| The Enterprise
WHITMAN – Cole LeVangie and Nate Amado had watched previous senior captains get the chance to take the coveted hardware back to their team.
On Saturday, it became their turn to do the same.
Even though the Whitman-Hanson Regional High boys basketball team didn’t get the opportunity to defend its Division 2 state co-championship due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Panthers still carried on the tradition that has become well-established in recent years by hoisting up another trophy.
Instead of a South Sectional crown, which the Panthers have won three times since 2016, or a state championship, Whitman-Hanson claimed the inaugural Patriot League Cup title by fighting off Hingham with a game-ending 18-3 run to prevail, 74-61.
The victory put the finishing touches on an undefeated campaign for Whitman-Hanson (12-0) and pushed its remarkable winning streak dating back to last season to 35 games.
“When I sit back and think about, it seems crazy to me,” said Amado of the streak. “I don’t know if NBA teams have ever done that. It’s a crazy number.”
Hingham (10-5), which was the last in-state team to take down Whitman-Hanson back in December of 2019, put the Panthers in a bind in the first half, but couldn’t close them out in a back-and-forth battle.
A put-back from John Hurley, who netted a team-high 15 points, gave Hingham a 58-56 lead with 4:51 remaining before Whitman-Hanson’s championship mettle took over down the stretch.
Amari Jamison exploded to the hoop on a baseline drive to level the score before burying a 3-pointer as part of an 18-point effort that gave the Panthers a 61-58 lead it never surrendered.
The timely contributions not only from Jamison, but also Ryan Vallancourt, who scored 7 of his 16 points in the third quarter to help Whitman-Hanson keep pace with Hingham, felt like a passing of the torch to them from Whitman-Hanson’s star-studded duo in Amado and LeVangie
“Every single game they got better,” LeVangie said. “They work as hard as they can in practice. I think they’re going to continue on a great legacy that we left behind next season.”
Amado followed Jamison’s two buckets by sinking a well-contested NBA range 3-pointer and then Vallancourt found LeVangie on a back-door cut for the 10th straight point by Whitman-Hanson to open up a 66-58 lead with 1:56 remaining. The Panthers iced the game away at the free-throw line to put to rest any notion of a comeback.
In their final game as Panthers, Amado and LeVangie provided much of what they showcased during their illustrious careers. Amado netted 17 points and grabbed 12 rebounds while LeVangie came through with 15 points, 11 rebounds and 6 assists.
“At the beginning of the year, what Cole and Nate said to me was what they wanted most from this season is just have an impact on the future of our program because they felt like they had already had their great moments,” said Whitman-Hanson coach Bob Rodgers. “And they certainly did. They certainly left a legacy for these younger guys to say this is the way you practice every day, this the way you take care of business on and off the court.
“They’re just two of the greatest kids I’ve ever had the privilege of coaching.”
Behind Hurley and Nicholas Johannes (13 points) along with Liam McBride and Connor White, Hingham’s balanced offense erupted for 41 points over the first 16 minutes to lead by as many as eight in the first half.
But Whitman-Hanson’s defense put the brakes on the Harbormen by denying the easy drives to the hoop they generated over the first two quarters and closing out better on their 3-point shooters.
The results were startling as Hingham managed to hit just six shots from the floor in the second half and score just 20 points. The Harbormen also went cold from beyond the arc, making just 1-of-10 attempts from long range in the fourth quarter.
“I was proud of how hard my guys played but (Whitman-Hanson) hit some shots in the fourth quarter that made the difference,” said Hingham coach Bob Kniffen. “That’s the type of team they have. They go on runs. You just have to survive them and unfortunately we weren’t able to do that.”
It’s been a tremendous run of success for Whitman-Hanson recently that has it on par with the elite programs in the state.
What’s the secret to have allowed them to excel at great lengths? According to Rodgers, it’s his players commitment to the game they truly love.
And with that ingredient applied first, it’s has elevated Whitman-Hanson into a juggernaut.
“Slowly but surely you take those steps,” said Rodgers, who completed his 21st season at the helm. “But it’s really on the backs of the hard work from the kids.”