HARWICH ─ The Monomoy boys varsity basketball team might have suffered two tough losses in their first week of the 2016-17 season, but a buzzer-beating win is serving as a reminder that the season is just getting started, and as senior captain Chris Mazulis said, “We already have a better record than we did last year.”
That's the attitude the Sharks are trying to hang on to after weathering a 50-36 loss to St. John Paul II in their home opener and this week's 71-36 tumble to Sandwich, a Div. 2 addition to the Monomoy schedule.
“We met a team that had speed and experience, and they live on the transition game,” said Monomoy head coach Keith Arnold. “Their collective speed was very new to us. St. John Paul II is fast. This was speed. In the distance of the court and the half-court defense, they were quicker to the ball and we just haven't seen that. We haven't grown that far to adjust to that.”
Monomoy started strong, thwarting an early attempt at scoring by forcing the Blue Knights to run out the shot clock, but after that the game all but belonged to Sandwich, which netted 22 points to Monomoy's two in the first quarter.
At the half, the Sharks trailed significantly, but returned from the break somewhat renewed, netting 12 points in the third quarter and 16 in the final frame on successful free-throws by Mazulis, co-captain Eli Nickerson and Nick Meehan, as well as on shots from Isaiah Stafford.
Meanwhile, the Sharks held the Blue Knights to similar scoring, allowing them far fewer points than they had in the first half of the match. Arnold said the experience of playing the Div. 2 Knights would ultimately be a positive for his Sharks.
“This was the last game we picked up because they needed one game,” said Arnold. “As I just told the kids, 'let's use this as a learning moment and move from here.' Now we'll regroup [Tuesday]. We can use that as a tool, because to play against somebody even in a half-court set, our defense was suspect. Some of it was (their) speed, and some of it was someone out of position on our defense, so it's about cleaning up those things that we can clean up, and controlling what we can control.”
Arnold offered praise to Meehan and Nickerson for their efforts in the game.
“Meehan [has] come a long way as a point guard, and Eli just gives you himself every night,” he said.
Overall, Stafford led the scoring with 14 points, followed by Mazulis with nine, Nickerson with six, Meehan with four, Wisniewski with three, and Claude Butter two.
A second-half push against St. John Paul II in Monomoy's home opener on Dec. 13 put the Lions on notice even as they held on for a 50-36 win, but as the Sharks worked to shake off any opening night nerves and get down to the business of basketball they struggled to get past the Lions' smothering defense. In spite of a decent number of shots, they had trouble getting the ball to fall through the net.
At the end of the first quarter the Sharks trailed by five, with SJPII ahead 26-19 at the start of the third quarter, with the Lions holding a 37-27 edge in the final seconds of the frame. Unfortunately for the Sharks, time ran out on any chance of a rally.
Monomoy fared much better in their next outing at Upper Cape Tech, earning a thrilling buzzer-beating victory when Mazulis capitalized on a pass from Jake Wisniewski to sink a shot in the final seconds to claim a 47-46 non-league win.
Wisniewski led the night's scoring with 15 total points, followed by Meehan with 11 and Mazulis 10.
Monomoy took an early 11-8 edge in the game, with Stafford and Wisniewski pushing the Sharks to a 17-11 lead in the second quarter, with Mazulis's free-throw prowess extending Monomoy's lead further.
The final shot was captured on video and widely circulated on social media, easing some of the frustration of the losses.
The Sharks are set to host Rising Tide Charter School tonight at 6:30, with their next game slated for Dec. 28 at home against Dennis-Yarmouth. The team then hosts Martha's Vineyard on Dec. 30 at 3:30 p.m. before traveling to Nantucket on Jan. 3.