It was just the latest move in a chess game between the Warriors and the Bulldogs.
During that span, Canton cut the 10-point deficit down to just three, 29-26, with five minutes to play. Out of a timeout, Foxboro responded with its move, adjusting its offense to get the ball into the post.
The adjustment resulted in a 6-0 spurt over a two-minute span, helping the Warriors hold on for a 39-34 win over the Bulldogs, putting the teams into a first-place tie atop the Davenport division with just one game left.
“What you saw tonight was two evenly matched teams and two teams that were very well prepared for each other,” said Foxboro head coach Jon Gibbs. “Once you get to this point in the season, teams know each other so well and they’re going to take away what teams want to do. I thought you saw two teams tonight that played really well on defense and took away some of the top options on both sides. I’m just really proud of our guys the way we came out defensively with such energy.
“Obviously Canton is a team that can put up a lot of points, [Devin] Foster and [Tony] Harris are both phenomenal offensive players that are really difficult to stop. I thought Joe [Morrison] and Brandon [Borde] were outstanding with their effort.”
Over its scoreless span, the Warriors tried to shoot out of the zone but went 0-for-9 from three-point range, 0-for-1 from two-point range and had one turnover. But out of the timeout with five minutes to go, Gibbs had the offense focus on getting the ball inside.
Matt Rongione (eight rebounds, five assists) executed the game plan, finding Borde (seven points, four rebounds) on the baseline with a bounce pass for an easy two. On the next trip up, Rongione hooked up with Borde once again down low for another two. Canton came out of the zone and Borde was able to track down a miss, leading to two free throws from Anthony Mollica, giving Foxboro a 35-26 lead.
“We definitely knew the 1-3-1 was a possibility so we spent some time over the past two days and had a couple of different packages,” Gibbs said. “Early on we were taking a lot of jumpers, and I thought they were good looks, but unfortunately none of them were going in. So at some point, you have to make an adjustment so we went with another look that got us some more paint touches and we were able to get free down low for a couple of layups and that forced them to come out of it.
“Canton’s 1-3-1 is really difficult to simulate in practice because they do it so well so I was really proud of our execution with some of that stuff.”
Canton made one more push as Foster (13 points) drilled a three with two minutes to go and Austin Maffie converted a putback with 1:25 to go, bringing the deficit to four at 35-31.
But Borde hit a free throw on the other end, Canton had a three rim out, and Rongione came down with the defensive board. Bobby Harrison (eight points) hit three of four free throw attempts in the final minute to ice the game.
“I feel like both teams know each other so well, each team knew what the other team was running, we all know each other’s strengths and weaknesses,” said Canton head coach Ryan Gordy. “I just thought it came down to a couple possessions here and there where there was a tip or a deflection, all of those little things add up. I thought the first game when we beat them we made more of those plays and this game I thought Foxboro made more of those, so hats off to Foxboro.”
Foxboro created its largest lead between the end of the second and early in the third. Harrison drove to the basket for two, Morrison (14 points) drained a three on a feed from Rongione, and Rongione converted at the rim himself to give Foxboro a 22-15 lead.
To start the third, Rongione hit a free throw, Borde hulled in an offensive rebound for put it back in for two, Morrison scored after a steal from Teddy Maher, and then Maher scored again after another steal of his own to make it 29-19.
“We talked a lot about winning plays and hustle plays because the first time I thought Canton made all those plays down the stretch,” Gibbs said. “There were so many times where they won the 50/50 plays, they got the offensive rebounds, the loose balls, all that stuff. I challenged our guys to be that team tonight and I thought we were. Some of the biggest plays we had were either offensive rebounds or diving on loose balls. We got two over the back calls because we boxed out so well.”
Canton then made the switch to the zone, which afforded its offense some time to get back into the game. Foster scored on a feed from Verille off an inbounds play and Foster hit two free-throws to get within five (29-24) at the end of three. Harris (nine points, eight rebounds) scored in transition on a pass from Foster to make it a one-possession game with 6:25 to play.
It took over three minutes for the teams to open the scoring in the first quarter. Foxboro led by as much as five on a Maher three, but Canton outscored the hosts 7-2 over the final two minutes, including a coast-to-coast layup by Harris at the buzzer to put the Dogs ahead, 11-10.
Foxboro boys basketball (11-4 Hockomock, 15-4 overall) pulls into a tie atop the Davenport alongside Canton with the win. The Warriors have a chance to win at least a share of the division title if they can beat North Attleboro on Friday. Canton (11-4, 15-4) is in the same boat and will have another shot at winning the division when it hosts Stoughton on the same day.
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