With five minutes left in the third quarter, Ant Moynihan pulled up with his feet touching the UMass logo at Curry Hicks Cage, about 27 feet from the basket. He drilled the shot and gave Easthampton a seven-point lead in the Western Massachusetts Division 3 Tournament championship.
The Eagles never looked back and rode the momentum to an 81-74 victory over Monument Mountain, Saturday, for their first sectional title in 15 years.
“It feels amazing,” Moynihan said. “This is two years of work and I just want to go get a state (championship) now.”
Moynihan was 4-for-7 from behind the arc and led all scorers with 27 points.
A minute prior to that shot from Moynihan, the Spartans had amounted a comeback, cutting the Easthampton lead to 60-56.
Easthampton led by 13 at halftime, but Monument made adjustments in the third quarter that proved effective. The Spartans began to play more up-tempo and on several possessions in the third and early in the fourth quarter, Monument Mountain already had a player streaking down the court for an easy layup before the defense of Easthampton could set.
Kevin Troiano was getting isolation plays called for him and scored 11 of his team-high 23 points in the fourth for the Spartans.
“He was trouble,” Easthampton coach Brian Miller said. “We were trying to just back off a little bit, just make him prove himself from the outside but he would just close the distance and then go by us which doesn’t happen to us a lot.”
Easthampton point guard Sopie Pek finished with seven points, all in the fourth quarter, and eight assists.
“They just collapsed on me every time I was in the paint,” Pek said. “So I would just find the open guy and dish it off.”
Only four players scored for the Eagles in the first half, and the same four players — Moynihan, Zade Jenkins, Ronan Motter (19 points) and Darnel Whitley (18 points) — accounted for all but 10 of the Eagles’ total points in the game. Only two bench players saw floor time for Easthampton.
“We’re in incredible shape, these guys work hard,” Miller said of his team’s endurance.
“Really, we don’t need to (make substitutions) unless we get into foul trouble because they can run all day. Jack (Bacis) and Drew (Caires), coming off the bench, do a great job for us when they come in, but when you have this sort of skill and speed and athleticism out there we just want to run with that because it’s tough for other teams to matchup.”
Easthampton (18-5) will play Sutton (18-6), Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at American International College in the state semifinals.
That’s gives the Eagles a couple days to bask in its sectional crown.
“We’re just so … shocked,” Whitley said.
Monument Mountain 74
Pek 2-3-7, Mottor 8-1-19, Caires 1-1-3, Whitley 8-2-18, Moynihan 10-3-27, Jenkins 3-0-7, Bacis 0-0-0. Totals: 32-10-81
Higgins 1-0-3, Brown 1-0-2, Power 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
3-Pointers—Easthampton 7 (Moynihan 4, Mottor 2, Jenkins) Monument 3 (Higgins, Troiano, Helmke)