ST. CLAIRSVILLE - Last Thursday, St. Clairsville junior Dan Monteroso was named Division II Eastern District Player of the Year.
There certainly won't be an argument from Carrollton head coach Voll who could only stand and watch as Monteroso erupted for 40 points and almost single-handedly carried the Red Devils to Thursday's Division II Eastern District championship game by virtue of a 67-54 victory in front of a large crowd at Ohio University Eastern's Health and Physical Education Center on Saturday evening.
"He's a very strong player and he was able to do a lot of things to hurt us," Voll said.
Kim Clifford has obviously seen Monteroso's game evolve during the course of the last three seasons, but there are still times that cause the veteran mentor to just shake his head.
"Dropping 40 in a tournament game is a rarity," Clifford said. "He took really good shots. His shot selection was really good. When (the defense) collapsed on him, he pulled up and took jumpers, so he becomes a really tough matchup at that point."
The slick southpaw is a tough matchup most nights out, but he was the first to point the credit to his teammates.
"I couldn't have done it Joel (Giffin) setting me screens and Riley, J-Mar (Jerrid Marhefka) and Adam (Jeffries) knocking down shots to create space," Monteroso said with the sectional title net draped around his neck. "We all chipped in and that's exactly what we needed."
The victory brings the Red Devils within one game of reaching the coveted Sweet 16 at Ohio University in Athens. To get there, St. C. will have to defeat East Liverpool, which snuck by Indian Creek in Saturday's opener.
"We're just going to concentrate an excellent East Liverpool squad," Clifford said.
Before any attention could shift to the Potters, the Red Devils had a Warriors' club, which dispatched a short-handed Harrison Central squad on Thursday.
After starting slow in their tournament opener against Meadowbrook, the Red Devils got out of the gates quickly, jumping to a 24-13 lead after one.
"We had one of our best practices of the year on Friday and I think that got us back to feeling like the layoff's over and we have to get back to business," Clifford said.
St. C. basically never looked back because each time Carrollton thought about making a run, Monteroso would make a play.
The Red Devils' lead swelled to 41-23 at halftime as Monteroso had 20 points.
"We knew there was going to be a surge at the outset and we didn't handle it how we wanted to," Voll said. "Our kids fought and tried to claw their way back into it, but St. Clairsville answered each time."
The Warriors got within nine after three quarters by outscoring Monteroso, 16-12, in the period.
The Red Devils proceeded to score the first seven of the fourth to take the game back over and put it on cruise control from there.
"We like to play up and down, but if we have to play half court, we will," Clifford said. "I thought we were really tough with the ball and did a good job of getting to the foul line."
The Red Devils meshed 18 of 20 from the stripe, while the Warriors were just 2 of 2.
Monteroso's 40 points is the second highest in his career. He went for 42 points in a game last season. Monteroso is now within some 60 points of becoming the all-time leading scorer in the history of St. C. basketball.
The only other Red Devil to crack double figures was junior Adam Jeffries who finished with 11. Carlton added eight, including two trifectas in the first period when the Red Devils set the tone.
Carrollton was led by talented senior Stephen Ericksen's 18 points on the low block. Caleb Pasiuk came off the bench to net 10.
The Warriors held a 26-18 edge on the boards and were charted for 14 miscues, which was three more than the winners.