Experienced Rams Enter Season on Winning Note

GTR Sport Writer

Courtesy Owasso High School Athletic Department
GOING UP: Owasso’s Kyler Mann (11) puts up a shot in a game against Booker T. Washington at home on Dec. 8. In the background is teammate Caden Fry (23). All five starters, including Mann and Fry, are back for the Rams this season.

Owasso has every starter from last year back on the court and their experience showed with a 2-0 start before Christmas break. 
The Rams have wins over Booker T. Washington (71-62) and Jenks (78-46) with both early season games at home. 
Head coach Brian Montonati is pleased with what he is seeing from his team so far. 
“There was a lot of growth from our first game with Booker T. to our game against Jenks,” Montonati said. “I felt like we were sloppy in the first game. We had too many turnovers. Our defensive intensity wasn’t where we wanted it to be against Booker T. Washington. After a good week of practice, we played phenomenal defense against Jenks. We only turned the ball over eight times. We were able to limit them offensively, which led us to be able to get out in transition and be able to run and score easy baskets.”
Montonati and his Rams know there is a lot of season left. 
“You’re never satisfied as a coach,” Montonati said. “I know our team is not. But I’m very excited about this group and the direction they’re headed.” 
The starting players who are back consist of E.J. Lewis (5-10, sophomore, point guard), Trenton Ellison (6-2, senior, shooting guard), Bryce Journee (6-4, senior, small forward), Kyler Mann (6-5, senior) and Caden Fry (6-7, junior, post player).
“Lewis makes our team run. He gets us in the right offense. He is our floor general,” Montonati said. “Ellison is one of our better defenders. He usually gets the best player from the opponent that we’re playing. We also rely on him heavily to do some scoring for us.
“Bryce is a very athletic wing player who shoots the 3-ball at a high percentage, but also is capable of putting the ball on the floor and finishing it above the rim. Very good defender,” Montonati added. 
“Mann is a walking double-double. One of the better defensive players in the state in my opinion,” Montonati said. “He’s always averaging around 10-12 rebounds per game. He is also another kid who does a lot of scoring for us.  
“Fry is one of the better junior players in the state,” Montonati said. “He is another double-double type guy. Very physical in the paint. He can step out and knock down a 15-footer. He’s very athletic and plays above the rim also.”
Key players off the bench are B.J. Armstrong (senior), Caleb Leslie (6-0, junior) and Kole Manuel (6-3, junior, post).
“Armstrong is our backup point guard,” Montonanti said. “He is a very strong player, very heady player and a good defender. He runs the team with E.J. 
“Leslie is our March man, 3-point specialist,” the coach added. “Every shot he takes, I feel like it’s going in every time. 
“Manuel has been athletic,” Montonati said. “He’s very quick and has a nice jumpshot that compliments his low post game.”
Like every other program, the Rams are having to practice while persevering through the COVID-19 pandemic, going through protocols.
“It’s been an adjustment,” Montonati said. “We were allowed to start working out back in June. We started out with drills, basically one-on-one type stuff. We evolved over time. We got accustomed to it. Is it different? Yes, but we’ve been doing this for awhile now.  
“We try to practice socially distancing as much as possible when we’re not playing, wear masks and make sure to sanitize hands. We screen them heavily before practice for symptoms and temperature screenings. It has actually become the norm for us, to go through all these things, but it’s worth it to have all these guys back out on court and having the opportunity to play. I’m very thankful for our administration for giving us the opportunity to be able to play. But it is a challenge. Every day you cross your fingers and hope that the stuff we’re doing allows us to continue to play and keep us all healthy.”
As for toughest foes, Montonati takes every opponent seriously. 
“In the Frontier Valley Conference, it’s a war every night,” he said. “You’ve got to be prepared to play. We don’t overlook anybody. We have respect for every team in our conference. The next person on our schedule always gets our full attention and we just try to go 1-0 against them.”
Owasso resumed its season Jan. 5 at Union. Through the rest of the month, the Rams play at Bixby (Jan. 12), host Broken Arrow (Jan. 15) and Sand Springs (Jan. 19), travel to Sapulpa (Jan. 26) and host Muskogee (Jan. 29).