Levi McMonigle started his Madison High School basketball career slowly, then shifted into beast mode.
Unable to play in the first 11 games after transferring from Valley View, the 6-foot-6 junior center showed some early rust against visiting Preble Shawnee on Saturday night.
That rust eventually turned into dominance as McMonigle collected 6 points, 16 rebounds and six blocked shots for the Mohawks, who handed the Arrows their first Southwestern Buckeye League loss with a 41-32 decision.
“It was a great experience. Loved it,” McMonigle said. “I like the atmosphere. I like the team. Good chemistry and a fun crowd.”
He was particularly disruptive to the Shawnee cause in the fourth quarter, when Madison used a 13-point surge to erase a 29-27 deficit and take command of the contest.
Much to the delight of the large home crowd, McMonigle muscled his way to rebounds and swatted shot after shot.
“They’d just try to drive and pump fake … I’ll put it out of there,” he said with a smile. “I protect the paint and let the guards take care of the 3-point shooters.”
The Mohawks got off to an icy start, beginning the game with a scoreless stretch of nearly five minutes and trailing 17-9 at halftime.
Madison stayed in a 2-3 zone until very early in the third period. A switch to man-to-man defense gave the hosts a shot of energy that lasted the rest of the night.
“We were just so anemic in the first half,” Mohawks coach Jeff Smith said. “At halftime, we said we’ll still come out in the zone, but if they start to hold the ball, we’ll go man-to-man. And we did much better in man than I thought we would.”
Grant Whisman tallied 14 points and six boards for Madison, which improved to 9-3 overall and 3-1 in the SWBL Buckeye Division. Cameron Morgan tossed in 8 points.
The Mohawks only shot 34.1 percent from the floor. But that seemed spectacular compared to the Arrows’ 24-percent shooting.
“When you’re shooting 24 percent, it’s remarkable we kept it as close as we did,” Shawnee coach Dale Spitler Jr. said. “We played hard. Our defense was good. You can do everything well, but if you don’t hit shots, that makes it tough.
“Give credit to them. They’re big. They’re tall. They’re athletic. They changed a lot of our shots and blocked a lot of our shots. They made it difficult on us, and the stats kind of reflect that.”
Chase Thompson and Bo Higgins paced the Arrows with 8 points apiece. Thompson had eight rebounds and Joey Bates added seven.
Shawnee moved ahead 29-27 on Thompson’s jumper in the lane with 7:34 remaining. The Arrows didn’t score again until Levi Lewis hit a 3-pointer with 1:30 left.
McMonigle affected practically everything Shawnee did near the paint down the stretch. He admitted to being “terribly nervous” early in the game, but settled into his comfort zone after the break.
“He was a game changer because they couldn’t get to the rim,” Smith said. “How many shots went up that were just like airball layups where we ended up getting the rebound or a tipped ball? That’s his value in there. I think you’ll see us be a little more aggressive at the front end of our defense with Levi in there because we’ve got a presence behind us that can protect the basket.”
Mason Whiteman contributed 6 points, six assists and four rebounds for the Mohawks, who were coming off what Smith described as an “awful” performance Friday night in a 48-45 victory over winless Dixie.
Madison and the Arrows (7-2, 3-1) are now tied for second in the Buckeye Division behind Northridge (7-5, 4-0), which is set to host Shawnee on Tuesday. The Mohawks will be at Waynesville that night.
“If we go over to Waynesville and lay an egg, this doesn’t mean anything,” Smith said. “Everybody who played tonight is an underclassman, so we’re still a very young team. We’ll go through growing pains. There will probably be some really bad pimples along the path. But there’s a chance a chance that maybe we can do something special.”
The Arrows have suffered two straight defeats (they lost to Tri-County North on Dec. 30), though Spitler said it’s too early in the season to panic.
“Between now and Tuesday, we’re not going to improve our shooting a lot,” he said. “But we can be on the same page. We can be happy. We can work together. We can be confident. We’re still in a good spot.”
Preble Shawnee 8-9-10-5—32
PREBLE SHAWNEE (7-2, 3-1 SWBL Buckeye): Chase Thompson 3 2 8, Tyler Worley 1 0 3, Levi Lewis 2 0 6, Austin Moore 1 0 2, Joey Bates 2 0 5, Bo Higgins 3 0 8. Totals: 12-2-32
MADISON (9-3, 3-1 SWBL Buckeye): Tristan Sipple 0 1 1, Mason Whiteman 3 0 6, Cameron Morgan 2 2 8, Grant Whisman 4 5 14, Levi McMonigle 3 0 6, Matt Gomia 2 0 6. Totals: 14-8-41
3-pointers: P 6 (Higgins 2, Lewis 2, Worley, Bates), M 5 (Morgan 2, Gomia 2, Whisman)
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