By Michael James LeClair
The Nashoba Regional boys’ basketball team is inching closer to the big dance.
The Chieftains notched their ninth win of the season on Saturday afternoon and in the process pulled to within a single win of qualifying for the Central Mass Division 2 Tournament with a 62-47 victory over visiting Clinton.
Nashoba sits at 9-4 following the win over the Gaels and bounces back after a tough 54-51 loss to Shrewsbury on January 26.
“It was a good win against a good Clinton team; they’re scrappy and well coached. We definitely had our hands full today,” said Nashoba head coach Danny Ortiz following the win. “We were able to put together a couple big runs and it helped us finish strong.”
The Nashoba gymnasium on Saturday had a postseason atmosphere but that’s usually the case when Nashoba and Clinton get together for a sporting event. When asked to comment about the rivalry between the two teams Ortiz didn’t hesitate.
“It’s a huge rivalry, it doesn’t matter what the records are,” said Ortiz. “Whatever the situation is it’s a huge game for both teams. It was another intense one today and thankfully we came out on top.”
When the Chieftains qualify for the sectional tournament it will be the fourth straight season. The last time the program watched the postseason from the bleachers was 2012.
Nashoba has six games remaining on the regular season slate. The Chieftains have 19 games scheduled and remain in the running for an invitation to the Clark University High School Tournament.
An invitation would guarantee the Chieftains a 20th game. Last year the Chieftains qualified for the Clark Tournament and advanced to the championship game of the Large School Division before falling to Shepherd Hill Regional.
The Clark Tournament pairings will be announced Feb. 5 with first round games beginning on Sunday, Feb. 14.
As for Saturday’s battle with the visiting Gaels, the Chieftains were paced offensively by junior guard Trevor Manyak, who poured in a game-high 15 points. Sophomore guard Justin Peirce tossed in 14 points and forward Tony Kennon added 12 points. Kennon, a senior captain knocked a pair of clutch 3-pointers in the victory.
In all the Chieftains were red-hot from behind the arch, hitting eight treys in the contest.
Brendan Dion was the only Clinton player to hit double figures as he paced the Gaels with 11 points.
“Nashoba is a good team but I thought we played a little sluggish having played four games in five nights,” said Clinton head coach Tony Gannon after his team fell to 10-5. “I was happy with the effort. I thought we played good defense and we rebounded, we just couldn’t finish and you can’t do that against a good team like Nashoba.”
The Chieftains jumped to an early lead, scoring 11 of the first 13 points and never looked back as the hosts never relinquished the lead in the 32 minute contest. Nashoba held a 13-5 lead after the first quarter and maintained the eight-point cushion heading into halftime with a 27-19 advantage.
Over the final 16 minutes the Chieftains protected their house. Any time the Gaels could string together a couple baskets to cut the deficit to single digits Nashoba’s offense would knock down a big shot and steal back the momentum.
Five Nashoba players found their way into the scorebook on Saturday. In addition Connor Ojerholm scored 11 points and Andrew Snoddy finished with 10 points.
Nashoba is back in action on Tuesday, Feb. 2 and will be looking to qualify when it visits Marlborough High School.