NORTH EASTON, Mass. – In the hallway outside the locker room, minutes after the Tigers walked off the court with a 55-40 victory over Foxboro, Oliver Ames coach Laney Clement-Holbrook reflected not only on her 17th career Hockomock League title but on what it meant to her players to leave the Davenport with another championship (sixth in the last eight years).
“This was the thing that we talked about was going out on top and that’s what we’re doing,” said Clement-Holbrook looking ahead to next season in the Kelley-Rex. She added, “For this to come down to this game…and for us this is great because we want to peak at the end [of the season].”
It was also senior night for the Tigers and on the board inside the locker room was written, “play with heart, this is our family.” OA came out and set the tone right from the opening tip as the ball was knocked to Francesca Calabraro for an easy layup.
The hosts were tenacious on defense and held the Warriors scoreless for the first 4:19 of the game before Carolynn Will hit a pair of shots to cut the lead to 5-4. A Calabraro three pushed the lead to 10-5 and then she scored again following a steal by Kaitlyn McCarthy.
As the final seconds of the quarter counted down, the Tigers grabbed a defensive board and got the ball quickly to Hannah Carroll, who buried a jumper at the buzzer for a 14-5 lead.
The second quarter was little better for the Warriors, who again took more than four minutes to get a basket, when Cassidy Harrison (12 points) buried her first three of the game. Samantha Bamford came down the other end and drew the defense before laying the ball off to Niyera Mitchell for an easy basket.
Kayla Raymond (11 points, 10 rebounds) scored a layup, Carroll followed with a three and then Raymond scored again to close out the half with a 25-10 lead.
“We just couldn’t make any shots,” said Foxboro coach Lisa Downs, “and that started getting in our heads and we were thinking about that. They were doubling the ball but we weren’t looking up to find the open person.
When asked if that was the best her team had played this season, Clement-Holbrook replied, “Without question. They scored 83 points against Stoughton…coming in here I knew it wasn’t going to be that many [points] but I knew it was going to be boatloads.”
“So, we really focused on defense, close outs, three-point shooters, screens and the hard work that these kids put in paid off.”
In the third quarter, OA continued to get contributions from its whole roster. Calabraro started the quarter with a corner three for the last of her 11 points and, after a Raymond finish in traffic, the senior captains scored seven straight. McCarthy (nine points) started it with a layup off a steal then Bamford (six assists) hit a pair from the line and scored in transition after her fellow captain’s steal.
In the fourth quarter, Foxboro started to crawl back into the game. The Warriors scored 21 points in the fourth, which was two points more than they had scored in the three previous quarters combined. Much of that was due to being in the bonus at the start of the quarter and shooting 12-12 from the line, including 8-8 from Ashley Sampson (15 points).
“We scored 30 points in the second half,” said Downs, “if we had some of that play in the first half then this could’ve been a different game. I give the girls credit for fighting and creeping back into it.”
Clement-Holbrook added, “The clock was stopped and they were scoring points and they can creep up in a hurry. I’m just so proud of them because they were willing to give everything they had.”
While Sampson (10 in the fourth) and Harrison (seven in the fourth) tried to get Foxboro going, OA turned to Mitchell. The lanky junior forward had her best game of the season and showed off her full arsenal, knocking down a shot from just inside the three-point line, taking the ball past her defender on the dribble, and finishing at the rim. She scored nine of her game-high 15 points in the fourth.
She also dominated on the boards, pulling down a game-high 17 rebounds in what was her best performance of the season and had her coach joking that whatever she ate for breakfast needs to be a game-day staple.
“When she’s on, it’s hard to defend her because she’s not a typical post player,” said Clement-Holbrook. “She’s got perimeter skills, she’s quick, she can rebound.”
“Hannah did such a great job on Sampson and when Niyera came in she just dominated the boards.”
Downs admitted that OA has been a bad match-up for her team this season. The Warriors also lost by 15 in the first meeting (by the almost identical score of 53-38) and had little answer for the length of Raymond and Mitchell in the post.
“When it’s one of them then you can try to double and send players,” said Downs. “[Mitchell] is knocking down shots from nearly three-point range…it’s a really tough match-up for us.”
With the final seconds ticking down, Clement-Holbrook took both of her seniors off the floor and they shared a hug on the bench. At the final buzzer the rest of the team joined them on the court celebrating the program’s first title in three seasons.
Oliver Ames (14-3, 12-3) will host Norwell on Tuesday night, while Foxboro (10-5, 9-5) will look to bounce back against Ursuline Academy on Monday.
Josh Perry can be contacted at JoshPerry@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @Josh_Perry10.
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