ATTLEBORO, Mass. – Throughout the first 10 minutes of Tuesday night’s rivalry showdown, Attleboro and North Attleboro went back and forth trying to grab hold of the momentum.
With five minutes left in the second quarter in a one-point game, Attleboro turned it up a notch — on both ends of the floor — and orchestrated a 14-0 run to finish the first half and build a double-digit lead it never relinquished the rest of the way en route to a 68-50 win over the visiting Rocketeers.
North Attleboro hit four shots in the opening four minutes, including a pair of three-pointers, to build a 10-6 lead. Attleboro responded on the back of junior guard Bryant Ciccio, who scored 12 of his game-high 21 points in the opening frame, to take a 19-13 lead after one.
The Rocketeers got the momentum back on their side with a 7-2 spurt to open the second quarter. Ethan Friberg (10 points) scored down low, and Josh Montague (11 points) hit five straight points while North’s defense got five stops, including a turnover, to get within one at 21-20.
After a timeout by the hosts, Attleboro rattled off 14 straight points to change the complexity of the game.
“We’ve really been focusing on ending quarters and halves strong,” said Attleboro head coach Mark Houle. “When you can get those runs, like 8-0 or something, during those stretches, that’s when you get really separate yourself. I think we’re starting to figure out how to do that. We did a little last game, but we were certainly able to do that more tonight, and it put us in a good position. It starts with defensive energy.”
Mason Houle (nine points, seven assists, four rebounds, two steals) started the run with a strong take to the basket, Qualeem Charles (six points, seven rebounds) added two more off a nice feed from Ciccio, Houle went coast-to-coast for two and then found Ciccio for a triple to make it 30-20 with two minutes to play.
Attleboro forced a turnover and then was fouled going for the offensive rebound on a missed three. Keep possession resulted in two from Lorenzo Wilson (from Houle) and then Houle capped the run with a triple with under a minute to go to send the hosts into the locker room with a commanding 35-20 advantage.
“Our defense tonight wasn’t good,” said North Attleboro head coach Sean Mulkerrins. The Rocketeers had allowed 46.5 points per game on average entering the game and held its past five opponents under 50 points. “You give all the credit in the world to [Attleboro], they beat us one-on-one and then our rotations on the weak side weren’t there. Ciccio had that big first quarter and then they had that run in the second quarter. We just couldn’t get any momentum off of our defense. And offensively we weren’t countering what their aggressive defense was giving us. I felt like we lost our composure a bit when we weren’t defending well. We’ll bounce back, but that was a tough one for us.”
North Attleboro senior Nate Gonsavles (12 points, four rebounds) hit an early triple in the third quarter but Attleboro’s Kevin Velazquez (18 points) had his best frame of the season to keep the Bombardiers ahead. Velazquez opened the quarter with a layup and added two more after a near two-minute gap without scoring.
“A couple of our last games, our defensive intensity has been there, but now we’re playing smarter defensively,” Houle said. “We’re not gambling, we’re making the other team work hard. When you do that, you put the other team in pressure situations and force tough shots. And on top of that, we’re getting to those 50-50 balls and getting some transition baskets from it.”
Tim Callahan hit a three in the corner and Velazquez converted from deep after an offensive rebound from Ciccio. Gonsalves answered with a triple of his own but Velazquez game right back down the other end and sank a three-pointer to extend the lead to 48-26.
“I think we’re starting to see that our shooting percentage is a lot better when we get so many touches per possession,” Houle said. “There’s a magic number that we want to get to and what I think that does is gets the defense moving and gets us open looks. I think for the second game in the row, we’re starting to build some consistency with it. When we didn’t do it, you saw turnovers. When we did, we got some good looks. I thought defensively [North Attleboro] did a nice job inside, we didn’t get a lot of looks inside tonight, but we were able to shoot the ball pretty well.
After Gonsalves hit a floater, Velazquez came right back down and made his third straight triple to help the Bombardiers take a 53-32 lead into the final quarter.
“Kevin had his best shooting game tonight,” Houle said of Velazquez, who went 4-for-8 from deep and shot 47% from the field overall. “We told him it would take a couple of weeks coming off a fall sport, just getting in a rhythm. He’s starting to come along and get his basketball legs back, which means he’s getting his shot back which is nice.
