HYANNIS – The first thing out of her mouth following a brilliant performance on the basketball court was that she had to race home and “finish writing an English paper.”
Talk about priorities.
Humble but gifted Falmouth Academy freshman point guard Kendall Currence poured in an exciting 24 points Tuesday night at the Hyannis Youth and Community Center to lead her Mariners to a decisive, 60-40 victory over the host Sturgis East Storm and 17 of those points came in the first half.
“She’s unselfish almost to a fault,” said sixth-year head coach Gus Adams. “She’s always looking to pass to her teammates.”
Currence went 10-24 from the field with the vast majority of her shots being on breakaway layups in the early going. And most of those breakaways and ensuing layups were of her own making: the sure-handed, lightning quick ball handler had 10 steals on the night as well as seven assists and seven rebounds. She also went 3-4 from the free throw line.
On the back of Currence’s relentless defensive effort throughout the first quarter, the visiting Mariners spoiled the Storm’s season-opener by establishing a 16-2 lead that made it seem like it might be impossible for the hosts to come back from. The first quarter ended with Falmouth Academy on top, 16-5.
But gutsy performances from power forward Meaghan Fitzgerald (10 points) and center Emma-Kate Nemes, combined with 10 brilliant points off the bench from forward Ariana Jackson kept Coach Adams and his girls on red alert until the final buzzer. Additionally, if not for the relatively precise free-throw shooting of The Storm girls, Currence and her band of gifted Mariners might have had to work twice as hard to maintain the lead it held all game.
Sturgis East went 18-25 from the line, fully capitalizing on 23 total fouls called against the Mariners, 14 in the first half alone. Fitzgerald went a perfect 4-4 from the line to highlight her team’s collective performance from the charity stripe. Still, the visiting Mariners established a 31-16 lead at the half.
But while it may not have showed in terms of their refusal to quit, when The Storm witnessed Mariners’ Stephanie Aviles come off the bench in the 4th quarter to drill four straight 15-foot jumpers it was enough to even inspire a bearish grin from her coach.
“Stephanie, they just had to call the fire department,” Adams said as he high-fived his lanky shooting guard. Aviles went 4-6 on the night from the field and she totalled eight points. Falmouth Academy center Christie Brake, who went toe-to-toe all night with the Storm’s formidable paint-presence Nemes, poured in 12 hard-earned points to go along with four rebounds and a pair of steals. Jane Earley added 8 points for the Mariners as did Charlotte Van Voorhis.
Van Voorhis, who seemed as adept beneath the basket as she did handling the ball up top when Currence wasn’t in (which was rare), caused some slight managerial concern when she fouled out with just 2:45 left in the third quarter. As flashy and talented as Currence proved minute after minute, the 2014 Cape & Islands League Soccer Player of the Year Van Voorhis was a true source of energy and grit for the Mariner five. But playing with just three on the bench and a last-minute call-up from the jayvees, Coach Adams had little choice but to rotate players in and out in rapid succession as the fouls piled up. That tact proved valuable down the home stretch as he kept his girls’ legs fresh and their defensive tenacity intact.
When Brake hit a free-throw to make it a 20-point lead with 6:36 left in the fourth quarter, then converted a steal for a quick layup, the din of the playoff-like crowd slightly subsided.
But not by much.
Cheered on from the opening tip-off by the booming, reverberating cheers of “Dee-fense… Dee-fense” throughout the night, and the momentum-shifting shrieks of fans, this affair under-
promised on paper and over-fulfilled on excitement to the finish. Falmouth Academy’s Colleen Hall also fouled out but it was with a 20-point lead and just 46.6 seconds left in the game.
The game was the first league affair for both teams and the first-ever in the Cape & Islands League for the Mariners. Sturgis East next faces Nantucket at home on Monday night at the Hyannis Youth and Community Center.