NORTH EASTHAM – Neither the Nauset nor Cape Cod Academy boys basketball teams were at full strength Monday night when they met for a highly-anticipated Cape and Islands League inter-division clash at Nauset Regional High School.
The fact that both teams were shorthanded was a topic of conversation leading into the game, which ultimately led up to the hype all the way down until the final buzzer sounded and the visiting Seahawks left with a 65-61 victory over the Warriors.
“It’s always fun to play a good team and have that atmosphere,” said Nauset senior Keleb Daniels, who added it was the best atmosphere the team has played in front of this season.
“Going from last year when we had two fans per player to have a student section like that is pretty big. It gives us a morale boost,” he said.
Nauset was without three seniors — two of whom are starters — for the matchup. CCA was missing its head coach, Adam Rose, and a player who served as a key contributor.
Daniels led the Warriors (3-2) with a team-high 22 points to go along with stellar performances by junior Andrew Berardi (19 points) and senior Seth Asiimwe (10 points).
Although the team made CCA senior Jaeden Greenleaf work to even get shots off, Greenleaf, a senior guard who holds the record for most career points in Cape Cod history, still managed to pour in a game-high 26 points, 14 of which came from the foul line, where he was perfect.
“All the hard work he puts in shows,” David Robinson, a CCA assistant who led the team in Rose’s absence, said of Greenleaf. “No wonder he’s the all-time leading scorer for the Cape.”
Greenleaf brought his career point total to 1,927. He set the record for most points of any Cape player last season with a 38-point performance against Monomoy, which surpassed the 1,713 career points Chatham High graduate Christian Messersmith finished with in 2006.
As good as the guard was, Nauset’s players were thrilled that they didn’t surrender any easy buckets to Greenleaf, who had to be perfect at the foul line.
“He had 14 free throws — he was perfect — but it was a good team effort for us to hold him to that,” said Berardi, an Orleans resident. “It was good team defense.”
The Seahawks (4-0) built a 22-13 lead by the end of the first quarter after junior Ross Dubovick made three 3-pointers in the opening eight minutes of action. The Warriors were searching for their first lead the rest of the night, but the closest they came was cutting their deficit to one before CCA closed out the game by making free throws in the final minute.
Even in defeat, it was an important performance by Nauset, which saw strong showings from a few players who were sprung into the lineup due to the three seniors who were out sick.
“I think the three guys that stepped up and wouldn’t usually get as much [playing] time and have as big of a role as they had — Dillon [White], Andrew [Berardi], Riley [Holmes] —they all came out and executed and hit shots,” Daniels said. “They did everything they needed to do to put us in a position to win, and it was good to see that out of them.”
Email Brad Joyal at email@example.com. Twitter: @BradJoyal