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MONTICELLO — Calvin Fisher cranked out a spirited fist pump right after the halftime buzzer.

Monticello's 6-foot-5 standout fed the ball down low to senior teammate Isiah Florey while the final seconds ticked away. Florey tossed in a contested bank shot as the horn sounded and the Sages were flying high with a daunting 32-15 advantage at the break.

It never felt better to be back at their old stomping grounds, Monticello Middle School, and the Sages dispatched Bismarck-Henning 57-38 in a Class 2A sectional semifinal on Tuesday.

Monticello (21-5) will play for its first sectional title since 2007 against either Paxton-Buckley-Loda or Warrensburg-Latham on Friday at the middle school.

“It's a great atmosphere here,” Fisher said. “I haven't played here in three years. It was great to get back in here and play. It felt somewhat normal, but it was still weird.”

The Sages just needed a little jolt in the beginning.

It came from Fisher, who finally broke a scoreless tie with a trey after more than three minutes into the game.

Bismarck's Wyatt Edwards knocked down a 3 for a brief tie at 5-5, but Fisher quickly facilitated another 3 for Jarron Roy and the Sages ran away with the lead, especially after a 14-2 run to start the second quarter.

Fisher battered the Blue Devils (22-10) across the board in the first half with 12 points, three rebounds and two blocks. He ultimately finished with a team-high 23 points and eight rebounds.

“He just found himself and his own personality,” Monticello coach Kevin Roy said of Fisher. “He just makes his teammates better. When he's passing the ball, it creates more for him offensively. Once he makes his teammates better, then things open up for him offensively I feel like. He's done a really nice job of finding himself since Christmas.”

Monticello led by as much as 40-18 in the third quarter after a Fisher layup.

Bismarck tried all it could to rally back and cut the deficit to 44-33 with 5:33 remaining in the game, but never got it back to single digits.

Bill's take

Too small

The Blue Devils particularly struggled with a height disadvantage.

Although they feature a few talented 6-footers in the starting lineup, they at times played three small guards on the court no taller than 5-foot-8.

It proved to be fatal.

Monticello dominated the boards 34-14 and totaled seven blocks while Bismarck had just one. Monticello junior forward Luke Stokowski managed five of those blocks while Fisher had two.

“Luke had a lot of blocks,” Fisher said. “I think some of ours were together, too. We had good defense tonight. I felt good about our competitiveness.”

Bismarck shot just 16-of-49 (32.7 percent) from the floor. Colton Storey led the Blue Devils with 14 points.

“We were playing fast and aggressive,” coach Roy said. “Our guys were really glued in at that end. They missed some shots, but I thought we did a nice job of contesting and cleaning up the boards.”

Good distribution

That also created some glaring mismatches.

Monticello hammered Bismarck inside, scoring 40 points in the paint.

Stokowski pitched in 10 points, eight rebounds and five assists while Florey finished with 16 points, three rebounds and five assists. Florey scored eight of his points in the fourth quarter.

Senior guard Johnny Dawson only had two points but seven assists.

“One thing I like about this team this year is there isn't one superstar on this team,” Florey said. “I feel like we all bring something to the table, which every team needs.”

Battling turnovers

If there's one thing Monticello needs to work on, it's taking care of the ball.

The Sages especially floundered against Bismarck's press in the second half and totaled 19 turnovers. The Blue Devils had nine.

It helped Bismarck charge back in the fourth quarter.

“They turned up the pressure and we knew they would come out with some type of zone press or man press,” coach Roy said. “They were really fast and aggressive out of it. We were kind of on our heels and (they) forced turnovers. We also had some ones right at the rim where we made some nice passes but didn't finish.”

Quotable

“It was a nice little play we ran. Good thing I got it off in time. I didn't know how much time was left. I knew there was seven seconds left or so, but I'm glad I got it off in time. That was nice.” – Florey, on his buzzer-beater

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