MONMOUTH – Monmouth Academy didn’t want to be next.
Sure, reigning Western Class C girls’ basketball champion Hall-Dale is a shadow of its year-ago self. But with a win last time out against tournament lock Mt. Abram and three recent losses to higher-ranked teams by three points or less, the Bulldogs demanded the Mustangs’ full attention.
There was no upset lurking Thursday night. Monmouth led from wire-to-wire in a 49-34 Mountain Valley Conference victory at Stu Foster Gym.
Jen Lola scored 11 of her game-high 19 points in the second quarter for the Mustangs (10-2), who were entrenched in second behind ol’ reliable Dirigo in the most recent Western C Heal Point standings.
“I kept saying it and I probably sounded like a broken record, although you’d have to ask these kids if they even know what that means, because they’re CD girls,” said Monmouth coach Rick Amero. “You see that Hall-Dale is three-and-whatever, but you know they’re a three-win team that is improving night after night. They’re trying to make the tournament. We’re worth a lot of points to other teams, and we’re not used to being in that position.”
Monmouth allowed only one point in a stifling opening quarter. With the exception of Lola’s perimeter presence, the offense and defense went into a funk prior to the half before the ‘Stangs muzzled the Bulldogs with a 22-2 run that spanned deep into the third period.
Breaking Hall-Dale’s changing array of zone defenses with a variety of short jumpers and buckets along the baseline, the Mustangs went 8-of-12 from the field in the third while committing only two turnovers.
“We expected a tough game,” Lola said. “It usually is a tough game against them. You can’t look past any team.”
Ariel Howes led Hall-Dale (3-8) with 11 points and six rebounds.
Eight different players scored for Monmouth, which rode Lola’s two 3-pointers and three free throws after a foul beyond the arc to a 21-15 halftime lead.
Jill Armstrong chalked up eight points, six in the third quarter, to go with four steals and four assists. Cortney Barrett overcame night-long foul trouble long enough to scrap for her entire six-point output in the third period. Samantha Fairchild, Katie Woodman and Brittany Hilton combined for 10 points and nine rebounds off the bench.
Much of that depth is a product of on-the-job training the last two years, when Bianca Cloutier (2005) and Barrett (2006) went down with knee injuries. Monmouth was dealt its seemingly annual ACL tear earlier this month when Moe Beaulieu was lost for the season.
“We’ve got most of our team back. We’re a lot better than last year,” Lola said. “It’s amazing playing with these girls.”