Nashoba holds off Algonquin.
NORTHBORO -- Although Nashoba Regional coach Beth McNamara said it wasn't her team's best offensive effort, the Chieftains still displayed the same tenacity and grit they showed throughout last year's incredible run to the Division 2 state final.
Junior Erin Cressman snapped a 44-44 tie by converting a put-back with 1:08 left as Nashoba held on to edge Division 1 power Algonquin Regional, 48-44, in the Chieftains' opener.
"I sort of expected us to struggle a little bit,'' McNamara said. "It was a great team effort. It was our first game. I'm not making that as an excuse. Our defense came up big. We're happy to come out of here with a win.''
"Nashoba is a good team,'' Tomahawks coach Ron Jones said. "You want to test yourself against great teams. It was a challenge for us.''
Cressman, who finished with eight points, gave Nashoba the lead for good by scoring after snaring an air ball.
"(The air ball) was a little bit of a crazy shot,'' Cressman said. "I was around the hoop so I decided to put it up. There were a lot of people there so maybe I'd get a foul or put it in like I did.''
Nashoba was led by junior Kelly Poole, who tossed in 14 points, while senior captain Cecilia Burke scored 10.
Senior captain Amanda Murphy poured in a game-high 18 points for Algonquin, but was held scoreless for the final 14:09.
"We tried to lock it down defensively with everybody,'' McNamara said.
"C.C. (Burke) shut her down,'' Cressman said. "C.C. did a great job on her.''
After an Algonquin miss, Poole, who had scored her previous 13 points during the first three quarters, hit one of two free throws to make it 47-44 with 28.4 seconds left.
Murphy nearly tied it, but her 3-pointer from the top of the key rimmed out.
Senior captain Emma Duggan knocked down one of her two free throws with 12.6 seconds left to increase the Chieftains' advantage to 48-44.
Murphy missed another 3 as time expired.
"They defended her really well,'' Jones said "We have to find ways to get her better looks. She's got somebody in her face all night. We were trying to get the ball to her and Lucy (LeBlond).''
The score was tied at 25 at halftime. Murphy's basket with 5:51 left in the third period gave Algonquin (1-1) a 31-27 lead.
She wouldn't score again.
Nashoba trailed, 34-33, after three periods and 36-33 with 7:31 left after a Julia Insani layup. The Chieftains regained the lead on a pair of free throws by Cressman and a basket by Nikkiah Snoddy (nine points) with 5:19 remaining.
Insani put the Tomahawks on top, 38-37, after sinking two free throws, but Snoddy scored four straight points to give Nashoba a 41-38 lead midway through the fourth period.
The Chieftains led, 44-41, but LeBlond buried a trifecta to knot it at 44 with 1:39 left.
The Chieftains, however, clamped down on the boards, holding Algonquin to just one shot in its final four possessions.
Contact Steve Farley