 52-51 on Feb. 6.


Monmouth needed its big-game experience to battle through nearly each team of its playoff run. The Mustangs won their four playoff games by a combined 23 points. They also reached the state final by knocking out rivals Winthrop, Hall-Dale and then Mt. Abram. In the semifinal round, the Mustangs battled Hall-Dale into overtime, eventually winning 73-67. In that game, Calder led Monmouth with 35 points. Levi Laverdiere grabbed 14 rebounds and Harmon chipped in with 12 points.

The Monmouth boys basketball team gets a final pep talk from coach Wade Morrill with less that one second remaining in the Class C championship game last Saturday night at the Augusta Civic Center. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

It was Harmon who stepped up late in Monmouth’s 46-43 win over Mt. Abram in the Class C South final. Harmon scored all eight points in the fourth quarter to seal the victory. He finished with 14 points in that game, while Laverdiere led the team with 16.

“(The battles) helped us, we stayed calm,” Harmon said. “We’ve been in this situation before. We’ve been down twice by 12 early in the game just to come back within one by (halftime). That’s the mental change you need. Once you get there, we’ve got these guys. Once you get a team in a position where, ‘They’re done, we’re good, we’re rolling,’ and then you come back, that’s a big switch. That’s hard to deal with, for any team.”

And then Saturday night. Monmouth was down early, as Mount View grabbed a 15-10 lead thanks to a 12-0 run in the first quarter. Monmouth responded with an 11-0 run of its own in the second quarter to pull within 26-25 heading into halftime.

It was a dogfight in the second half, but Monmouth ultimately prevailed. Senior guard Kyle Palleschi, who had struggled throughout the tournament, scored nine of his 13 points in the third quarter, and guarded Wyatt Evensen on Mount View’s final shot.

“The guys trusted me, they kept giving me the ball and I kept looking to score,” said Palleschi, a member of the school’s soccer and baseball teams. “Looking up in the stands and seeing this place packed, it feels great. It’s just like when I looked around at the baseball field and soccer field. Everybody is here supporting you, wanting you to do well. It feels great, it boosts your confidence, and I ended up playing better than I had all year.”

Calder, as he had all tournament, once again rose to the challenge, scoring seven of his team-high 17 points in the third.

It was a big-game moment that needed big-game experience.

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