HARWICH – Most of the Monomoy girls basketball players had never seen an atmosphere like it. Those who have hadn’t seen anything comparable since 2020, before COVID-19 altered the way games were able to be played on the court and watched from stands.
Masks were optional for players, coaches and spectators alike during the 26th-seeded Monomoy girls basketball team’s Division 4 state tournament preliminary-round matchup against No. 39 Blue Hills on March 1 in Harwich.
The energy of the packed and raucous student section also gave the Monomoy girls an extra boost as they capitalized on the excitement inside their home gymnasium and pulled away for a 61-22 victory over Blue Hills.
Although the Sharks’ season ultimately came to an end following Friday’s 52-41 loss at No. 7 Northbridge in the Round of 32, the players were thrilled to have had the opportunity to begin their postseason run in Harwich in front of their own fans.
“I’ve never played with a student section like that here at Monomoy, so that was really fun,” Monomoy junior Melissa Velasquez, a Harwich resident, said after she scored a career high 23 points in the victory over Blue Hills. “There was high energy and you could feel it on the court.”
Another Harwich resident, senior Caroline DiGiovanni, agreed with Velasquez about the home crowd.
“Honestly, that was probably the first time I’ve seen a girls basketball game that packed,” said DiGiovanni. “It felt good to win, especially in the tournament. Usually, we lose to a bigger team like Cathedral in the first round, so it felt good to start it off with a win.”
Still, even after the win, the players admitted it just felt different, even a little weird, to be playing without masks for the first time in a couple seasons.
“No masks was kind of weird because I feel like I’m missing something, like I forgot to put my pants on,” said Caroline’s sister, Helen DiGiovanni, a junior who scored 18 points against Blue Hills. “But it was really nice — it’s a lot easier to breathe and it feels a lot more comfortable.”
The opening-round win also marked first-year coach Brian Tomasini’s first state tournament victory at Monomoy. Although the Sharks and Warriors entered the game unfamiliar with each other, Tomasini said his message to his players was to not get caught up in the seedings.
The players took his message to heart against Blue Hills.
“We were prepared for the worst because we wanted to be prepared for anything, but once we set the tone, I felt like we were all set,” said junior Lucy Mawn, a Harwich resident.
Monomoy clearly wasn’t intimidated by the fact that Northbridge owned the higher seed in their second-round game. The Sharks hung tough all the way until late in the fourth quarter, when the Rams sank their free throws to hold on for the victory.
Velasquez scored a team-high 14 points in the season-ending loss, while Caroline DiGiovanni added 12 in what was her final basketball game.
As disappointing as it was for the Sharks to see their season come to an end, that one last final home game provided the players and Tomasini with an atmosphere they’ll likely never forget.
“It was great to get a home game to get the juices flowing for the tournament,” Tomasini said. “To be in here with no masks was good to see the kids thoroughly enjoying playing in front of the big crowd and the student section. The energy was there, I think it showed in the way they pushed the ball up the court and the way they played defensively.”
Like the Monomoy girls, Nauset’s boys team made some noise in the Division 2 state tournament. The 33rd-seeded Warriors opened the tournament with a 56-54 road victory at No. 32 Westwood in the preliminary round before suffering an 85-36 victory to top-seeded Malden Catholic in the second round Friday.
The 43rd-seeded Cape Cod Tech boys team fell to No. 22 Calvary Chapel Academy, 55-49, in its preliminary round game to open the Division 5 tournament.
Email Brad Joyal at firstname.lastname@example.org.