For Tiverton head coach Scott Thiboutot, this Friday night girls basketball game was different.
It wasn’t about his team’s 44-31 win over the Tolman Tigers at Tiverton High School, and it wasn’t about the fact that his team was making an impressive late-season push to earn one of the last playoff spots in the Division.
No, this game meant something more. It was senior night and, for him, it was the final home game of the first girl’s basketball team he had ever coached.
Thiboutot took on the coaching responsibilities of the Tiverton freshman girl’s basketball team in 2009 after coaching primarily boy’s teams. He has since been promoted to the varsity squad, and has enjoyed major success in his four-year tenure as coach.
But in all four years, one thing has remained consistent: his senior class, a group of nine girls that he has seen not only develop as basketball players, but as people. And last Friday night, senior night, Thiboutot said goodbye to his graduating class in their final home game of the season.
“It’s a strange feeling,” he said in a speech before the game. “I couldn’t be more proud.”
Seniors Sarah Wiston, Maya Bergandy, Samantha Welchman, Olivia Bergandy, Rachel Pimentel, Mariah Caldwell, Jacqueline Wilson, Emily Masse, and captain Haley Higginbottom were all honored before the game with flowers from their parents, and then again after the game by their underclassman teammates. The stands of the high school gymnasium were filled with parents and friends, all rooting for their team in the final home game of the season before the playoffs. Some held up signs for their favorite player, others just cheered and yelled in support.
“It’s just great,” Thiboutot said. “It’s a wonderful group of girls, all of them … I’ve had a lot of fun, it’s a super hard working bunch.”
Tiverton used the momentum of the emotion to take over the game early and they never looked back. The Tigers dominated on both ends of the court, controlling the flow of play and scoring seemingly at will against a helpless Tolman defense which has struggled all season. Tiverton’s full-court press staggered an already shaken Tolman team and allowed the Tigers to cause countless turnovers leading to an already insurmountable Tiverton lead.
“They were a little emotional (before the game),” Thiboutot said. “I told them it’s okay, it happens, it’s your last time on this court but you get out there and get a win so we can prepare for the playoffs.”
The Tigers improved to 11-8 on the season with the win, 5-4 at home, and marked their second win in a row. With only a few more games remaining in the regular season, Thiboutot and his team are hoping this late-season surge will propel them into one of the last contested playoff spots after the season ends later this week.
“We will be away, for sure (in the first round of the playoffs),” he said. “But we are going to be in there anyway so we might as well get in there and get it done.”
The girls will play their final game on the road against East Providence High School this Thursday night at 7 p.m. For the Tigers, they are hoping that is enough time to solidify their position in the division and will provide momentum to carry them deep into the playoffs — Thiboutot’s last run with his senior core.