NORTH EASTON, Mass. – On the first possession of the game, freshman Avery Gamble swung the ball around to classmate Kamryn Derba, who drilled a deep three. More than five minutes later, those were the only three points on the board for Oliver Ames in Friday night’s visit of Sharon to the Nixon Gym.
The Tigers would finish the opening quarter with just seven points, been outscored by Sharon star junior forward Jasmine Davis on her own, and trailed by four points.
As has so often been the case down the years, OA looked to the other end of the floor to get its spark on offense. The Tigers turned to a full-court press, ratcheted up the pressure on Sharon’s backcourt to limit touches for Davis, and started to play with greater pace and urgency.
OA went on to score 25 points in the second, took a double-digit lead and was off and running towards a 68-36 victory that got the young Tigers back to .500 in league play.
“Once we started pressing, we started finding more of a rhythm on offense, things started opening up,” first-year OA coach Brittany Engle explained. “We want to start with more defensive intensity anyway, sometimes it’s easier said than done. Changing things up defensively gave them the spark that they needed.”
Following Derba’s game-opening three, Sharon went on a 9-0 run. Carmen Leonardi (eight points and four rebounds) tied the game with a triple and then Davis started to get space in the post. The team’s leading scorer, Davis got started with a nice drive to the left hand, knocked down a baseline jumper, and then a nice move on the left block.
The hosts finally settled down and got a few good possessions, with Katherine Farley providing a nice burst of energy off the bench. The junior forward grabbed an offensive rebound and fed Maddie Homer (seven steals and nine rebounds) for a short jumper. Davis kept momentum with Sharon, grabbing an offensive rebound and going up strong to make it 11-7.
OA would take control of the game in the second. Gamble (team-high 17 points) took a feed from Derba and buried a three that tied the game and Homer followed with a triple from the corner to put the Tigers ahead 16-13. It was a lead that they would never relinquish.
Gamble caught fire in the quarter, finding seams to drive through the lane and get to the rim for left-handed finishes. She had nine points in the second. Kaydance Derba (nine points and two blocks) also found the range from deep, burying a pair from beyond the arc to stretch the defense.
“They’re very good in transition,” Sharon coach Matt DellaBarba said. “They always have been and we wanted to get them out of that. I thought we did a good job in the first half, they made that second quarter run, but overall I thought we did a good job getting our guards back and taking easy baskets away from them. Second half, it got away from us a little bit.”
Davis tried to keep the Eagles in the game, scoring six more in the second. Despite facing constant double and triple teams, she scored 20 points and grabbed 18 rebounds. DellaBarba said, “We’re really missing Rachael Hager. She really frees up Jasmine.”
He continued, “They were playing 2-3 zone and just sticking their bottom three on Jasmine and we were getting some looks from the outside but none of them were really falling. We’ve got to do more on our end to help her out a little bit.”
Once the Tigers got in front, they never let off the gas. Gamble added another six points in the third, including a layup off another Homer steal, and the Derba sisters combined for a trio of three-pointers, as OA did a better job of drawing the defense and getting in-rhythm perimeter looks. Kamryn finished the game with 15 points, six rebounds, and three assists.
Eva Poulton (four points and nine rebounds) got a bucket, as did Tess Letendre and Olivia Landstein, but the Eagles were having a hard time getting the ball into the post to Davis. OA extended its lead to 50-29 after three.
“Our goal was to pressure the guards, make the post-entry pass difficult, deny her so they can’t see her numbers, and then double down in the post if she gets it,” Engle said about the game plan on Davis. “We weren’t aggressive enough denying her, but in the second half we were.”
Freshman Maeve Horsman added six points for OA in the fourth and Brianna Monteiro (four points and six rebounds) turned a steal into a fast-break bucket. Davis got a pair of looks in the paint for the Eagles, but she had only six points in the second half as OA sent multiple defenders at her on every possession.
After a tough start to the season, against a tough schedule that included top ranked teams from Div. 1-3, the defending D2 state champions have won three in a row. Engle saw signs of a turnaround in the loss to Attleboro.
“We executed the game plan better and they bought in,” she said. “We grew in the games that we lost, but it’s kind of demoralizing to not have the end result be what they want it to be. For them to see their growth and now see the results match that growth, I think that’s been really beneficial.”
Oliver Ames (4-6) will try to make it four straight wins with a trip to Taunton on Tuesday, before next week’s showdown with league-leading Foxboro. Sharon (2-10) will try to bounce back with a tough trip to Attleboro.
- Girls Hockey Photos: King Philip vs. Canton - 02/01/2023
- Canton Beats KP to Secure Fourth Straight Hock Title - 02/01/2023
- Girls Basketball Photos: Mansfield vs. King Philip - 01/31/2023