The Nantucket boys basketball team (0-2) hoped to atone for a heartbreaking 51-50 defeat at Nauset on Dec. 13 when they welcomed the Warriors to the island for a rematch on Thursday. The Whalers struggled to score early, falling into a 23-8 deficit after one quarter, but showed plenty of fight and heart in the final three quarters before ultimately losing in heartbreaking fashion once again 60-58 after the Warriors drilled a buzzer-beater three-point shot to win the game.
"I felt bad at the end because we worked so hard to get back into the game like three times and I was proud of the way they kept battling," Nantucket head coach Willis Ferreira said of his team's performance on Thursday. "Nothing was easy for them. They never gave up, kept battling, made enough plays to get back in it, and then we finally get that lead late there with five seconds left and the kid made a helluva shot. It wasn't an easy shot. I liked the fight we had."
The first half was very low scoring but after Nauset took a their 15-point lead, Nantucket tightened up defensively and allowed just six points in the second quarter. They outscored the Warriors 11-6 and cut Nauset’s lead to 29-19 entering halftime.
The third quarter began with two quick threes by Whaler junior guard Carlos Aguilar and junior center Jack Halik. Aguilar (13 points) and Halik (a team-high 21 points) led the Whalers all night long.
But Nauset always seemed to have an answer whenever Nantucket would creep closer on the scoreboard. The third quarter was a total 180 from the first two, with Nantucket outscoring Nauset 22-16. Halik scored 12 of his 21 points in the third quarter while Aguilar scored seven of his 13 points.
The Whalers eventually drew it to a tie at 49 in the fourth quarter, but the Warriors responded once again with six of the games next nine points. It wasn’t until there were 18 seconds left in the game when the Whalers were able to earn their first lead of the game, 58-57.
In many ways, this game was eerily similar to the one earlier this month. Nantucket took an early lead before Nauset came storming back to take a lead with 30 seconds left in the game. The Whalers had an opportunity to throw the dagger in the hearts of the Warriors that day, but were unable to do so.
The Nantucket lead came after Nauset missed a pair of free throws and Whaler junior forward Jayquan Francis grabbed the rebound. Nauset immediately fouled Francis to send him to the line for a one-and-one opportunity. Francis hit both in high pressure situation.
"I thought Jay was great on the boards," Ferreira said. "Sometimes he doesn't get all the touches but that stuff matters. I thought Jay had a great defensive effort on that last shot, but that kid made a great shot."
The Warriors got one more chance down 58-57 when they found Patrick O’Keefe in the corner all alone. O’Keefe, who scored 20 points on Thursday, had just three points in the final quarter. Those three points gave Nauset a 60-58 lead as the buzzer sounded, sending the Whalers and everyone in attendance home stunned and disappointed after what appeared to be an excellent come from behind win for Nantucket.
"Moving forward somebody is going to have to score now that kids like Justin (Bloise) and Makai (Bodden) aren't there anymore," Ferreira said. "Somebody will need to take the ball up the court. We need to take more shots. It seems whenever we make that extra pass we turn it over, so we need to focus on being more aggressive. An open shot is a good shot for us. I think passing has been an issue but as the season goes on I think we will learn."
"We have been in two close games that we were unable to win, but I think those games will make us better in the long run. These kids showed me a lot today. They aren't going to give up and they are going to keep fighting. So now it is about getting ready for our next game and understanding it isn't going to be easy moving forward."
The Whalers are now 0-2 and will be in action again on Tuesday, December 27 when they travel to Barnstable to play the Red Hawks at 1 p.m.