Senior night. The only game throughout a season where you are guaranteed to see an abundance of fatheads, balloons, and posters celebrating the finale of an athlete’s four years of hard work and dedication to their respective sport. And while most teams’ senior nights are memorable, there was a particularly special feeling in the gym on Friday, February 22nd, as the Oyster River High School varsity girls’ basketball team prepared for their last home game of the year.
The matchup against the Souhegan Sabers (3-15) proved itself to be a battle, but ended favorably for the seniors when a comeback put the Bobcats (9-9) ahead 42-30 at the final buzzer. Coming off a winless 2017-18 season, the newfound success of the team in 2018-19 made the night even more important, as the game’s victory added to the team’s growing strength and secured them a preferable playoff matchup.
Although Oyster River trailed 10-18 going into halftime, players like senior captain Abigail Craig were confident that the team’s perseverance was key to their Friday night win. “Coming into the second half, we really came together as a team and brought a lot of energy which carried all the way through,” she said. “Once we slowed it down and worked together as one, we played a lot better, and the fact that we came back so strongly in the second half makes up for our shortcomings in the first half.”
Head coach Nicole Casimiro shared these sentiments, saying, “going into halftime we knew we needed to change something. I asked the girls if they felt as though they could put in the energy, the help side, and the post defense to make man-to-man work. It was a resounding yes. We came out on fire in the third and took over the game. It was easily the best half of basketball I have seen this team play.”
Craig reiterated the importance of the halftime shift, noting, “the most memorable part [of the game] was right away in the third quarter when shots were finally going in and you could feel the comeback coming on. You could feel the energy on the court as we were working really well together to fight for that comeback, which felt really good.”
The comeback was also a perfect way to end the season, especially for the seniors, who were made up of Craig, Karlie Stevens, and Maddy Alphonse. “It was very sad to play on our home court for the last time but at the same time, I’m beyond grateful to have spent my senior season with the best team ever,” said Alphonse, who is a co-captain with Craig.
“To see [the seniors] on that court with their parents who have supported them in basketball since they were 8 years old is so important and really reminds us of how far they have come. This senior night was particularly special,” said Casimiro. “All of these players look up to and have a great relationship with all of the seniors. That type of leadership is something that is not often found. These girls went into battle for each other tonight and that makes us very dangerous.”
Freshman Natalie Simonds spoke to the seniors’ leadership from an underclassmen perspective, adding, “the seniors brought me out of my shell and I got a lot more comfortable with the rest of the girls through them. They made the season a lot more enjoyable and I don’t want to imagine next year without them.”
Arleen Alphonse, Maddy’s mother and a dedicated fan, also noticed the team’s cohesion this season, saying, “they really love each other. I’m looking forward to seeing them go farther than they every thought they could in the playoffs and believing in themselves along the way.”
Casimiro spoke to the team’s upcoming playoff run, of which there have only been two in the past four years. “None of these girls have been in the playoff atmosphere for basketball before. Going in to someone else’s home court is difficult, especially in the playoffs, but as long as we leave everything on the court, I could not be more proud of this season.”
While the playoff outcomes are unknown, Alphonse and the team welcome the challenge. “I think most people doubted our team, thinking it’d be a repeat of last year’s, but we proved them wrong and we are ready to go into playoffs and prove ourselves even more. We are going to be playing tough teams, but we have heart and the abilities to beat them.”
The 12th seed Bobcats will take on the 5th seed Generals tomorrow, February 26th, at John Stark Regional High School in Weare, New Hampshire.