MADISON TWP. — Opening night is generally a do-whatever-it-takes kind of experience, and so it was Thursday for Monroe High School’s girls basketball team.
The visiting Hornets got double-digit scoring from juniors Olivia Wells-Daniels (18) and Kylee Slone (11) to fight off Madison 50-39 in a Butler County matchup that also served as the season opener for the host Mohawks.
“It didn’t look very pretty at times, but we believe in taking things slow and getting better as the season goes along,” Monroe coach Chad Allen said. “It’s a road win, we’re playing a little short-handed, and our girls really gutted it out. I’m really proud of them for doing that.”
Madison was as close as 36-31 in the fourth period, but simply didn’t have enough to overcome the Hornets. Wells-Daniels tallied six of Monroe’s last eight points.
It was a game filled with miscues — the Hornets had 19 turnovers, the Mohawks 20 — and high intensity.
“We didn’t play smart at times, and we definitely weren’t well-coached tonight,” Allen said. “We’re behind, so we haven’t put in a press breaker yet, and Madison presses the whole game.”
Soccer has contributed to Monroe’s limited progress. The Hornets have several soccer players on their roster, and the school team made a run to the Division II district finals last month. Sophomore forward Alyssa Beckett missed Thursday’s game because of a soccer event.
Monroe played last season without Katie Sloneker, and the senior guard is still sidelined. She tore her ACL for the second time in January and is trying to get back at some point during the 2018-19 campaign.
Even with those issues, the Hornets are still one of the best D-II squads in the area. They’re able to play through mistakes with quickness and skill.
“Considering we had a late start and there’s a lot of stuff we haven’t gone over yet, I think we did pretty well tonight,” said Wells-Daniels, who grabbed six rebounds. “I think we can see where we’re at from this game. I don’t think we should’ve ever been that close tonight, but I wasn’t really concerned because I knew we were just having a bad stretch. I knew we would pick it up eventually.”
Monroe got quality contributions from the likes of Rylen Carroll (six points, nine rebounds), Sam Schwab (six points, five boards), Sophie Sloneker (four points, seven rebounds) and Brooke Frazier (five points, five boards). Slone chipped in three rebounds.
“We’re blessed right now,” Allen said. “Sometimes you have great players and you just get out of their way, and that’s what I’m trying to do. We’re not quite where we need to be. We don’t have a whole lot of plays. We’re short-handed, so we couldn’t press like we usually do. But through all that, they’re like, ‘Yeah, give me the ball. I’ll make a play. I’ll go get that rebound. I’ll go get in that passing lane and get something done.’ We weren’t putting the ball in the hole there for a while, but we were getting out on the floor and doing things that we know how to do.
“We’re going 100 miles an hour and they were dead tired, but they sucked it up, and we still got to press a little bit in the fourth quarter. That mind-set is there. They’re so competitive. I just love those girls.”
Kenzi Saunders scored 15 points and Tara Price tossed in 11 for Madison, and Carley McMonigle contributed seven points and 12 rebounds. Ally King added four points and seven boards, all in the second half.
The Mohawks only led twice (2-0 and 8-7) in the game.
“This was a good test for a young team like us,” Madison coach Brian McGuire said. “Monroe plays great defense. They always have. We missed a lot of shots, but I think those shots are going to fall eventually. We’ve got too many good shooters to keep missing like that.
“I’m disappointed that we lost, but I’m really pleased with the effort that they gave. This is one of the hardest-working teams that I’ve coached in a while. The kids like playing for each other. They want to see each other do well. It’s that all-in, all-together stuff that we started last year, and they just keep pushing it.”
Both teams have major road tests coming up. Madison meets Waynesville on Saturday, while the Hornets face Bellbrook on Monday.