The Milford boys basketball team is accomplishing just that.
The Hawks dominated the second half, allowing just three points in the fourth quarter to earn a 46-31 win over Dedham in the Scarlet Hawk Classic Championship. It marked Milford’s sixth straight win to close the regular season.
“Our defense was just fantastic,” said Milford head coach Paul Seaver of what changed in the second half. “I don’t know how many points they had in the fourth quarter but I know they had 22 at halftime and only 31 to end the game. That’s what changed down the stretch…our defense was that good when it mattered the most.”
Beyond allowing just three points in the fourth, the Hawks allowed a total of just nine points in the entire second half.
“We talked all season about getting to the point of playing our best basketball when it matters the most down the stretch,” Seaver said. “We’ve said it since December. It’s been a process, we lost games we know we could have won. It took a good chunk of the season for us to get to the point where our confidence led to results. We have a lot of momentum going into the tournament.”
Points were at a premium in the first half. A late putback in the final minute from Milford senior Andrew Fraioli (nine points, eight rebounds) had the Hawks ahead 10-8 after eight minutes of play.
Neither offense got in gear in the second quarter either. The teams went back and forth, having ties at 10, 12, 14, 16, 18 and 20.
Junior Brendan White (10 rebounds) scored six of his game-high 13 points in the quarter while both Shane Cosquete (12 points) and Fraioli each had two to keep pace with the Marauders. Dedham’s Brian Tavares hit a midrange floater late to give the visitors a 22-20 lead at halftime.
“I credit Dedham’s defense,” Seaver said. “I thought they did a very good job playing tough, playing physical. It took us a while for us to get any offensive flow. Even when we did get to that point, it was a couple of guys hitting a couple of big shots that kind of opened things up for us. Usually, it’s good defense that fuels offense and that was the case in the second half.”
Dedham extended its lead to 26-22 at the midway point of the third quarter, but the Hawks finally got the momentum boost it needed. Senior Zach Tamarro took a feed from Cosquete and drained a three, Milford’s first triple since senior Matt Nickerson hit one early in the first quarter.
That three sparked what turned into a 10-2 run for the Hawks over the final 3:16 of the third quarter.
Kayden Kelley (13 rebounds) grabbed an offensive rebound and converted a putback to give Milford a 27-26 lead. Two possessions later, after Dedham regained the lead, Tammaro made the extra pass to White for a three-pointer. White scored on a nice cut to the basket, giving Milford a 32-28 edge heading into the fourth.
Free throws from Cosquete and Fraioli were answered by two free throws from Dedham’s Michael Mansour. Holding a 36-30 lead with five minutes to play, the Hawks put the game to bed with a 10-1 run to end the game.
Tamarro dropped in a floater after a nice shot fake, Cosquete drained a three right before the shot clock buzzer and Fraioli scored down low on a feed from Cosquete. Cosquete put an exclamation point on the win with another triple late in the shot clock.
Milford boys basketball (12-8) will now await the tournament seeds, which will be released on Friday. The Hawks could be the third, fourth, or fifth seed based on results posted online. Milford will likely be in a tiebreaker with Grafton and Medfield, with names drawn out of a hat to break the tie. If the Hawks get the third or fourth seed, they will have a home game. The win over Dedham secured the Hawks would be in the three-way tiebreaker.
“We talked about getting a home game. We’ve been following along with everything over the past couple of weeks,” Seaver said. “We have a two-out-of-three shot to get a home game. It was a goal of this team and they did it, they put themselves in position. Now we have to get better at practice and be ready for wherever we play.”
FOXBORO, Mass. – The rain had picked up on Friday afternoon, as Foxboro took the field for the top of the seventh inning trying to hold onto a three-run lead against Dedham, which was ranked No. 15 in the state by one publication.
Warriors starter Aaron Wentling was back on the hill to try and finish off a complete game. The first batter lined out to center, but the second hitter’s line drive to short was dropped and then stole second. Matt Dunn singled to center to plate the Marauders’ fifth run.
