The Warriors trailed by four with less than a minute to play in their second meeting against highly touted Coyle & Cassidy.
Senior Ashley Sampson had a steal and a bucket to get within two. After Coyle missed the front end of a one-and-one, senior Lily Sykes drained the go-ahead three with 10 seconds left in the game to give the Warriors a dramatic win.
That comeback told Downs everything she needed to know about her team, and how far her seniors could take the team.
“I had a good feeling we’d get to this point, but what really let me know we would was that second Coyle game, when we won at their gym,” Downs said. “I saw the exact same expression on the girls’ faces that I saw in the timeout. I just looked in their eyes…and I could relax, they calm me down.”
Downs saw the same look in her players eyes on Saturday morning as they rallied from a 10-point halftime deficit, winning the Division 2 State Championship with a 49-41 win over Hopkinton.
Sykes, Sampson and fellow senior Grace Tamulionis spearheaded the comeback. The trio have been making plays for the Warriors since their freshman year, so it’s only fitting they led the way in the state final.
Tamulionis got hot from three in the final quarter, hitting one early to cut the deficit to 31-29, and then draining another to cut Hopkinton’s six-point lead to three (35-32).
Sampson then kept the Warriors in it with some strong takes of her own, coming away with a steal for an easy layup to make it a one point game. When Hopkinton answered on the other end, Sampson drew a foul on a layup and sank both free throws to keep Foxboro within striking distance.
Then it was Sykes turn, sniffing out an inbounds pass to prevent Hopkinton from building its lead. And although Foxboro didn’t score off the steal, the defense continued its strong play and got a big stop. On the other end, Sykes beat her defender and took it strong for a scoop layup.
That bucket gave Foxboro a 38-37 lead with 3:44 to go, their first since leading 2-0 to start the game, and a lead they wouldn’t relinquish the rest of the way.
“It’s the best feeling ever,” Sykes said of winning alongside Sampson and Tamulionis. “They are my best friends even off of the court too. So to win this with them is awesome.”
“It’s the best thing that could ever happen,” Sampson said. “To end the season all together, it doesn’t feel real right now.”
“It means everything,” Tamulionis said. “We’ve been talking about it since freshman year, working towards it and I remember last year at the banquet she (Coach Downs) was like this is our goal this year just get here and to actually do it is…just awesome.”
It marked the second straight game the Warriors had to overcome a double digit deficit. Foxboro rallied from as much as 20-points down in the second half in the state semifinal against Pentucket.
Sampson finished with a team-high 15 points while both Sykes and Tamulionis had 11 points apiece.
“Even if I had a shred of doubt in my mind, it was completely removed when I saw their eyes,” Downs said. “It was a timeout, and I just looked at each of them, and they just knew. It was like ‘Coach, we got this.’ They knew what they needed to do, they knew what they were capable of doing, and we knew we just needed to kick it into high gear.”
After Sykes put the Warriors ahead, freshman Katelyn Mollica drove hard to the basket for a key layup to make it a three-point game.
Sykes came up with another steal, leading to two free throws from Sampson to make it 42-37. After another stop, Sampson returned to hit two more free throws and a 44-37 lead with a minute to go.
“This is incredible,” Sykes said. “I’m almost speechless. But I knew we could rely on the senior leadership. Freshman year we were all together playing on the court together. For us to come all the way here and step up together, it’s just amazing.”
Foxboro finishes the season 26-2.
“It’s bittersweet because I’ll never have another group like this one, they are one of a kind,” Downs said.