For the second straight game, the Eagles scored 22 points in the first quarter to establish a double-digit lead that it never relinquished for the remainder of the game.
Despite holding just a one-point edge over the final three quarters, Sharon secured a comfortable 71-53 win over visiting King Philip after a near-flawless start.
“Besides Saturday we really hadn’t been starting well this season so we knew we had to jump on them,” said Sharon head coach Andrew Ferguson. “We were a little worried there would be a little bit of a let down after Saturday so I was glad to see they had that energy right from the top.”
The Eagles sliced through the Warriors’ defense early and often, hitting its first six field goals from inside the three-point line (8-for-12 from two-point in the first quarter). Ryan Zunenshine (nine points) and John Baez (four points, 10 assists) each had a pair of layups, sophomore Nate Katznelson attacked the rim for two, and Matt Baur converted a putback to get the offense going.
Senior Will Hippler and sophomore Jacob McLoughlin each added a three, Donyae Pierre (10 rebounds) converted a putback, and Tyler Goodman scored on a breakaway just before the buzzer after a steal from Baur (game-high 19 points, three rebounds).
On the other hand, King Philip tried to spark its offense from three-point range but was unable to hit on eight attempts over the first eight minutes.
The result was a 22-5 advantage for the hosts, a lead that eventually peaked at 24 points in the third quarter and shrunk to as few as 13 points in the fourth, but never went below double-figures to keep the Eagles in front from start to finish.
“That was obviously the difference in the game, they came out and punched us in the face right away,” said King Philip head coach Dave DeStefano. “We did not do a good job responding to it. I think we need to figure out who we are defensively, figure out our identity right now. We’re just too lackadaisical and just expecting the next guy to make a play so we have to figure it out as a team.”
It was relatively even the rest of the way. Sharon put up another 20 points in the second quarter but King Philip’s offense got going with 16 points, despite another quarter without hitting a three.
King Philip had some momentum coming out of half as senior Danny Clancy (four points, 10 rebounds) laid it in for two on a second chance opportunity after Braeden Sottile wrestled his way to an offensive rebound. The Warriors then forced back-to-back turnovers, the first leading to a layup from Sottile on a feed from Will Laplante (nine points, three rebounds, three assists), and the second two free throws from Sottile (13 points, six rebounds).
Sharon was quick to answer on a nice drive from Zunenshine, and after getting a stop, Katznelson (14 points, six rebounds, two blocks) scored through contact for two more. Baez then grabbed two quick assists, first feeding Katznelson down low and then taking advantage of a KP turnover, hitting Baur in transition for two more.
“Part of the halftime talk was about last night [Stoughton/Canton game] and we’ve been on the other side of games like this before, we came back from 20-points against King Philip a couple of years ago,” Ferguson said. “It’s always in the back of your mind, especially in this league. They had a quick start to the second half but our guys were able to respond.
“We spend 60-70% of practice on defense and I think it’s really starting to bear some fruit this year. John Baez has been unbelievable on the defensive end so far this year and the rest of the team is buying in and especially rebounding the ball. Donyae Pierre came off the bench and grabbed 10 rebounds so when you can get guys to buy into specific roles, your team defense benefits from that.”
Sottile had four points early in the fourth and then a pair of hustle plays from sophomore Trevor Clyde (nine points, four rebounds, three blocks) — first a steal and then an offensive rebound — turned into a three from Sottile and the Warriors capped what turned out to be a 19-8 run over the course of the third quarter and first few minutes of the fourth.
That run cut Sharon’s once 24-point lead down to 13 at 58-45 with just six minutes under to play.
Sharon, which got threes from Zunenshine and Katznelson in the opening quarter, went without a three in the second and third quarters. The Warriors switched to a 2-3 zone and limited the Eagles’ shooting for the most part.
“I think defensively they did a very good job of getting in our face and made us uncomfortable, and we couldn’t get into a groove,” DeStefano said. “They did a good job with our shooters, we didn’t get many clean looks and it forced us to play out of our element a little bit. And they pressured us with some good hard cuts and it seemed like we were a step late each time.
“They got every 50-50 ball, and anytime it felt like we might make a run they seemed to respond with an offensive rebound or coming up with that 50-50 ball and it just killed our momentum.”
But when they needed a big shot, the Eagles got it off the bench as senior Sam Cohen gave the offense a spark with a three on the ensuing possession. After a turnover, Baez notched another assist by finding Jack Bates wide open for another three, and just like that, the lead ballooned to 64-45 with five minutes to play.
“We want everyone to share the ball, if we can turn down a good shot to get a great shot, we want to. We didn’t shoot the ball well [from three] but I thought we took the ball to the basket really well today which was something we hadn’t done well the last couple of games,” Ferguson said. “So seeing that and making that adjustment was huge for us.”
Sharon boys basketball (4-1 Hockomock, 6-1 overall) will look to make it five wins in a row when it hosts Foxboro in a crucial clash of Davenport contenders on Friday night while King Philip (0-3, 1-4) returns home in search of its first league win when it hosts Milford on the same day.
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