The Tigers nearly did it again in the second half, but couldn’t complete the comeback bid in the final seconds, suffering a 53-45 loss to the Rebels.
Oliver Ames trimmed a once 14-point fourth quarter deficit down to five in the final minute, even getting a chance to shrink the lead even more but came up just short as the Rebels hit enough free throws down the stretch as OA’s offense ran out of gas.
“We just didn’t finish it, we didn’t take advantage of our chances late,” said longtime Oliver Ames head coach Laney Clement-Holbrook. “We had the perfect scenario [at the beginning of the comeback], shooting free throws with no time coming off the clock trying to get back into it and we missed a couple.
“They were missing to keep us in it but we just didn’t step up to finish. We had the big comeback in the first and we had to get back into in the second, I wonder if we expended too much energy there.”
Walpole rattled off a 15-2 run over the final four minutes of the third quarter to create its second double-digit lead of the game and the Rebels’ advantage peaked just before the midway point of the fourth quarter when senior Ainsley Dundon drained a three for a 45-31 lead.
The Tigers slowly started to claw back into the game, first with defensive stops and then with trips to the line. OA went just 1-for-4 from the line in that span but sophomore Caroline Peper (19 points) sank her second three of the game on the next trip to make it 47-39 with three minutes to play.
A putback off an offensive rebound from Walpole freshman Catie Hurley and a free throw from senior Sydney Scales pushed the lead to 10, 50-40, with just over a minute to go but OA continued to fight back.
Peper scored off a nice cut to the basket, converting a feed from Tori Harney (five points, four rebounds, three assists). After Walpole missed the front end of a one-and-one, Harney drained a contested three and the Tigers were down just five, 50-45, with 57 seconds to play.
Walpole again missed the front end of a one-and-one to give the Tigers a chance to make it a one-possession game but OA couldn’t find a clean look and had a three-point shot go off the mark. Scales sank two more at the line and OA again came up short on a three. Walpole gave OA a final shot with two more misses from the line but the Tigers had two shots off the mark.
“Walpole is a good team…the Hock and the Bay State are the two best leagues in the state,” Clement-Holbrook said. “To draw somebody from that league, you don’t look at the record, that means nothing. They play tough teams throughout the year and the had beaten us before too.”
The Tigers score the majority of their points between the second and fourth quarters as the Rebels’ defense limited the hosts to just two field goals in the first quarter and seven points total, and six points total in the third.
“They really were physical with us, they didn’t give us any open looks,” Clement-Holbrook said. OA finished 3-for-14 from three-point range and shot under 30% from two-point range. “They bumped us like we’re supposed to bump others. I hope the takeaway from this is we learn from that, that’s how you defend when you’re going against teams that can shoot. You have to be right up on them, be physical.”
Trailing 12-7 after a quarter of play, OA’s offense didn’t shift into gear until it was faced with a 21-11 deficit. Anna Murphy converted down low to get the run started and junior Caroline Flynn (11 points, 12 rebounds) scored off a feed from Meg Holleran (eight rebounds).
Harney came up with a big block on Scales on one end and Peper converted on the other, and then the Tigers’ defense forced a shot clock violation before Peper hit a jumper. Holleran battled for an offensive rebound and sank a pair of free throws to make it 21-21.
Flynn hit a free throw to cap OA’s 11-0 surge to take a brief 22-21 lead before Scales answered with one of her own to make it 22-22 at the halftime break.
Holding a 26-25 lead early in the third thanks to a pair of baskets from Peper, the Tigers’ defense continued to focus in on Scales. When the two teams met in the regular season, Scales accounted for over half of her team’s points (25 of 48).
While Scales finished with less points this time around (20 points), her teammates stepped up to hit big shots. In Walpole’s 15-2 run. Scales help set up a pair of threes from freshman Brooke Walonis, who also added a strong take to the rim for eight points in the frame. Scales put an exclamation point on the run with a three that beat the third quarter buzzer.
“You know who’s who in the neighborhood and you’re going to try and take them away, but those role players for them stepped up,” Clement-Holbrook said. “They had players hit those big threes, they had the offensive rebound [putback].”
Oliver Ames girls basketball finishes the season at 14-7.