HARWICH – Monomoy Regional High School boys basketball coach Dan Taylor only needed three words to describe how he felt about his players in the wake of Monday’s 50-45 loss to Nauset in the Winterfest Tournament championship at MRHS.
“I’m so proud,” Taylor said minutes after the game ended.
Even in defeat, there was plenty for Taylor and the Sharks to be happy about. The team overcame a sluggish start, as the visiting Warriors jumped out to an 8-0 lead at the end of the first quarter. They extended it to 13-0 before Monomoy freshman Finn Hyora made a layup to make it 13-2 with 6:58 remaining in the first half.
“There was a little bit of a déjà vu feeling from the first game,” Taylor said, referencing the first time the teams met when Nauset earned a 65-46 victory after building a lopsided lead during the first quarter.
“Our players got their composure and got a couple buckets at the beginning of the second quarter and it was uphill from there. The guys got confidence against Nauset’s athleticism, they shared the ball great and really stuck to the offensive game plan.”
Senior co-captain Michael Rocco tied Hyora with a team-high 11 points to lead Monomoy (6-13). Rocco also grabbed eight rebounds and recorded six assists, while senior co-captain Daniel Gould (10 points, 12 rebounds) also performed well in defeat.
The Sharks trimmed their deficit to 21-12 by halftime before cutting the Warriors’ lead to 36-32 by the end of the third quarter. Although Nauset (16-3) never trailed, Monomoy kept the score close throughout the final frame and even cut its deficit to three on multiple occasions.
“Monomoy played incredible,” Nauset coach John McCarthy said. “They really grinded it out. Scoring no points in the first quarter and then finding a way to grind us out — much credit goes to coach Taylor and that team because they played their butts off.”
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the loss was how Monomoy’s underclassmen performed against Nauset’s lineup, which is comprised entirely of upperclassmen. The Sharks played three freshmen — Hyora, Jackson Rocco and Jackson Morneau — significant minutes and all three played well under pressure.
“We played three freshmen a ton of minutes against a team that has two juniors and then the rest are seniors,” Taylor said. “I forget sometimes that they’re freshmen when I’m yelling at them and pushing them to be better but those kids are just great competitors and absolutely fearless. I’m so proud of their effort — I think they’re learning a lot about themselves during these tough battles.”
The coach said he’s especially enjoyed the contrast of watching the Rocco cousins, Michael and Jackson, play together throughout the season.
“They’re cousins but they might as well be brothers,” Taylor said. “They’re really close and it’s a pretty cool thing to see them out there on the court. Mike has been like a big brother to Jackson for a long time — he looks out for him. Jackson has always been great at his level, but to see him make the jump from JV to varsity from eighth grade to ninth grade and to get that one year together is pretty special. They were both great tonight.”
Monomoy was scheduled to close out its regular season at home against Cohasset on Wednesday afternoon after The Chronicle’s deadline. Although posting a .500 record has been one way for teams to qualify for the state tournament in past years, this year’s tournament field will be decided by a new statewide rankings system.
Despite carrying a record below .500, Taylor said he’s been telling his players to continue to play as if they could sneak into the tournament field with a strong finish.
“We moved up nine spots last week. Because Nauset’s ranking is so good, this might have actually boosted our rating a little bit,” Taylor said. “I’m not telling them it’s impossible because I don’t know if it is. The goal right now is to really play our best basketball during these last games.”
Even in defeat, Monomoy met that goal of playing some of its best basketball Monday night against Nauset.