By Camie Strojny, Sports Editor
The Nantucket Whalers Boys’ Basketball team is adapting to a very different season: mask mandate, loss in key players last year, playing big teams from the transition in leagues last season, and new rules in play to ensure Covid-19 protocols. It is Head Coach Willis Ferreira’s 28th year coaching the Whalers’ Basketball Team, 17 years with the girls and 9 with the boys; with Assistant Coaches including Andrew Benson and Mike Ferreira. Leading the team alongside the coaches are Senior Captains Malique Bodden and Gannon Mooney. This year’s team will be graduating six seniors: Bodden, Mooney, Will Harris, Kenard Liburd, Dylan Miller, and Roy Ryder.
New MIAA rules for basketball teams across the league states that there are no jump balls anymore, and instead a coin toss, one person per seat on the bus, designated seating areas on the boat, no throwing the ball in from under the net and one has to move to the side, and only three people in the paint during a free-throw rather than six. Despite the constant change, the team is doing fairly well with their record being 2-2. The Whalers are playing big teams such as Barnstable, Sandwich, and Nauset. Captain Mooney’s goal for the season is to, “win as many games as we can and make a deep run into our league tournament at the end of the season.”
The challenges continue with a lack of student body representation or community support because of the safety rules. The school committee decided that there would only be two fans per player, and no fans when traveling off-island (aside from chaperones), for there can only be a certain number of people in the gymnasium, as well as mainly off-island games. Instead, the Athletic Department has been working hard to live stream all games in real-time, so the community and families have the opportunity to watch the players in order to support.
When the team played Nauset for the second time after winning the first time they played, Nantucket was confident about winning again. Captain Bodden says in the beginning, “we started off great, but then by halftime, everything went downhill.” In the second overtime, Nauset came out on top with a final score of 64-66. This was a learning curve for the team, as Capt. Bodden reveals: “Justin Bloise bailed us out with two last-second shots to tie the game to go into both OT’s which I thought we should’ve won from then on, but we just couldn’t execute properly and some of us couldn’t handle the pressure. We lost as a team and have a lot to improve on as a team with things such as talking more in defense and not calling out each other individually. If we can do those things well, then I think we will be successful this year.”
Younger players to look for this season are Freshmen Carlos Aguilar, J.D. Heneke, and Jayquan Francis, along with Sophomore Carson Blake. Senior Ryder tells that, “the basketball team is going to be set for a while,” with the young, strong players who have a passion to play and a desire to perform highly. Although the six seniors are missing out on a traditional basketball season, they have not let these setbacks get in the way of anything. They are still persevering and working hard in order to leave behind a disciplined team with a set rhythm and good communication skills advancing through this season, and going into next season.
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