NORTH EASTON, Mass. – Oliver Ames was struggling to start the fourth quarter, having made only one shot from the field and scored three points in nearly four minutes. Defensively, the Tigers had held Needham to only one made field goal and just five points so trailed by only one when Kayla Raymond rose up and drained her second three of the game.
OA, which led 35-34 heading into the final eight minutes, grabbed hold of a 41-39 lead with Raymond’s three and seemingly had also grabbed the momentum in Wednesday afternoon’s opener of the annual Sue Rivard Tournament at the William F. Nixon Gym.
Unfortunately for the Tigers that would be their final made shot. Needham closed out the fourth quarter with an 11-1 run to turn things around and came away with a 50-42 victory that sends the Rockets to Thursday’s final against another Bay State Conference team, Walpole (which beat Brockton earlier in the day).
“In the fourth quarter we just disappeared, said OA coach Elaine Clement-Holbrook. “They’ve got to come of age and learn to play the whole game at the same level of intensity. They need to learn play within themselves and not try to do something not in their wheelhouse.”
Needham started the fourth with a three by sophomore Kiara McIntyre, who came off the bench to score a game-high 19 points, which put the Rockets up 37-35. Raymond (18 points and 14 rebounds) finished in transition off an Abby Reardon assist to tie the game. After a series of free throws, Raymond drilled a shot from the outside for OA’s final lead of the night.
McIntyre forced a turnover in the backcourt and fed freshman Caroline Klemm for a layup to tie it. McIntyre then drove to the basket to put Needham in front to stay and Marianna Jantzen (14 points) added a scooped finish before another Klemm layup and then two free throws pushed the lead to eight inside the final minute.
The Tigers would finish with only seven points in the fourth quarter.
“It came down to turnovers,” explained Clement-Holbrook, but the other thing that did not help us was that our defense was so inconsistent and gave them a lot of chances. From an offensive standpoint, our shooting percentage was abysmal.”
OA took the lead from the start of the game, ahead 12-8 after the first quarter. The Tigers added an 8-3 run to close out the first half with a four-point edge going into the break.
Tate Hadges hit a jumper off a Caroline Flynn assist, Raymond scored on an offensive rebound, and Alex Sheldon (eight points) scored at the rim to make it 22-21. OA got one last possession in the second quarter and Flynn banked home a 30-foot three-pointer to make it 25-21 at halftime.
The lead could have been much larger for the hosts. OA dominated on the glass with five players having at least five rebounds in the first half alone. Raymond led the way with 14 rebounds, but Sheldon (12 rebounds), Caroline Flynn (eight rebounds), and Katie Flynn (seven rebounds) also chipped in to keep possessions alive and keep the Rockets off the boards.
Unfortunately for OA, the good looks it was creating from its offensive sets and the extra looks it was getting from its advantage on the glass went to waste.
“I was looking at the shooting chart from the first half and you look at how many shots we missed…the bottom line is that if you get the ball under the basket then you have to finish and they did not finish,” said Clement-Holbrook, who estimated that the Tigers missed 50 shots in the game.
In the third quarter, Needham chipped into the lead with McIntyre and Jantzen combining for 11 points in the quarter. Raymond scored four points in the third and Meg Holleran drilled a three but the Tigers lead was down to one heading into the fourth.
As the lead got tighter, so did the Tigers. Clement-Holbrook noted, “I think they started to get into panic mode and they started to force things. We understood there were going to be double teams and we did not handle it well. We tried dribbling through things that were not there.”
It is OA’s first loss of the year and Clement-Holbrook hopes this will be an early season lesson for the Tigers. She said, “Hopefully we can recognize where we made our mistakes so we can come back better.”
Oliver Ames (3-1, 3-0) will play Brockton in the consolation game of the Rivard Tournament on Thursday evening.