HARWICH – A late game rally made the Monomoy girls varsity basketball team's Feb. 10 game exciting, but foul trouble and free throw issues allowed Nantucket to eke out a 39-32 victory in Cape and Islands Lighthouse League play.
It was clear from the start that both teams were clambering for a win, with Monomoy looking to avenge a Jan. 2 loss to the Whalers on Nantucket, also by seven points. Unfortunately, in spite of a late-game surge, it wouldn't be Monomoy's win.
“The first half they played hard, but not hard enough,” said Monomoy head coach Pete Richer.
Richer said the team was utilizing a new offense, and that it worked well with the exception of scoring. The shots just weren't falling for the Sharks, which allowed Nantucket to take a five-point lead at the end of the first quarter. It would prove a lead they wouldn't easily let go of, even as Malika Phillip and Madison Bird found themselves with a few too many fouls.
The second quarter didn't fare much better for the Sharks. Though they managed to move the ball to the hoop, getting it to land during free throws proved problematic, something the Whalers capitalized on as they outscored the home team 10-5 in the frame to take a halftime lead of 19-9.
“Offensively, we were getting the ball where we wanted in the first half, but we have to put the ball in the hoop,” said Richer. “We missed a few too many layups.”
The Sharks came into the third quarter with renewed intensity, employing a strong press that stymied the Whalers some, but missed passes and maneuvering too close to the hoop worked against Monomomy.
Free throws also posed a challenge for the Sharks, with Monomoy sinking just four of 18, while Nantucket went 14-for-19 at the line.
“That's something they practice every day and they just weren't falling for us tonight,” Richer said.
Then came that fourth quarter surge that saw Melissa Velasquez sink a layup before Caroline DiGiovanni intercepted an inbound Whaler pass for another score. Another snagged pass led to another score from Velasquez, with Leah Nash adding two more to bring the score to 28-24.
That deficit was soon cut to two points on shots from DiGiovanni and Velasquez, as fans held out hope for a comeback, especially after Bird fouled out in the fourth, but after Monomoy's short run, wayward free throws kept the comeback just out of reach.
Monomoy's defense, however, worked better during the second half, keeping the Whalers at bay and forcing several key turnovers in the physical contest that saw players from both side wrestle for the ball more than once in the outing.
“Our 2-2-1 press did very well,” said Richer. “Nantucket struggled with it all night long.”
Richer said he had to give credit where credit was due regarding Nantucket's Malika Phillip for her tireless efforts.
“She's a very good player, a very strong, athletic player who creates a lot of problems,” Richer said.
He also gave kudos to his team for putting into action new strategies and for following through on upping the intensity following the break.
“The shoutout really goes to the whole team,” he said. “I told them that their defensive pressure was not good enough in the first half, and that I needed it to get much better, and it did. Our man-to-man trap in the second half worked very well and we got a lot of turnovers from it, but again, we didn't convert to enough points due to missed layups. I give them credit for working hard and coming back, we cut it down to one point there, but then it became a free throw game.”
The Sharks need two more wins to make the post-season. At press time they were set to host Sturgis West in a Feb. 10 game, followed by an away game at Cape Cod Academy the following day (Feb. 13 at 4:30), with their final game of the regular season set for Feb. 18 at Falmouth Academy beginning at 5:30 p.m.