NORTH ATTLEBORO, Mass. – Trailing in the second half at home in front a packed crowd in the Kenneth Pickering Gym against rival Attleboro, the Rocketeers switched the defensive look to a 2-3 zone and turned the offense back over to senior forward Jonny Friberg and senior guard Brent Doherty.
After scoring 11 points in the opening quarter, Friberg had seen far less of the ball after the Bombardiers turned up the defensive pressure on the North Attleboro guards and had managed only two points in the quarter and a half since. Meanwhile, Doherty was held in check with just six points midway through the third.
That changed down the stretch.
North started to pound the ball into the paint in the final 12 minutes and Friberg (10 rebounds) responded with 11 of his career-high 24 points and Doherty added 11 of his 17 as well, as the Rocketeers turned an eight-point deficit into a 62-55 victory that extended their win streak to four games and moved them into a tie with Milford for the Davenport division lead.
“They did a great job adjusting defensively,” said North coach Sean Mulkerrins about Friberg’s drop from 11 points in the first quarter to none in the second. “They didn’t allow us to move the ball and then they doubled inside. At halftime we talked about using that to our advantage. We knew it would either get [Jonny] or a shooter and Chad [Peterson] and the guys on the perimeter knocked down some big shots.”
In addition to the change of emphasis offensively, which included getting the ball into the post quickly to force the Attleboro defense to send help on Friberg, the Rocketeers also switch into a zone that slowed down the Bombardiers.
“The change of pace kind of hurt us a little bit,” said Attleboro coach Mark Houle. “In the end, they went to their strength; they went to Jonny inside and, as mightily as we tried to fight in there, we just didn’t have enough muscle.”
North took control in the opening half by getting the ball into the block where Friberg used his size to overpower the Attleboro defense. He scored 11 of North’s 20 points in the first with a series of baskets from in close and then a three to close out the half off a feed by Kyle McCarthy.
Despite Jake Dunkley’s seven points in the first, Attleboro trailed by six heading to the second. The lead grew to as many as 11 points (30-19), as Peterson drilled back-to-back threes and McCarthy came through with four of his six points.
After a timeout, Attleboro turned things around with pressure defense by freshman Bryant Ciccio (seven points) and seniors Nate Douglas (12 points) and Lucas Boucicaut (four assists). Forcing turnovers allowed the Bombardiers to get in transition and they closed the half with a 10-0 run. Douglas scored twice on offensive rebounds and Ciccio and Dunkley each grabbed steals and layups.
“I thought in the second quarter and definitely in the third quarter their athleticism, we started getting long in the legs,” said Mulkerrins. “We’ve played a lot of zone in the past but we haven’t played a lot of it this year and it’s a risk…but we made just enough plays.”
The run stretched to 14-0 and 19-3, as Attleboro turned the game around and built the lead to as many as eight points in the third quarter after Elvin Sam stole the ball from Friberg under the basket and fed it to Andrew Milliken (10 points) for the finish plus the foul.
North started to creep back into the game thanks to its seniors. Friberg drilled a straightaway three to cut the lead to five and then added a fall-away jumper to make it 44-41. Milliken scored off a Dunkley assist to make it a five-point game heading to the fourth, but North had stemmed the tide.
“We’ve been talking all season about being scoreboard watchers; we don’t want to be scoreboard watchers,” said Mulkerrins. “It shows the resiliency of the kids. I’m proud of them.”
Doherty started the fourth with a basket in transition and, after a Friberg free throw, scored again on the break to tie it. Douglas knocked down a big three to put Attleboro back on top but it was answered by three at the line from Peterson. The junior guard then pulled up and the free throw line to give North its first lead since the opening minute of the third quarter.
Friberg scored the next two baskets for North and the lead stretched to six. Attleboro tried to extend the game by crashing the boards and getting its chances at the line, but the Rocketeers closed out the game shooting 6-of-7 on free throws to earn the win.
“Down the stretch you have to execute,” said Houle. “Brent and Jonny made big plays in those situations and those are the players that need to make the plays and they did.”
Mulkerrins added, “I think it’s the maturity of the group…I was yelling at the guys the word complete; we needed to play a more complete game than we did against Foxboro because we knew Attleboro was going to bring it.”
North Attleboro (8-4, 5-3) will travel to Mansfield on Friday before facing Milford in a battle for first in the division at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence on Sunday. Attleboro (8-5, 4-5) will try to put an end to its five-game skid (and help North) against Milford on Friday.
Lady Bombardiers Dominate Start to Finish Against North
NORTH ATTLEBORO, Mass. – In the opening game of a the basketball doubleheader at the Kenneth Pickering Gym, the Attleboro girls set aside the struggles of last week and put in a dominating performance to hand North Attleboro its first league loss of the season, 56-19.
Senior Sarah Deyo led the way for the Bombardiers with another double-double of 22 points and 18 rebounds. She also added five blocks, as the Attleboro defense held North scoreless for the opening seven-plus minutes, allowed only two points in the first, gave up seven points in the opening half, and only 19 for the game.
“We didn’t hurt ourselves,” said Attleboro coach Rick Patch. “We kept possession, we got good looks…and the defense has always been really good.”
Deyo scored eight in the first and North did not get on the board until the closing minute when Caroline Collard knocked down a long jumper. Attleboro essentially put the game away with a 26-point second quarter, highlighted by Deyo scoring another six points and junior Sam Pierce scoring 11, including a deep three at the buzzer.
Patch said of the team’s ability to bounce back after the losses to Mansfield and Oliver Ames, “We just refocused everything and the girls have been doing a great job. It’s more of a team offensively rather than just a few great individual plays.”
North was shorthanded on Tuesday night with senior guard Ashley Ahern ruled out due to injury. Julia Santos led the way with eight points, Samantha Taggart added five, and Collard had four points, nine rebounds and three blocks.
Attleboro (11-2, 7-2) stayed one-game back of Mansfield in the race for the Kelley-Rex title and will travel to Milford on Friday. North Attleboro (10-3, 8-1) has a one-game lead on Milford and Foxboro in the Davenport and will host fellow league leader Mansfield on Friday.