With five minutes left in the second quarter in a one-point game, Attleboro turned it up a notch — on both ends of the floor — and orchestrated a 14-0 run to finish the first half and build a double-digit lead it never relinquished the rest of the way en route to a 68-50 win over the visiting Rocketeers.
North Attleboro hit four shots in the opening four minutes, including a pair of three-pointers, to build a 10-6 lead. Attleboro responded on the back of junior guard Bryant Ciccio, who scored 12 of his game-high 21 points in the opening frame, to take a 19-13 lead after one.
The Rocketeers got the momentum back on their side with a 7-2 spurt to open the second quarter. Ethan Friberg (10 points) scored down low, and Josh Montague (11 points) hit five straight points while North’s defense got five stops, including a turnover, to get within one at 21-20.
After a timeout by the hosts, Attleboro rattled off 14 straight points to change the complexity of the game.
“We’ve really been focusing on ending quarters and halves strong,” said Attleboro head coach Mark Houle. “When you can get those runs, like 8-0 or something, during those stretches, that’s when you get really separate yourself. I think we’re starting to figure out how to do that. We did a little last game, but we were certainly able to do that more tonight, and it put us in a good position. It starts with defensive energy.”
Mason Houle (nine points, seven assists, four rebounds, two steals) started the run with a strong take to the basket, Qualeem Charles (six points, seven rebounds) added two more off a nice feed from Ciccio, Houle went coast-to-coast for two and then found Ciccio for a triple to make it 30-20 with two minutes to play.
Attleboro forced a turnover and then was fouled going for the offensive rebound on a missed three. Keep possession resulted in two from Lorenzo Wilson (from Houle) and then Houle capped the run with a triple with under a minute to go to send the hosts into the locker room with a commanding 35-20 advantage.
“Our defense tonight wasn’t good,” said North Attleboro head coach Sean Mulkerrins. The Rocketeers had allowed 46.5 points per game on average entering the game and held its past five opponents under 50 points. “You give all the credit in the world to [Attleboro], they beat us one-on-one and then our rotations on the weak side weren’t there. Ciccio had that big first quarter and then they had that run in the second quarter. We just couldn’t get any momentum off of our defense. And offensively we weren’t countering what their aggressive defense was giving us. I felt like we lost our composure a bit when we weren’t defending well. We’ll bounce back, but that was a tough one for us.”
North Attleboro senior Nate Gonsavles (12 points, four rebounds) hit an early triple in the third quarter but Attleboro’s Kevin Velazquez (18 points) had his best frame of the season to keep the Bombardiers ahead. Velazquez opened the quarter with a layup and added two more after a near two-minute gap without scoring.
“A couple of our last games, our defensive intensity has been there, but now we’re playing smarter defensively,” Houle said. “We’re not gambling, we’re making the other team work hard. When you do that, you put the other team in pressure situations and force tough shots. And on top of that, we’re getting to those 50-50 balls and getting some transition baskets from it.”
Tim Callahan hit a three in the corner and Velazquez converted from deep after an offensive rebound from Ciccio. Gonsalves answered with a triple of his own but Velazquez game right back down the other end and sank a three-pointer to extend the lead to 48-26.
“I think we’re starting to see that our shooting percentage is a lot better when we get so many touches per possession,” Houle said. “There’s a magic number that we want to get to and what I think that does is gets the defense moving and gets us open looks. I think for the second game in the row, we’re starting to build some consistency with it. When we didn’t do it, you saw turnovers. When we did, we got some good looks. I thought defensively [North Attleboro] did a nice job inside, we didn’t get a lot of looks inside tonight, but we were able to shoot the ball pretty well.
After Gonsalves hit a floater, Velazquez came right back down and made his third straight triple to help the Bombardiers take a 53-32 lead into the final quarter.
“Kevin had his best shooting game tonight,” Houle said of Velazquez, who went 4-for-8 from deep and shot 47% from the field overall. “We told him it would take a couple of weeks coming off a fall sport, just getting in a rhythm. He’s starting to come along and get his basketball legs back, which means he’s getting his shot back which is nice.
“In the first half, I thought Bryant played terrific. There are times in a game where you can see someone trying to take it over and Bryant had a four or five-minute stretch where he was terrific.”
Ciccio and Velazquez each connected on a three in the opening 90 seconds of the fourth quarter to effectively put any thoughts of a miraculous comeback away.
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