The Winthrop seventh-grade girlsâ€™ travel team affirmed an adage that resonates at every level of competition: You want to be playing your best basketball in the month of March.
And thatâ€™s what the Winthrop team did in the Cape Ann Youth Basketball League Group 3 playoffs under the leadership of head coach Bobby Nimblett and assistant coach Chris Connolly.
Winthrop stormed out of the losersâ€™ bracket in the 10-team league to defeat Masconomet twice, claiming the CAL championship with a 22-13 victory at the Pingree School in Hamilton.
Helena Gajica led the Winthrop offense with nine points and was the gameâ€™s most outstanding player. Winthrop guards Holly Nimblett, Lyla McCarey, and Brianna Connolly played excellent defense as Winthrop held Masco well below its average point total for the season.
Audrea Viera, Hailey DeMarco, Heba Essaouabi, Georgia Marx, and Sarah Tracy were superb in the rebounding department. â€œThey were outstanding in rebounding the basketball for us, defending in the low post, and controlling the paint,â€ said Coach Nimblett.
Winthrop had a 1-7 record after eight games, before regrouping to go 8-2 during the second half of the season.
What was the turning point in the championship season?
â€œHonestly, the turnaround was just playing good basketball,â€ said Nimblett. â€œInitially, we got a little ahead of ourselves and were really focusing on winning basketball and that didnâ€™t really help us out â€“ we needed to focus on playing good basketball and when they all bought into that philosophy of playing great defense and rebounding â€“ thatâ€™s when we turned it around and went on the run.â€
Nimblett is in his third season as the head coach of the Winthrop team. Last year, as sixth graders Winthrop won seven games and reached the Final Four.
â€œWeâ€™ve had great support from our fans,â€ credited Nimblett. â€œWe played four nights in a row in the playoffs, and the parents did a great job getting their kids to all four games. And we got great support from the eighth-grade girls team.â€
Bobby Nimblett is one of Winthrop High footballâ€™s all-time great wide receivers, earning All-NEC honors in the 1990 season before playing college football at Sacred Heart University and ultimately receiving his degree from Emerson College.
Bobby is the son of Jim Nimblett, the widely admired assistant basketball coach who with head coach Ron Spinney, led the Winthrop High girls basketball program to incredible heights for decades.