By Chris Villani
Nipmuc’s boys’ basketball team stayed on the edge of the playoff hunt throughout the season. Even though the Warriors will fall short of the postseason, head coach Paul King said this squad is better than the 4-12 record would suggest.
“We have lost six games by single-digits, our record really doesn’t reflect how well we have played,” King said.
A loss to Uxbridge on a late three pointer doomed any hope of earning a spot in the state tournament. The fact that Nipmuc had played against such strong competition and stayed close in most of its games is what kept the team alive in the tournament push in the new statewide format that takes strength of schedule into account.
“We were competitive all year and always played tough,” King said. “There was not one easy game, every game was a battle.”
Nipmuc will graduate eight seniors this year, including starting guard Zach Shilale, who King said has “really turned it on” over the past three weeks. Typically marking the other team’s top scoring guard, Shilale limited players to more than 10 points below their season averages on multiple occasions, his coach said.
“He has been a lockdown defender,” King said, adding that Shilale turned in double-digit scoring performances of his own against Whitinsville Christian.
Nipmuc has a considerable amount of talented players returning next year, including several who earned significant playing time this year. Freshman James McKinney averaged double figures in both points and rebounds in his first year with the program. He scored 30 points in a game against Barlett and added a 17 point, 15 rebound performance against Blackstone-Millville Regional.
“He has been a bright spot for us,” King said. “I knew he was good coming in, but I didn’t know he was this good. We found out about four games into the season that he can shoot and he became our best three-point shooter and our best post player.”
With so much talent coming back, King said he wants the younger players to learn from the example set by this year’s senior class, who never stopped competing even though the record fell short of what they all had hoped for.
“It’s been the most fun I have had since I have been at Nipmuc,” King said. “Our record does not reflect how tough we have played in every game.”