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ON THE FLY: Late Adjustment Helps Moniteau Boys Snag First District 9 Championship in School History with One-Point Win Over Brookville

CLARION, Pa. (EYT/D9) — During a timeout and with the Moniteau boys basketball team trailing by seven in the late stages of the fourth quarter, senior guard Chason Delarosa-Rugg came over the Warrior bench with an idea.

It was something he had seen on film earlier in the day. A press that Brookville had struggled with against Clarion-Limestone.

Delarosa-Rugg wanted to try it, even though Moniteau had never played that particular brand of press before.

(Pictured above, members of the Moniteau boys basketball team celebrate after winning the District 9 Class 3A championship)

It worked. It helped Moniteau make up that deficit, Andrew Zepeda then hit a clutch free throw to put the Warriors up by one with six seconds on the clock and they survived a strange final sequence for a 58-57 victory over the Raiders in the District 9 Class 3A boys championship game at Tippin Gymnasium on Thursday night.

It’s the first ever D9 title for the Moniteau boys basketball team.

“Incredibly proud of these guys,” said Moniteau coach Mike Jewart. “We preached and talked all year about leadership and stepping up.

“Frankly, this kid right here,” Jewart added, patting Delarosa-Rugg on the shoulder, “changed the game in the fourth quarter with his suggestion on defense. That’s what I want. I want leaders on the floor. Chason stepped up and made the suggestion and then he and his teammates executed.”

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The change was to a 1-3-1 full-court press. Moniteau had never employed that kind of press before.

Until the most crucial time of the season.

“We were actually going to go to our scramble press, which isn’t our best press in my opinion,” Delarosa-Rugg said, grinning. “I saw that C-L ran this press against them and they were very, very productive with it. They were able to get back in the game and got a bunch of transition points. So I offered, ‘Hey, why don’t we throw this at them?’ And we executed it well.”

Still, there were some tense moments in the final 10 seconds.

After Zepeda put Moniteau up by one, Jack Pete was fouled at the other end. But the Brookville star uncharacteristically missed both free throws.

Still, the Raiders had a chance.

An inadvertent whistle with .4 seconds on the clock helped Brookville retain possession.

Luke Barton caught the inbound pass wide open on the wing and fired up a 3-pointer that rimmed out at the horn.

“I thought it was going in,” Delarosa-Rugg said.

“Nerve racking,” Jewart said. “I saw it completely different than they did. The inadvertent whistle, I thought the ball should go to us because I thought we had the rebound. I can’t remember what he told me to be honest with you, because it’s a blur now. He said he thought white had the ball when he blew the whistle and I’m pretty sure David Dessicino had the ball in his hands. To see that shot go up from the corner and it seemed like the clock took forever to start, my heart was in my throat.”

But the ball wasn’t in the hoop, and Moniteau could finally celebrate.

It certainly wasn’t easy — during the season and in this championship game against the three-time defending champs.

Brookville had several chances to deliver knockout blows, especially late, up 54-47 in the waning moments.

But the Raiders just couldn’t land that punch.

“Same issue we’ve had all year; we’ve struggled getting consistent leads and holding,” said Brookville coach Matt Reitz. “We’ve struggled in free throws down the stretch. You can’t go 9-of-20 (from the line) and expect to be in a game tight like that and not come out on the wrong side.”

The fourth quarter was even worse. Brookville was 1-of-7 from the free throw line in the final eight minutes, including crucial misses late.

“They have the heart, it just didn’t go our way today,” Reitz said. “I feel bad I apologize to the kids. This is my first year and I’ll study this and take it forward and hopefully I can learn from it.”

Moniteau hung in there thanks to the tandem of Delarosa-Rugg and Zepeda.

Delarosa-Rugg scored 20 points and Zepeda added 18 while also dishing out assists and keying the late press with steals at the top of it.

“Honestly, this means the world to us,” Delarosa-Rugg said. “We came in, this was our season goal to win our first title. We knew this was probably the best chance that we’ve had in a decade or two, so we decided that we’re going to do everything we needed to do to put a banner up.”

Moniteau started the season strong, but went into a disheartening midseason swoon to drop to 5-8. The Warriors won seven of their last nine to make the championship game.

“To be honest with you, if we didn’t have those hiccups during the year, I don’t think we win this game,” Jewart said. “We learned a ton as a team during that losing streak because we were losing in different ways. So we had to learn how to adjust and we continued adjusting as the season went. I think today we had to dig deep. Many things tonight were a microcosm of our season. We were able to fix it on the floor. These kids did great. So proud.”

Karns City and Moniteau sports coverage on Explore and is brought to you by Thinkdolphin Web Design.