Nauset Regional coach John Piemontese has used the phrase “empty the tank” to motivate his girls’ basketball team.
While most leagues and conferences across the Bay State have wrapped up their winter seasons, the Cape & Islands tournament, in both the Atlantic and Lighthouse Divisions, is being played this week. The Warriors must kick into overdrive to finish the abbreviated 2021 schedule on top.
That started with a convincing preliminary-round victory, 64-30, over visiting Nantucket on Monday. It improved Nauset’s record to 12-1.
“We want to run dry and just leave everything we’ve got on this floor,” Piemontese said.
Senior guard Avery Burns, who tallied 32 in the win over Nantucket, leads the C&I in scoring at a frenetic pace of 21.3 points per game, raining 3-pointers and knifing through opposing defenses. But Burns now has taken on more responsibility with backcourt mate Makayla Hutchinson sidelined the rest of the way.
Hutchinson, the Warriors’ starting point guard and third-leading scorer, tore her anterior cruciate ligament while absorbing a charge on Feb. 2 against Dennis-Yarmouth. She played through the injury — even scoring 16 points through three quarters in a 68-38 win against Barnstable, but tweaked the knee again during that game and decided to shut it down for the rest of the season and prepare for surgery.
That void in Nauset’s starting lineup created an opportunity for freshman Jordyn Streitmatter.
“It’s definitely nerve-wracking,” Streitmatter said. “But I know I have to take control and just do what I do.”
An avid fan of UConn freshman whiz Paige Bueckers and the Celtics’ Jayson Tatum, Streitmatter was tossed into the fire against rival Falmouth — a 51-22 road defeat that was Nauset’s lone loss of the regular season. She felt the nerves, but leaned on Burns and the rest of the seniors to help her get comfortable.
“It’s OK to be afraid, but if you just have fun and play the way she’s proven she can . . . then she’ll be OK and we’ll be OK,” Burns said.
“They make me more confident with what I do,” Streitmatter said.
Burns has helped the freshman by taking on increased ball-handling duties.
“I’m ready to fill any shoes that need to be filled for our team,” she said.
▪ Central Catholic’s 36-33 overtime win against Andover in the MVC Cup Division 1 final on Thursday provided a storybook ending for the seven senior Raiders. But it also hinted at the program’s potential next chapter, featuring freshman Ashley Dinges.
A 6-footer from Haverhill who plays mostly at the guard spot, Dinges tallied 16 points, 13 rebounds and a game-winning 3-pointer in Thursday’s victory. She averaged 14 points, 10.5 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game playing a variety of roles for the 10-0 Raiders.
“She can kind of play inside-out,” said coach Casey Grange. “If she had a small guard on her, she could post her up, and a bigger player she could take off the dribble.”
Grange lauded Dinges’s work ethic; the freshman frequently came early to practices to get extra shots during the season. She expects Dinges to take on a much larger role in the future.
“The sky’s the limit for her,” Grange said.
▪ Hanover, the second seed from the Fisher Division, took advantage of the unique Patriot Cup format to win the tournament after losing its first game to Plymouth North.
The Hawks (11-4) fell, 47-44, to North in the second round, but then erased a 10-point deficit in an eventual eight-point win against Marshfield, and overcame a 13-point halftime deficit to defeat Scituate in the semifinals. In Saturday’s final, Hanover beat Whitman-Hanson, 50-43, behind the play of Dani Tilden, Emily Flynn, Clare Connolly, Lauren Ferrarini, and Makalah Gaine.
Coach Brian Fisher believes his team’s experience, mental toughness, and poise ultimately made the difference.
“I’ve had some great teams in the past, but the dedication, commitment and focus with this team was different,” Fisher said. “They would come up to shoot around if the gym was open on their own, or a group of them would rent a floor at the [Starland Sportsplex] for an hour just to shoot or play. This team was not going to let anything get in their way for the Cup.”
Fisher pointed out that Hanover finished below .500 when these seniors were freshmen and sophomores, then won 9 of their last 11 as juniors and started 7-0 this season. They felt like this was their time.
“Sure enough, it was,” Fisher said. “I’m so proud of this group and all the time and dedication they have put in. It is great to be the best in our league, and this group deserved it every step of the way.”
▪ Notre Dame Academy (Hingham) hosted its third JBA Classic to honor Jess Bradbury Adams (’97), a beloved coach and mentor at the school. She coached varsity basketball for six years and died of breast cancer in 2017.
“The best part about the tournament is seeing so many people who may not have known Jess personally really adopt and appreciate her legacy,” NDA Athletic Director Kristen McGill Kelly said. “We are grateful to all the participating teams.”
The host Cougars (7-8) pulled away from Ursuline, 52-39, in the semis behind 17 points, 8 assists, and 5 steals from eighth-grader Ava Orlando and 16 points and 10 rebounds from sophomore Grace Burgoyne.
NDA lost to Fontbonne, 39-35, in the championship despite 15 points and 13 boards from Burgoyne. Sophomore Colleen Fogarty and senior Caroline Odegaard paced Fontbonne with 11 and 10, respectively.
NDA coach Nickie Orlando was grateful her team was able to compete this season, and thankful for the full support of the athletic department and administration, calling NDA “a special place.”
“In a very challenging year with the pandemic, I was lucky to get the chance to coach this great group of incredible student-athletes at NDA,” Orlando said. “It was a tough loss to end the season, but was a great lesson for our young team.
▪ After falling to Newburyport, 58-54, on Feb. 3, its lone loss of the season, Pentucket regrouped and knocked off the Clippers, 34-23, in a defensive-minded Cape Ann League championship game Thursday.
“It was a very rewarding win for everyone in the program,” Pentucket coach John McNamara said.
Pentucket was without one of its best players, Arielle Cleveland, for the bulk of the first matchup against Newburyport. Having her back for the rematch made a major difference.
Cleveland and MacKenzie Currie, both four-year varsity players, were part of the Division 2 North sectional title team in 2018, state championship squad in 2019, sectional final team in 2020, and now the CAL vs. Cancer Basketball Tournament championship team in 2021.
No one played over 20 minutes a game for the Sachems this season, as they relied on their depth and balance. McNamara said he was impressed with both their play on the court and their diligence off it.
“It was a strange year, but really rewarding,” McNamara said. “We went 12-1, and had a great year, but the thing I’ll remember most is our girls really, really followed the COVID protocols. They were unbelievable.”
Correspondent Trevor Hass also contributed to the story.