HARWICH – Eight middle school boys comprise the Monomoy Youth Hoops Grade 5 team. Off the court they're all about having fun, but once in a game, the focus is all about basketball as their stellar 2018 season attests.
This year the team has played to a 14-3 overall season record that has included victories against every team on Cape Cod, among them Nauset, Sandwich, D-Y, Barnstable, Falmouth, and Bourne, not to mention wins against Martha's Vineyard, Rochester, Wareham, and South Plymouth. They're one of the specially invited teams set to compete in the Massachusetts Middle School Championship in March.
Making up the team are Tamarr Washington, Finn Hyora, Jackson Rocco, Brady Grogan, Chase Robbins, Braden Burke, Chase Yarletts, and Cole Strzepek, who are coached by Sean Grogan, Tory Washington, and Matt Rocco.
The team is part of the Cape Cod Youth Basketball League, and what makes them special isn't just a passion for basketball; they're also all really good friends, something head coach Grogan said has made a positive impact on their success.
“We had six boys returning from last year, and two new kids this season,” he said. “They have different personalities but just mesh together so well. I think a lot of that is that everybody enjoys each other's company.”
They're also willing to put in the work. Not only is each member of the team on the honor roll in school, but when they come to practice, they arrive early and get down to the business of building skills.
“Once practice starts they just turn the switch and it's go time,” Grogan said.
This season has seen the team through a number of big games, but the ones the team said they'll remember most were against Bourne and Rochester. In the former, the Monomoy squad fell behind, only to come back and snag a thrilling victory. The same was the case against Rochester. After taking a big lead, Monomoy fell behind.
“When the lower seed kind of starts to win people are cheering for the underdog,” said Grogan. “So the whole gym was cheering for Rochester, but Monomoy just pulled it out. They made the shots and pulled it out.”
When asked, each of the team's players cited those two games as their most exciting, and added that what makes playing on the team rewarding is being able to play with their friends. While basketball offers each the opportunity to stay active and get in the game, the consensus on favorite part of the sport was being with fellow teammates. Grogan said that sentiment extends to the families of each player, as well.
“It's like we're one big, giant family,” he said. “We've done a team dinner, gone to a basketball game together. I love how the parents aren't just supportive of their kids, but of every kid.”
Another exciting game was the team's most recent outing against Dartmouth, a tournament game. Though a tough 55-45 loss, Grogan said the game play was perhaps the team's best all season.
“The president of the league, Steve Post, called it the best fifth grade basketball game he's ever seen,” Grogan said. “The crowd was electric. We were tied at 24 at the half.”
Grogan said that the undefeated Dartmouth team were solid shooters, with one player netting at least seven 3-pointers, but added that Monomoy gave them a real run.
“Tamarr played his best game of the year, and scored 21 points, and Jackson Rocco had 16,” Grogan said. “Finn Hyora dominated on the glass and on defense like he always does. All three played every second of the game. The more tired they got, the harder they played. They are absolute warriors on the basketball court.”
The challenge for the Monomoy team was the shooter of the three-pointers.
“Our plan was to have a player pick him up as soon as he crossed half court and never leave him, so we had Chase Robbins and Braden Burke each take turns guarding him,” said Grogan. “They did an awesome job on him and made it very tough for him to get his shots off. Chase Yarletts, Cole Strzepek and Brady Grogan also did everything we asked of them to round out a total team effort.”
Grogan's pride in his team was and is immense.
“The boys won 13 consecutive games coming in to the championship game and I was more proud of them in that loss than I was in any of the other previous wins,” Grogan said. “I love those kids! They played with so much heart, determination and skill, it was amazing to watch.”
Grogan said what he admires most about his young charges is their determination.
“We've got super talented players,” he said. “I think the biggest thing is that they play so hard. They play every possession like it's the last one of the game. We haven't won every game, but we did play harder than every team we played.”
He has high praise for each team member. Washington, he said, is the player that sets the tone for the team.
“He has the ball in his hands 90 percent of the time,” said Grogan. “His ball handling and defensive skills are second to none, and he can get to the basket any time he wants but also has the ability to knock down outside shots (he’s made 12 three pointers on the season).”
Hyora, meanwhile, brings intellect to his game play and is a stalwart leader.
“Finn is the most intelligent basketball player I’ve ever been around,” said Grogan. “He is a relentless rebounder, a beautiful passer and is able to score both inside and out. He’s like having a coach on the floor. Not only is he always in the right place at all times, but he makes sure his teammates are as well. There isn’t anything that he doesn’t do well on a basketball court.”
And the praise continues with the remainder of the team.
“Jackson is impossible to stop in the open floor,” Grogan said. Like Tamarr, he has unbelievable dribbling skills. He is looking to score every time he touches the ball, whether it be slashing to the basket or pulling up for a three-pointer (17 total).
“We call Braden “the microwave” because he heats up fast. He was instrumental in bringing us back from a 14-point deficit against Bourne this year with a couple clutch baskets and free throws.
“Chase in my opinion is the most improved player on the team this year. He’s always had a great shot, but he has really improved his ball handling and defense this season, and Brady is a solid defender, rebounder and screener. He’s also third on the team in made three point shots.
“Cole is really good at running the floor and has a knack for losing his defender on the offensive end, and Chase is a combination of quickness and intelligence. He uses both to play really tough defense and then also beat his man down the floor to get layups in transition.”
As the middle school squad eyes their high school future – many have been fixtures at Monomoy High boys games – it's clear that future is bright given how they've shined this season.
“I think this is the class that changes the culture,” said Grogan. “And not just with basketball. They're good at baseball, too. They beat every team on the Cape regardless of division. These are the kids who could turn the tide, and I think these kids love each other, and Monomoy, so much that they'll want to stay here all the way through. I think these kids are the future.”