AMHERST, Mass. — The Monument Mountain boys basketball team Saturday dropped an 81-74 decision to second-seeded Easthampton in the Western Massachusetts Division 3 title game at The Curry Hicks Cage.
Ant Moynihan lead the way for Easthampton with a game-high 27 points, including four 3-pointers.
Ronan Mottor scored 19 and Darnell Whitley added 18 for the Eagles.
Both teams started off a bit nervous, but Easthampton was able to settle in to the game first. It was obvious the Eagles wanted to push the pace early and often. The dynamic guard play really dictated the game as they were able to score multiple baskets out in transition.
Easthampton went on an 8-0 run with just less than three minutes to go in the quarter giving itself a 15-6 lead. The Eagles finished the quarter off up 21-13 and in control of the game.
A big factor in this game for Easthampton was offensive rebounds. Although they were the smaller of the two teams they really crashed the glass and were able to turn that hustle into second chance opportunities.
“Honestly, the rebounding is what did us in. I think if they don’t get those second shots on some key trips we would have been OK.” Monument Mountain coach Mike Saporito said. “They imposed their will on us a little more than we did on them for sure.”
Easthampton continued to control play for most of the second half on the back of Moynihan, who had a 5-0 run himself to widen the gap. One bright spot for Monument Mountain (19-4) was Kevin Troiano, who had a team-high 23 points. He was able to get to the hoop almost anytime he wanted with some shifty finishes at the rim.
Graham Herrick scored 20 for Monument and established the mid-range game and low block well. Monument went into the half trailing, 39-28.
Whether it was the half-time pep talk from coach or the players just settling in more, Monument came out with a lot more energy and hunger. The Spartans traded baskets throughout most of the quarter until they made a little run late in the third.
With a chance to cut the lead to four points, they had an untimely turnoverwhich led to a fast break score for Easthampton to give them a 58-50 lead going into the fourth quarter.
The Spartans started to get some momentum by taking a page out of Easthampton’s playbook and getting out in transition for some easy points. With just five minutes left in the game and the Spartans looking to make one last push, Moynihan hit a huge 3-pointer from well beyond the arc to stretch the lead to seven. It was from this point on Monument was never able to get back in rhythm.
“It’s exciting, the old “Noooo, ok,’ but he’s done it all year and he gets the guys going, Easthampton coach Brian Miller explained. "It’s demoralizing I think when someone hits a shot like that on you, especially when they were closing the gap.”
Despite the “dagger” from Moynihan, Monument continued to fight and although they would eventually come up short coach Saporito praised his guys for not giving up.
“Credit the guys they didn’t give up, it would have been easy to give up a couple times,” he said. “They extended the lead twice to over a dozen, but we battled back and were able to get some quick release baskets, but in the end they made a few more plays than us.”