Monticello girls basketball

Basketball season for the Monticello Sages Girls’ basketball team starts this week! The News-Gazette has a preview of the upcoming season.

Get to know ... the Monticello Sages

Pregame warmup: The Sages finished last season with a 19-12 record, including 4-6 in the Illini Prairie Conference, under first-year coach Seth Melton. Melton returns for his second season in charge at Monticello, opening its season Nov. 14 against Paxton-Buckley-Loda at the Falcon/Bunnie Tip-Off Classic in Gibosn City.

Coach Speak: Three questions with Seth Melton

What are your expectations for this year?

“I think we’re going to be really competitive this year. We are a young team, so it’s going to be a growth season for us. I think we’ll finish a lot stronger than we start, but (I’m) looking for us to kind of keep building throughout the year and get where we want to be, hopefully peaking right at the end of the season at the right time.”

What are some of your team’s strengths this year?

“One advantage we’re going to have to try to play to is our size. If we wanted to, we could run four or five girls out there that are that are 5-foot-10 or taller. So against some of the smaller teams and where we can find mismatches, that’ll be a key for us to take advantage of.”

What are you most excited about this season?

“There’s definitely a greater comfort level since it’s not going through everything for the first time. So it’s just going to be a little bit easier, a little smoother. In general, we’ve started to kind of establish our culture and we’re already seeing that, just with a much higher turnout of girls this year. We’re only a couple of practices in, but just that overall attitude and excitement, we’ve got things headed in the right direction. So good to see early returns.”

Roster and scheduling

Key returnees: Sophomore Megan Allen was a starter for the Sages as a freshman last season and could make a sizable impact in her sophomore campaign. Allen is a versatile player who played key minutes last season and quickly ascended into a leadership role on the team.

Senior Lydia Burger missed a majority of the 2021-22 season due to a rib injury but is back in the fold this season. Junior Jobi Smith is a quick, athletic guard who has the ability to slash and score near the basket.

Key newcomer: Sophomore Jordan Elmore enters the Sages’ program as a transfer from Centennial and will provide height — Melton believes she’ll be listed at 6-foot — and length for the team in the post.

Schedule breakdown: The Sages’ Illini Prairie Conference schedule is back-loaded, but a home tilt against Chillicothe IVC starts off conference play on Dec. 10.

Monticello’s annual Holiday Hoopla tournament returns Dec. 26-28, one of two tournaments the Sages are in along with the Falcon/Bunnie Tip-Off Classic.

Matchups to watch in January include back-to-back Illini Prairie games at Prairie Central on Jan. 16 and at home versus St. Joseph-Ogden on Jan. 19.

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