Following a free throw by Emma Reilly put Attleboro up one with less than 20 seconds to play at the Albertini Gym, the Hornets got the ball on the side with three-quarters of the court to go. The play was designed to get the ball into the hands of sophomore Abby Wager and the athletic guard was supposed to drive and get to the rim.
The play worked exactly as planned.
Wager beat her defender, got to the basket for a layup with eight seconds to play, and put Mansfield ahead by one. When Reilly’s last-second three bounced off the rim, the Hornets celebrated a 54-53 victory.
“She just made me look like a hell of a coach because that’s what we wrote up. She made us look good,” McPherson said of Wager, who finished with a team-high 14 points and four steals and impacted the game on both ends of the court down the stretch.
Attleboro coach Marty Crowley added, “They made one more play than we did. I’m very proud of our effort. The kids we had (Lindsey and Hailey Perry were out for the game) played hard tonight and it came down to one play. It was a typical Mansfield/Attleboro game.”
The Bombardiers stunned the home crowd by dominating the first quarter and holding Mansfield, which scored 39 in the first half against North Attleboro over the weekend, to just one made field goal and three points. Attleboro’s quickness and length made it tough for Mansfield to run its sets.
On the other end, the Bombardiers were moving the ball to get good looks. Gabby Bosh (nine points and four steals) started the game with a theft and a layup, Reilly (13 points) drove for two, Meghan Gordon (game-high 16 points and 11 rebounds) banked in a jumper, and freshman Narissa Smith drained a deep three.
It certainly didn’t look like a game that was going to come down to the wire, as Mansfield trailed 15-3, but the Hornets turned the game around in the second.
Anna Darlington proved to be a spark off the bench, scoring only two points but grabbing four steals and slowing down Smith. McPherson said of Darlington’s impact, “She crushed it. Smith is very athletic, so quick, and Anna shut her down.”
Trailing 20-10, Ashley Santos (14 points and 10 rebounds) scored six straight points to get Mansfield right back into the game. The Hornets were starting to pass the ball well and break the press. Darlington scored on a putback and Wager drove to the basket to make it a two-point game.
Reilly answered with a pull-up jumper to put stem the tide, but Olivia Salisbury banked in her only points of the game and Kara Santos banked in a short jumper to send the teams into the break tied 24-24.
“They’re so athletic,” McPherson said about Attleboro, “but we just talked about playing good defense and getting those stops and playing a simple game. I think the big difference offensively was that one more pass. We weren’t hitting it in the first quarter and then it slowly started to come together.”
Both teams came out firing to start the second half, combining for 35 points in the third quarter. Kayla Vine (seven points) drilled a three off an Ally Prentis pass put the Hornets ahead for the first time in the game, 29-28.
Attleboro answered right back. Gordon rose above everyone for an impressive putback that made it 34-31. After a step-back three by Smith (six points and three assists), the Bombardiers were up 42-35 and threatening to pull away again. Mansfield closed the quarter on a 6-0 run, including a Vine basket in the dying seconds to make it a one-point game heading to the fourth.
Neither team could grab more than a five-point lead in the final eight minutes. A tough finish in traffic by Kayla Goldrick, who absorbed the contact and still got the ball to the rim, made it 47-43 for Attleboro.
Crowley said, “Our kids kept our composure tonight. We fought hard right to the end. It’s tough when someone makes a run on you like that, puts up 21 points in a quarter, which isn’t typical of our defense.”
Ashley Santos started to take over offensively, while Wager made plays on the defensive end. Santos knocked down a jumper then converted a Wager steal and long outlet into a three-point play that put the Hornets up 48-47 with 3:45 on the clock.
McPherson said, “Ashley was big. We’re kind of looking for her to get her momentum and she needed a game like this. She runs the floor well, she sees the floor, and that’s what we’ve been trying to do.”
Wager then got another steal and assist on a Vine layup and blocked a Smith layup attempt, winning the ball back for the Hornets. Sarah Dooling (six points) scored with a drive to make it 52-47.
After a timeout, Attleboro settled down and got back into it. Gordon made two at the line and then stepped back to drill a three right in front of the bench that tied the game at 52 with 1:39 to play.
“That’s the thing about this team, any night it’s a different person,” said Crowley. “Meg hit some shots, Narissa made some big threes, Emma played very well again tonight. I feel for the kids because they work so hard but in less than two days we’re back at it again.”
With the clock winding down, Reilly went to the line and put Attleboro ahead, but Mansfield had one more chance and took advantage.