“In the first half, I thought Bryant played terrific. There are times in a game where you can see someone trying to take it over and Bryant had a four or five-minute stretch where he was terrific.”
Ciccio and Velazquez each connected on a three in the opening 90 seconds of the fourth quarter to effectively put any thoughts of a miraculous comeback away.
Attleboro boys basketball (4-1 Hockomock, 6-2 overall) is back in action on Friday when they travel to King Philip. North Attleboro (2-3, 4-3) hits the road on the same night with a visit to Milford.
On May 17, more than 200 student-athletes gathered from nine of the 12 Hockomock League schools to celebrate inclusion, friendship, and the importance of giving the entire student body the opportunity to participate in athletics.
The inaugural Hockomock League Unified Track and Field Meet was a showcase of the growth of unified sports programs across the league and the emphasis that Hockomock schools have placed on opening sports up to the entire school population.
That Thursday started ominously with clouds and showers leftover from the day before, but as the afternoon crept closer the temperatures went up and the sun even peeked out a few times. Not that the weather really mattered because nothing was going to diminish the enthusiasm of the athletes and the partners participating in the meet or the coaches, classmates, administrators, friends, and family members that crowded around the track to show their support.
“For the athletes and the partners, it’s one thing to say you’re going to compete against another team but when you get to say this is a Hockomock thing it raises the bar and adds just that much more relevance to the event and the program,” said Franklin athletic director Tom Angelo, who started a unified sports program at Somerset-Berkeley and Plymouth North before he arrived at Franklin.
He continued, “That’s why I’m so passionate about unified sports…everything about it is good. There are kids out there that are competing, doing things that they’ve never done, and for so many of these kids it’s the first time in their lives that they’ve had people watch them and cheer for them.”
The teams rotated through a series of track and field events, including the 100-meter, 400-meter, 800-meter, 4×100 relay, 4×400 relay, turbo javelin, long jump and the shot put. Teams stayed together for each of the events, rotating through each event as a team and cheering each other on, and, just like the league championship meet that took place three days later, teams formed base camps on the infield where they could rest between events and places for socializing with other competitors.
“Every team had their own little section, their home base,” said Franklin junior Sara Doherty, “and it was a lot of fun getting to meet people from other teams. It was awesome.” Doherty has been a partner on the unified track team for the past two seasons. She added, “My life has totally changed because of this one sport…to see it spreading, I can just feel all the joy in their lives.”
Erin Mitchell, the coach of the North Attleboro unified track team, which competed for the first time this spring, remarked, “Really what does it are the photos we take from the meet and, after when I look at them, you can really see how happy they are. It just makes you proud as a faculty member, as a teacher, and a coach.”
Sharon Gets Unified Track Started in the Hock
It took Eastern Mass. a little longer than the central portion of the state to recognize the importance of unified sports and formally implement them. The Hockomock League lacked a unified program until Sharon started the movement under then athletic director Bill Martin.
With his background from Central Mass., Martin saw the success of these programs and wanted to bring the same inclusion to the athletics at Sharon. He spoke with peers at schools like Algonquin and Westboro to get ideas for implementing a unified program.
He said that there was instant support from Sharon principal Jose Libano, and coaches David Roy and Tim Cimino signed on to help the team get up and running. There was also grant money available from the Mass. Special Olympics, which was working with schools through the MIAA to promote unified programs.
“From there it was an easy sell,” said Martin who is wrapping up his first season as the AD at Andover High and is already working to bring unified sports to his new school. “Being new, you kind of questioned how is this going to get started, how is this going to work in my school, but once it got started and you saw the response then you keep pushing to make it work.”
He added, “The best part is that you got to reach a part of the school community that you normally wouldn’t reach with athletics.”
There was no separation between athletes on the unified program, which started with eight or nine participants playing basketball and running track at Sharon and has grown into more than double that number in the past few years, and the rest of the athletic department. The athletes taking part in unified sports went to the annual athletics awards ceremony and took part in the traditional athletic events, adding to their inclusion in the Sharon student-athlete community.
“They would go up on stage and get their awards and everyone’s clapping for them,” Martin recalled. “It was all-inclusive. They were there as athletes. They were fully included in the evening.
“For [the athletes], they were just on the team and competing as part of a Sharon High team and the best part is they just thought this is what it was supposed to be…and it was. Everyone else learned a lot of lessons and got to enjoy where it comes from and how we arrived there but for the athletes it was just, ‘I have a track meet today.’”
