MONMOUTH — Tuesday night wasn’t Monmouth at its best. Miles better than the first time the Mustangs met Boothbay this MVC boys’ basketball season, though.
Beaten by 32 points on an opening night trip to the coast, the Mustangs lurked within three at the half before the Seahawks scurried off with a 59-46 win at Stu Foster Gym.
“We gave them a fight,” Monmouth coach Lucas Turner said. “The first one was opening game for us and wasn’t really representative of where our team was for the season.”
Like every other team in the league, the Mustangs (4-6) were intent upon slowing down Anthony DiMauro, Boothbay’s explosive senior guard.
DiMauro finished with 21 points and 11 rebounds against Monmouth’s 2-1-2 zone, but he worked exponentially harder to get those than the 24 he drained opening night.
Boothbay (10-1) is no one-man show. The Mustangs also absorbed the inside punch of John Hepburn (13 points, six rebounds, six steals) and Linc Simmons (10 points, 10 boards).
Monmouth gave Boothbay fits until DiMauro’s seven points during a 14-2 run midway through the third quarter sent the Seahawks on their way.
“We struggle against a zone. We’ve struggled against man. When we get in the half court we just can’t generate anything offensively,” Boothbay coach I.J. Pinkham said. “When we get out in transition, we’re tough. People are going to focus on that and try to take it away from us.”
Five different Boothbay players scored points in a productive opening quarter for the Seahawks. DiMauro and Kameron Markee each rained down a 3-pointer.
Brandon Goff scored nine of his team-high 16 points to keep the Mustangs afloat in that chapter. Monmouth trailed 18-11 at the end of one.
“I felt like going into it that we couldn’t really match up man-to-man with them. We went 2-1-2 and we almost got out of it, because they came out and shot well and got 16 on us really quick,” Turner said. “I thought we hunkered down on defense in the second quarter.”
Boothbay shot 3-for-14 from the field in the second period, but Monmouth’s 2-for-14 clip was too frosty to take a serious bite out of the deficit.
Goff and Marcques Houston each hit two from the free-throw line, and the first of Billy Cummings’ three 3-pointers made it 22-20 with 56 seconds remaining.
Andrew Hallinan (six assists) promptly found Hepburn for an inside bucket to revive Boothbay.
“That was our best run. I thought we were one run of putting the ball in a few times in a row away from getting the lead,” Turner said. “In the third quarter when they were shooting and we weren’t matching and turning it over, I feel like they outplayed us and they beat us.”
DiMauro drained nine points in a span of 4:09 in the third period. Hallinan and Evan Hepburn each nailed a 3-pointer for their only points of the night.
Boothbay led 45-33 with eight minutes left.
“The kids came out in the second half and we were a little more aggressive. We attacked more in the second half,” Pinkham said. “We didn’t change anything at halftime. We just tried to do the things they were supposed to be doing in the first half, and it made a little bit of a difference. We did what we do a little better.”
Monmouth’s fate was sealed with seven straight misses to open the fourth. Boothbay rattled off seven unanswered points, and the Mustangs never again whittled the margin below 12.
Cummings scored 13 points off the bench for Monmouth. Houston tore down 15 rebounds.
“This was definitely the brutal part of our schedule. We had the Class B week (Mountain Valley, Oak Hill and Spruce Mountain). Then we had this game,” Turner said. “Not that we’re favored, but we have more evenly matched games coming up. Hopefully we can get things on the right path and win a few and go from there.”