FOXBORO, Mass. – Although the score was only 6-2 in the first quarter, it was inevitable to start having flashbacks to last year’s South semifinal matchup. Foxboro was struggling at the offensive end, unable to find the range against the ball-hawking Pembroke defense. The hosts were in desperate need of a spark and senior forward Yara Fawaz gave them one.
Fawaz (nine points and three steals) hit a pair at the line, turned a steal into a fastbreak layup, and then buried a straightaway three of a Katelyn Mollica pass to put the Warriors up 11-6. It was a 9-0 run for Foxboro and Fawaz scored seven of them. When she knocked down the three, the feeling of relief from the Warriors and the home fans was palpable.
“We knew with our speed and the way we fastbreak and all that and the endurance that we have that we could outpace them,” said Lizzy Davis (16 points), whose jumper accounted for the other two points in the run. “Yara was so good today and she hit those few baskets early in the game and it just built from there. Everybody just kind of fed off of that.”
Pembroke battled back to tie the game at 11-11, but never regained the lead. A more experienced, more confident, more battle-tested Foxboro team kept the defending South champions at arm’s length and avenged last year’s loss with a 56-43 win that puts the Warriors into the sectional semifinal for the fourth year in a row.
“I was like, can someone just hit the lid off that rim?” admitted Foxboro coach Lisa Downs. “I don’t care where it comes from but once we started getting in a groove we were going to be fine. It’s going to happen, just make sure to keep executing on defense, which is what they did.”
Foxboro led 11-8 after the first quarter and Pembroke scored the first three of the second to tie the game again, but the Warriors responded with a 15-5 run to close out the half with a double-digit lead.
Davis got things started when she grabbed a loose ball and spotted up for a three to put Foxboro in front. That was followed quickly by a three-pointer from Mollica (game-high 20 points) and a free throw by Abby Hassman to make it 18-11. After a basket by Kylie Gates, Hassman kicked out to Davis for her second three of the quarter.
The Titans continued to keep it close, as Katie Galligan scored to cut the lead down to 21-16, but on the next possession Jordyn Collins grabbed one of her six steals on the night and turned it into a layup. Collins locked down on Galligan, Pembroke’s all-time leading scorer, holding her to just seven points.
“She played awesome,” Downs said of Collins. “That’s the best she’s played since coming back from her injury. I think she wasn’t trusting herself until tonight and then the competitive juices were out there. Between Lizzy and Jordyn they did a good job shutting down Galligan.”
It was 26-16 at the break and, despite only scoring nine points in the third, the Warriors never allowed the visitors closer than seven points in the quarter. Mollica started to heat up, answering a Pembroke three with a deep one of her own and knocking down a floater on the baseline.
Shakirah Ketant (seven points), another player who has stepped into a much bigger role this season, knocked down a jumper in the third and provided a major presence in the paint all night, pulling down 17 rebounds.
“They have to pay attention to her, so they can’t have all the attention on Mollica and have two or three people on her,” Downs said about Ketant’s impact. “We have so many more offensive weapons than we did a year ago.”
Foxboro led by eight entering the fourth, but Pembroke quickly made it five with a three by Sophie Considine, one of three shots she knocked down from deep in the final quarter. Rather than let the Titans creep back in, Davis knocked down a pull-up jumper and Mollica drilled a three to get the lead back to 10.
After another Considine three, Mollica spotted up for one in the corner. She scored 10 points in the fourth. Ketant grabbed an offensive rebound and scored and suddenly Foxboro was up 12. Considine made another three to cut the lead to 47-38, but Davis (who was 1-for-7 at the line to that point) hit two free throws and then Collins grabbed yet another steal and threw it ahead to Mollica for a layup that effectively sealed the win.
“Last year there was such a bitter taste left in our mouths and we just wanted to come out and get revenge,” Davis explained. “We didn’t want to go 0-2 against another team and we had so much intensity that we wanted to bring and we clearly brought it.”
Foxboro (21-2) will take on the winner of Old Rochester and New Mission on Monday night at Taunton High.
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