Sehome’s Marcus Montag doesn’t lack confidence.
After a big shot or an And-1, he might display a subtle amount of showmanship. He brings a swagger to the court often witnessed from a polished senior, yet he’s only a sophomore.
Montag offers a no fear attitude, a killer instinct, and he went all-in last week against Washington by helping the Mariners snag a Class 2A State Tournament quarterfinal spot after scoring the game’s final nine points, which featured a game-tying layup and a go-ahead triple from the left elbow.
“It’s just playing basketball for a long time,” Montag said in a phone interview. “All my ex-coaches told me to play with confidence. If you don’t, you don’t play as well. I’ve carried that over to my game.”
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Bellingham Herald
Montag’s late-game heroics last weekend weren’t the first time the sophomore willed his team to a win. It was Montag back on Jan. 9 who lifted Sehome to a 84-78 triple overtime win on the road against Lynden Christian. With most of the Mariners’ top scorers out of the game, he took action, following a layup with a game-changing 3-pointer.
The Mariners will look for more of Montag’s strong play down the stretch when Sehome (18-8) opens the Hardwood Classic against River Ridge (20-5) at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, March 5, at Yakima’s SunDome.
While Montag’s confident play has jelled nicely with a team filled with scorers such as Leif Anderson, Tanner Clark, Leighton Kingma and Langston Engle, his big-play ability hasn’t come as a surprise to Mariners coach AJ LaBree.
“It’s impressive, but anybody who knows him, it doesn’t surprise you much,” said LaBree in a phone interview of Montag’s poise in crunch time. “He’s a basketball guy, and has been playing since he was little. He played varsity as a freshman, and as far as being a varsity basketball player, he is by no means a typical sophomore.”
Montag has supplied the Mariners huge minutes this winter. He’s averaging 10.0 points per game and adds another scorer to an already dynamic offense.
He does a great job driving to the basket, which is evidenced by the fact he leads the team in free throws, he avoids charging calls well and has improved his 3-point shooting as the year’s gone along.
While Montag’s confidence stems from year’s of playing ball — he began playing at 4 years old — he’s also shown a dose of unselfishness in his willingness to come off the bench. LaBree said Montag is used to being the best player on the court, but playing varsity he’s been forced to contribute in a different capacity.
“I don’t really think about it too much,” said Montag of not regularly starting games. “I just think about whoever is one the court has a job to do, and I think of it as, ‘Hey, go out there and play your best and see what happens from there.’”
Montag’s unsophomore-like qualities extend off the court, too.
When Sehome is going over scouting reports, LaBree said Montag’s never hesitant to share his opinion, and the coach values his ideas.
“He’s one of the first guys to talk about the other team,” LaBree said. “He’ll make adjustments at halftime and talk about plays that work and what didn’t. Players do that, but Marcus really has a good feel for the game.”
Montag is hoping to carry over last week’s strong performance in the regional round of state, where he scored 17, into the Hardwood Classic. He’d been averaging 5.2 points per game in his previous six contests, and the win against Washington served as even more confidence for the already determined sophomore.
“I think it’s definitely good to have them,” said Montag of clutch performances, “especially when not everything is going well. It’s a good feeling, and it gives you a lot more confidence into next week.”