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Nashoba Graceful, Poised in State Final Loss

Members of the Nashoba Chieftains girls basketball team with their finalist trophy and medals after the State final game.
Eric Bachtell

By Ellen Oliver

We all root for the team that works hard and commits to long hours at practice to improve, but they don’t always win in the end. When the Central Mass D2 champion Nashoba Chieftains girls’ basketball team met Southern Mass D2 winner Medfield in the State championship on Saturday at the DCU Center, the outcome wasn’t what the Chieftains wanted.

Shortly after Erin Cressman put the first points on the scoreboard for Nashoba, the Medfield Warriors began their attack, taking the lead with a nifty three-pointer and never looking back. Despite relentless pressure by Nashoba, Medfield pulled away 11 points at the half, going on a five point run in the final minute.

At halftime, Coach Beth McNamara told her girls to stay focused. “We said we’ve got to pick it up, it was still pretty close,” related Cressman. “We saw it slip away a little bit in the second quarter, but were still in it.”

The second half was all Medfield, despite three-pointers from Emmalie Keenan (her second) and Cressman. Even when it was mathematically impossible for Nashoba to claim the victory, they kept scrambling for the ball, stealing, and pressing. They weren’t going down easily. When Medfield snagged the ball with 10 seconds left, play stopped, as the girls from both teams, exhausted, watched the time tick down. The final score was Medfield 54, Nashoba 36.

It may have been a battle of height versus heart. Medfield had four players that were  5’11” or taller and three seniors, compared to Nashoba’s shorter and younger (no seniors) squad. Nikkiah Snoddy and Nicole Boucher, Nashoba’s tall forwards, did their jobs, Boucher racking up six points and Snoddy playing so aggressively she fouled out of the game in the fourth quarter. Keenan, who doesn’t threaten anyone with her stature, was a Tasmanian devil on the court who whirled 12 points, same as the consistent Cressman, the only player to score in all quarters.

“We just got outplayed,” said Cecilia Burke, who had four points on the night, all on foul shots. “It wasn’t about a different defense we

Cecilia Burke in the state championship game at the DCU Center.
Eric Bachtell

could have played. Everyone could improve individually was what that game was about, getting stronger, getting better shots.” McNamara added, “We didn’t shoot well and we didn’t rebound. Those were the keys to us losing the game.”

The poise and grace under pressure of the Nashoba players was best displayed not on the court, but after the buzzer sounded. This was a big game on a big stage and just minutes after the loss and watching Medfield raise their trophy, several of the Chieftains were in the press room with recorders in front of their faces being asked questions they probably didn’t want to answer. But they responded with grace, poise and pride, best expressed by Keenan who said, “We don’t cry. We keep our heads up and look forward. It’s great to be here, awesome to be here. So many teams had their season end, but we got to keep playing.”

This is not a team that wallows in self-pity. Last year, Nashoba made it to the division finals, only to lose to Tyngsboro. All year, that loss fueled the Chieftains to be better, faster, put in the extra time at practice. They saw it pay off when they defeated that same Tyngsboro team to take the Central Mass D2 title. “They’re a group that doesn’t like to lose; it’s motivation for them,” said McNamara. “The biggest thing about them is that they are willing to put the work in to accomplish our goal. How can you not love a team like that?”

There are 339 girls’ high school basketball teams in Massachusetts. Only 53 make the post season as a D2 school and from there only four move on to states. Those final two schools are the best in the state. With their second place finish, the team got the motivation to be back next year and win it all. “We were glad to be here, but next year I hope for a different outcome,” said Burke.

Check the listings for StowTV to watch the girls’ state finals basketball game.