NORTH EASTHAM – There was little margin for error for the Nauset Regional High School girls’ basketball team during Saturday’s matchup against Falmouth.
The Warriors were without senior forward Korin Mereste, a key contributor on the post who’s battled an ongoing ankle injury the past couple weeks. In her absence, Nauset’s other three seniors, co-captains Avery Burns, Makayla Hutchinson and Ashley Ross, answered the call.
The trio combined for 41 of the team’s 46 points as the Warriors held off the visiting Clippers for a 46-39 victory.
“We’ve been looking forward to this since last year,” said Burns, an Orleans resident who finished with a team-high 17 points. “We didn’t beat them at all last year, so we really wanted to come out tough for this one and we were excited to finally play them.”
Ross was dominant inside, finishing with 14 points and nine rebounds. Hutchinson added 10 points and sophomore Lili Hay chipped in five.
The game served as the halfway point of the regular season for Nauset, which improved to 6-0. Falmouth, which received a game-high 21 points from freshman Tish Blackwood, fell to 3-1.
“We didn’t make enough shots,” Falmouth coach Bob Buscher said. “I thought (Nauset) ran their offense well and they deserved to win. I’m proud of how we hung in there, but I thought they outplayed us.”
Neither team was particularly sharp during the first quarter, though Hutchinson provided the Warriors with an immediate spark. The guard from Brewster tallied five points in the opening quarter, including three free throws.
Her quick start set the tone for the rest of the game, as she continued to provide Nauset with a boost through hustle plays, most notably taking a pair of charges at the defensive end of the floor.
“I knew I had to play fearless and come out strong,” said Hutchinson. “We had to use everything we had, otherwise we’d fall behind and it’d be tough to come back against them.”
The shots started to fall for the Warriors during the second quarter, and their lead doubled to 25-17 by halftime. A big reason for that was Burns, who scored seven points in the second, including the team’s only 3-pointer of the game.
Ross also established her presence in the second quarter, scoring five points in the frame.
The forward from Eastham was a difference maker throughout the second half, too, scoring four points in each of the final two quarters.
The Clippers struggled to combat Ross’s length, as she had her way on the post, both scoring and rebounding. Ross said she knew she had to play a key role while the team was without Mereste, who’s committed to play Division 1 basketball at Quinnipiac University next year.
“I have to be an offensive threat and a little more selfish than I’m used to and be able to score and get my teammates the ball,” Ross said when asked about the difference of playing without Mereste. “It’s different because I can’t look for her and pass it to her, but I do have a little more space.”
Like his players, Nauset coach John Piemontese was thrilled with the outcome, knowing full well that Falmouth will likely serve as the Warriors’ toughest test of the season. “When you play Falmouth, it’s a battle,” Piemontese said. “We knew they were going to be tough. It was a good overall team win. They all stuck together and played as hard as they could.”
The seniors were ecstatic because the win makes them one step closer toward their ultimate goal of finishing the season undefeated.
“It’s not only about being undefeated,” explained Hutchinson. “We want to push teams as hard as we can to show them who’s really on top.”
Burns piped in, “We want big wins. Not just wins — but big wins.”
The Warriors didn’t have to wait long for a rematch against the Clippers, as the two teams were scheduled to meet again Wednesday in Falmouth.
“We knew when we were playing Falmouth this was going to be the toughest game of the year and I just said to the girls, ‘Not only are they toughest, but we get to see them again next Wednesday,’” the coach said. “So, we have to stay focused.”
Email Brad Joyal at email@example.com