HARWICH ─ Winning is awesome, and is certainly the main goal of most sports, but sometimes a game comes down to not how a team won, but how well they lost. On Saturday, the Monomoy girls basketball team might have fallen to Nantucket 40-28, but they did so by playing one of the best games of the season thus far.
“That game and the Falmouth game we just played were two of the better games we played all year,” said Monomoy head coach Pete Richer. “Unfortunately we played against very tough competition. They were very quick, tall, and very physical.”
Seven points proved the challenge for Monomoy in the outing, with the Whalers netting 15 points in the first quarter to the Sharks' nine, with Monomoy's scores coming from Erin Starkey, Maddie Leonard, MacKenzie Balfore, and Caitlin Daley, who set fans cheering with a beautiful three-pointer.
In spite of the scoreboard, and what Richer said were “a few too many turnovers and a few too many mistakes,” the Sharks persevered, putting into play what they've been working on in practice, much to the delight of their coach.
“We really did a fantastic job attacking the hoop and looking for the extra pass,” said Richer. “We haven't done that all the time; today it was great that we did do it. It was beautiful to see them attack the hoop, dish the ball, and then one more pass after that. There were several times my arms went up to the sky like 'hallelujah.'”
Monomoy's strength showed in the second quarter. Although held to just four points, they allowed the visiting squad to score only seven in the frame.
After trailing 22-13 at the break, the determined Sharks outscored the Whalers 11-7 in the third quarter, limiting Nantucket's lead to 25-22 with two minutes left in the period, largely thanks to stellar defense, and shots from Leonard and Starkey.
Unfortunately for Monomoy, that's when Nantucket turned up the heat, holding the Sharks to just four points in the final frame, while the Whalers scored 11 en route to victory.
“The pressure got to us a bit,” said Richer. “We handled the pressure well overall, but it did effect us a few times.”
Though Richer acknowledged his team's errors, there was no doubt that there was much to be impressed with given their tireless tenacity throughout the game.
“I think it's the building blocks we're trying to build in practice that I see starting to take place,” he said. “Handling the pressure, looking for that extra pass, and finishing. We also did a nice job finishing today. Other games we get that shot and don't finish, and today we actually did.”
Richer was pleased with the pressure Monomoy kept on Nantucket throughout the game, although it was not enough for a win due to his team missing “too many bunnies” or shots under the hoop. He was also impressed with the team connectivity overall, which showed in the Sharks' upbeat attitude following the game.
“They're doing a super, super job with that,” he said. “We just had a team discussion the other day about how well we're sticking together, in wins or losses. We have no finger pointing, no blaming each other. It's just 100 percent effort and positivity.”
Overall, Leonard led the scoring with 10 points and seven rebounds, with Starkey close behind with eight points and nine rebounds. Caitlin Daley added five points and seven rebounds, while Maggie Dever and Leah Nash each added two points, and Kelsey Olson seven assists.
Richer dubbed Starkey the MVP of the game for her grit.
“She was so aggressive, she worked so hard on rebounds, and she put the ball back out strongly, which is what we've been coaching her to do,” Richer said.
He also named Kelsey Olson as second MVP “for her hustle, her defense, and her assists.”
“She did a super job attacking the hoop, letting the defense crush on her, and dishing the ball off for those easy, open bunnies,” said Richer. “We also keep track of hustle plays and she led the team in hustle plays with seven.”
Richer explained that a hustle play is one that might not end in a basket, a steal, or anything necessarily positive, but makes it clear that a player was giving it her all.
“You can obviously see that the kid was going out of their way to do everything they can, whether it's diving on the floor, hustling back up the full length of the court, not giving 75 percent, but instead 100 percent effort,” he said. “I think it's important at this stage of our team development to recognize hustle plays and not just points or rebounds. Those hustle plays are going to lead to scoring and better defense.”
Richer said it was also nice to have support in the stands.
“I really appreciated the fans today,” he said. “As we were coming back, we could feel the energy in the gym. Unfortunately it wasn't a packed house, but we could still feel the energy. It was a great feeling for me as a coach and them as a team.”