Nantucket holds off Monomoy, wins C&I League championship

HARWICH — Nantucket’s boys basketball understood that points often come at a premium against Monomoy’s stingy man defense.

But when the high-tempo Whalers needed a basket the most, they got it, and they were rewarded with a league title.

Sophomore guard Torane Burton hit a 3-pointer right in front of his team’s bench and finished with a game-high 18 points, 7 rebounds and 4 steals, as Nantucket downed Monomoy, 52-42, on Tuesday afternoon to clinch its first Cape & Islands League title under coach Willis Ferreira.

“That’s a big win, we knew it was going to be tough,” said Ferreira, who is in his sixth season at Nantucket. “We just made enough plays. I’m just proud of the way they’ve played all year.”

Nantucket (17-1, 15-0 C&I), whose lone loss was to Abington this season, took a 37-26 lead entering the fourth quarter and maintained control throughout.

But Monomoy (11-7, 11-3 C&I), which swept Nantucket last year, showed some of the vigor it used to make it to the Division 4 South Sectional finals last season.

After a Nantucket free throw, the Sharks went on a 9-2 run that ended when senior Eli Nickerson hit a 3-pointer in front of the student section with about 5 minutes, 30 seconds remaining.

However, Burton came down the other end and sank a deep three that put the Sharks back on their heels.

Though senior Nick Meehan (11 points) hit another 3-pointer from the same spot as Nickerson, Burton scored again, and then Usher (5 points) capped it by turning a long rebound into a fast-break layup.

“Burton made some huge plays for us,” Ferreira said. “Him and [Devonte] Usher really get us going defensively.”

Photo Gallery: Nantucket vs. Monomoy

The Whalers, who took a 29-17 lead into halftime, used a 2-3 and 3-2 zone to force Monomoy to hit from the outside, and for a while it worked.

But the Sharks earned multiple second- and third-chance opportunities in the second half, including a three-point play from Isaiah Stafford (team-high 15 points) in the third quarter that cut it to 33-25.

They also started diving for loose balls and forcing more turnovers on defense.

“I just challenged the kids to dig in,” Monomoy coach Keith Arnold said. “We started getting either easier looks or attacking the basket more.

“We have to work for everything we get.”

Ferreira criticized his team’s free-throw shooting after it went 3-for-8 in the first half, but the Whalers turned that around in the second half by going 10-for-12, including 6-for-8 in the fourth quarter.

Senior guard Maxx Cunningham (8 points), who hit two 3-pointers in the first quarter, said getting an early lead was especially key.

“All we needed to do against this team was get ahead because our defense is pretty good too,” Cunningham said. “We just needed to match their intensity.”

Monomoy closes out the regular season, in order, with games against Cape Cod Academy, Cape Tech, Nauset and Dennis-Yarmouth.

Meanwhile, Nantucket, which will likely be the top seed in the D4 South tourney, hosts Sturgis East and Mashpee on Friday and Saturday, respectively.

“We just want to have a full head of steam going into the tournament,” Cunningham said. “We want to be playing our best basketball at the end of the season.”