Sarah Hanlon, finance director
The Nantucket Whalers boys basketball team has continued to keep up an impressive performance throughout the bulk of their season. Winning the majority of their games, the boys have created a 15-5 record, one that has placed them in the playoffs.
The team has faced some extremely hard competition throughout their season; however, they have still managed to make themselves known this season as one of the top competitors in their league. Unlike seasons in the past, the team has needed to stay extremely focused in order to improve their skills and prepare themselves for the competition they would face in their demanding schedule of games.
Senior point guard Makai Bodden made note of a single game that changed the team’s mindset, ultimately opening their eyes to the reality of their season: the Whalers’ game against Sandwich High School. In the Whalers v Sandwich Knights game, the Whalers shot out of the gate with a strong start. Ending the first half up 10 points, the Whalers were hopeful for a good result, however, the game turned and the team ended up facing a reality they weren’t expecting, losing 77-71. Reflecting on this game, Bodden concluded that, “after this game, we knew the league wasn’t a cakewalk like the past years, and we knew we needed to work hard to win these games.”
The team did just that, winning seven games in a row after their loss to Sandwich. Their first game after Sandwich was against the Barnstable High School Red Raiders, who they beat solidly 66-34 in a home game. They followed this up with a 67-43 win against the Dennis-Yarmouth Regional Dolphins. These two games were no fluke, and the Whalers did not lose again until over a month after their game with Sandwich.
Hard and consistent work outside of the games kept them in playing form. They took the knowledge and skills they gained in this long run of success and ultimately proved themselves, coming back and beating Sandwich in a rousing, redemptive, 65-61 game on February 5th.
During this stretch of time, pushing through a rigorous regime consisting of an intense practice schedule and their demanding games, the team has found one thing that truly keeps them going: their teamwork. Many players on the team realized that at the beginning of the season it felt as though there were five individuals on the court at a time, not a collective team. When this was realized, the players knew something needed to be changed if they wanted to see success in the remainder of their season.
Sophomore Jayquan Francis made clear that he feels as though a lot has changed from the beginning of their season to where they are now. He believes that “at the beginning of the season we weren’t as connected as we all are now,” noting that the team was made up of “independent scorers.” He compared this idea of independence to the newly found emphasis on unity saying, “we’ve grown to become a team, I may even call it a family.”
Bodden also believes that the morale of the team has been important, saying “the energy and team chemistry has definitely gotten better on and off the court since the beginning of the season.” He noted that this became most noticeable when the team realized that they felt more pride when they worked together to win a game than they would if each member of the team scored individually.
The boys’ basketball family on Nantucket has grown this season, so even though they will lose some players who are Seniors, including Justin Bloise, Makai Bodden, Max Beebe, and JJ Bennett after this season closes, they feel that they will continue into years to come with a bond that is stronger than ever.
Looking towards the end of their season, the Nantucket Whalers faced a lot of competition playing teams who have also been seen as top competitors in their league. For their last few games, the team fell to the Vineyard. On Friday, February 11, the team took on Nauset for the first time ending the game with a 61-60 win. This set the team on the right track, proving once again that they are capable of competing against these top teams. Coming off of this win, they defeated Nauset once again in their last regular-season game on February 24.
The success of this team has been extremely impressive throughout their season, and can only inspire hope for success in the future. Not only will this carry over into the playoff games, but this is something that the team will take with them into the future seasons, and allow them to remain successful for years to come.