Monroe Catholic boys basketball

The Monroe Catholic boys basketball team takes the court in the 3A state title series. Kevin McHenry photo

There was no state basketball tournament in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the Monroe Catholic Rams’ boys team would have been a popular bet to win if one was held.

Since there was no tournament, however, the Rams went another year without making the title game that they hadn’t reached since 2017 and hadn’t won since 2014.

By the time Friday night came to an end, however, the Rams were ready to try and make the third time the charm.

After coming up short in 2017 and 2015 following their 2014 state title win, Monroe Catholic are now in a position to reclaim the 3A Boys State Basketball title after beating Nome-Beltz 50-33 Friday night in the semifinals to make the state title game.

The Rams played Anchorage Christian for all the marbles on Saturday at 3 p.m. at Palmer High School. 

Monroe Catholic wins 3A State Championship. Game details in Monday’s News-Miner. 

While the Rams may not have run away with it, they had little trouble in handling Nome on Friday night. Tommy Bast started the game off on a 7-2 run by himself while Quinn McHenry added a pair of free throws and Jase McCullough nailed a layup to give Monroe 11 points in the opening quarter. A few layups by Nome made it an 11-6 game in favor of the Rams after one quarter of play.

Monroe got off to a dominant start in the second quarter as they went on a 14-0 run. Acrobatic layups by McCullough, a 3-pointer by McHenry, a hook shot by Trevor Mahler, the Rams seemed to score at will on the big run.

Nome-Beltz wasn’t prepared to go down without a fight as they closed the opening half on an 8-3 run to narrow the deficit to 29-14 at the midway point.

Nome seemed to have a greater sense of urgency in the third quarter as the two teams traded shots back and forth throughout the period. Neither team could go on a run but Nome did get the last word in on a buzzer beating layup to pull within 38-24 heading into the final quarter of play.

Evan Puryear hit a pair of layups early in the fourth to put Monroe up 42-26, but a 3-pointer and a layup by Nome brought them within 11 points with 2 minutes to go. Monroe made their free throws down the stretch, however, as they came away with the win and made it back to state.

McCullough continued his strong surge since returning from injury with a 15-point, four steal effort.

Bast wasn’t far behind him with 13 points while McHenry added 12 points and four steals. Mahler contributed four points and a team-leading nine rebounds, Puryear chipped in four points, and Ashton Huntington put up two points to round out the Rams’ scoring effort.

Contact sports reporter Hart Pisani at Hpisani@newsminer.com, 459-7530, or on Twitter @Hpisani91.