SHARON, Mass. – For the better part of three quarters, Sharon was able to keep North Attleboro off the glass, chased the Rocketeers off the three-point line, and kept North from getting out in transition. But down the stretch, the visitors turned up the pressure and made just enough plays to pull out the win.
North Attleboro came up with enough defensive stops, including an important steal and layup by Amanda Kaiser, and knocked down five free throws in the closing two minutes to earn a 49-40 road victory in an early season meeting of two contenders for second place in the Davenport.
“We needed that,” said North coach Nikki Correia. “They’re a tough team and she coaches them well. They started to get a little tired, we gutted it out, and we were able to finish strong.”
Sharon was a little shorthanded coming into the game, as several players were out sick, but the Eagles continued to battle and stay close in the fourth quarter, even after an injury forced Kaitlyn Wallace (nine points) to the bench.
“We had a couple big turnovers that led to points for them and that was the difference in the game,” said Sharon coach Sandy Lombardi. “We battled. We’re short on the bench, we’re short players, and the kids go out there and play as hard as they can and that’s all you can ask for. We’re going to keep on working.”
North led by three points going into the fourth quarter and started to hit the glass to get crucial extra chances on the offensive end. Regan Fein grabbed an offensive board and kicked it out to Kaiser (13 points and seven rebounds) for a big three-pointer. Sharon answered back on the other end with a three by Ally Brown to make it 37-34.
Fein hit a jumper on a Kaiser drive-and-dish to extend the lead to five. After a Sharon free throw, Siobhan Weir twice saved a possession by snatching an offensive rebound and Summer Doherty swung the ball around the perimeter for a clutch three by Olivia Forbes (eight points).
“There was one possession that they had five or six shots and then they hit a big shot and it was just like, where are we,” Lombardi joked. “It’s a battle every single night.”
Trailing 43-35 and with Wallace on the bench, Sharon could have folded and looked ahead to Sunday’s game with Milford, but instead the Eagles battled back again. Leah Fandel (10 points and nine rebounds) sliced through the North defense for a finish at the rim and, after North missed the front-end of a one-and-one for the second time, Nicole Teven got the ball to Brown (12 points) for her fourth three of the night.
Last time out against King Philip, North struggled at the line, Fein stepped up and buried two and then Kaiser came up with a steal in the backcourt and finish to stretch the advantage to seven points. Eliza Dion knocked down two more at the line to close things out for the Rocketeers.
Sharon got off to a strong start to the game. Trinity Payne (nine points and eight rebounds) scored on an offensive rebound and Brown buried her first three-pointer. After North got back within two, Payne had a steal and basket and Brown hit another from deep for a 12-5 lead after one.
“She did a great job [against the press],” Lombardi said of Brown, who played the full 32 minutes. “She had a couple big threes for us that made it close and we ended up just having a couple turnovers late that were costly.”
The Rocketeers turned things around in the second to tie the game going into halftime. Fein was the key to North getting points against Sharon’s half-court zone. She scored six of her game-high 16 in the second, showing off her mid-range jumper.
Correia said of Fein, “She’s a finesse player and for the last few years we were trying to get her to go inside, but it’s not her game. We said, you’re a senior now, this is what your game is, those little 10 footers, the jumper from the corner, the free throw line, and she’s starting to get comfortable in her game and how she can play.”
Kaiser gave North its first lead of the night when she corralled a long rebound and instantly went up for a corner three. Doherty nearly had a steal to keep possession but stepped on the sideline. With four seconds left in the half, Brown raced up court and dished for Fandel to score at the buzzer and make it 19-19.
Things continued to be back-and-forth after the break. North scored five straight, including a three by Kaiser, but Sharon answered right back thanks to Wallace, who finally got going. She drilled a corner three and tied it with a baseline drive. After Fein knocked one down from beyond the arc, Wallace again matched it with a drive plus the foul and then assisted on a Payne bucket that put Sharon up 29-27.
Freshman Ava McKeon had a steal and assist on a Fein jumper and Kaiser extended North’s lead to 32-29 with a steal and layup. After a pair of Fandel free throws, McKeon came back with a drive to the rim that put the Rocketeers ahead 34-31 heading into the final eight minutes.
“They had a good game plan to slow us down,” Correia admitted. “We came out very flat and very soft and we struggled with the zone.
“We were able to get Amanda open. We scratched the offense we were running and run something higher up. I think sometimes our girls think you can’t screen against a zone, but you can and once we started to pin the girl she got comfortable and knocked down a few.”