That first season, Sharon hosted the South Sectional meet and Martin said there were maybe nine teams that took part. Now, there are nine teams in the Hockomock League alone that have unified track. The success of the program quickly spread to other schools. Taunton AD Mark Ottavianelli was on board from the start and a bowling event between Sharon and Taunton was arranged.
When Franklin hired Tom Angelo as its new AD, the Panthers added unified sports as well and now have one of the largest programs and have won back-to-back South Sectional meet team titles.
“I’ve had so many parents over the years come up to me with tears in their eyes saying this is the greatest thing for my kid to actually feel like he or she’s an athlete,” said Angelo, who sits on the MIAA’s Unified Sports Advisory Committee along with Milford AD Pete Boucher.
“Being part of a team and going on bus rides together and wearing uniforms, it’s all awesome. Too many times with athletic directors, part of our jobs, we’re dealing with problems and with unified sports there are no problems.”
More Hockomock Teams Come On Board
One of the schools that made its unified track debut this spring is Attleboro. The Bombardiers have a long history of supporting the Special Olympics, hosting the annual School Day Games each spring at Tozier-Cassidy Field (with the exception of a brief move to North Attleboro while the new track was under construction), and the unified sports program was an extension of the school’s desire to be inclusive. Track was the starting point for the unified sports program and 18 athletes jumped at the chance to take part in the first season.
“It’s been a great experience for the coaches and the athletes and it’s been by far the highlight of our spring season,” said athletic director Mark Houle. “I think there’s a mutual respect that is developed and it’s really bringing everyone together. It’s a little different than the Special Olympics because they get to represent their school.”
At one of the first meets of the season, Houle gave a high-five and congratulations to one of the athletes following a race. The student told Houle that now he wanted to join the track team and Houle quickly answered, “You are on the track team.” The smile that response elicited made everything worthwhile.
“They want to have some competition and they want to do their best and at the end of the day they want to know that they represented their school and their community and I think that’s pretty special,” Houle said.
The most difficult challenge for new programs is logistical. Running a track meet is complicated and coaches that are new to the sport or who have never been involved with unified sports before it has been important to have other Hockomock programs to lean on for advice.
“Since it was our first year, we didn’t know what to expect,” said Erin Mitchell, who is also a special education teacher at North Attleboro working with students ages 18-22 and an advisor for North’s Project Unite program. “Our first meet was against Milford, so it was nice that we were both newbies at it.”
She continued, “Our first meet was really cool. All the athletes cheered everyone on no matter what team they were on and what town they were from and we all kind of helped each other out. It was nice to have that camaraderie there.”
As an educator, Mitchell recognized the benefits of being part of unified track went far beyond the competition on the field. Unified sports develop life skills that will be important long after the athletes’ time in high school.
“It’s the little things that people take for granted,” she said, “like having the school uniform on and riding the team bus over to another town’s meet and being a part of a big team, walking through the hallways at school a little later rather than taking a bus right home.
“Seeing them be able to do that independently by the end of the season was nice and just knowing the routine of taking the bus and heading over to the track and that’s something these kids have never had the opportunity to do.”
Unified Sports Unite School Communities
The night before the Hockomock League meet, Angelo said that he received a text from girls lacrosse coach Kristin Igoe Guarino that she was moving practice in order to allow the lacrosse team to cheer on the athletes competing in the meet. That was just one example of the support that the unified sports programs have received from other sports this spring, and there were many others that day and in the weeks prior as social media was filled with posts supporting the unified teams throughout the season.
“I remember one of the basketball games this year, the hockey team came, the cheerleaders were there, the volleyball team, the football team,” said Sara Doherty, who has been involved in programs such as Best Buddies since sixth grade and who also works as a swim and soccer coach and is a basketball partner outside of school. “Sometimes I’ll take some of my friends from unified track and we’ll go watch FHS basketball games and we’ll see those teams playing and then when we’re at our track meet and we see those kids, they’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, I know them!’
“And it just makes them feel that much more proud of themselves and confident.”
Having other teams show up and be present at the unified sporting events, just as they would for other sports at the school, builds inclusion into the school community and places the unified athletes right where they belong – on the same level as the school’s other student-athletes.
