Boys Hoops Catch Fire In Second Half, Advance To Second Round

David Creed •

Senior captain Carlos Aguilar fired up after drilling a three-pointer and the contact for a four-point play during Saturday's tournament matchup against Carver. Photo by Chris Tran

Senior captain Carlos Aguilar drilled six threes on Saturday to help the #14 seeded Nantucket boys basketball team advance to the second round of the MIAA Div. 4 state tournament following a 64-61 win over the #19 seeded Carver Crusaders.

After a slow offensive start, the Whalers found their groove on offense in the second half to pull away from a scrappy Carver team that nearly pulled off an improbable comeback after being down 17 midway through the final quarter.

"We found a way to win,” Whaler head coach Willis Ferreira said after the game. “It wasn't pretty. We got in foul trouble. We missed some shots, missed some foul shots, we missed some layups. We did what we usually do with big leads, but I was really proud of the way that they didn't quit, they stayed the course. We had that one possession late where they just let us eat all that time off the clock and there was probably three or four chances for one of us to jack it up, and we didn't. That says volumes because I would have jacked it up if it was me as the player.”

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Senior captain Jayquan Francis with a slam dunk in the first quarter. Photo by Chris Tran
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Photo by Chris Tran

Carver jumped out to a quick 7-1 lead to begin the game, but the Whalers scored 11 of the game’s next 15 points to make it a 12-11 game. Aguilar had seven of those points including a four-point play to help the Whalers get going early on.

"We haven't played in two weeks,” Ferreira said. “We were really rusty, but I thought our effort was there.”

The Crusaders led 13-12 after one quarter but Nantucket scored the first five points of the second to make it 17-13. Sophomore guard Amare Bramwell, who was dealing with injuries to end the regular season, was back in the lineup and hit a three early on in the second. He finished the game with 12 points while playing his usual shutdown defense.

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Photo by Chris Tran
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Photo by Chris Tran

But similar to the first quarter, the second produced very little offense. Nantucket did hold a slim 24-21 lead but neither offense inspired much hope for one side to pull away from the other.

Aguilar got the scoring going for the Whalers in the second half to make it 27-21, but the Crusaders rallied to tie it 27-27. With Carver up 31-30, Bramwell drew a foul and went to the line. He made both free throws and gave Nantucket a 32-31 lead.

After the teams traded turns holding a narrow one or two-point lead, the Whalers began to pull away. Senior captain Jayquan Francis made it 35-31 following a pair of free throws and then Aguilar made another three to make it 38-31. Francis then drove to the hoop, made the basket while drawing the foul, and made his foul shot to complete the three-point play to give Nantucket a 41-31 lead.

Aguilar put the icing on the quarter with a corner three make it 45-31, and then a nifty layup under the basket from senior center Jack Halik gave Nantucket a 47-31 lead going into the fourth. Suddenly, the Whalers couldn’t stop scoring and were playing unselfish basketball.

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Photo by Chris Tran
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Photo by Chris Tran

"In that third we started to find our groove,” Ferreira said. “We started sharing the ball a little bit more. A lot of individual stuff going on early trying to do too much. But I thought once we shared it, we started scoring. Then I thought our defense picked up a little bit. Just some steals off the press. Just a good win.”

It appeared Nantucket was getting ready to walk away with a double-digit win, but the Crusaders made the Whalers play to the very end. Despite trailing by 17 with six minutes left in the game, Carver drew within three late in the quarter and had possession in the final minute. But Nantucket was able to make a defensive stop to close it out narrowly, much to the delight of their coach.

“We got blown out a couple of years ago (in the tournament) and then we go to Georgetown last year, lose by a point,” Ferreira said. “It has kind of been a process. You know winning is hard, sports are hard. People think it's easy. A lot of stuff going on outside the lines, inside the lines. But I'm just really happy for that group to find a way to win and advance. Now we got to go on the road, and we got to try to survive and advance still. You just got to take one step at a time and see what happens.”

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Photo by Chris Tran
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Photo by Chris Tran

Nantucket will now face the #3 seed Monument Mountain, who finished the regular season 20-0 and beat #30 Uxbridge 94-54 in the Round of 32. The Whalers will also be completing one of the longest possible travels to play this game. They will jump on the ferry for one hour and then hop on a bus for the 193-mile trip to Monument Mountain Regional High School. Depending on traffic, that will call for anywhere between four and five hours of travel one way.

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Photo by Chris Tran
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