By Michael James LeClair
The Nashoba Regional girls’ basketball team’s bid for perfection came to an end on Sunday evening.
The top-seeded Chieftains failed to reach their fourth straight Central Mass. Division 2 final as they dropped a 60-34 decision to fourth-seeded Medfield in the semifinals at Harrington Auditorium on the campus of Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
Nashoba’s season ends at 21-1 while the Warriors (17-5) will return to WPI on Saturday afternoon to battle sixth-seeded Groton-Dunstable Regional in the finals.
“Unfortunately, we just didn’t play very well tonight. We worked hard, we were just off, shooting-wise,” said Nashoba head coach Beth McNamara following the loss. “Our defense wasn’t as good as it usually is, but these kids have worked hard and won a lot of games; they deserve a lot of credit for everything they’ve accomplished.”
Sunday was the third time in as many years the Warriors and Chieftains have met in the postseason. The two teams squared off back in 2013 in the Division 2 State Final. In 2014, Medfield was realigned to play out of Central Mass and the two teams battled in the Central Mass. Division 2 Finals with Nashoba pulling out a thrilling 57-55 overtime victory.
The loss also marks the end of a special four-year run for the Nashoba basketball program. Over the last four seasons, this Chieftains squad has compiled an overall record of 85-8, won four league titles, two district championships and one state finals berth. This year’s seniors are Erin Cressman, Kelly Poole, Jaquelyn Manyak, Nicole Boucher, Nikkiah Snoddy, Elizabeth Shepple and Brianna Morrisseau.
“Those seniors, when they came in as freshmen, really turned this program around,” said a visibly emotional McNamara. “They put Nashoba basketball on the map. These girls have a lot to be proud of; it’s been a tremendous honor to have coached them.”
On Sunday, the Chieftains offense was led by Cressman’s game-high 17 points. Cressman finishes her Nashoba playing career with a total of 1,067 total points. Poole added eight points and Kevyn Greene Green scored four points for the Chieftains.
It was a tough shooting night all around for the Chieftains who struggled to find the bottom of the cylinder for all 32 minutes. Nashoba made 14 of 60 field goal attempts and dug itself a first half hole that it just couldn’t climb out of against a hungry Medfield squad.
The Warriors jumped to a 9-2 lead three and a half minutes into the contest, forcing McNamara to call a timeout to try to rally her troops. Nashoba answered with an 8-0 run to take a 10-9 lead with 2:18 left in the first quarter. Ultimately, it would prove to be Nashoba’s only lead of the night as Medfield went on a 17-5 run to open a double-digit lead, 26-15 with two minutes to play before halftime.
The one bright spot for the Chieftains in the first half was the play of Cressman on the offensive end. The Nashoba senior forward registered 11 of her team’s 20 total first half points, however, the Chieftains found themselves in trouble heading into the locker room at halftime trailing 33-20.
Things didn’t improve for Nashoba over the final 16 minutes. The Chieftains were limited to just seven points in the third quarter while Medfield continued to add to its lead. The Warriors outscored Nashoba 20-7 during the stanza to make it a 53-27 game after three quarters. Cressman scored six points in the frame with Snoddy accounting for the other point with a made free throw.
Nashoba tried to chip away to begin the fourth quarter. Back to back buckets by Poole and Snoddy to open the stanza pulled the Chieftains to with 53-31 with 6:14 to play however Nashoba’s only other points the remainder of the quarter came on a three-pointer by Poole with three minutes left in the contest.