“In the classroom and in the school building, just having more of a sense of belonging has been really good,” said Mitchell. “I’ve noticed that a lot more kids are engaged and excited to go into school and show off their jersey and talk about their meets.”
Doherty said, “All of the football teams and the basketball teams make it to state championships and stuff and it brings so much pride to our school that these kids, who didn’t have those same opportunities can do those same things, they’re like, ‘Wow, I’m important! People are proud of me! And they want to see what I can do for the town!’ I think that’s so important that they can represent their own school.”
By including partners in the meets, there is an additional bond that can be formed between the students who are not only training together but also competing for times and distances. The athletes can work with their partners to learn new events, and also show off their superior talents.
“There’s this one kid Jake who doesn’t want to go to track but then he runs the 400 and beats me every single time,” Doherty said with a laugh. “He thinks it’s the best thing ever. Especially with everyone there cheering them on, they think, ‘Yeah, I’m pretty cool, I can do this!’ It’s great seeing them gain this confidence in themselves.”
Unified Sports Continue to Grow
The Hockomock League Unified Track and Field Meet was not the apex of unified sports in the league, but rather a continuation of the momentum that has been developed in recent years. Many of the programs that started this spring with track are considering basketball in the fall and athletic departments have also discussed bowling or bocce as alternative sports that could be added in the future.
Houle said, “This is a step in the right direction for our unified sports programming and we’re going to be looking at options that will get some opportunities for the fall and the winter.”
As the spring season comes to a close, teams are already looking forward to getting back together again next year. The pasta parties before the final meet, the friendships that have been built with classmates and with athletes from other schools, demonstrating the ability to throw a javelin when no one else is capable; there are countless memories that have been shared through this experience and it is an experience that everyone involved wants to build on.
“I’ve made so many friendships with people who are athletes on the team, with partners on the team; I’ve grown relationships with all of the coaches and it’s just a great experience if you want to make a relationship that you’ve never really had the opportunity to before,” Doherty explained. “There are some kids who had never met who are now best, best friends because of track.”
Angelo said, “It’s such a proud moment for these kids. There’s something special about putting on a real jersey and competing for your school and we give these kids an opportunity to do that and it’s a magical experience.”
Martin has also started a unified sports program at Andover High this year and five or six other schools within the Merrimack Valley Conference have already followed suit. It has only been a few years since Martin started at Sharon and hosted a South meet with only nine teams and he is proud of the opportunities that unified sports are creating for student-athletes across the state.
“They’re wearing a Sharon uniform or a Franklin uniform or an Andover uniform,” he said, “and they’re out there and they’re considered an athlete and that’s all anyone can ask for is the chance to compete and to have fun.”
BROCKTON, Mass. – For the first 16 minutes of the game, the 13th-seeded Attleboro Bombarders went punch for punch with the third-seeded Brockton Boxers.
But the second half was a different story.
The Boxers amped up their defensive pressure, leading to turnovers and transition baskets and a 71-48 win in the opening round of the D1 South tournament.
Attleboro trailed by as much as five but held a 9-8 lead at the midway point of the first, and used a late three to knot the game 15-15 at the end of one.
Sophomore Bryant Ciccio (13 points) scored six straight for Attleboro early in the second quarter, each bucket erasing a deficit to tie the game.
A banked three from junior Mason Houle gave the Bombardiers a 24-23 edge, and two free throws from senior Nate Douglas (eight points) put Big Blue back in front 26-25 at the midway point.
But late in the first half, the Boxers switched their defense up to apply a halfcourt trap. From that point, Attleboro scored just two points over the final four minutes, a bucket down low off the hands of sophomore Qualeem Charles (eight points, nine rebounds).
Although trailing 32-28 at half, the Bombardiers seemed to be in a good spot, shooting nearly 50% from the floor despite missing some transition layups.
“We were okay at halftime,” said Attleboro head coach Mark Houle. “I thought if we came out in the second half and played a little bit better…we did some really good things in the first half we just had to hit some transition baskets on our own side. But we really never put the pressure on them to keep it close. Their defense in the second half just swarmed us. Even our good looks didn’t seem as good.”
“I just said to Coach Houle that I thought [Attleboro] controlled the game in the first half,” said Brockton head coach Bob Boen. “We were playing at their pace, we were doing what they wanted to do. I thought we were lucky to be ahead by four the way the first half went. I just decided we couldn’t play that way any longer, we had to get out and start pressing and pressuring in the half court.
