Villanova >> The hug was momentary but for Monté Ross and son Justin it will be forever etched in their minds following Penncrest’s thrilling 39-37 come-from-behind win in the PIAA District One Class 5A championship game at Villanova University.
That moment was the latest in what has become a special year for a man who spent his entire adult life in the coaching profession, causing him to miss many milestones, much to his disappointment.
On Feb. 25, Monte’s daughter Lauren, a sophomore at Shipley, scored 27 points in her team’s 52-47 win over Germantown Academy in the Pennsylvania Independent Schools Athletic Association (PAISAA) final.
“As I told many people, I did not miss a single dribble this season,” said Monté, who spent the last two decades coaching at the collegiate level, including 10 years as the head coach of the University of Delaware men’s basketball team (2006-2016). “It was really difficult not being there, as my kids accomplished different milestones because I was away coaching. To see Lauren win the Independent Schools state final and Justin win the District One championship is memorable. I could not have asked for anything more.”
“It’s been a blessing,” said Justin, who finished with eight points and a couple of key assists late in the championship final.
Justin, who will be attending his father’s alma mater Winston Salem State University in the fall, where he plans to major in business, added, “Our family has been saying the whole year has been kind of amazing. Last week he saw Lauren win the PAISAA title and now he has the chance to see my team win the district title.”
“The experience of seeing your kid being involved is unbelievable,” said Penncrest coach Mike Doyle, who coached with Monté at St. Joseph’s University many years ago. “For him, if he was coaching this year he would have missed out on memories that were unbelievable for Lauren and for Justin. For him to see this you’ll never get that back and you can’t put a price tag on that.”
“It’s been great,” Lauren said, referring to having her father home this year. “In the past it’s been a phone call with us trying to describe the game and our father trying to visualize. This year, before I had a chance to describe anything he was there with advice. For him to be there for every dribble has been very special.”
“In my mind, family is the most important thing in life,” said Shipley girls’ basketball head coach Sean Costello. “I imagine it was amazing for both Coach Ross and Lauren to experience her season together. Winning the state title was great, but the ability for a student athlete to share the ups and downs of a full season with her family is really what it’s all about. I’m sure they both gained a lot from this year and I hope is was a memorable one.”
While many people know about Monté, while he was away there was mom Michelle, holding the fort down while attending most of their children’s games, while at the same time serving as Penncrest basketball booster club president.
“Michelle has been in this blow for blow,” Doyle said. “She made sure the parents had their tickets for the championship game, she makes sure the snack bar is stocked with food and properly staffed. She is immersed in this program.”
The old adage of ‘when one door closes another door opens’ certainly pertained to the elder Ross but not in the traditional sense. Although he may not have been coaching, the opportunity to watch his kids is certainly something he and his family will cherish.
“God always has a plan for us and I couldn’t imagine what I would have been going through mentally if I were somewhere else getting ready for my own game,” said Monte. “I am just thankful my children allow me to be part of this and give them advice when then they ask. Hopefully it helps.”
With the district championship in the rear view mirror, Penncrest now readies themselves for the upcoming state tournament where they will face Hershey, 10th pace finisher from District Three, Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Marple Newtown.