HARWICH – The Monomoy girls varsity basketball team might not have any seniors on its roster, but that didn't prevent them from holding their own against a senior-heavy Martha's Vineyard team on Jan. 9. Unfortunately, a pair of late free throws made the difference, lifting the Vineyarders to a 35-33 win.
Melissa Velasquez scored an impressive 12 points for the Sharks and proved instrumental in keeping Monomoy in the competition, while a late-game layup from Caroline DiGiovanni offered a nice shot in the arm for the home team.
Monomoy began battling from the first whistle, outscoring the visiting Vineyarders 11-8 in the opening frame on shots from Lexie Hyora and Velasquez, who had seven of her points in the first quarter, including a nice three-pointer to lift the Sharks to a three-point lead after one.
It was a lead the Sharks worked to hang onto throughout most of the game, and they did so successfully until nearly game's end. The Vineyarders evened the score briefly in the second, but in spite of netting two more points than Monomoy in the frame, still trailed by one at the half. Velasquez and teammate AJ Gates were stellar at the line in the second, with Gates sinking two free throws and Velasquez three.
The Sharks showed signs of struggle in the third quarter, but so too did Martha's Vineyard, which allowed Monomoy to keep its lead even as the Vineyarders aimed to chip away at it. The result was a 23-23 tie at the end of three.
Then came the final quarter in which the teams traded points until Martha's Vineyard eked ahead in the final five minutes. MV's Kylie Estrella made it 26-25 with a jumper before sinking a three-pointer.
With a little more than two minutes left and the Sharks trailing by four, Leah Nash hit the hoop for two before DiGiovanni tied the game at 33-all with her layup at the 17-second mark. But with less than 10 seconds left in game play, Estrella was fouled at the hoop and sunk both of her free throws, once again boosting the Vineyarders into a two-point lead that Monomoy wasn't able to overcome.
Lucy Mawn made a valiant attempt at tying the game before time ran out, but just couldn't beat the buzzer.
Monomoy head coach Pete Richer said that his team's intensity picked up markedly during the fourth quarter, but ideally should have been at that level during the entire game.
“We did a good job getting to the rim on a lot of our drives, but we just didn't finish,” he said.
He was impressed with the number of turnovers his team forced, and the pressure the Sharks kept on their opponents, but acknowledged that Monomoy played slightly better in the first meeting between the two teams on Dec. 27.
“In the first half [the Vineyarders] were able to break away a few times and get some easy layups, which certainly hurt,” Richer said. “We want to make them work for every basket, and a few of those easy layups definitely hurt us.”
What did work for the team, Richer said, was the team's offense and the pick-and-roll, as well as a few strong drives, but he would have liked more cohesiveness on the court.
“That's our bread and butter, getting into the paint and dishing off, and we didn't do that enough tonight,” he said, adding that Sasha Lakis was also a factor in forcing players to readjust their shooting. “[Lakis] was in the back of their minds, and she did block a lot of shots, as well as change the trajectory of some of our shots. You can't play that way. It has to be more natural.”
Richer felt that Maddie Crossen did a tremendous job “as a defensive spark.”
“She did a really nice job pressuring, stealing, creating havoc, and helped us stay in the game,” Richer said.
Monomoy travels to Hyannis tomorrow night to face Sturgis West at 7 p.m., with their next home game set for Jan. 23 at 5:30 p.m. against Sandwich.