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JEREMY PAPASSO
Monarch High School’s Nathan Brooks drives to the hoop past Montbello’s Anthony Carter during Friday’s game in Louisville.

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LOUISVILLE — It was hardly the way the Monarch boys wanted to start their first home basketball game of the season.

They missed their first seven shots and turned the ball over five times before finally hitting their first field goal Friday night. And a few minutes later, they trailed by 10 points.

So were the Coyotes confident they’d get it going and turn the game around?

“I wasn’t — not against that zone (defense of Montbello),” MHS coach Ken Niven admitted.

But the momentum did indeed shift, and Monarch used a 19-3 run in the middle of the game to post its first victory of the season, 55-45 over a team that went to the 5A Sweet 16 last season.

Montbello turned the ball over 28 times and Monarch finally solved the 1-3-1 zone defense it faced as the Coyotes avenged a one-point loss to the Warriors a year ago.

“We just came out a little nervous,” said Monarch senior Nathan Brooks, who scored a team-high 18 points, including 10 in the third quarter. “I thought we did a great job of turning it around and doing what we had to do. I’m glad we were able to pull it out.”

The Coyotes improved to 1-1 in the early season, but not before trailing 21-11 in the second quarter. However, when Montbello turned the ball over seven times in eight possessions just before halftime, Monarch gradually made headway and trailed by just two at intermission.

The Coyotes continued the surge by attacking Montbello’s zone more in the third quarter and they took the lead when Wes Moon stole the ball and drove in for a layup with 6:42 left in the period. Moon, who was playing football for the Coyotes last weekend, was making his basketball season debut after just one practice.

Eventually, Monarch’s 19-3 blitz was good for a 30-24 lead. Though AJ Hayes hit two of his five 3-pointers for Montbello to knot the game at 30, the Warriors (0-2) would never have the upper hand again. The closest they got in the fourth quarter was two points early in the period.

“At halftime we drew up their offense and figured out their plays, and we started attacking their seams, which opened up more shots,” said Monarch sophomore Ben Beauchamp, who tallied a dozen points along with senior Dan Sorenson. “We started boxing out and everything began to click.”

Hayes scored 26 points for Montbello, but the rest of the Warriors were held to a combined 19. For Monarch, Brooks is averaging 23 points per game after the first two contests of the season.

The Coyotes, who play five games in the first 10 days of the season, will return to action Monday at the Fairview Festival, where they’ll face Mountain Range at 3:30 p.m.

Monarch 55, Montbello 45

MONTBELLO (0-2)

Stewart 3 2-6 8, Hayes 7 7-9 26, Cisse 2 1-2 5, Green 1 1-2 3, Hart 0 0-0 0, Griffin 1 0-2 2, Whitmore 0 0-0 0, Mosley 0 1-2 1, Carter 0 0-1 0. Totals 14 12-24 45.

MONARCH (1-1)

Yen 1 4-4 7, Sorenson 4 4-4 12, Brooks 7 4-7 18, Beauchamp 4 2-2 12, Rawley 0 0-0 0, Moon 1 1-3 3, Krason 1 0-0 2, Niessink 0 1-2 1. Totals 18 16-22 55.

Score by quarters:

Montbello 16 5 15 9 — 45

Monarch 9 10 21 15 — 55

3-point field goals — Montbello (5): Hayes 5; Monarch (3): Beauchamp 2, Yen. Total fouls — Montbello 22, Monarch 22. Fouled out — Griffin. Technical fouls — none.