ATTLEBORO, Mass. – In the first round of last year’s Div. 1 South tournament, Attleboro faced Needham just a week after beating the Rockets for the second time in the season. Trying to beat the same opponent for the third time proved too much, as the Needham went on the road and upset Attleboro.
Less than a week after beating Durfee for the second time this season, Attleboro opened this year’s tournament with a third game against the Hilltoppers. Junior forward Sarah Deyo admitted that the Needham game was on her mind as she prepared for Tuesday’s match-up.
“I was thinking about it all day,” Deyo said. “I was like, crap last year we played Needham and then we lost to them in the first round and I hope it’s not that result again.”
Deyo almost single-handedly ensured there would be no repeat of last year’s upset. She scored 25 points and dominated the glass, pulling in 17 rebounds, as the Bombardiers held off a second half charge to beat Durfee 57-44 and advance to the sectional quarterfinal.
“That’s Sarah,” said Attleboro coach Rick Patch with a rueful shake of the head. “When you need it, she’s up for it. She was doing a lot of things. She was passing the ball a little bit to get people looks…she just feeds it to everybody else and that’s great.”
Attleboro got off to a slow start, handing Durfee a quick 5-0 lead, but then Deyo started to go to work. She scored off a Sam Pierce assist, followed by a three from Emily Houle, and then managed to corral a loose ball for a layup and score off an offensive rebound. She had seven in the first and finished the quarter with an assist on a jumper by Grace Mayer.
Deyo continued the good work in the second, adding another nine points including a perfect 7-7 from the line (she was 8-9 from the line in the first half but 1-7 in the second). Houle chipped in with five of her 11 points, including a step-back three that was quickly followed by another long-range shot by Fatima McDonald.
Attleboro led 29-19 at the half and things felt like they were falling into place for a comfortable win, but in the third quarter (as they did last Wednesday) the Hilltoppers made a charge. Jordyn Gauvin (team-high 16 points) scored five in the third and a Reagan McDonald jumper got Durfee as close as five points at 37-32.
The Bombardiers needed a spark in the third quarter and were not finding success going through the usual troika of Deyo, Houle, and Pierce, so in stepped senior forward Emma Vlashi.
Another player that missed time this season with injury, Vlashi stepped off the bench and provided instant offense, scoring eight of her 12 points in the quarter. She scored on a layup off a Deyo drop pass then on the break after a Mish Logie steal and assist and capped it off a great touch pass from Pierce across the paint.
“Emma just has that energy when she plays within herself,” said Patch. “She gave us a little bit of a spark when the lead got down to seven, five and jumped it back to 11 just by her offensive rebounding and her finishing near the basket.”
“That was so huge,” added Deyo. “Emma really helped us out; she was the ‘X’ factor. Without her I don’t think we would have had the game that we had.”
Deyo gave the hosts a little momentum heading to the fourth with an offensive rebound at the buzzer that extended the lead to 39-32. Houle followed that with a three on Attleboro’s first possession of the final quarter and Logie added another from the corner a few seconds later.
The lead grew to 11 when Deyo scored plus the foul off an inbounds play, before Vlashi added her final four points to put the Bombardiers ahead 52-39 with time winding down. Deyo capped it with a pair of putbacks, as Attleboro crushed the Hilltoppers on the glass to pull out the win.
“Last game they beat us on the boards both offensively and defensively, so a big aspect of the game was make sure we get the rebounds and don’t let them get second chance points,” said Deyo, who was helped on the glass by Houle with nine rebounds, McDonald with eight and Pierce and Valshi each with seven.
Patch noticed a different attitude for his team in this year’s playoff opener compared to last season against Needham. He explained, “I think the mindset last year was uncertainty…I think the expectation this year is we expect to win.”
He continued, “We always talk about making plays and I think last year they were hopeful and this year they expect to do it.”
The Bombardiers confidence will be put to the test when they host No. 5 seed Wellesley on Thursday night in the Div. 1 South quarterfinal.
Josh Perry can be contacted at JoshPerry@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @Josh_Perry10.