No. 1 Monument Mountain boys fall to No. 2 Easthampton in Western Massachusetts Division III championship game
AMHERST — For most of Saturday afternoon's Western Massachusetts Division III championship game, top-seeded Monument Mountain was in chase mode — both literally and figuratively.
Easthampton took the lead on a steal and a score by Ant Moynihan with 5 minutes to play in the first quarter, taking a lead the second-seeded Eagles would not relinquish. Easthampton did lead by as many as 14 points in the fourth quarter and each time the Spartans made a run, the Eagles countered.
And when all was said and done, Easthampton had an 81-74 win over Monument. The Spartans (19-4) were seeking their first Western Mass. title since winning the Division II crown back in 1979.
"They were quick. We had the size advantage for sure, but they moved. They really got us out of our comfort zone as far as pushing the ball up, and being very athletic and fast," Monument senior forward Kevin Troiano said. "We had to try to stunt that in the beginning, and we didn't take control as soon as we should have."
Troiano had 23 points to lead the Spartans. Graham Herrick finished with 20 points and a team-high 10 rebounds.
"It's been a great season. Everyone stepped up in the post-season and played their best ball game today," Herrick said. "The whole season has just been great for everyone.
"It's been so exciting, so, no regrets."
Easthampton, meanwhile was paced by the whirling dervish Moynihan. The senior guard had a game-high 27 points. That included 10 in the fourth quarter as the Spartans kept trying to come back. If Moynihan wasn't making one of his game-best four, 3-point baskets, he was taking it to the basket with a myriad of moves.
Monument led 4-3 on a Troiano basket off of one of three Caleb Carlson assists. Some 20 seconds later, Carlson was stripped by Moynihan, who took it to the hoop for two. That started a 12-2 run for the Eagles, giving them a lead they would not give up.
"I don't think we ever got to the point where we had any control in the game," Monument coach Mike Saporito said. "We were fighting from the beginning to implement our game plan and struggled with it. They are very good. we tried to keep them in front [on defense], but they shoot from so far away, we felt like we had to come out and play them.
"It's one of those things if we sat in the zone, they shot over us and if we came out and played man-to-man, they went on by us."
Monument stopped the first-quarter bleeding by scoring five straight points and trailed 21-13 after one quarter.
Moynihan opened the second quarter with a 3-pointer from the right wing, extending Easthampton's lead to double figures again. The teams played evenly in the second quarter, with the Eagles extending their lead to 39-28 at the break.
Easthampton got its lead up to 13 points several times, but each time, the Spartans whittled away. And after three, Monument was down only 58-50.
Saporito's club used an 8-4 run to open the fourth quarter, cutting the Easthampton lead to 62-58, when Moynihan hit a dagger of a trey. He was just inside the "U" in the UMass logo at center court when he let it fly. The ball found nothing but net to put the Eagles up 65-58.
"It's exciting, isn't it?" Easthampton coach Brian Miller said. "It's the old, 'like no, okay.' It's not like he hasn't done it all year. He gets amped up, and when he gets going, the kids get going."
The Spartans did not fold, but while they got the lead down to five, they could not get any closer.
Easthampton, despite being outsized, did have a 47-38 rebound advantage. Sopie Pek had 12 rebounds and seven assists. Ronan Mottor poured in 19 for the Eagles and snared 11 rebounds.
Monument walked out of the Curry Hicks Cage as they walked in, with their chins up.
"Ever since we started the season, we had this goal in mind. Whether you make it or not, you're always pushing for it," said Troiano. "We had a group of guys that went at it the full year — every practice and every game. The fact that we came up short, everyone wants to win, but we played a hell of a season.
"It was one of the best seasons in Monument history, so we can't hang our heads."
Pek 2-0-4, Mottor 8-1-19, Caires 1-1-3, Whitley 8-2-18, Moynihan 10-3-27, Jenkins 3-0-7, Bacic 0-0-0. Totals 32-6-81
MONUMENT MOUNTAIN (74)
Higgins 1-0-3, Brown 1-0-2, Powell 2-0-4, Alston 2-0-4, Carlson 1-2-4, Troiano 10-2-23, Brownson 1-0-2, Herrick 10-0-20, Helmke 4-3-12. Totals 32-7-74
Easthampton 21 18 19 23 — 81
Monument 13 15 22 24 — 74
3-point goals — EH 7 (Moynihan 4, Mottor 2, Jenkins). MM 3 (Helmke, Troiano, Higgins).
Howard Herman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @howaardherman on Twitter and 413-496-6253.
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