HYANNIS – For the better part of the 2018-2019 season they were competitors, but when the opening whistle blew to signal the start of the annual Cape and Islands All-Star Basketball Game between the Upper Cape and Lower Cape girls, the players were no longer rivals, and instead became teammates, with the Lower Cape playing to an 80-61 victory against Upper Cape.
The red-clad Lower Cape team included Cape Tech's Taylah Gurley, Monomoy's Erin Starkey, and Nauset's Avery Burns, Korin Mereste, Skyeler Sandison, Francesca Gonnella, and Makayla Hutchinson.
The newly minted teammates combined forces with players from D-Y, Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket, Barnstable, and St. John Paul II to take an early lead in the opening quarter and never looked back.
Though Barnstable's Carly Whiteside was the team's leading scorer with 17 points, Burns and Sandison followed close behind with 12 and 11 respectively, with Sandison proving her prowess not only from the paint, but also from the line as the stellar senior sunk two free throws in the first quarter, with the Lower Cape making it clear they'd come to win.
Meanwhile, Monomoy's Starkey added four of her six points in the opening frame, which saw Lower Cape take a solid seven-point lead with less than four minutes on the clock. Mereste also added four of her six points, while Burns was a three-point wizard, sinking an impressive three in the first.
But shooting well wasn't the only measure of success for the Lower Cape squad. Solid and at times smothering defense, especially from Burns, Hutchinson and Gonnella, allowed them to take a 33-19 edge as the second quarter got under way, with the Lower Cape ultimately leading 48-32 at halftime.
With fans cheering from both the courtside bleachers and the elevated track above the court at the Hyannis Youth and Community Center, Burns sank yet another three-pointer in the third quarter, making the typically tough shots look easy and offering a glimpse of what made the Nauset girls varsity team such a success this season.
The third quarter also saw scores from Starkey, Sandison, and Whiteside, with Whiteside a force at the free-throw line, sinking three out of five to further extend the Lower Cape lead, which was at 64-41 near the end of the third.
Mereste and Gonnella each had successful shots in the final frame, with Gonnella sinking her second three-point shot in the outing, with the final buzzer sounding on a commanding Lower Cape victory.
Burns finished with 12 points overall, all three-pointers, with Mereste, Starkey, and Gonnella each adding six, while Tech's Gurley added two. Mereste also had 10 rebounds, while Starkey and Sandison each added 11. In the traditional post-game celebration, Sandison was named the Lower Cape's offensive MVP, while Hutchinson received the defensive MVP nod.