NORTH EASTHAM – Most one-win basketball teams don’t end their season with cheers filling the gymnasium as the clock strikes zero and the season ends. This year’s Nauset girls basketball team isn’t like most teams, however.
That was the scene last Thursday afternoon when the Warriors closed out their season with one final home game. Despite suffering a 72-48 loss to Bishop Fenwick, the Nauset players erupted in a celebratory manner as the final buzzer sounded.
The Warriors players weren’t celebrating defeat, though; they were cheering for a last-second basket that gave the team two last points in the final moments of the season.
“We never stopped playing,” Nauset coach John Piemontese said after the team finished the season with a 1-16 record. “They played just as hard today as they did on the first day, and that’s what I love about them.”
The struggles this year’s team experienced didn’t come as much of a surprise to Piemontese or Nauset’s players. After all, the team lost much of last year’s lineup to graduation, including a few prominent players, such as Korin Mereste and Avery Burns, who continue to play competitive basketball at the college and post graduate level at Quinnipiac and Deerfield Academy, respectively.
Although this year’s group lacked experience – there wasn’t a single senior on the squad – it made up for it with a team brand of basketball rooted in unselfish play and a competitive spirit.
“This year was definitely completely different because we had very dominant players last year,” said Jill Ernstrom, a sophomore from Brewster who scored 12 points in the loss to Fenwick. “This year, we were all on a pretty even playing field.”
Piemontese noted that players adopting new roles led to some of the team’s struggles. The coach said he felt like the team “spent the whole year trying to find our identity” in part because many of this year’s contributors were supplement players on last year’s veteran-led team.
Even though the Warriors experienced growing pains, though, Piemontese said he told the girls he’s looking forward to seeing the strides they’ll make during the offseason.
“I told them, ‘I’m not trading any of you guys. You’re all going to be on the team next year hopefully,’” Piemontese said.
The coach said the team he coached in Thursday’s finale felt like “a whole different team” compared to the one he inherited at the start of the season. The players agreed that they made strides throughout the winter.
“We’re definitely way stronger than we were at the beginning and we work a lot better together,” said Jordyn Streittmatter, the team’s sophomore point guard from Brewster who scored a team-high 16 points against Fenwick.
Ernstrom agreed with her classmate.
“We would get a lot more flustered in games,” Ernstrom said, referencing the beginning of the season. “Now we can control ourselves and do what we know how to do. That also gives us confidence for next year, too — we progressed so much.”
After cutting their teeth as underclassmen on the varsity team the past two years, Ernstrom and Streitmatter said they’re looking forward to being upperclassmen on a team that will have a lot of returning talent.
“It’s good to know that we have the same core of players coming back next year and we can all build together,” Ernstrom said. “We got really close as a group this year, so it’s good to know that we have the same group coming back and can build on that.”
Email Brad Joyal at email@example.com.