NORTH EASTON, Mass. – Through its opening five games, Foxboro had proven to be far more than its opponents could handle. The lowest margin of victory for the unbeaten Warriors was 31 points back in the season opener. Coming into Tuesday night’s game at the Nixon Gym, they were the top scoring team in the league and the top defensive team.
As the first quarter was winding down, it looked like business as usual. Foxboro led 15-7 and was lining up another three-pointer to try and extend the advantage. Caroline Peper blocked the shot (one of three blocked three-pointers for her in the game) and Caroline Flynn snatched the rebound. Flynn took off up court and laid a pass off to Peper for a three of her own.
It was the start of a 23-5 run to close out the half that gave the Tigers a lead they would never relinquish. OA held the Warriors to single digits in the second and third quarters, locking down defensively and controlling the glass, to pull out a 54-39 win that keeps them unbeaten in the league and in a first-place tie with Franklin in the Kelley-Rex division.
“These kids have basketball IQs and they’re not afraid to work hard and to be physical,” said OA coach Laney Clement-Holbrook. “I was just so proud of their effort and it didn’t come from just one player. The depth is really significant for us. They’re better now at recognizing where our strengths are.”
It was the first loss of the season for the Warriors, who remain a game ahead of North Attleboro in the Davenport division, and a reminder of the way they have to play in order to have success this season.
“We think we’re better than we are,” said Foxboro coach Lisa Downs. “We can be very good but we need to do the little things that we’ve done so far and tonight we kind of forgot those things.”
Foxboro got off to a strong start. Lizzy Davis (11 points, five rebounds, four steals) was everywhere in the first quarter. She scored six points, burying a corner three and scoring in traffic on an inbounds play, and took a pair of charges. Katelyn Mollica drilled a three to make it 12-5 and it looked like the Warriors would have a comfortable edge after one.
Then Peper blocked Davis’ three and turned into three points on the other end of the floor. The momentum from that play carried over after the timeout.
Peper (game-high 14 points) sliced through the defense for a layup. After a couple of free throws, Flynn snagged an offensive board and swung it around to Peper for a quick-release three that put OA on top 17-16. Shakirah Ketant (11 points) answered on the other end to regain the lead, but it would be the last lead of the night for the visitors.
“All of a sudden we were just playing hectic basketball and no one was relaxed,” Downs explained. “When they got the ball everyone was trying to do their own thing.”
Jess Erlich (10 points) hit four straight at the line to put the Tigers in front again, Hailey Bourne (seven points) drove to the cup for two, and then Peper buried her third shot from downtown to put OA ahead 26-19. Flynn assisted on a Erlich layup and then Bourne set up Tate Hadges (nine rebounds) for a basket in the post.
Leading by 10 at the break (30-20), Clement-Holbrook urged her team to keep its foot on the gas. “Coming out in the third quarter, just maintaining that defensive intensity,” she explained. “I wasn’t comfortable until the final buzzer went off because you can’t not play defense against Foxboro for the whole 32 minutes.”
Bourne scored on a drive and Erlich knocked down a corner jumper off a Flynn assist to get OA right back into the swing of things in the third. Peper’s fourth three of the night put OA up 40-22. After Jordyn Collins got a steal and layup and Yara Fawaz scored in the paint, it looked like Foxboro might have a comeback in it but Flynn grabbed an offensive board and scored to make it a 16-point game after three.
Downs admitted, “We got killed on the boards, which is something that we’ve been priding ourselves on, crashing the board offensively and getting defensive rebounds, and we didn’t do that.”
The offense was working well for the Tigers, but the story was the defensive effort that OA put into stopping Mollica. One of the league’s leading scorers, she was held to just six points and one made field goal. The combination of Bourne and Erin Holmberg never allowed Mollica the time or the space to get off her shot or get Foxboro into its sets.
“Hailey did an amazing job on Mollica and then Holmberg went in and there was not a single drop-off defensively,” said Clement-Holbrook. “[Erin] was amazing and this was the first chance for her to be a factor and knowing what she’s been through it’s just an example for everybody.”
Foxboro never really made a dent in the OA lead in the fourth, only getting as close as 13, after an Abby Hassman steal led to a layup for Davis and then her own drive to the basket made it 52-39. Flynn added four points in the quarter, as did Meg Holleran, and the Tigers comfortably finished the game off.
Oliver Ames (6-1, 5-0) will be back in action again on Friday when it travels to Mansfield. Foxboro (5-1, 4-1) will be on the road again, when the Warriors pay their first visit to the new Stoughton gym.