OSTERVILLE — If you walked into the Thomas Evans Gymnasium Friday afternoon, you’d think you were in the Boston Garden circa 1957 the way these two teams battled it out.
While host Cape Cod Academy fell to the visiting Nantucket Whalers, 62-52, the sheer intensity from tip-off to finish was almost palpable. In all likelihood, you could attribute that atmosphere as one created by the homecoming of brothers Tom and Chris “Willis” Ferreira — Tom is the 2nd-year head coach of the Cape Cod Academy Seahawks and Chris is the head coach of the Whaler boys after 20 years coaching the girls varsity on the island. Both men grew up on Nantucket and are hoop legends in these parts.
Thus, when the pair locked horns yesterday, it promised to be a thriller and the match-up did not disappoint, replete with a technical foul or two just for added measure.
Cape Cod Academy senior power forward Henry Zezze turned in yet another magnificent double-double, pouring in 18 points and hauling down 18 rebounds. Fellow senior and point guard extraordinaire Johnny Hatem had a matching point total of 18. Combined, the two were a testimony to tenacity and sheer grit right down to the final buzzer. On the other end, Nantucket’s Kyle-Andrew Irving poured in a game-high 21 points that featured not just spectacular athleticism beneath the basket, but included four straight, backbreaking free throws in the 4th quarter. He also had 21 rebounds.
But Nantucket never fell behind in this affair, bolstered by a clear height advantage and significant bench depth. The Whalers ended the first quarter ahead, 16-10, and went to the halftime intermission still ahead, 26-21. But it was at this stage that the host Seahawks had generated such intense momentum, it seemed possible that they might snatch away the Whalers’ season-opener.
Ahead of their hosts by just one point, 16-15, with 4:47 left in the second quarter, the Whalers’ Keenan Phillips stole the ball, went up for the shot and missed. Justin Halford rebounded the miss and attempted the putback to no avail. The diminutive but scrappy Ben Siegel of Cape Cod Academy thrust himself into the fray and tore away the rebound as coach Tom Ferreira called time out. It appeared that the elder of the Ferreira brothers had a plan to take the lead away from the guests.
And it worked.
Junior forward Aaron White drove the lane and took the foul and hit his first to tie the game at 16-16, then his second free throw to go ahead 17-16. But back-to-back buckets from Irving and Riley Fusaro made the Seahawks’ plan a short-lived one. In spite of a Hatem coast-to-coast layup and pair of free throws, Nantucket went to the line and hit four straight, capped off by another basket to make it 26-21. The momentum and energy were there for the Seahawks, but just not necessarily the execution.
“We’ve been in every game so far,” Tom Ferreira said. “But we just made too many big mistakes. Ultimately it came down to executing and making good decisions.”
Still, the fourth quarter was about as exciting as Cape high school basketball gets at any point during a season. With Hatem and Zezze pairing up for some pretty eye-opening heroics in every feasible attempt to narrow the Nantucket advantage. Down 56-47, with just over two minutes left to play, Jacob Siegel and Hatem drained unlikely three-point bombs on the back end of lightning fast ball movement around the perimeter and even more hectic action in the paint as the big men battled for position.
Hatem drained his trey and then followed with a coast to coast lay-up and took the foul going in. His free throw missed but somehow the Seahawks’ big dog Zezze boxed out and buried the putback on the rebound. With 1:31 left and down 57-52, though, it would prove to be the last points the Academy would score. Hatem fouled out on the other end in the ensuing action after Zezze’s putback and the heart of the Academy was relegated to the pine.
Nantucket’s Keith Lewis drained a pair of free throws to make it 59-52 and following a pair of Academy turnovers, his Whaler teammates hit three more charity shots to seal the win.
— Sean Walsh is the sports editor for www.capecod.com. His email is [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @coachwalshccbm.