It's very possible that Whittier Regional Athletic Director Kevin Bradley was disappointed to see 2011 come to an end.
Both of his basketball teams are undefeated in the early portion of the season. The Whittier boys have won their first five games, while the girls team is off to a 7-0 start.
"This is unbelievable," said Bradley, who also is the head coach of the girls basketball team. "I have to check to make sure that my feet are still on the ground."
The hot start was punctuated by the girls' dramatic 67-61 overtime victory over Brockton last Friday afternoon. The Wildcats got off to a slow start, trailing by as many as eight in the first half, but the determination of seniors Catherine Roche (14 points) and Christina Medley (13 points) paid off for them.
Down two points with under 10 seconds to go, Brockton was at the line to ice the game and things looked bleak for Whittier. But Medley got a rebound off a missed free throw and drew a foul coming up the court. She calmly sunk two free throws with 4.4 seconds to go to send the game to overtime.
In overtime, two unsung heroes sparked the Wildcats. Freshman Andrea Terranova and senior Kendra Brasil each hit clutch 3-pointers to spark a 7-0 run, which cemented the game for the Wildcats.
The win came against a Division 1 opponent, after the first six games were against weaker foes whom Whittier handled easily.
"This was awesome," Bradley said after the victory. "This is why we get our teams ready to play these types of games. We were just hoping to have a good showing and see what we can do. This gave us a great opportunity to see where we were as a basketball team and we ended up playing them really tough."
The win for the Wildcats was a big one, but their road does not get any easier from here. They will travel to Shawsheen on Friday to face Shawsheen, a team that beat Whittier twice last season. The Wildcats then have another marquee matchup against Pentucket on Sunday.
The Whittier boys team has been on a similar path. They started the season undefeated, but the meat of their schedule lies ahead. The boys have feasted on opponents so far, with an average victory margin of 22.2 points in their four wins. The team did not play a game during the week between Christmas and New Year's. The team heads into a big showdown against Chelsea on Tuesday with 11 days off.
"The way I look at it, we had a four-game series, and now we have a 17-game season," Whittier head coach Tom Sipsey said. "Pretty much our whole season is still in front of us."
The Wildcat boys have matured both physically and mentally, leading to the team's success so far. Sipsey has also emphasized defensive play, shown by the fact that the highest point total the Wildcats have allowed this year is 49 to North Shore on Dec. 20.
The chemistry also seems to be there. Leading scorer Ryan Grant has become a leader as a junior, and the rest of the team has bonded together nicely.
"We're a whole now," Grant said. "We're together. There's no step-sons or foster sons. We're all just one big family."
"The feeling that we have as a team right now, that wasn't really the feeling I had when I got here," said Sipsey, who is in his third year as coach of the Wildcats.
The Wildcats will have to prove they're for real with a tough schedule that lies ahead. After the Chelsea game on Tuesday, Whittier will host Shawsheen and Pentucket, before facing Chelsea once again on the road.
Whether or not both Whittier teams can build off their hot start remains to be seen, but some progress is definitely happening.
"We're starting to become a more respected athletic program throughout the state," Bradley said. "Other teams now know that we'll play anyone in the state."
• • •
Join the discussion. To comment on stories and see what others are saying, log on to hgazette.com.