But once the Bombardiers found their rhythm, due in part to an improved defensive showing, Attleboro was nearly unstoppable the rest of the way.
Attleboro outscored Oliver Ames 44-16 over the final 12 minutes of play, erasing a double-digit deficit and turning it into a double-digit win, 71-57.
“I think it started with our defensive energy,” said Attleboro head coach Mark Houle. “Early on, they kind of had their way, they had some transition baskets early. In the second half, we did a better job of getting back and not letting up any easy baskets. It was a physical game.
“We finally started penetrating their zone on the offensive end, which got us some open looks, and we were able to penetrate and go inside to [Qualeem Charles]. It took a little while to get the rhythm going, we really didn’t have it. Once we did that then we felt more confident and knock down some shots.”
The Bombardiers were limited to 10 points in the first quarter and 11 points in the second. Meanwhile, Oliver Ames senior Jack Spillane (career-high 34 points) was getting almost everything he wanted. He scored 18 of the Tigers’ first 19 points and helped OA take a 31-21 lead at the break.
Attleboro started hot in the third quarter, quickly getting the game within six but then went cold from outside. Big Blue missed from three-point range on six straight possessions, allowing Oliver Ames to get out in transition and convert, taking a 41-27 lead with 3:35 to go in the third quarter.
But on the ensuing possession, Attleboro finally got the ball in low as junior RMff (eight points, six assists) found sophomore Qualeem Charles (13 points, 15 rebounds, six blocks) who converted plus the harm. Charles’ traditional three-point play set the Attleboro offense in motion.
“You want to have some balance there but we weren’t getting the ball inside enough,” Houle said. “With any zone, there are some gaps and once we started penetrating with guard play to get into them, that created some opportunities for our bigs. When you play a zone you can get a three anytime you want, but when you’re not hitting them you have to get some paint touches.”
Senior Nate Douglas (17 points, four rebounds) and sophomore Jason Weir (seven points, five rebounds) made back-to-back baskets, and then Weir came up with a putback off of a missed three to keep the momentum with Attleboro.
“Jason Weir was one of the guys that came off the bench for us and had a terrific game,” Houle said. “Not only scoring but he got some key rebounds and some second-chance opportunities for us. And he played a physical game for us. We talked at halftime about how we needed guys to step up and he was one of them.”
After an Oliver Ames miss, sophomore Bryant Ciccio (career-high 18 points, five rebounds, five assists) went coast to coast, finishing with a nice up and under move high off the glass. Big Blue got another stop and this time fed Charles at the top of the key, sucking the defense in which allowed the sophomore to find Ciccio for a three-pointer.
Douglas hit a pull up on the baseline shortly before the buzzer to cap a 16-2 run, tying the game 43-43 at the end of the third.
With the game in the balance over the final eight minutes, Attleboro finished the job.
Spillane gave OA an early lead with a nice take to the basket, but Charles hauled in an offensive rebound and converted a putback to tie it. Charles scored on another offensive rebound only for OA’s Noah Fitzgerald (six points, three assists) to respond.
Attleboro put the game away over the next two and a half minutes with a 14-2 run. Ciccio started the surge with a layup and then Houle picked off a cross-court pass and went in alone for a layup, plus the foul, for the traditional three-point play.
Spillane brought OA within three with a pair of free throws but Douglas and Kevin Velazquez drained threes to extend the lead to 58-49. Charles finished the run with a free throw and yet another putback.
“Nate Douglas played his best game of the season, he was aggressive on offense and made impact plays for us on both ends of the court,” Houle said. “He played like a senior and we needed him to perform like he did for us to come back and win the game.”
After shooting 40% in the first half (50% from three-point range), the Tigers shot just 30% from the field in the second half and hit just one triple.
“Part of it is offensively we did more [in the first half],” said OA head coach Don Byron about the first half effectiveness of the zone defense. “They’re taking the ball out of bounds, we’re setting our defense every time. Once it turns into a more free-flowing game, we’re at a disadvantage then.
“We worked hard it but our efficiency in the second half wasn’t as sharp, We threw some passes away, made some simple, unforced mistakes. We just didn’t shoot the ball as well. And a couple of guys that we kept quiet early found themselves and we weren’t able to knock them off their stride at that point.”
Attleboro boys basketball (4-2 Hockomock, 7-2 overall) is back in action on Tuesday in a key Kelley-Rex division showdown with first place Franklin; a battle of the division’s top scoring team against top defensive team. Oliver Ames (2-4, 4-5) hits the road to take on Taunton on the same day.