TAUNTON, Mass. – Offense can come and go, as every team is bound to have an off shooting night even in the playoffs, but the one common denominator for Foxboro’s run of four straight trips to the Div. 2 South semifinals has been defense.
The Warriors put their defensive capabilities on full display again on Monday night at Taunton’s Rabouin Field House, as they held Old Rochester to just 11 points and three made baskets in the first half and held the Bulldogs under 30 points for the second time in two weeks.
Foxboro made it three South finals in four years with a 46-29 victory.
“We always say defense wins championships and we really focus on playing hard ‘D’ and trying to shut the other team down,” said senior forward Abby Hassman. “Our defense will make up for any bad shooting night we have. We’ve always had a strong defensive team [for the past four years] and I really think that’s carried us through.”
Old Rochester is a feisty defensive team as well and the Bulldogs continued to play Foxboro leading scorer Katelyn Mollica tough, limiting the junior to four points through the first three quarters and forcing an uncharacteristic amount of turnovers.
The difference between this year’s Foxboro team and the one that lost at the same stage last season is that there are other players that can produce on the offensive end. Hassman (six points, nine rebounds, and four steals) scored the game’s first four points and then dished it off for a layup from Shakirah Ketant.
After a couple of Ketant free throws, Lizzy Davis (nine points) knocked down a straightaway three and Mollica scooped in her first points of the night to make it 13-3 after one.
Logan Fernandes (eight points) hit a three to open the second quarter, but Davis answered right back with her second three of the night. Ketant then added a basket on an offensive rebound and knocked down a jumper off a Davis assist. She finished with 13 points and nine rebounds and continued to give the Warriors a different dimension in the paint.
“We just didn’t have that last year and Abby, as good as she is, isn’t a Shakirah,” said Foxboro coach Lisa Downs. “Abby is going to do her thing out there, but Shak is able to convert on a lot of those points out there.”
The Warriors only managed 10 points in the second but picked up two more points on the overall lead because they held the Bulldogs to only two made baskets in the quarter. It was 23-11 at the break.
“In the first half, I was thrilled with their defense and I thought Yara [Fawaz] and Abby worked their butts off inside the paint,” said Downs. “They were trying to get the ball inside and we made it very difficult and our help defense was there just in case they were able to lob it in.”
In the third quarter, the two teams combined to only make five shots from the floor, as defense continued to be the theme of the night. Foxboro did make 5-of-6 at the line and responded to Old Rochester’s 5-0 start to the quarter with a 5-1 run coming out of a timeout that restored a double digit lead. Jordyn Collins had one of her three steals and her only basket to cap the run.
“Last year, we would’ve just crumbled but now it’s seniors on the team, they’re able compose themselves a little better than a year ago, and able to look at the next play,” said Downs.
Hassman added, “We definitely knew that we could win it and we just had to bring it today. We just wanted to play lockdown defense the whole time and going into the second half we just needed a few more points to boost our confidence and carry it to the end.”
Any comeback hopes for Old Rochester were squashed early in the fourth, as the Warriors went on an 8-1 run to put the game away.
Fawaz started the quarter with a drive to the basket and then an offensive foul call against the Warriors was negated by a technical foul against the Bulldogs. Mollica made both at the line to make it 36-20. After the teams traded a free throw apiece, Mollica finally connected from the outside, spotting up in the corner off a Davis pass. She answered an Old Rochester bucket with a second three, scoring eight of her 12 points in the fourth.
Downs said, “The offense is going to come in ebbs and flows and everyone was a little tight I think. We can do better. You just have to win by one, so it doesn’t matter how pretty or not pretty it is, it’s just a matter of getting to the next game.
Defense continued to be the story, as Foxboro limited the Bulldogs to only three made field goals and nine points in the fourth to put the game to rest and seal a spot back in the finals.
Hassman couldn’t help but smile when it was mentioned that she has gone to the sectional final in three of her four years. “We’ve always had a really good team and it’s exciting to be a part of it. We worked really hard throughout the season and…I don’t know, it is really weird that this is normal now.”
Foxboro (22-2) will face No. 4 seed Hingham in the South final at Taunton High. The date and time of the game have yet to be determined.
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