By DON HOHLER
PORT CLINTON — It took 26 years, dating all the way back to 1984 when the school won a state championship, for Monroeville to win a sectional basketball title.
But, it happened Friday night as the Eagles beat top-seeded Danbury Lakeside (11-10), 61-59 at Port Clinton High School.
The Eagles (11-11) are pitted against Ottawa Hills in Tuesday night’s second game (8 p.m.) at Gibsonburg High School. St. Paul plays Toledo Christian in the 6:15 p.m. game.
Monroeville coach Zac Reer praised his coaching staff and team, but had even higher praise for the community for sticking with a program that has gone through some rough times since the mid-1980s.
“These kids continue to show what they are made of,” Reer said of his team’s determination to get ‘the monkey off their back.’
“We are playing our best basketball right now,” he believed. “We now have the offensive balance to go with our defensive strength inside,” he believed.
And again it was the play of Ryan Dragon that had a lot to do with the win.
He finished with 11 points while having eight of his team’s 28 rebounds.
Ryan Stower also had a huge game offensively, scoring 20 points, many of them going in the book in quelling Danbury runs.
Monroeville looked to have its tickets punched for Gibsonburg any number of times.
The Eagles ran off seven unanswered points on shots by Cory Long, Eric Leber and Stower to take a 11-4 lead.
But, as happened so many times, Danbury reeled Reer’s team right back in.
It was back to a four-point game, 15-11 at the first break.
Skylar Old would come off the bench, replacing a foul-plagued Cory Long in the second period and making an immediate impact with two three-point goals.
Added to the two above the arc by Stower and the Eagles had rebuilt their lead to 36-22 at halftime.
Stower took over right where he left off in the third period, hitting back-to-back three balls in sending his team out to its biggest lead at 42-23.
No so fast.
Danbury would prove to have plenty of life left.
Even though Rodney Johnson, its best player, was in street clothes with a sprained ankle, the Lakers found a new leader in Vincent Manuella.
He scored 10 third-quarter points to close the count to 42-35 with 4:21 left in the third. It would get as close as 43-37.
That’s when Brent Bollenbacher stopped the run with a goal.
Long was now back in the game and he added six late-quarter points to bump the lead back to 52-40 at the end of three.
Danbury, which made seven of its first 12 field goal attempts in the third period only to miss the last four shots, went right back it in the final quarter in getting the deficit to single digits.
This is when Dragon made his presence felt.
He scored the Eagles only two goals of the quarter while snaring four key rebounds.
And Monroeville needed that kind of effort in canceling what Manuella continued to do.
He had four goals as the Lakers out-scored Monroeville 19-9 in the final period.
Not helping the Eagle cause was Long’s leaving the game with 2:30 left with an ankle sprain.
Three foul shots by Stower, a key tie up under the Danbury basket by Leber and a rebound by Brian Bollenbacher all contributed over the final seconds.
The Lakers got a two-point goal from Lucas Kennedy and then a three-point shot by Steve Feyedelem at the buzzer, all within the last 10 seconds to make it quite exciting in the end.
Monroeville was 21-of-45 from the field and 9-of- 17 from the line with 16 turnovers.
Danbury countered with 25-of-52 and and 6-of-12 shooting numbers to go with 25 rebounds and 11 turnovers.
Manuella finished with 19 points, while Hunter Stephens, had 13 and Kennedy chipped in with 11.
Stower 6-3-20, Long 3-1-8, Ringholz 1-1-3, Leber 1-0-2, Black 2-0-4, Dragon 5-1-11, Old 2-3-9, Bollenbacher 2-0-4. Totals 22-9-61.
Manuella 8-2-19, Feyedelem 2-0-5, Hartman 1-0-2, Boring 3-3-9, Stephens 6-1-13, Kennedy 5-0-11. Totals 25-6-59
Monroeville 15 21 16 9 — 61
Danbury 11 11 18 19 — 59