Unfortunately for Attleboro, it was the Boxers who dominated the second half.
The halfcourt trap continued to bother Attleboro, who had more turnovers (seven) than field goals made (five) in the third quarter. Brockton’s active pressure led to easy transition buckets.
“[The pressure] made the difference,” Boen said. “It really got us lively and kind of took them out of their offense. They made a couple of threes against us but not much else. We did a real nice job with it, we were active and covered up when they made good passes.”
Kevin Velazquez hit an early triple to cut the deficit to three, and Douglas drained one from deep to get the Bombardiers within six with five minutes left in the third. But Attleboro couldn’t find consistency in its offense due to the trap and Brockton rattled off eight straight points over the next two and a half minutes.
“We did some good things early in the game obviously,” Houle said. “Even in the first half we had some opportunities to get them out of the 1-3-1 but we missed some shots and missed on some inside outs. We had a couple of chances in transition to really kind of force them into some different things. I thought if we got a couple of baskets against the 1-3-1 early on they might not have stayed in it, it definitely gave us fits there.”
Charles snapped the run with a putback of his own miss to get it back to 10, but Brockton created plenty of separation with a 9-3 run to finish the quarter, taking a 57-41 lead into the final quarter.
“They are long, they are quick and they got into the passing lanes, and we didn’t come to the ball,” Houle said. “When we did have opportunities to make plays, we didn’t play with as much confidence in the second half. I think that’s what it came down to. We were a little less confident as the game went on.”
It was more of the same in the fourth for Attleboro. The Bombardiers only managed seven points in the final quarter and didn’t score until two minutes left in the game. Ciccio hit two free throws, Lorenzo Wilson scored in the paint and Jornell Abadia drained a three.
“One of the things we had to do tonight was play through contact, and we didn’t do that,” Houle said. “And they had their run outs, and we didn’t want to let them get out in transition. So two things right there hurt us, especially in the third quarter. That opened the lead a little bit.”
Attleboro boys basketball finishes the season 13-10.
NORTH ATTLEBORO, Mass. – Six of the last seven contests between rivals Attleboro and North Attleboro have been decided by 10 points or less, and the Rocketeers have walked away victorious in all of them.
Attleboro was ready to buck the trend.
After being limited to 18 points in the first half, the Bombardiers made the necessary adjustments to get the offense in gear and picked up a 60-38 win over Big Red. It marked Big Blue’s first victory over their neighbor since January 2014.
“Anytime it’s Attleboro against North Attleboro, we want to play our best,” said longtime AHS coach Mark Houle. “We had an opportunity to go out and cement a victory against a good team. I think our kids did a nice job executing in the second half and I was really proud of them.”
The Bombardiers relied upon improved rebounding (a 22-11 advantage in the second half), transition offense, and improved three-point shooting (six triples in the second compared to one in the first half) to turn a two-point deficit at halftime into an eight-point lead entering the fourth and a 22-point win.
And the biggest reason for a lot of that was Attleboro’s Qualeem Charles (17 points). The 6’5” sophomore hauled in 10 of his 14 rebounds in the second half, which help set up the transition game. And on offense, Charles demanded the attention of North’s defense, which helped open things up on the perimeter.
“I think Mark [Houle] did a great job at half, they adjusted to our fronting and double teaming of Charles,” said North Attleboro head coach Sean Mulkerrins. “To his kids’ credit, [Kevin] Velazquez and a couple other guys hit some open threes in the weak side corner. It was a little frustrating because we know its the read and we know its the counter to our counter, so maybe we just need to recognize it a step sooner on the skip pass.
“Hats off to Attleboro, they out-executed us in the second half. I feel for our two seniors, tough to go out this way. But Attleboro is a well-coached team and they have a lot of kids that can put the ball in the hoop.”
A triple from sophomore Bryant Ciccio (nine points, four rebounds) helped tie the game, 23-23, with under five minutes left in the third quarter. From there, the Bombardiers rattled off a 12-2 run to seize control of the game.
Nate Douglas (10 points, eight rebounds) went baseline for two, Ciccio hit a pair of free throws, Charles converted a putback and Mason Houle and Tim Callahan each hit a three-pointer to stretch Attleboro’s lead to two.
