The Tigers grabbed a rebound and had a chance to make it a one-possession game, but a turnover led to an and-one and on the next possession the ball swung from Lauren Flahive out to junior Lily Sykes, who drilled the fourth of her five threes on the night to push the lead back to 10 heading into the fourth.
Sykes finished with a game-high 19 points and hit half of Foxboro’s 10 three-pointers, as the Warriors pulled away in the fourth for a 51-35 victory over OA that moves the hosts within a game of division-leading North Attleboro.
“She’s another one who’s been stepping up for us pretty consistently,” said Foxboro coach Lisa Downs of Sykes. “When the pressure is on Ashley [Sampson], [Lily] is able to step up and take those shots. That’s huge for us and it opens up things for Ashley too.”
While OA did not struggle offensively to the same level as last week’s loss to Mansfield (the Tigers scored more in the first half on Thursday then they did in the entire game against the Hornets), the Foxboro full-court press and aggressive half-court defense had the Tigers off-balance.
Kayla Raymond (11 points, six rebounds) started the game with a three and Hannah Carroll knocked one down for a 6-3 lead, but the Warriors went on an 8-0 run to a lead they would never relinquish. Kristen Bortolotti (nine points) buried one of her three shots from beyond the arc to tie it, Sampson fed Sykes for her second from outside, and then Sampson (13 points, 10 rebounds) scored off a steal.
Niyera Mitchell hit a jumper and Raymond scored on a rebound putback to cut the lead to four after one, but again Foxboro put together a 10-0 run to break the game open. Sykes knocked down another three, scored on a reverse, and Bortolotti buried a three off a feed from Grace Tamulionis.
Meanwhile, the OA offense was stagnating. Sadie Homer (seven points) hit a three and Raymond got out on the break for a layup to get back into the game but the Tigers struggled to find consistent looks. Riley Collins closed out the half with a corner three to put the Warriors ahead 27-18 at halftime.
“We just couldn’t score,” said Laney Clement-Holbrook. “We made bad decisions and we just couldn’t score. We need to figure this out because we didn’t rebound…Our bread and butter is getting out to run and if you’re not willing to rebound then it’s hard to run.”
The Warriors are regularly out-rebounded and the Tigers had a significant edge in size, but Foxboro was holding its own on the boards and at times dominating the glass. Flahive came off the bench and grabbed eight boards, Tamulionis and Sykes each snagged six, and Sampson grabbed 10.
“Because we don’t have the height,” Downs explained, “we need to work our butts off inside the paint. Once we start facing the taller teams, the stronger teams, that’s going to be huge for us because we can run the ball, we play great defense but if we don’t rebound then we can’t get our offensive game going.”
Bortolotti started the second half with another three and Collins answered an Abby Reardon jumper with an offensive rebound basket. Trailing by 11 the Tigers finally started to click. Mitchell kicked out a pass to Carroll (six points) for a three and then fed Brenna Burkett for a layup before snatching an offensive rebound and going up strong for a basket.
Just when it seemed like the game might be turning towards OA, a turnover handed the ball to Sampson for a layup plus the foul. Foxboro then broke quickly off a rebound and the ball was kicked out to Sykes, who stole any momentum that the Tigers may have built with another long-range shot.
“We got it close, down to four, and then we fell asleep,” said Clement-Holbrook. “It’s been this problem all season long in terms of playing four consistent quarters and it’s just….[shrugs].”
Downs was proud of her team for withstanding the run and turning it back around. She said, “They righted the ship without me having to call a timeout. They were able to settle themselves down on the court, which is something we didn’t do against North Attleboro (in a 53-47 loss).
“Tonight, they settled themselves down and it wasn’t crazy Coach Downs over here. They were able to just relax a little bit and keep their composure.”
Foxboro extended the run to 13-0 with the first seven points of the fourth quarter to effectively put the game away. Sykes scored five more in the run, picking up the scoring for Sampson who was being pressured by Homer.
“That’s going to happen because you’re helping off of someone and they have the game of the century,” said Clement-Holbrook of Sykes. She added, “Sadie did a great job on [Ashley]. If we could have everyone playing with that kind of heart and soul then things would be different.”
Foxboro (8-2, 7-2) will play at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence on Sunday against Milford, while Oliver Ames (8-4, 7-3), which is now 1-1/2 games behind Mansfield in the Kelley-Rex, will be off until Tuesday against Canton.
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