By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Playing with urgency works for the Montgomery boys, but more consistency could carry the Vikings deeper into the postseason.
Montgomery’s section playoff win Friday over College Park featured one of the Vikings’ finest halves, a rough stretch that saw the Falcons fly into the lead, and a frenetic finish. Montgomery finally regained the advantage on a 3-pointer with 10 seconds left for a 56-54 victory.
“It’s hard when things aren’t going your way. You just have to stay composed,” said Montgomery leading scorer Alec Raven, who was double teamed on the deciding play. “We just found the open man. That’s why we’re a team.”
Raven kicked out a pass to Tyler Newman, who with defenders crashing on him spotted Rylan Kobre open in the left corner. In a rare start, Kobre, who stroked from deep earlier, struck the game’s biggest shot.
“I was nervous going into the game. But once you get going it just goes away,” Kobre said.
The victory takes Montgomery into the semifinals of the North Coast Section Division 2 playoffs on Wednesday. Equally important, the Vikings earned a spot in the NorCal half of the California Interscholastic Federation state playoffs.
Still, the cool-headed, comeback Vikings were on the ropes after giving up a 15-point halftime lead Friday on their home court.
College Park — a high-speed, high-scoring squad — found its gear after being held scoreless in the first quarter. Taking their first lead early in the final period and going up by seven, the Falcons appeared to have a rare road section playoff victory in their grasp. Then the Vikings finished the game on a 9-0 run.
“We just always kept fighting. We were right there. They made some good plays late,” said College Park point guard Mikey Eggleton.
This contest was a three-act epic featuring clearly contrasting playing styles.
Montgomery wants to roll into its half-court offense, swing a handful passes to get defenses out of position, and then attack. Aggressive man-to-man defense typically is the difference in wins.
“Our defense is still our strength,” said Montgomery coach Tom Fitchie. “We’re not big. We try to play stronger.”
College Park wants to push the pace and score in transition. Running away from opponents is the aim.
“We do try to go out there and outscore people every game. If you stay up with us, great. We like that style,” said College Park coach Craig Battle.
Consistency was what both coaches were still looking for with a pair of younger teams deep in the season.
Playing sharp and disciplined at both ends early, Montgomery threw a shutout at College Park in the first quarter. Newman scored seven of his dozen on the night.
Even as College Park responded in the second period with fast breaks and 3-pointers, Montgomery still led by a sizable margin going into the third period.
“That was one of our best halves,” Raven said. “We had really good movement. A lot of players got involved.”
Still, plenty of game remained to be played.
With the Falcons extending their defense to pester Vikings passers and shooters in the third quarter, College Park forced more missed shots, turning rebounds into fast breaks and open shots. AJ Newell was difficult to stop, driving and pulling up for nine of his 13 in the game.
“We just had to put a little more pressure on them,” said Eggleton, College Park’s scoring leader. “We just always kept playing hard, no matter what.”
Carrying the momentum into the final period, College Park went up for the first time on a pair of Seb Flores free throws to open the quarter.
The lead grew to seven points as Eggleton sank a 3-pointer.
With under three minutes to play, the Vikings found what they needed. With four different players finding the basket, Montgomery scored nine unanswered points for the win.
“It was looking bad,” Raven said. “We just stepped it up.”