HARWICH ─ The Monomoy boys basketball team came away with one for the scrapbooks last Friday with a thrilling double overtime victory that came thanks to the tireless efforts of every player in the game. But the high point belonged to senior Eli Nickerson whose hail-Mary three-pointer proved the game winner for the Sharks in the 56-54 win.
It was the stuff that basketball movies are made of: two rival teams battling for control in the final moments of a hard-fought game before a tie score of 43-all sent them into overtime, not once but twice.
Hollywood couldn't have written it better, with the Sharks showing determination from the first whistle, playing to a 13-6 lead in the opening frame on successful shots from Isaiah Stafford, Nickerson, and Nick Meehan, with Nickerson and Meehan posting tri's in the quarter.
Then the visiting Lions started figuring out their hosts, responding with stepped-up defense that saw the visitors narrow the score in the second quarter, matching Monomoy's nine points with nine of their own, led by Nate Whiteley and Jack Manning for a halftime score of 22-15.
The third quarter saw the Lions outscore the Sharks by one to bring the overall tally to 33-27 as Monomoy looked to hold on to a tenuous lead. But the lead was seriously compromised in the game's fourth quarter when the Lions unleashed their own fury, netting 16 points to Monomoy's nine as the buzzer ended regulation play with the aforementioned tie.
Overtime one saw both teams net an additional five points to make it 48-all at the buzzer. With all eyes on the court during the second overtime, fans watched as the Sharks and the Lions traded points, with Monomoy fans urging their team on when SJP2 took a slight edge as the clock ticked down toward game's end.
Then, with seconds left, the Hollywood ending arrived. With the ball back in Shark possession it found its way into Nickerson's hands. Highlight reels would have the moment unfold in super slow-mo, but in reality it happened in the blink of an eye with Nickerson taking aim, sending up the shot, and everyone's heads turning as it soared toward the hoop, swishing through with two seconds left on the clock.
In spite of time still remaining in game play, exuberant Monomoy fans stormed the court in celebration of victory before being ushered back to their seats in order to allow the Lions one last chance to score. In spite of a valiant attempt at a more than half-court shot, the win belonged to Monomoy.
“This was a good test because it was a League game,” said Monomoy head coach Keith Arnold. “Obviously, St. John Paul is right up at the top.”
Though happy about adding another win to the team's overall record (5-4, 5-0 Cape and Islands League), Arnold would have preferred the Sharks not bring it to a double overtime situation.
“To get the good lead and margin we had and then lose it, we stopped doing what we were doing,” he said, adding that he was proud of his team's ability to get past the SJP2 triple threat of Devan Harrison, Jack Manning, and Nate Whiteley. “That's a solid foundation. Devan Harrison has to be one of the best athletes on Cape Cod. For our kids to combat that and compete with that, with ebbs and flows, really makes life interesting for this old coach.”
The stellar moments, Arnold said, were pretty terrific.
“There were times they moved that ball so well it looked, like, textbook,” he said, adding that Monomoy's defense is impressive. “They really didn't get a lot of transition baskets until the second half.”
Arnold was especially impressed with the dedication of the fans, several of whom had congratulatory hugs for him post-game.
“These kids coming out of the stands, everyplace doesn't have that,” he said, adding that the hugs were a first. “The student section here, they're part of the program.”
Arnold gave kudos to Kyle Charlot for his efforts keeping Harrison under control, and to Nickerson for his grit. Ironically, Arnold had cautioned the senior during the first half to maintain control during his drives to the hoop. When Nickerson gained possession in the final OT, Arnold said he was trying to encourage him to drive it before Nickerson let the ball fly.
“I'm stand here and he's standing right there and I'm screaming, 'Drive! Drive! Drive!' to at least get fouled,” Arnold said. “He pulls up and drains a three.”
Nickerson, meanwhile, said at that moment it was just about taking aim and shooting.
“I was making shots consistently throughout the game, had some room in front of me, so I decided to pull up and luckily it went in,” he said.
Nickerson said he remained motivated by the scoreboard.
“We'd be up by 10 and they'd come back,” he said. “I knew that if we went down it wouldn't be a good thing. It was a big game, I knew that this was going to be big for standings in the League, and overall, and that if we won it would be a big momentum shift for the season. I knew that our whole team had to come out with fire and energy and I did my best to ignite that.”
Like his coach, Nickerson gave a nod to Charlot for sticking to Harrison, and his team for their overall energy.
“Everybody's energy was amazing tonight,” Nickerson said. “We just have to keep going with the momentum.”
Overall, Nickerson led the way with 20 points, including two three-pointers, with Stafford adding 14, with one three-pointer, Nick Meehan seven, Jake Wisniewski and Max Liska each with five, Kyle Charlot with four, and Chris Hall with one.
The momentum did continue on Monday night when the Sharks traveled to Hyannis to face Sturgis East, coming away with a 58-32 win in which Nickerson had 18 points and Stafford and Meehan each 16.
Monomoy's next home game set for Jan. 16 against Cape Cod Academy beginning at 7 p.m.