Dunn moved to second on a wild pitch but with the tying run at the plate, Wentling reared back and picked up his eighth strikeout to put the Warriors one out from the postseason. He walked Dedham lead-off hitter Jack Powers, but came right back with his final strikeout of the night to end it and give the Foxboro program a moment of celebration.
“You kind of wait for that day in the season when your team puts it together,” said Foxboro coach Chris Sullivan, who had to pause in his interview to be doused with water by his players.
“A lot of these guys have worked for years, a lot of the guys have been on the varsity team since they were freshmen and sophomores…this is the culmination of all that work to beat a really good team and get into the playoffs at the same time.”
Wentling has been the team’s ace since an early season injury to Justin Garcia. In fact, Foxboro is dealing with injuries to a number of its starters, but in the pressure moment Sullivan knew that he could count on the junior.
“He’s made some, 15-20, big, big pitches in big spots this year,” said Sullivan. “I think he’s got four of our six wins this year.
“That last pitch – that kid is hitting. 500 and is one of the best hitters in the Bay State Conference and he throws one of his best splitters of the day.”
He struck out the side in the second inning, during a stretch of four strikeouts in five hitters, but the Marauders jumped in front in the third with an unearned run. Foxboro responded in the bottom of the inning and took control.
Ethan Butt led-off with a single to left off Dedham starter Jason Leonard. A.J. Bubencik followed with a grounder to second and the attempt to get the lead runner was late to put two on with no outs. Lead-off hitter Nick Wright singled in the tying run with a shot to right, starting a string of three straight hitters with an RBI.
Jesse Galanti lined out to right and Bubencik came in to score on the sac fly when the ball skipped through the catcher’s legs. Darren Kelly drove in his first run of the night with another sac fly to empty the bases and make it 3-1.
A.J. Cavossa continued the inning with a two-out triple to center and Wentling helped his own cause with an RBI double (after the centerfielder slipped on the wet turf). Chad Bearce made it two doubles in a row with a shot to the gap, scoring pinch runner Alex DuBrow and giving Foxboro a 5-1 advantage.
Wentling allowed a single and hit a batter to start the fourth, but his defense helped him keep away from a big inning. First Cam Feldman made a sliding catch in the right-center gap for the first out and, after a single by Jack Powers brought in one run and a pop up to second brought the second out, Bubencik ended the inning with a great diving catch down the leftfield line.
“Those are two of the hardest workers on the team and it shows,” said Sullivan. “Those are, I call them the 50-50 plays, where a good player makes them and an average player doesn’t. We weren’t making those in the beginning of the season.”
Dedham got one back in the fourth, but Foxboro tacked on two insurance runs in the bottom half. With two outs Wright had an infield single to the second baseman and stole second. Galanti walked and then Kelly lined a double just out of the reach of the centerfielder to bring in both runners and provide the eventual winning runs.
“I still can’t figure out how he hits like he does,” said Sullivan with a laugh about Kelly, who is one of the team leaders at the plate. “That’s what we’ve not done in years past is get that extra little insurance run and we’re starting to get that now.”
The Marauders got one in the fifth and one in the sixth to cut the lead to three heading to the seventh. Wentling stuck with it, despite another unearned run, and was able to pull out the win for the Warriors and, with a game against Carver to spare, clinched Foxboro’s spot in the playoffs.
“Now we can spend the next two weeks getting healthy and getting lined up for the tournament,” said Sullivan, who joked that the Warriors had not won two games in a row in a couple of seasons.
“These guys deserve all the credit in the world. They’ve worked hard everyday, met challenges every day. We’re at that point where we’re playing with that confidence and we know we can go out and take a game now.”
Foxboro (6-8, 4-7) will travel to Stoughton on Monday afternoon.
Josh Perry can be contacted at JoshPerry@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @Josh_Perry10.