When the buzzer sounded on Medfield High’s 54-36 win over Nashoba Regional last Saturday at the DCU Center in Worcester, and the Warriors were crowned the Division 2 state champions in girls’ basketball, Lauren Petit found her emotions running the gamut.
“It was a rush of excitement. It was so amazing,” she said.
“The last two minutes we were up a fair amount so we just wanted the game to be over and we wanted to win, but we also didn’t want our season to be over. It was kind of mixed feelings, but it was awesome.”
Luckily for Petit, it was not her last opportunity.
She, and nearly all of her teammates, will have a chance to make a run at a second consecutive state title next season.
Led by Petit, a junior and the Tri-Valley League’s MVP this season, Medfield will have nine of its 12 varsity players back, including four starters.
The day after the state title game, the Warriors met in a classroom beneath their home gym’s floor to wrap up the season and look ahead to the future. They openly discussed their goal to retain the Division 2 state title plaque.
“We definitely talked about it,” coach Mark Nickerson said. “We feel we have a real good shot of doing it again. We’re returning almost our whole team. . . . We’re going to be real tough.”
There are teams across the region built for the future: St. John’s High returns its young, talented back court — sophomore Davon Jones and freshman Adham Floyd — after making the Division 1 Central final this season; the Watertown girls made the Division 3 North title game without a senior starter; Newton North’s girls return one of the best players in the state in junior Infiniti Thomas-Waheed ; and Nashoba Regional, Medfield’s foe in this year’s Division 2 final, will not graduate a single player off of its roster.
But perhaps no team is set up for success like Medfield. The Warriors will lose senior captain Jen Narlee , but Petit will pair up with fellow seniors-to-be Ali Mileszko and Kristin Fechtelkotter on the perimeter, while up-and-coming sophomore forward Payton Ouimette will look to carry over her torrid play from the tournament into next season.
At 5-foot-10, Ouimette averaged 13 points along with 12 rebounds in her team’s final five games, and Nickerson said her style reminds him of Reading’s Olivia Healy , the state’s Gatorade Player of the Year.
“She was as valuable as anybody,” Nickerson said. “Especially as a sophomore, but for anybody in the tournament, against the kind of competition we were playing against, to do what she did is incredibly impressive.”
Medfield will shift from Division 2 South to Division 2 Central next season, meaning that if they are to face Nashoba in next year’s playoffs, it will come earlier in the tournament. And given that the Chieftains return all 10 players from this season’s roster, both sides are expecting to see each other again next March.
Chieftains coach Beth McNamara said she knows she will have to cook up a game plan to answer the size advantage Medfield used to its advantage in the championship.
“In order for us to be the district champion again next year, I’m assuming we’ll have to go through them,” McNamara said. “That ups the ante a little bit I think. We know they’re not going to shrink. They’re not getting any smaller, we’re not getting any taller, so we need to find a way to beat them. The bottom line is they beat us that day. . . . It left a bad taste in our mouth.”
Nashoba relied on a balanced attack this season, led by its leading scorers, sophomore forward Erin Cressman (11.4 points per game) and junior guard Emmalie Keenan (10.2). Sophomore Nikkiah Snoddy provides some size at 5-11, while sophomore Kelly Poole and junior Cecilia Burke round out the returning starting lineup.
McNamara said she hopes that her team can take a leap up next year, with six of its sophomores, many of whom played on a travel team together in middle school, gaining a year of valuable experience.
“Getting that far into the tournament has definitely helped us, and I’m hoping it’s made us hungry to get there again,” McNamara said. “That’s just the type of kids I have. . . They’ll work hard in the offseason and get better, and hopefully we can get there again.”
Medfield plans on stopping them first.
“I think they’ll definitely be back for blood trying to beat us because we ended their season,” Petit said. “And next season I think they’ll be much tougher because they’ll all be a year older. They have the same exact team coming back and just the fact that we won this year, I think there will be a rivalry there.”
Bright lights shine in the postseason Postseason’s brightest lights
As the dust settles on postseason play, here are some tournament awards for a few of the top performers at area schools.
■ Rookie of the tournament: The award for best freshman in the playoffs goes to Newton South’s Emily Chang , who averaged 11.8 points per game during the Lions’ improbable run to the Division 1 South semifinal as the bracket’s No. 17 seed.
■ Best sharpshooter: Chris Murray is Littleton High’s all-time leading scorer with more than 1,600 points in his career, and he is the three-time Player of the Year in the Midland Wachusett League’s Division D. He lived up to his lofty pedigree in the postseason, averaging 23.8 points per game as he led the Tigers to the Division 3 Central title.
■ Top thief: Lauren Petit was a steals machine all year for Medfield, and the junior continued to play lock-down defense in the tournament, averaging 5.6 swipes per playoff game.
■ Mr. Intangibles: He played less than a minute per game last season, but senior point guard Matt Lawrence took the reins as Wellesley captain this winter and was a natural leader, averaging 17.7 points per game in the tournament and helping the No. 14 seed Raiders reach the Division 2 South semifinals.
■ Breakthrough performance: Look for Millis High’s 5-foot-9 sophomore point guard Amy Assad to make her presence felt in a big way once again next season after averaging 18 points per game in the tournament as her team made it to the Division 4 South final.
Phil Perry can be reached at paperry27@ gmail.com.