By Ellen Oliver
From the beginning of the season Nashoba has had one goal: return to states and this time take home the big trophy. A major obstacle was a reunion with their 2013 state finalist rivals, Medfield, in the Central Mass Division 2 finals. There was a lot of buildup about this game with most of the hype focused on Medfield, who is ranked number two in the state, despite two losses in the regular season. A lot of people bought into the Warrior propaganda – everyone except the undefeated Chieftains, who toppled the Warriors 57-55 in overtime at Worcester Polytechnic Institute on Saturday afternoon.
“We knew we could win this game,” said Nashoba Coach Beth McNamara. “We believed in ourselves.”
The Chieftains, who nabbed the Central Mass D2 title last year, came out strong, getting on the board with a three-point welcome from junior guard Kelly Poole. Nashoba took a 28-21 lead into the second half.
“We were going to come out and play hard and knew they wouldn’t expect it,” said junior forward Erin Cressman, who contributed 21 points in the game. “They haven’t been down at all this year. I knew if we came out hard we could get an early lead and that would help us a lot.”
In the second half, the Warriors tried to wrestle control of the game from the Chieftains. Medfield held the Chieftains scoreless for the first four minutes of the half, closing the gap with six points to bring the score to 28-27. Then Nashoba kicked into fifth gear and went on an eight point scoring run of their own, while tightening up the defense, to hold Medfield to four points.
With two minutes left in the game, Nashoba held a 48-43 lead, when Medfield went on another scoring binge, netting five points to tie up 48-48 and push the game into overtime.
Down 53-52 with under a minute in OT, Nashoba took the lead with a three-point farewell wave from Poole to give the Chieftains the lead, 55-53. Then Cressman was money with two foul shots. Medfield netted one more to close the gap 57-55, but couldn’t capitalize on their final possession. The Nashoba bench and fan section exploded as the Chieftains won 57-55.
“It’s awesome to beat them finally; it’s redemption,” said senior captain Cecilia Burke (eight points). “Cutting down their second shots was huge. You could tell when we weren’t rebounding well, that’s when they had their runs.”
Coach McNamara said the team watched their game against Medfield “a thousand times” and prepared tirelessly for this rematch.
“This time we knew. We’ve played against them and we had a game plan and these girls executed our game plan. They worked so
hard,” said McNamara. “They totally deserve this win.”
Some of these girls have been playing together for more than six years. According to Burke, the close-knit nature of this team is a huge factor in their success, especially when the pressure mounts.
Nashoba took their undefeated record to Springfield Tuesday night to face the D2 Western Mass champion Longmeadow (top seed, 18-2 regular season) in the state semifinals in Springfield. The Lancers took control of the game from the start, carrying 20-17 lead into the half. The Chieftains took their shots, but Longmeadow countered and jumped out to an 11 point lead in the third. When the buzzer sounded, the Chieftains lost 58 – 49.
While the loss on Tuesday night means the end to their state title quest, the Chieftains had an incredible season and proudly represented Nashoba on their way to the state playoffs, claiming a Central Mass title and an undefeated regular season along the way.