FALMOUTH – The Nauset Regional High School girls basketball team had two goals for this season: win every game and finish the season with a Cape and Islands League Atlantic Tournament title.
In the end, Falmouth got in the way of both goals.
The second-seeded Warriors’ season ended in heartbreaking fashion, as they fell to the top-seeded Clippers 49-45 in the Cape and Islands Atlantic Tournament championship Friday in Falmouth.
“They’re a great team,” Nauset coach John Piemontese said. “I said to (Falmouth coach) Bob (Buscher), ‘We’re both 12-1 and we both beat each other once, it was a perfect championship matchup.’ Any letdown was going to be exploited by them, and they did it.”
The Warriors finished 12-2, while the Clippers ended 13-1 after capturing the Cape’s Atlantic Division title.
Senior forwards Ashley Ross (15 points) and Korin Mereste (14 points) anchored Nauset’s offense for much of the day, though the Warriors’ plan of getting the ball to their forwards underneath the basket stalled a bit in the second half once the Clippers adjusted.
The duo combined for just 10 of their 29 points after halftime, while senior Avery Burns was held scoreless during the final two quarters after scoring four points in the first.
“They took away our strengths, and today our strength was going into the post,” said Burns, an Orleans resident. “We came into this game with more energy than we ever had and we really thought we were going to come out with a win. But we have to give a lot of respect to Falmouth because they really came out a little sharper than us.”
Falmouth spoiled Nauset’s bid at an undefeated season when it handed the Warriors their first loss of the season, 51-22, on Feb. 18. In Friday’s final, the Clippers were led by seniors Ariana Silvia (21 points) and Lily Craft, who scored all nine of the team’s points in the fourth quarter on her way to 14 total points.
Piemontese said Falmouth had a knack for exposing Nauset’s flaws, which the coach said were most evident when the team slowed its offense down.
“It’s happened to us all year,” he said. “When we stop running our offense, we kind of slow down. When we slow down, a team like Falmouth will take you apart. We needed to keep it going but we just kind of hit that wall and tried to battle out of it.”
The Warriors were without one of their key contributors, senior guard Makayla Hutchinson, who missed the postseason completely after she tore her ACL during the final weeks of the regular season.
Even though it wasn’t the way the seniors were hoping their careers would end, Burns said the league tournament was a meaningful replacement for the state tournament during a strange year altered by COVID-19.
“It was definitely worthwhile,” said Burns, who went on to say she wished she and her classmates could’ve ended their careers with a victory. “We’ve gone through a lot together. It’s too bad we didn’t come out with a win.”
Nauset's group of four seniors — Burns, Hutchinson, Mereste and Ross — were each named Cape and Islands League Atlantic Division All Stars.
The Warriors’ boys saw their season come to an end at the hands of Falmouth, too, as they dropped a 32-30 decision to the Clippers in the Cape and Islands League Atlantic Tournament semifinals on Feb. 24 in Falmouth.
“It was a hard-fought game that could’ve gone either way,” Nauset boys coach John McCarthy said after his team finished 8-6. “It was a bummer, but when you lose a tough game like that you gain a lot of experience.”
Only two seniors — Matt Fischer and Will Casey — will graduate from this year’s team, meaning the Warriors should boast one of the oldest and deepest teams on the Cape next year. Among the leaders expected to return next year are juniors Seth Asiimwe and Keleb Daniels, both of whom were named league All Stars this year.
Casey was recognized as an All Star honorable mention selection.
Although McCarthy and the Warriors had hoped they would capture a league title this year, the coach said he’ll have fond memories of this season and he and his players are happy they had the opportunity to play at all.
“Seeing these guys come in in mid-December, I could tell that they were smiling even with their masks on the minute they arrived,” McCarthy said. “Being able to allow them to have this experience and play 14 games when they weren’t expecting to was pretty amazing.”
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