Wellesley girls' basketball coach Kristin Cieri has gotten back to basics this season. After winning the Division 2 state championship last season, the team had a lot to live up to. So far, the Raiders haven't disappointed.
Wellesley (7-0) defeated Needham, 51-45, Dec. 22 in its toughest test so far. The Raiders bounced back from a 21-11 halftime deficit to win.
"Needham was beating us the whole game and we were able to pull ourselves together and win in the end, really in the last four minutes," Cieri said.
If the Raiders are going to continue to win the close ones, Cieri said the players need to improve on the little things.
"We always tell them to do less, better," Cieri explained. "Don't try to do a lot of things, just do little basic things but just do those better. Stop trying to force things to happen for you. [We] just kind of go back to the basics and inch our way in."
The Raiders hit a setback when two senior captains, Corley Stone and Jesse Miller, went down with ankle injuries after playing in only three games. Stone and Miller were two of only five returnees from last year's team.
"They have been kind of slowly getting back in a couple of minutes in each game," Cieri said. "Now they're not at full strength, but they can play a full game."
Carrying the team during their absence have been guards Mary Louise Dixon and Blake Dietrich, who are both averaging 14 points a game.
This week, Wellesley faces Norwood (0-6) Tuesday and Walpole (6-0), Friday, two games the Raiders coach called "retro classic." Cieri, who graduated from Norwood High and played for the Mustangs, said a strange feeling comes over her when she returns to her old gymnasium, but with the opposing team.
"At first it was very weird and, you know, pretty emotional," she said. "It's been 12 years now, so it's always a little nostalgic to go back there. [I] have really good memories there. I love to go back into that gym."
Cieri is also familiar with Walpole, Norwood's main rival when she played there. The Rebels are also undefeated, and only graduated one player from last season's team.
"Walpole's probably the toughest game anybody has on their schedule," she said.
Cieri hopes the five returning players can use their leadership to create the same intensity and level of play the Raiders had last season.
"What we did last year was completely magical and completely unexpected, and we now know how difficult and hard it was to do, so to do it again will be even more difficult," she said.
Undefeated Swampscott (9-0) will host Lynn English (7-1) Tuesday. The Bulldogs suffered their first loss, 51-42, Wednesday against Somerville . . . Undefeated Bourne (7-0) handed Dighton-Rehoboth (7-1) its first loss of the season Friday, in a 45-44 nailbiter. With two minutes to go, the Canalmen's 9-point lead nearly disappeared, as Dighton-Rehoboth hit a 3-pointer with a half-second to go, to get the Falcons within 1. Bourne was led by junior guard Ryann Chase (16 points, 6 steals, 5 rebounds) and senior forward/center Courtney Donovan (14 points, 15 rebounds, 4 blocks). Fronting the Falcons' Boston College-bound Mary Nwachukwu was 5-foot-7-inch small forward Hannah Gasper. Gasper held the 6-2 senior, who was averaging 31 points, to 22 . . . Two senior captains led Lowell (5-0) in a 42-32 victory Saturday over Andover (6-1). Center Brianna Wilson (21 points, 11 rebounds) and guard Kara Rogers (18 points, five assists) combined to put 39 points on the board for the Red Raiders . . . The Big Three season gets under way this week with unbeaten Durfee (8-0) traveling to Brockton to face the 5-2 Boxers.