NORTH EASTHAM—The Nauset Regional High School boys basketball team couldn’t have felt any more dejected leaving the gymnasium Friday night.
Nothing went right for the Warriors, who ended the regular season with a 64-42 loss against a Sandwich squad that may prove to be the best team Cape Cod has to offer this year.
“Tonight was a just a night where nothing was falling and we were just scrambling and running from behind,” Nauset head coach John McCarthy said after the loss to Sandwich. “It’s one of the games where everything was going wrong.”
What a difference a few days can make.
The third-seeded Warriors felt like they were walking on cloud nine when they left the gymnasium Monday night, as they survived a tough scare against sixth-seeded Barnstable to earn a 58-56 victory in the opening round of the Cape and Islands League’s Atlantic Tournament.
The fashion in which it happened — a buzzer-beating layup by junior forward Keleb Daniels —led McCarthy to sum up Monday’s win with three simple words: “It was nuts,” he said.
After struggling to score against the Blue Knights on Friday, the Warriors relied on a group four juniors — Daniels, Cameron Beer, Jeffrey McCarthy and Seth Asiimwe — who have been playing together since they were little kids growing up in Brewster.
Daniels and Asiimwe each registered a team-high 14 points, while Beer and McCarthy added eight points apiece. Senior Will Casey, who was playing in the final home game of his career, posted seven points for the Warriors.
“It was back and forth in the second half and then, in the second half, it was similar back and forth but the difference for us is we hit 3’s,” Coach McCarthy said. “Jeffrey McCarthy hit two, Cam Beer hit two and Will Casey hit two. We hit shots and then we got it down low to Keleb and Seth.”
Even with Nauset making its shots, the visitors gave the Warriors all they could handle.
“Barnstable probably played their best game of the year,” continued the Nauset coach. “It was a perfect recipe for an upset because they were hitting shots and as the game went on you could tell they were gaining momentum and life.
“They were more and more into it as the game went on and we were just hanging in, hanging in, hanging in.”
It all came down to the final seconds. Coach McCarthy called a timeout with the Warriors possessing the ball with 29 seconds remaining. He drew up a shot for Beer, who let a 3-pointer fly from the wing.
When Beer’s shot missed, Daniels scooped up the rebound and didn’t hesitate before putting home a rebound as time expired. Even though there was a limited capacity due to COVID-19 protocols, coach McCarthy said the environment in the gym felt like playoff game would feel during a normal year.
“The kids on both sides knew there was a little bit more on the line. The reaction by our bench after the game could definitely say anything,” he said, alluding to the fact his team swarmed Daniels after his winning basket. “It was one of those games that was like, ‘Yes! No! Yes! No!’ and then it worked out on the last play.”
With the win, the Warriors advance to the semifinals where they were scheduled to visit Falmouth afternoon.
It was a roller-coaster week for the Nauset boys, though coach McCarthy said he was proud of the way his players overcame Friday’s loss and bounced back to win their postseason opener.
“We definitely had our moments where we turned the ball over a little more than we would’ve liked, but I’m so proud of these guys for just hanging in there,” he said. “We’re going to be ready for Falmouth.”
Nauset Girls Win Opener
Like the Warriors’ boys, Nauset’s girls team also defended its home court during the opening round of the tournament.
Led by seniors Avery Burns (32 points) and Korin Mereste (10 points), the second-seeded Warriors earned a dominant 64-30 victory over No. 7 Nantucket.
With the win, Nauset (12-1) is scheduled to host No. 3 Sandwich in the semifinals Wednesday night.
Email Brad Joyal at email@example.com