The last four games of the season were all must-wins if Monticello wanted to grab the fourth spot in the 5A-Southeast Conference, which is exactly what the Billies did as they made the 5A state boys basketball tournament in Paragould.

The last four games of the season were all must-wins if Monticello wanted to grab the fourth spot in the 5A-Southeast Conference, which is exactly what the Billies did as they made the 5A state boys basketball tournament in Paragould.

“Our backs were against the wall, and we hunkered down and the kids came together and gave the effort to win,” Monticello coach Wayne Sherrer said.

Monticello (15-11, 7-7 in 5A-Southeast) plays Forrest City, the No. 1 seed from the 5A-East Conference, at 8:30 p.m. today at Greene County Tech High School.

Monticello had to overcome losing three players due to different situations. One player was lost due to an eligibility situation and two more due to disciplinary situations. Sherrer did not say who the three players were.

Instead of folding, Sherrer said his team was able to regroup during a tough time.

“I am proud of this group of how they readjusted and stayed together and put a good finish to the season,” he said. “I really believe the kids that we have now are totally committed and put their heart and soul in it.”

The biggest concern Sherrer has going into the game against Forrest City is how young his team is.

“We can play and maintain our intensity, which is probably what you worry with young guys,” he said. “You have to manage the excitement and play your normal way and if we are able to do that, I like our chances.”

GIRLS

Monticello made the state tournament for the fourth straight year, and this year the Lady Billies are the top seed from the 5A-Southeast Conference.

“The expectations have been great, and it’s been over the top since practice started,” Monticello coach Lucy Williams said. “They have talked about being conference champions and winning a championship. Just being seeded number one is a confidence builder right now.”

Monticello (25-2, 14-0) opens the 5A state tournament against Nettleton, the No. 4 seed from the 5A-East Conference, at 1 p.m. Wednesday.

Even though Monticello has the top seed, Williams knows Nettleton is a tough first-round matchup.

“They have two great left-handed guards,” she said. “Everyone is good and there are no pushovers, and you have to be on your game to win one game.”

Monticello is not going to change how it plays going into the state tournament, especially since the team lost only two games this year.

“Our game-plan is the same and we have been successful with what we have been doing,” she said. “It’s all about respecting your opponent, but realizing we are just as good and we have to show you that.”

Williams said Monticello is not the only team gunning for a state championship as well.

“Not that we are any better, because everyone who is coming to state, they have something to prove,” she said. “It doesn’t matter what seed you are, you have to go play and have to play well on that day.”