WRENTHAM, Mass. – In a back and forth battle between King Philip and North Attleboro, it was the visiting Rocketeers that landed the biggest blow of the game, rallying over the final five minutes to earn a 55-51 decision over the Warriors.
While the first half was a see-saw type game, featuring four lead changes and four ties, King Philip was in control for the majority of the second half.
The Warriors led by as much as 10 points early in the third quarter only for North to get within four heading into the final frame. The hosts extended their lead to seven with five minutes to go in the game, but KP’s offense went cold from there.
North finished the game on a 12-1 run, rattling off eight straight to take its first lead of the second half with two minutes to go. Big Red tacked on a big three and a key free throw to go up by four in the final minute.
“I thought our kids worked really, really hard,” said North Attleboro head coach Sean Mulkerrins. “In the first half, [King Philip’s] screens were bothering us, which they shouldn’t have. Some guys had some miscommunications, some breakdowns. And then at times, it was giving up open shots. You give KP a lot of credit because they put us in a lot of tough spots but give our kids a lot of credit to finish the game the way they finished and make just enough plays to get out of here with a win.
Rocketeers junior Josh Montague (25 points, four assists) scored on back-to-back drives to open the final quarter, tying the game at 43-43. King Philip responded with a 7-0 run with a bucket from Kyle Layman (14 points, eight rebounds, three assists) down low, a three from Tim Nault (career-high 13 points) and a pair of free throws from Bruce Santillus. King Philip led 50-43 with just over five minutes to play.
That’s when North went on its run. Junior Matt Seavey (six points, five rebounds) converted a putback, junior Jake Petersen scored an easy bucket after a strong drive and dish from Montague, Nate Gonsalves (seven points) came up with a huge steal that led to two points from Montague, and then Gonsalves beat the shot clock buzzer with a deep two, giving the Rocketeers a 51-50 lead with two minutes to play.
King Philip looked to answer but Gonsalves came up with yet another big defensive play, blocking a shot at the free throw line. The Warriors had another chance on the play but couldn’t get their three-point to fall.
Meanwhile, on the other end, Gonsalves wasn’t lacking any confidence when he launched a deep three from straight away, sinking the shot with a minute to go to put North up 54-50.
“Nate’s got a knack for scoring, he’s got pretty good instincts,” Mulkerrins said. “Defensively, he’s like a lot of our guys – a work in progress – but in the fourth he had that steal, that block…so for a kid like him who isn’t naturally gifted on the defensive side of the ball to make defensive plays down the stretch is so important. We know he can make threes, he’s becoming a pretty good consistent big game shooter for us.”
The Warriors missed on the other end but got the ball back with a North turnover. Pharoah Davis (15 points) sank one free throw to get within three. Montague sank a free throw of his own with 13 seconds to play, icing the win for the Rocketeers.
King Philip led 28-24 at the half-time break and came up with a quick 8-2 burst to take its largest lead of the game. A strong move from Davis, a jumper from Nault, a nice post move from Layman and a layup from Davis helped the Warriors build a 36-26 lead.
But Montague spearheaded an 11-3 run from the visitors, hitting a pair of threes in the stretch while both Ethan Friberg and Seavey scored down low to bring North within two at 39-37.
“We’ve been trying to add a little bit of ball screen to our offense and I thought, on short notice, the guys did a pretty good job of getting pretty good looks,” Mulkerrins said. “[Josh] has that ability to get by most defenders in one-on-one, but its a matter of his ability to make the right read. Tonight I thought he did a better job of getting into that second level and finishing so a lot of credit to him.”
North Attleboro built an early 9-5 lead but five straight from Davis put the hosts in front. Junior Owen Nassaney (seven points) came off the bench and scored four straight of his own to give the Rocketeers the 13-10 edge after one.
Nassaney started the second quarter with a bang. Gonsalves came up with a steal, tossing it ahead to Nassaney for a two-handed dunk while being fouled. He made the free throw for a 16-10 lead.
“Owen’s someone I have to give a lot of credit to tonight He’s had a lot of good practices over the past week, week and a half,” Mulkerrins said. “And it’d be really easy for a kid in his situation, not playing a lot and watching his junior classmates play a lot, to just mail it in. To his credit, he’s stayed hungry. We’ve talked a lot as a team about being ready, being in the moment and he’s a great example of a kid caring about the team more than himself. He had a fantastic two days of practice and then it carried it over to tonight.”
King Philip responded with an 8-2 run of its own with two from Layman, a free throw from Tom Madden, a bucket from Davis, a triple from Nault and another layup from Davis for a 20-18 lead.
Montague tied the game at 20-20 but King Philip won the final tow minutes 8-4, including threes from Nault and Nolan Bradley.
The Warriors won the rebounding battle (30-27) but had 14 turnovers and shot 38% from the field.
“We seemed to play scared, we seemed to tighten up a little bit,” said KP head coach Mark Champagne. “It’s a little bit of a broken record a bit. Tim [Nault] played well for us, that was the best game he’s played. It was more minutes than he’s played, and he was solid for us. But overall, it’s just been frustrating.”
North Attleboro boys basketball (5-6 Hockomock, 7-6 overall) is back in action on Friday when it resumes play against division foes with a road trip to Canton at 5:00. King Philip (2-9, 2-11) will try to snap its current skip when it hosts Attleboro on Friday at 7:00.