ATTLEBORO, Mass. – North Attleboro senior Kyle McCarthy took the inbounds pass with 5.7 seconds to go and streaked up the right side of the court. He switched the ball to his right hand before crossing back to his left as he hit the three point line. He found space between a pair of defenders, rose up and released.
The ball seemed to take a deflection off a defenders hand, hit the front end of the rim, took a bounce and fell through the net as time expired.
The result was a 56-54 win for North Attleboro in a non-league contest with rival Attleboro, giving the Rocketeers a season sweep of the Bombardiers.
“I saw a couple of defenders in front of me but coach wanted us to attack the hoop,” McCarthy said. “I got to the rim, put it up, it might have been tipped in but it went in, that’s what matters. It was just a great team win. North Attleboro against Attleboro, we couldn’t have scripted it better, it was just an unreal game to be apart of.”
Both sides traded baskets throughout the fourth quarter, with Attleboro taking a 50-49 lead with just over three minutes to play on a jumper from Nate Douglas. But North had an answer right away as Hacmoni Cuevas took a pass from McCarthy and drained a three near the end of the shot clock to put North ahead 52-50.
The teams traded misses before McCarthy came away with a steal and went down for a layup. His shot rimmed out but senior Jonny Friberg (22 points, 12 rebounds) was there to clean it up with the put back with 1:22 to play.
“When it comes down to it, they made some big plays down the stretch,” said Attleboro head coach Mark Houle. “That three by Cuevas was a big one. And then McCarthy is just a gamer, he made a nice play. We were trying to get a sub in to get a matchup but we didn’t get it in. Bottom line, we needed to stop the ball and we didn’t do that. Our kids battled, I think we did a better job on Friberg than we did the first time. Brent’s a terrific player, you can’t make mistakes on him. For them to go back to back and beat two teams is not easy.”
Attleboro senior Jake Dunkley (20 points, 10 rebounds) cut the deficit in half with a pair of free throws with 1:01 to play. The Bombardiers came away with a stop on the defensive end and sprinted ahead to try to find the tying bucket, but North came away with a steal to take possession with 28 seconds to play.
Attleboro was forced to foul its way into the bonus, sending the Rocketeers to the line for a one-and-one opportunity. North missed the front end, giving the Bombardiers a final chance with 12.9 to go.
Douglas navigated his way around a screen and drew the foul to head to the line with two shots. North Attleboro coach Sean Mulkerrins called a timeout before the shots to draw up the play.
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“We wanted to get the ball to either Kyle or Brent [Doherty] off the inbounds, get Jonny down for a rebound and then get Moni and Chad [Peterson] set up for a shot,” Mulkerrins said. “We wanted to penetrate and have two guys ready for a shot or Jonny for the rebound. I think there might have been a little luck involved in the shot going in but Kyle did a nice job and we’ve been on the other side of that a couple of that so I think our kids deserved it.”
The largest lead of the entire game was nine, coming midway through the first quarter when Attleboro raced out to a 15-6 lead. Back to back threes from Cuevas and McCarthy helped the Rocketeers cut the deficit down, trailing 17-12 after one quarter.
North surged back to take the lead on back-to-back baskets from Doherty (17 points) and McCarthy but a quick 6-2 surge from the Bombardiers gave the hosts a slim 29-27 advantage at half.
“We knew after the first game this season, they’d come at us with everything,” Mulkerrins said. “I thought Mark [Houle] and his staff did a tremendous job being without a starter or two or at least kids that can play starter minutes. Coming out, they were so intense defensively and that led to some good offense opportunities for them. Coming off a back to back, we came out a little slow but to our kids’ credit, their mental toughness, we punched back after the first and kept it close.”
It was a see-saw third quarter with Andrew Milliken (eight points, seven rebounds) hitting a three to put Attleboro ahead only for Doherty and Friberg to hit back to back buckets to take the lead back. Dunkley converted a three point play, Friberg responded with two free throws to tie it and then Dunkley drained a three for another three point lead.
Friberg added two but baskets from Dunkley and Lucas Boucicaut created a five point separation. Doherty cut into that with a three, Attleboro’s Elvin Sam (13 points) pushed it back to four with a layup, Friberg answered again but Dunkley had the final basket of the quarter to give the Bombardiers a 46-42 edge heading into the final quarter.
“For us, playing Attleboro at their place, regardless of or record, or scenario or situations, it’s always a tough game,” Mulkerrins said. “It’s one of my favorite places on our schedule to play because the people of Attleboro love basketball. There’s always a great atmosphere and you can’t play in a better gym to get more prepared for the tournament.”
North Attleboro boys basketball (14-7 overall, 10-6 Hockomock) will conclude the regular season on Wednesday when they host Bishop Feehan. The Rocketeers have a chance to earn a home playoff game with a win. Attleboro (12-9, 8-8) will finish the regular season with a trip to Durfee on Wednesday in a showdown of two D1 playoff teams.
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