LOWELL, Mass. – As the final seconds wound down in Saturday night’s Div. 2 state championship game at the Tsongas Center on the campus of UMass Lowell, Foxboro junior guard Camryn Collins was forced to watch the action from the bench. The Hockomock League MVP fouled out midway through the fourth quarter, but she watched her teammates step in and step up to close out the victory.
“It was a little weird,” Collins admitted when asked about having to be on the bench, “but I had full confidence that they were going to do whatever Lisa wanted them to do. During the season we had a lot of games that we would come out for a good lead, so I think it was just a matter of saving the lead and playing how we know how to play.”
While the focus will always be on Foxboro’s three leading scorers, the Warriors got a total team effort on both ends of the court in the final, leading by double figures for almost the entire second half and running away with a 73-53 victory. It is the program’s fourth state title and third in the past six years.
“It just never felt comfortable, but we dug in,” Foxboro coach Lisa Downs said. “Everyone contributed and that’s kind of been a theme all season. It’s always been team over me and, honestly, that wasn’t from me that was all them. It was just an awesome team to coach this season.”
Collins added, “Our coach always says, play Warrior ball, so we just come out here, you may not always see it on the court but we’re always working behind the scenes. I can always depend on what they can do.”
It was a fast-paced start to the game, with both teams knocking down big shots and racing up and down the floor. All the attention was on Collins guarding Dracut’s dynamic scorer Ashlee Talbot (28 points), but it was Emma Felker that gave the Middies an early boost. The center buried a corner three and had nine of the team’s first 13 points.
Collins (15 points and three assists) had four early points, including two off a stolen inbounds pass, but also picked up two fouls. Ava Hill came off the bench and gave the Warriors a huge lift. She drilled a three and then went hard to the basket for a transition layup that made it 16-13.
Kailey Sullivan (18 points and three assists) nailed the first of her four threes to extend the lead to six, but Talbot finally got going with a pull-up jumper and a pair at the line. Collins found Sullivan on a nice backdoor cut to close out the first with a 21-17 lead.
After the early foul trouble for Collins, Erin Foley picked up Talbot to start the second. Foley only scored three points (all at the line) but she dished out six assists and did her best to close off driving lanes and force Talbot into long-range efforts.
Sullivan buried a three and freshman Kylie Sampson came off the bench and hit one after a good kick-out by center Addie Ruter (18 points and 15 rebounds). Talbot answered with a three that cut the lead to 29-24, but Hill knocked down a jumper and Sullivan was on target from distance again to push the lead to 10 for the first time.
After Talbot hit a pair at the line, Hill sent Foxboro into the locker room up 36-26 with another baseline jumper. She had nine of her 11 points in the first half.
“She has that capability on any given night,” Downs said about Hill. “She was helping on defense the way that we had been practicing all week, she was hitting those key shots, and she was being strong with the ball. She was the dynamic player we needed tonight.”
Felker hit a three early in the third quarter that made it 38-29, but that would be as close as the Middies would get in the second half. Collins made up for lost time in the third quarter, taking the ball to the rim and knocking down her lone three of the night. She scored nine points in the frame to help Foxboro start to pull away with an 11-0 run.
She also had plenty of help. Ruter twice scored by crashing the offensive glass, spinning one shot just over the rim and through, and also took a nice pass from Collins for a finish at the rim. Isabelle Chamberlin (four points and six rebounds) also got in the act, swishing a rare elbow jumper.
“Everybody has a role on this team,” Collins explained. “So if Kailey and I come down and hit shots, if we come down and get it into Addie in the paint then she’s going to hit those shots, because we can depend on each other for that.”
Collins slid baseline for a reverse layup and Sullivan hit another from deep and Foxboro led by as many as 23. Talbot would score five points to cut the gap down to 20 heading to the fourth.
Over the final eight minutes, the game felt like it was still in the balance because of Dracut’s ability to score in bunches, but in truth the Warriors never really lost control of the outcome. Dracut never got closer than 13 points.
“I feel like the third quarter was when we made that explosion offensively, but it never felt safe,” Downs said. “Ashlee Talbot can shoot lights out at any time and then she can dish if we help off of people.”
Ruter started the quarter with a short jumper and Chamberlin got a bucket to push the lead to 63-43. Talbot was doing her best to keep the Middies alive with a couple of deep threes and Brodie Gannon hit a corner three that made it 68-53 with 2:13 to play. Foxboro was relying on its free throw shooting to put the game away, going 11-of-19 at the line in the fourth.
Even as Collins sat the final four minutes and Sullivan was forced to the bench late in the quarter with an injury, the result was never seriously in doubt. Ruter capped off her impressive playoff run with another put-back in the closing minute, and by then the party had started on the bench and in the stands.
The state championship trophy was heading back to Foxboro (24-1).
“It’s so awesome,” Collins said, still clutching the trophy. “I’m so blessed to be here with these girls who are so deserving. We’ve been talking about this since summer league, so we’re just so glad that we can come out on the court and execute and win. It’s awesome.”
When the team’s relative inexperience (no seniors in the regular rotation) is mentioned, Downs responded, “It’s amazing. They play like they’ve been here before and none of them have. If you were looking at the roster, you’d see a whole bunch of sophomores and junior but you’d never have known that if you see them on the court.”