Coach Nickerson draws up a play late in the third quarter.
By James Kinneen
Hometown Weekly Reporter
Who would have won the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournament last year? With so much that has happened over the course of 2020 and 2021, it’s hard to remember that it was less than a year ago that college basketball players were being pulled off the court in the middle of conference tournament games. While every team was disappointed the tournament was cancelled, it’s just different when you are a contender.
Watching the Medfield Warrior’s girls’ basketball team nearly double the score of the Medway Mustangs in what was ultimately a 60-36 victory over the team who knocked them of the state championship tournament last year, it’s hard not to recognize that this team is a serious contender to a title that doesn’t exist.
With Medfield dressed in their Pink Week uniforms but unable to raise much money with no fans in attendance, things went well early for Medway, who jumped out to a 5-0 lead before a three from Medfield had the Warriors up, 7-5, and Medway calling timeout. After a Medfield run had them up, 13-12, Medway got stuck in an incredibly long scoring drought, which saw them stuck at twelve points until 3:30 was left in the second quarter, with Medfield up 23-12. After a timeout, a quick Medway run was stymied by a Medfield response, punctuated by a drive and lefty finish from Annie Kennedy to head to the half up 28-16.
Medfield's scoring picked up in the second half, but their defense still gave Medway all sorts of problems. A lefty finish from Maya Hilvert had Medfield up, 39-24, with three minutes left in the third quarter. While Medfield kept scoring and punctuated the quarter with a Hilvert three to lead 49-26, Medway couldn’t keep up.
The game never got close. With two minutes left in the game, Medfield was up, 60-33, with Medway only able to muster three more points against the backups en route to a 60-36 Medfield win.
After the game, instead of any X’s and O’x or great matchup insights, Coach Mark Nickerson said the game came down to two factors: his team is very good, and they really wanted to win.
“Part of it is we just have a really good team this year,” he explained. “We were certainly motivated for that game since Medway knocked us out of the tournament last year, beat us once in the regular season and then ended our season in the Central Finals last year. We’ve got a lot of kids from last year’s team that remember that and were motivated to win that game. But I think the biggest part of it is we just have a talented team. We have good players. We’re deep. We just played well.”
As for who stood out, Coach Nickerson pointed to Maya Hilvert’s career-high eighteen points.
“Maya Hilvert had an outstanding game. She had eighteen points, which was her career high. Her energy level and compete level were just as high as I’ve ever seen it, and really set the tone for the rest of the team.”
Coach Nickerson acknowledged that while they may not get to prove it in the state tournament, this is the best team he has coached in years.
“Quite honestly, this is the best team I’ve had in a long time. We won the State Championship in 2017, and I would argue this team is better than the team I had that year.”
While they’d like to have a chance to win a championship, Nickerson said the girls understand why they can’t.
“It’s challenging. We got off to a great start. We had to shut down for two weeks, but we came back strong. It’s been challenging for a group of kids that work really hard at their games and love being together; it’s hard for them not to be together as much as they’d like. That being said, we’re incredibly thankful for the opportunities we’ve had to play this year. I think everyone was a little nervous this season wouldn’t happen, and the administrators and athletic director have done so much to make sure we’ve been able to play, so we’re really thankful to them for that. But we certainly wish we could continue to play and compete for a state championship, although we understand why we can’t do that. By all accounts, it’s been a successful season through the way we’ve played and the way we persevered through all the stuff that’s going on around us.”
The team has looked at every game as the opportunity to show how good they are, which has led to a unique brand of intensity.
“We really haven’t talked much about the disappointment part because every game and every practice is kind of a gift. That’s the way we’ve approached it, and in terms of the way we play, we feel like every game we play is a state championship game, and I think that’s kind of helped the girls compete hard every time. At the end, obviously it’s hard to walk away with a great team not having the opportunity to win the ultimate prize you hope to compete for, but we really haven’t talked about it at all as a team, and the girls’ attitude has been spectacular all season.”