NORTH EASTON, Mass. – The Oliver Ames revenge tour continued on Saturday evening, as the Tigers welcomed Notre Dame Academy (Hingham) to the William Nixon Gym for a Div. 2 South quarterfinal game.
The last time that the Tigers and Cougars met in NDA knocked off top seed Oliver Ames, which had finished its Hockomock schedule unbeaten and had only one loss at the time. Just like in the first round when OA faced league rival North Attleboro, which had knocked OA out of last season’s tournament, the Tigers exacted some revenge.
OA led by as many as 13 at several points in the fourth quarter and held off a very late charge by NDA to win 57-49 in a game that saw more than 40 fouls called between the two teams.
“It’s all this Twilight Zone stuff because we had North last time and they beat us and then NDA walks into our gym and the last time they were here it wasn’t a happy ending,” said OA coach Laney Clement-Holbrook. “I started thinking to myself this is getting a little bit weird.”
Both teams came out with the intensity that would be expected from a tournament game, but neither could find the basket in the early going. It took nearly three minutes before Kayla Raymond (15 points, 16 rebounds) got the opening basket of the game on an offensive board.
Francesca Calabraro was the big spark for a struggling OA offense, scoring 10 of her team-high 18 points in the first half. She scored off a Hannah Carroll lead pass plus the foul then hit a jumper to close out the first quarter, this time off a Carroll skip pass, to give the Tigers a 9-8 lead after one.
After Raymond scored on a putback, Calabraro drove to the basket for two and then on an inbounds play stepped back and buried a three to put OA up 16-9.
Offense remained a struggle for the Tigers, but they did get six points from the line in the second and held a 26-19 lead at halftime.
“I think our struggle on offense was self-inflicted,” said Clement-Holbrook. “I’ve got some really young players with inexperience and when you get to this level I think they’re over-analyzing things and over thinking things.”
Calabraro again stepped up in the third quarter with another eight points and Raymond added four, all from the line. OA shot 9-14 from the line in the third as the game threatened to get out of hand with physical confrontations all over the court.
Clement-Holbrook said, “I knew it was going to be physical, but I didn’t expect it to be that physical. So I hope that gives us the potential for growth as we prepare for the next option.”
The Tiger continued to play their style of aggressive defense and were forcing a number of turnovers. Even when the offense was struggling, OA made the Cougars work for every point.
“That’s what has got us here is our defense and making it difficult for people to get a rhythm,” Clement-Holbrook remarked. “Honestly, I think if we didn’t play the level of intense defense we did tonight then I don’t think we’d be on the winning end of this because our offense really struggled.”
A by-product of the aggressive defense and the numerous fouls that were called was that for the second game in a row senior point guard Sam Bamford was forced to the bench with a fourth foul in the third quarter.
Going up against NDA guard Janey Mathisen (game-high 22 points), who like Bamford would not back down from the physical play, made it tough for Bamford to prevent fouls.
Clement-Holbrook said, “It’s intensity and she just has one speed. It’s either zero or 100 and she needs to learn how to ease up on the gas pedal a little bit.” The coach joked, “I’m just glad she’s not driving.”
In the fourth quarter, OA was on the verge of putting the game away. Abby Reardon (eight points) knocked down a pull-up jumper then Raymond added a couple of finishes at the rim and McCarthy hit a spinning layup that she threw up with her back to the basket and the Tigers’ lead grew to as many as 13.
NDA did not back down and continued to attack. An error on the scoreboard made the lead seem a point larger than it really was, but Mathisen cut the lead to as little as six, 55-49 (the scoreboard read 56-49 at the time), and the clock continued to stop as the fouls continued to pile up for both teams.
“We gave up a few more threes than I was really happy with,” said Clement-Holbrook, “and there were just too many fouls and too many free throws, especially in situations at the end when it could have gone either way and now the clock is stopped and now they’re getting points and that’s dangerous.”
McCarthy buried a pair from the line to ice the game and send OA onto the next round. “The thing for me honestly is that we finished, we finished it, and that’s what we had to do,” Clement-Holbrook said.
OA (19-3) will face Falmouth, which beat Foxboro in overtime on Saturday, in the Div. 2 South semifinal on Tuesday at 6 p.m. at Massasoit College.
Josh Perry can be contacted at JoshPerry@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @Josh_Perry10.
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