Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Monroe leads Phoenix to undefeated season

Men's basketball champions for 2005

Phoenix's Jeff Monroe (23 points) drives to the hole against Jivaro Thursday. Photo by David N. Seelig

It took him a while to warm up, but it's tough to keep an All-American basketball player down.

Phoenix Bar & Grill's Jeff Monroe led his team to an undefeated record and the Sutton & Sons Men's Basketball League tournament championship Thursday night on The Community Campus floor in Hailey.

Monroe, a 2004 Division III All-American at Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia, didn't have the greatest shooting night but he still ended up with a team-high 23 points in Phoenix's 72-58 victory over #3-seeded Jivaro Headhunters.

Phoenix ended the season with a 16-0 record, the sixth undefeated men's basketball champion in the Wood River Valley and the first since 1997. Meantime, 2001-03 men's league champion Jivaro (14-4) finished strong with four victories in the 2005 city tournament.

Although Monroe struck for 23 and his high-scoring teammate Pat Loftus of Muhlenberg College had 16, they'd be the first to say that Phoenix's championship game triumph came from all seven players.

Meanwhile, Jivaro Headhunters, topped by Mike Payne's 26 points, gave Phoenix all it could handle. Payne was the MVP for the league's first undefeated champ, Low Profile in 1988, and he was the best player on the court for Jivaro 17 years later.

The game was tied 7-7 in the early going, then Phoenix went on a 10-0 run fueled by Loftus' 7 points. The lead grew to 10 points at 36-26 with 4:16 left in the first half, when Monroe found Cam Lloyd (11 points) underneath for a pretty basket. Jivaro fought back, as they did all game.

Payne (seven 3-pointers) drilled a 3-ball and Jay Fry tallied an old-fashioned 3-point play cutting the lead to 36-32. At the first-half buzzer, Jivaro fouled Monroe on a desperation 3-point shot attempt—and Monroe made all three for a 39-32 Phoenix lead at intermission.

It was a good thing Phoenix made those points, because the eventual champions didn't score anything in the first two minutes of the second half—while Jivaro was going wild.

While Phoenix missed its first seven shots, the 13-0 Jivaro run issued the Headhunters a stunning 45-39 cushion. Payne drove for two, Austen Tyler stole and went coast-to-coast, Darrell Tullis drained a 3-ball, Erik Lisk took a Payne pass for a field goal and Tullis added 4 more points during the Jivaro surge.

Finally, Miles Mays grabbed a defensive rebound and made an outstanding end-to-end rush for a basket that ended the Phoenix drought. Lloyd of Jivaro took a Tony St. George feed for a basket near the hoop, St. George sank two free throws and George Turner of Phoenix nailed a 3-ball for a 48-48 tie.

St. George's 18-footer restored Phoenix's lead at 50-48 then Monroe took over, cranking home an 18-footer and burning the boards for a fast-break basket. When Loftus made his own transition hoop, the lead grew to 56-48. Payne canned another downtowner to keep Jivaro close at 56-51 but Phoenix was too tough.

Cam Lloyd drove the baseline for a 58-51 Phoenix lead, then the former Wood River High School multi-sport athlete was in the middle of an excellent fast break—Loftus to Lloyd to Mays for a 60-51 Phoenix cushion.

With six minutes left, it was pretty much all she wrote.

Miles ended with 8 of his 10 points in the second half, St. George finished with 8 and Turner added 5 for Phoenix. For Jivaro, Tullis scored 17 points, Dan Willett 6, Tyler 4, Fry 4, Lisk 3 and Nate Thornton 2.

Team Most Valuable Players:

Phoenix—Jeff Monroe. Jivaro—Darrell Tullis. Sawtooth Paint/Soundwave—Sean Johnson. Whiskey Jacques—Fernando Murga. Growing Concern—Tim Richards. Monarcas/Mexicana—Jesus Villanueva. Pick-up Boys—Kevin Carey. Sun Valley Brokers—Jeremy Scherer. Sutton & Sons—Wes Southward. Sturges Productions—Keaton Sturges.

NOTES—Jeff Monroe had an outstanding basketball career at

Division III Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia, where he ranks 12th all-time in career scoring with 1,280 points. After batting through a knee injury and averaging 3.1 ppg his freshman year, he bounced back and averaged 8.8 ppg as a sophomore. He led the Tigers in scoring as a junior at 13.2 ppg, was a second-team All-American and took Hampden-Sydney to the NCAA Division III Final Four. As a senior, team captain Monroe sparked the Tigers to a 25-5 record (14-0 home) while averaging 17.6 ppg, 4.2 rebounds, 75% free throwing shooting, double figures in 26 of 30 games and a team-high 53-144 from 3-point range. He was the Old Dominion Athletic Conference tournament MVP, a first-team All-American and a finalist for the Jostens Trophy that honorts the top Division III player in the U.S. In addition, Monroe was a first-team All-Academic athletic/student in his district with a 3.52 PGA majoring in religion and history at the four-year liberal arts men's college located south of Richmond, Va.

Jivaro's Payne played on his eighth league champion team, surpassing Scott Bowlden, who anchored seven championship squads in 11 seasons ending with Low Profile's triumph in 1988. That season, Low Profile (15-0) averaged 90.0 ppg with a line-up of Payne, Bowlden, Tom Ward, Brian Elkins, Mike Mays, Kent Pressman and Dick Richel. Former Wood River High School cager Payne was also tournament MVP for the Country's champs in 1989 and the Apple's Bar & Grill winners in 1990. Back-to-back winners Sutton & Sons went 14-0 and 15-0 for 29 straight wins in 1991 and 1992. Then, Lefty's had a string of five straight league titles from 1995-99 that included a 12-0 unbeaten campaign in 1997 with Payne and Darren Clemenhagen. During that string, Lefty's lost only two league games in four years and was also unbeaten at 14-0 in 1996.

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