AURORA — After getting blown to bits on their home floor to open last season, it took the Monarch girls basketball team a solid few weeks to restore some swagger.
The Coyotes won’t have to undergo the same experience this time around.
Monarch shot precisely, passed deftly and pulled away late to a gigantic 58-45 win at Regis Jesuit on Tuesday night, getting 17 points from senior sparkplug Reagen Rohn to knock off the two-time defending champion Raiders.
“It’s much better to start the season off on a win, as opposed to last season when we got embarrassed at home,” said Rohn, whose team fell 66-27 to a nationally ranked squad a year ago. “We used that situation as motivation for the first few weeks of practice then came out today and won this game.”
Monarch coach Gail Hook wasn’t particularly perturbed when her Coyotes were just outside the rankings (the first team listed in “others receiving votes”) in the opening CHSAANow.com poll. But with Regis Jesuit (1-1) perched atop the list, Hook knew opening night would have its challenges.
“It’s just a huge win, a huge road win for us,” Hook said. “Especially the way we got beat last year against this team, a very experienced and talented team. Coming in here, we thought if there was any time we could do it, it was tonight.”
The Raiders graduated much of their title-winning team, but Carl Mattei’s squad always seems to have Division-I girls waiting in the wings. Guard Jess Lewis, the most accomplished holdover from last season, made a bid to single-handedly beat the Coyotes with a dizzying barrage of 3-pointers.
Lewis connected on six 3-pointers en route to a game-high 23 points, including one to pull within 38-37 early in the fourth.
But Rohn countered with a momentum-halting trey at the other end, spurring a 20-7 Monarch run to close the contest. Coyotes players credited a switch from a zone press to a man-to-man defense as a chief key to the strong finish.
Kelly O’Flannigan added 12 points and seven rebounds for the Coyotes (1-0) and sophomore center Jasmine Jeffcoat corralled a game-best nine rebounds. Monarch also received a jolt off the bench from sophomore guard Peyton Carter, who scored 10 points and added six assists.
“We were just talking in the locker room about how our team is unique, because we don’t just have a team of five or six really good players,” said Coyotes junior forward Macy Scott, who hit several baseline jumpers. “We have a whole team that can come off the bench, and we can trust them, too.”
Carter’s quality minutes off the bench provided Monarch with a new dynamic, a promising concept moving forward. Carter received a handful of minutes as a freshman but firmly is in the rotation this season.
“She has a great skill set and puts a tremendous amount of time into her skill development,” Hook said. “She just needs minutes.”
Mattei was thinking the same thing about his Raiders, a talented collection of pieces who haven’t had much varsity time together yet. TaeKenya Cleveland, for instance, scored 30 in Regis’ opening win against D’Evelyn but was held to four against the Coyotes.
“Gail, like I’ve said, is probably one of the best coaches in the state,” Mattei said. “She’s always got her team prepared and they’ve got seniors, and they don’t forget. They know we beat them pretty good on their home court, so those seniors came in like, ‘Hey, let’s go.'”
The Coyotes get back to action Thursday against Liberty as part of a tournament at Mountain Vista. Unlike last season, they won’t be shellshock mode after the opener.
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Monarch 58, Regis Jesuit 45
At Regis Jesuit HS
Rohn 6 2-2 17, Scott 4 0-2 8, O’Flannigan 5 0-0 12, Jeffcoat 1 5-6 7, Sroge 0 0-0 0, Crist 0 0-0 0, Carter 2 5-6 10, Payne 1 0-0 2, Burgener 1 0-0 2, Yesulov 0 0-0 0. Totals 20 12-16 58.
REGIS JESUIT (1-1)
Lewis 8 1-2 23, Cleveland 1 2-2 4, Humphrey 3 2-3 8, Drexelius 0 0-0 0, Johnson 1 4-4 6, Gaines 0 0-0 0, Chaney 0 2-2 2, Wrede 0 0-0 0, Cahill 0 2-4 2. Totals 13 13-17 45.
Score by quarters:
Monarch 7 16 13 22 — 58
Regis Jesuit 9 9 14 13 — 45
3-point field goals — Monarch (6): Rohn 3, O’Flannigan 2, Carter; Regis Jesuit (6): Lewis 6. Total fouls — Monarch 16, Regis Jesuit 16.