NORTH EASTHAM – There were moments when it felt like a lid was covering the Warriors’ basket.
It didn’t matter if the Nauset Regional High School boys’ basketball team attacked inside or let jumpers fly from the perimeter, the shots weren’t falling for the Warriors during the first half of their season opener against Nantucket on Jan. 7.
“We had a bunch of good looks,” Nauset coach John McCarthy said. “We even had about 10 or 12 around the basket.”
The visiting Whalers made the most of the Warriors’ early shooting struggles and built a comfortable double-digit lead by halftime. Nauset found its footing and cut its deficit to six at the start of the fourth quarter, though that’s as close as it got before Nantucket held on for a 61-52 victory.
“In the first half, we were just a little rusty and a little nervous,” McCarthy said. “We have a lot of first-time guys. For most of them, this was their first real varsity moments, so to get this opportunity was great for them.
“I’m excited because I feel like as the game went on, we did start to settle in and get a little more comfortable with the speed and the play.”
In a lot of ways, the Warriors (0-1) ran into a buzzsaw. The Whalers’ boys’ squad was the last Nantucket team to play last winter before COVID-19 led to the cancellation of the spring season. All of Nantucket’s teams also opted out of fall sports this year due to an uptick of COVID-19 cases at the time.
The Whalers (1-0) were hungry to compete and it showed. While Nauset struggled to score early, Nantucket built an 18-11 lead by the end of the first quarter after making four 3-pointers in the opening frame. The visitors took a 29-17 lead into halftime and a 36-24 advantage into the fourth quarter.
That’s when Nauset went on its run. It started when Jeffrey McCarthy stole the ball on Nantucket’s first possession of the frame and took it the length of the floor for a layup, cutting the Warriors’ deficit to 10. After getting another stop at the defensive end, senior co-captain Matthew Fischer made a layup, which was followed by another layup by junior Mikey Gray moments later.
In the blink of an eye, Nauset trimmed its deficit to 36-30 in the opening minutes of the final quarter.
“When we cut it down to six, I felt like we were really starting to pressure them and make them uncomfortable,” said senior guard and co-captain Will Casey. “I think that started getting in their heads a little bit and we started forcing turnovers and were able to get running. That’s when we’re at our best.”
Nauset’s surge was brief, however, as Nantucket immediately answered Gray’s layup by scoring 10 of the next 12 points, amounting a 46-32 lead to pull away in the waning minutes. Leading the way for the visitors during that stretch was freshman guard JD Heneke, who made two of his four 3-pointers in the fourth quarter.
“I think we just got lackadaisical for a second and let them start shooting again,” said Nauset junior forward Seth Asiimwe. “That was the real problem. Next time, we need to just keep the pressure on.”
Junior guard Makai Bodden was also big for the Whalers in the last quarter — he scored 10 of his game-high 16 points in the frame.
“The kid that was hot, [Heneke] is just a freshman. And then [Bodden] is streaky,” said Nantucket coach Willis Ferreira. “They both kind of got hot at the same time and that helped us. We’re usually not a good shooting team — we’re more of an up-tempo team. We like to get layups and press.”
Asiimwe led Nauset with a team-high 12 points and 10 rebounds. Jeffrey McCarthy finished with nine points, Casey and Gray chipped in eight apiece and sophomore Andrew Berardi tallied six.
Even though the Warriors struggled offensively, Casey said the team isn’t going to dwell on one poor shooting night.
“Today the shots just weren’t going in the hoop,” he said. “It’ll get better. Every team has nights like this. We’re a young team, so eventually shots will start falling.”
Email Brad Joyal at firstname.lastname@example.org