The simple truth was the Warriors just needed to convert their opportunities on the offensive end of the floor.
Foxboro’s stout defense got the job done over the first 16 minutes of play, holding #13 New Mission to just 19 points on 36% shooting. But the Warriors’ offense was struggling to establish a rhythm.
The Warriors shot just 24% (6-for-25) from the field in the first half and went over five minutes without any points at one point during the first quarter. And despite open layup chances and open looks from beyond the three-point line, Foxboro didn’t convert back-to-back chances once.
“We just needed to relax,” Gibbs said. “We were getting all the looks we wanted to get, and I knew we were going to make them at home in the second half. We talked about going strong to the basket, don’t worry about getting your shot blocked. And if you’re open on the perimeter, step into it and knock it down like you do in practice. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel like there were a lot of tactical adjustments to be made at half, felt it was more about just getting [the jitters] out of our system and we’d settled into the game.”
With the defense continuing its strong work in the second half, the offense finally settled in. The Warriors scored 41 points in the second half en route to a comfortable 60-43 win over the Titans.
“The first one is always the toughest,” Gibbs said. “We haven’t played in eight days and there’s just a whole different vibe in the state tournament. You have to get used it even if you’re a veteran team like we are. Hopefully, we got it out of our system in the first half and now can go on a run.”
Foxboro didn’t miss many of their open looks in the second or many of their shots at all. The hosts hit 16-of-25 attempts (64%) from the field in the second half, scoring as many points in the third quarter as they did the entire first half (19).
Bobby Harrison (eight points) scored on a nice cut to the basket on the opening play of the quarter, Joe Morrison (20 points, six rebounds, six assists, four steals) drained a three on the next trip up, hit one of two free throws after that to take a 25-21 lead.
New Mission stayed within two thanks to freshman Abukar Aden (eight points) but Foxboro finished the third quarter with an 11-5 run. Morrison scored on one end, drew an offensive charge call on the other, and came back down to hit a three to spark the run.
Senior Teddy Maher got around his man for an easy layup, Matt Rongione came away with a steal and passed to Morrison for a layup, and junior Anthony Mollica (15 points) scored on a strong take to the basket in the final seconds.
Holding a 38-29 lead going into the fourth quarter, Mollica helped the Warriors put the game to bed. The junior scored half of Foxboro’s 22 fourth quarter points.
“It all starts with our defense,” Mollica said. “Once we got a couple of good looks to go down, we started to click. I had a few easy hoops to start the second half and I was just able to build off of that.”
He connected on Foxboro’s first shot of the quarter — a three off a feed from Morrison — and then scored off the dribble to make it 43-33. Mollica dropped back-to-back baskets and sophomore Brandon Borde (13 points) drove right up the middle for two to put Foxboro up 50-35 with just under four minutes to play.
“Anyone that’s seen us practice over the last month would not be surprised at what Anthony Mollica did tonight,” Gibbs said. “He’s been unbelievable at practice, he’s worked really hard and I’m really happy for him. He’s worked really hard and he’s behind a lot of senior guards but when he gets out there, we have a lot of confidence in him and he’s capable of doing that at any moment. He was huge for us tonight when we needed to get that offense going.”
Foxboro continued its run, rattling off 10 straight points to complete a 16-0 spurt. Morrison and Borde each added four points in the stretch while Mollica had two more.
“As the season has gone on, we’ve seen more and more guys outside of Joe and Brandon step up and produce, which has been great to see that balance come around,” Gibbs said. “We’ve always been an unselfish team but now seeing some of those other guys be more confident and looking for their own offense is great to see and it’s been huge for us, you’re starting to see our offensive production go up.”
Foxboro boys basketball (19-4) advances to the D2 South Quarterfinals and will host #5 Hanover (18-4). The game is currently scheduled for Monday, March 5th at 6:30 but is subject to change.
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