By Michael James LeClair
Despite its recent success over the past couple seasons, the Nashoba Regional girls’ basketball program is not resting on its laurels this summer.
The Chieftains are taking part in the 2014 St. Bernard’s Summer Basketball League which is in its second year at the St. Bernard’s Activity Center in Fitchburg.
Nashoba joins the league, which began on June 23 and runs through the first week of August, with the goal of getting its older, veteran players to shake off the rust and continue to make improvements on their game. It is also an opportunity for the younger players, who will be moving up this winter, to build chemistry with their future teammates.
Fresh off a 22-1 winter season which included a Central Mass. Division 2 title and run to the Massachusetts Division 2 State Semifinals, the Chieftains are back in the gym working on their skills.
The St. Bernard’s Summer Basketball League consists of nine high schools in the Central Massachusetts area. The list of schools includes: St. Bernard’s, Fitchburg, Monty Tech, Leominster (two teams), Athol, North Middlesex Regional, Lunenburg, Nashoba Regional and Ayer-Shirley Regional.
“We started this league last year pretty small, with only four teams, and then I started getting some phone calls from other teams that wanted to join us like Lunenburg and North Middlesex, among others. So, we decided to expand the league,” said league director and St. Bernard’s head girls’ basketball coach Kate Dellechiaie. “The Activity Center is pretty centrally located so it’s easy for all these teams to get to. We’re pulling teams from a bunch of different groups and leagues in the area and the competition is pretty good.”
The league features a plethora of local teams from divisions like the Colonial Athletic League (Monty Tech), Midland Leagues A and B (Fitchburg, Leominster, North Middlesex Regional and Nashoba Regional) Mid-Wach C (Lunenburg) and Mid-Wach D (Ayer-Shirley Regional) to name a few.
“I think Kate does a great job putting this league together for these girls. Every other league around here is so expensive and she’s basically putting this together for nothing,” said Nashoba head girls’ basketball coach Beth McNamara while taking in her team’s 40-24 victory over Lunenburg on July 21. “I ran a summer league at Nashoba and it’s a lot of work. With that being said, this is a great opportunity for our girls to play because most of their AAU stuff has ended so it’s nice to continue to play.”
Games consist of two 20-minute halves that use running time until the final two minutes of the half when the clock then stops on every whistle.
Erin Cressman, entering her senior year at Nashoba, is using the experience to take her game to the next level.
“It’s great because it gives the younger players, like my sister here, a chance to play at a higher level and see some varsity competition,” said Cressman, who will be a captain on the Chieftains roster this winter. “It’s also good for the older players like myself to go out and get some really good reps in and continue to play with our teammates.”
Cressman’s younger sister, Anna, will be entering her freshmen year at Nashoba and echoed her big sister’s words. “My goal as a younger player is to come in here and get to know some of my new teammates and to see how they play on the floor,” said the younger Cressman. “I want to try to familiarize myself with their playing style and prepare for the upcoming winter season.”
One thing is certain, no matter what the scoreboard says at the conclusion of each game, these young ladies are working hard so they can reap the benefits this winter.
“I think it’s important these kids keep up their skills and the summer time is when they can work on those skills,” said Dellechiaie. “We’d like to say the league is here for the kids to have fun, but they need to set goals and work on the things they need to do to continue to get better.”
The regular summer season concludes on July 28 with the playoffs beginning on July 30. All teams are guaranteed at least two playoff games.