By MIKE MOGUIN
Owasso Rambler Sports Writer
COACH TALK: Owasso Head Coach Brian Montonati, center, talks to the Rams during a game. Montonati has led Owasso to the top 10 in Class 6A in his first year as head coach.
Courtesy Owasso Athletic Department
The Owasso High School basketball team is small in height compared to most. Rams’ Head Coach Brian Montonati says, “We’re an undersized team. If one sees us walking through an airport, he or she would think we were a baseball team verses a basketball team. But looks can be deceiving. We don’t start a kid over 6-2 and yet we play in the largest classification in Oklahoma.”
Since Montonati, who played for Eddie Sutton at Oklahoma State in the late 1990s, took over the program in the offseason, the Rams have surged as a top 10 squad and a contender for the state tournament. They are ranked No. 8 in Class 6A, carrying a 14-4 record (6-3 in the Frontier Conference) heading into the month of February.
Owasso won its opener against Bixby on Dec. 5, then endured a three-game losing streak that began with a loss to top-ranked Broken Arrow. The early skid carried over into the first game in a tournament in Jefferson City, Missouri.
A pep talk changed the course as Owasso went on a 13-game winning streak before a loss to 4th rated Union at the end of last month.
Having an “unbelievable chemistry” has been key to the Rams’ success, Montonati says.
“We always talk about a few things that make our team go and one is having a relentless attitude to compete and attack each day like it’s our last day to play basketball,” he says. “They do that every day. They show up and give me everything they have. They are very coachable kids. They’re extremely fun to be around. They play extremely unselfishly. They play for each other. The ball moves with them. Those are the things that stand out on why we’ve put a run together.”
Montonati, who was an assistant for the Rams for six seasons before taking over as head coach, has also gone through a similar transition in the top job.
“There are a lot of little things that come up from time-to-time that can be unexpected,” he says. “But for the most part, it’s been pretty smooth. We have an unbelievable administration; I have unbelievable assistant coaches, great players, the support of their parents and the community.”
Ram starters consist of Seth Pomeroy, Hayden Peterson, Garrett Killion, Jake Thompson and Mason Downs. There is also Josh Proctor, leading scorer from last season and key member of the state championship football team, and Tyler Mason.
“Seth Pomeroy shoots it from anywhere he steps in the gym. He’s an unbelievable ball handler, has a high basketball IQ and has a knack for the ball defensively. He’s one of the toughest kids I’ve been around,” Montonati says.
“Hayden Peterson is a highly competitive kid who can dunk the ball. The one thing that stands out about him is he shoots it well off the dribble, which in my opinion, is one of the toughest shots in basketball.
“Garrett Killion shoots the ball extremely well,” Montonati says. “Garrett also gets offensive and defensive rebounds really well and he’s a tough matchup because of his length.
“Jake Thompson, pound-for-pound, is one of the toughest kids in our conference. Jake is our utility guy, he does a little bit of everything. He’s a three-year starter, probably the captain and soul of our team.
“Mason Downs is the toughest kid on our team. Mason is asked to do a lot each game. He is guarding guys that are bigger and stronger than him, but he is always in the right place. He’s the one who does the grunt and dirty work that you need on your team to be successful.
“Then we just got Josh Proctor back. Everybody knows Josh’s story going to Ohio State to play football,” Montonati says. “Josh is a super athlete, he’s the guy who makes athletic plays for our team, gets out and runs in transition, can finish around the basket, step out and shoot the 3. He always defends the best player, so we’re excited to have him back.
“Tyler Mason has been an addition this year. He’s been a surprise for us with an inside presence. He adds depth to our front court. He’s tough, he battles, gets rebounds, finishes it around the goal,” Montonati says.
This team can make a run at state, but Montonati and his squad are not looking at that. They are just taking it one game at a time.
“The kids on this team, their character sets them apart from any group I’ve ever been around,” the first-year coach says. “They’re extremely humble, they’re hardworking kids, their belief in each other is phenomenal, and I’ve watched these guys blossom from a team no one knew anything about to a team everyone now has to respect and notice what we’ve done.”