ATTLEBORO, Mass. – Over the past couple of games, Foxboro has been able to turn to some of its supporting cast for big nights. Lily Sykes scored 19 in the win over Oliver Ames and on Sunday at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center it was Grace Tamulionis who stepped up with a career-high 20 points to beat Sharon.
On Wednesday night at Attleboro, the now league-leading Warriors were able to turn to star Ashley Sampson. Not only did the junior guard scored a game-high 27 points and snag seven steals, but she also took turns guarding Bombardiers star forward Sarah Deyo. It was the kind of all-around performance that head coach Lisa Downs has been counting on from Sampson.
“She was a leader on the court tonight, which is what I’ve been asking of her pretty much from day one,” Downs explained. “She took control of the offensive end and she had the tough defensive matchup…so it wasn’t like she got to take a rest on the defensive end.”
Sampson’s big night helped Foxboro pull out a 58-46 victory over the Bombardiers and keep the Warriors in a first place tie with North Attleboro atop the Davenport division standings. Meanwhile, the defeat dropped Attleboro two games behind Mansfield in the Kelley-Rex.
“It all comes with preparation and we’re not preparing ourselves well enough for a team that’s aggressive and fast like that,” said Attleboro coach Rick Patch. “When you get off to a slow start and get down a little bit, it’s hard to come back against a team like that.”
After the game, Downs called the first half defensive performance by the Warriors as their best of the season. Foxboro used its team speed, depth, and versatility to stymie the Bombardiers. The Warriors held Attleboro to just 17 points as a team in the half and held Samantha Pierce and Julia Strachan scoreless over the opening 16 minutes of play.
Downs added, “That was the key. We had to keep fresh legs on Strachan and they did a fantastic job holding her to zero points in the first half and then Deyo is a matchup nightmare, so we had to know whoever we put in there had to be as physical as they can be, which is not always our strong suit.”
Foxboro added Lauren Flahive to the starting lineup on Wednesday, going smaller but adding speed. It paid dividends immediately, as the Warriors used a 13-0 run to break the game open in the first quarter. Sampson scored seven in the first and Kristen Bortolotti added four. Tamulionis (team-high nine rebounds), fresh off her career-high on Sunday, buried a pair from beyond the arc for six of her 12 on the night.
Deyo had four in the first and assisted on a three by Jordyn Lako to close out the quarter but the Bombardiers trailed by 12 points. Deyo, who finished with 15 points an 15 rebounds, added another six points in the second, but she was struggling to get the ball in good positions and four of her five baskets in the first half came from offensive rebounds.
“We go up and down too,” said Patch, ‘and my whole point with [the girls] was push the ball, go to the basket, and get points in the paint. That’s how we beat them last year with all our kids down and this year it was the game plan but it just wasn’t happening.”
Sampson buried a three off a Shannon Smally kick out and then stole the ball from Deyo, who was also bringing the ball up the court at times, and went in for a layup. Sykes (10 points) drilled a three and it was a 31-17 lead at half for the visitors.
“We knew we had to play our best defense to beat a quality team like Attleboro,” said Downs. “They’re going to fight you tooth and nail every possession, so if you can take care of business on the defensive end and hold their offense lower than they have in recent game then we knew we’d be in decent shape.”
Coming out of halftime, Attleboro started to pick up the pace and tried to cut into the lead, scoring as many points in the third as it had in the entire first half. Deyo twice got the ball at the rim for easy baskets, Grace Mayer (five points) buried a corner three, and Pierce (eight points) finally got going with four in the quarter.
Foxboro held onto a double digit lead through the third thanks to eight more points by Sampson, including a baseline drive to the basket plus the foul that pushed the lead to as many as 17 points. Bortlotti (seven points) ended a mini-run by the Bombardiers to give Foxboro a 47-34 lead heading to the fourth.
Attleboro gave the Warriors a scare in the fourth by scoring the opening eight points to cut the lead down to as little as five. Pierce had four of those points and Lako scored in transition from a Mish Logie assist. The home crowd was making noise and the bench was fired up, but the Warriors forced a pair of turnovers and took back control.
After Sykes knocked down a couple of free throws, Sampson took the ball baseline and got to the rim and then on the next possession again got into the heart of the Attleboro defense for another layup that put Foxboro ahead 53-42. Sykes closed out the game going 5-of-8 from the line.
“We just lost our poise, had two or three turnovers that resulted in two baskets on the other end that made it 11 and it’s hard to overcome that,” Patch said. “It’s definitely discouraging but we’ve got to get better preparation.”
This was a big win for Foxboro to stay level with the Rocketeers, which beat King Philip earlier in the night.
Downs said, “It was huge. Before tonight we were tied with North but head-to-head they were one up on us, so we knew we had to win this game. It was a big one.”