NORTH EASTHAM – The Nauset Regional High School boys’ basketball team is establishing a reputation for being the Cardiac Kids, displaying a knack for late-game heroics.
Following a season-opening loss to Nantucket, the Warriors responded with back-to-back victories that required perfect execution in the final minutes. The team’s winning streak began Jan. 12, when it held on for a 66-64 double-overtime victory over Nantucket in a rematch of the teams’ season-opening matchup — a game the Whalers won 61-52 on Jan. 7.
Two days after Nauset earned its first win of the season, the Warriors eked out another close one with a 44-40 victory over Martha’s Vineyard on Thursday.
“The last two games were fairly similar but in opposite ways,” Nauset coach John McCarthy said after Thursday’s win. “We got down against Nantucket and then came back, and then now we went up against the Vineyard and they came back but we held on to win.”
Nauset improved to 2-1, both overall and in the Cape and Islands League, following Thursday’s win. It was especially gratifying for the Warriors because the visiting Vineyarders (0-1) provided them with a scare in the second half.
After taking a commanding 20-10 lead into halftime, Nauset’s advantage dwindled to 35-27 by the end of the third quarter. Martha’s Vineyard scored the first eight points of the fourth quarter, tying the game at 35 and then again at 37 before the Warriors finished the game on a 7-3 run.
Among the defining moments in the final frame was a jumper junior Mikey Gray made from the elbow to give the Warriors a 41-38 lead — a crucial cushion — with 2:15 remaining. Gray said that while his number might’ve not been called to take that sort of shot in the past, he views himself as a leader on this year’s squad and said he’s comfortable performing in the clutch.
“I feel like I’m a big leader on this team and I want to take on a bigger role, so I’m happy to take shots when my number is called,” said Gray, who finished with seven points. “That shot felt great.”
Junior forward Seth Asiimwe scored a team-high nine points for Nauset, while junior guard Jeffrey McCarthy (seven points) and senior guard Will Casey (five points) also performed well in the win. In all, nine Nauset players registered points, a clear indicator that the team’s depth is much improved from years past.
Coach McCarthy said that’s by design. In recent years, Nauset has had the luxury of having one of the league’s best players. Look no further than last year, when Bobby Joy wrapped up his remarkable career by becoming the program’s No. 2 all-time leading scorer with 1,266 career points. The only player with more points is Charlie Campbell, who transferred from Nauset following his junior year in 2018.
“For the past five or six years, we’ve had the top dog in the league,” the coach said. “This year, it’s more spread out. We’re balanced. We have nine or 10 guys and we’re trying to find a way for them to all contribute.”
It’s still early in the season, but Nauset’s past two games should give the Warriors plenty of reason to be optimistic that this year’s depth can continue to yield positive results.
Like the Nauset boys, the Warriors’ girls’ team is also riding a winning streak following big victories over Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. The girls improved to 3-0 (overall/C&I) after a dominant 62-12 win over the Vineyard on Friday.
That came after Nauset opened its season with one-sided victories over Nantucket, including a 90-22 win on Jan. 8 and a 56-20 victory five days later.
Senior Avery Burns led the way in Friday’s lopsided win with a game-high 23 points. Senior guard Makayla Hutchinson finished with 18 points and classmate Ashley Ross, a forward, chipped in 12 of her own.
Although the Nauset girls were hardly tested during the team’s first three games, Warriors coach John Piemontese said he’s been pleased to see multiple girls contribute thus far.
“Before the game, our goal was to become more cohesive, and that included everybody on the team,” Piemontese said after Friday’s win. “We wanted everyone to be a part of what we’re doing and that’s what we went out and did. I thought our passing was really spot-on. We were getting into a good flow with the offense.”
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