A putback at the buzzer from North’s Matt Seavey (eight points, three rebounds) cut the deficit to single digits heading into the fourth quarter, 35-27.
That’s when things clicked for Attleboro.
Charles scored down low on a feed from Ciccio, and then Attleboro took advantage of North bringing weak side help on the big man. Douglas found Velazquez (14 points, three assists) on skip passes into the weak side corner for back-to-back three-pointers.
Then the Bombardiers got out in transition with Velazquez threading the needle with a long bounce pass for an easy two for Jason Weir.
“We were just going too fast so we just slowed it down on offense,” Houle said. “We were trying to attack the rim and everything was clogged. They were switching on defense so our motion offense really wasn’t doing anything. So we went to some of our quick hitter stuff.
“They really looked to front Q and bring help from the weak side. If we couldn’t get it into Q, we could skip it and get some good looks and Kevin was able to hit them. And then after that, we finally got Q inside on the seal. Those were the adjustments we worked on and it was good to see them execute in the second half.”
North’s Derek Shanks (nine points, six rebounds) had six consecutive points for the hosts but Attleboro had an answer each time. Ciccio sandwiched a pair of buckets around another triple from Velazquez in the weak side corner to give the Bombardiers a 52-36 lead with 3:40 to play.
Charles scored down low on two consecutive possessions while Douglas put an exclamation point on the win with a breakaway dunk.
“When he’s inside like that, he’s a mismatch,” Houle said of Charles. “North is big and long but he’s still a mismatch because he’s so good with his hands and his feet. They have to put another body in there, and when we can hit the shots, it works well. Fortunately for us, we hit the shots. If we don’t hit the shots then they are winning those possessions.”
North Attleboro raced out to a 6-0 lead after hitting its first three shots of the game but Attleboro closed the game with a 6-2 run over the final six minutes.
Shanks tied the game, 12-12, in the second quarter with a pair of free throws, Josh Montague (eight points) hit a triple, Jake Petersen (eight points, four rebounds) converted a putback and Nate Gonsalves hit a three late to give North a 20-18 lead at halftime.
“I thought we defended fairly well in the first half. We knew where they wanted to go and with the exception of one set play they ran, we didn’t feel like they ever got their first option. Second half, they made a couple of extra buckets and we had some empty possessions, and I think we started losing a little bit of confidence we had in the first half.”
Attleboro boys basketball (12-9 overall) will close out its regular season when it hosts Durfee on Wednesday night at 6:30. Attleboro (8-11) concludes its season when it travels to rival Bishop Feehan on the same night at the same time.
“It’s North Attleboro and Feehan so I shouldn’t have to say much to motivate our guys,” Mulkerrins said. “It’s the last game for our two seniors and our manager so there’s motivation to play for those three games. When they know it’s their last game, I’m sure the kids will have a little extra motivation.”
ATTLEBORO, Mass. – Attleboro used its defense to get back into the game, but Foxboro used its defense to slam the door shut on the Bombardiers’ comeback.
Trailing 58-52 with just over two minutes left in the game, Attleboro applied a full court pressure. The result was back-to-back steals from senior Nathan Douglas (12 points), the first Douglas scored on himself, the second turning into a layup from Elvin Sam.
After Foxboro called timeout, Attleboro’s defense once again came up with a big play. Sam and junior Mason Houle jumped onto a loose ball, forcing a jump ball and giving possession to the hosts, down two, with a minute to go.
But before Attleboro could set its play in motion, Foxboro senior Teddy Maher came up with a huge steal in a one-on-one situation. The Warriors used nearly the entire play clock before sophomore Brandon Borde (10 points, four rebounds) drove through traffic converted at the rim for a 60-56 lead with 22 seconds to play.
The Bombardiers called timeout and executed right away as sophomore Qualeem Charles (career-high 28 points, 12 rebounds) quickly scored down low to get the deficit back to two with 12 seconds to go.
Foxboro senior Joe Morrison (19 points) got the inbounds, was fouled, and iced the game with a pair of free throws, giving the Warriors a hard-fought 62-58 win over Attleboro in a very entertaining contest.
“I thought we showed incredible poise,” said Foxboro head coach Jon Gibbs. “They threw that press on us and we weren’t really ready for it, and they got two quick steals. The momentum was completely in Attleboro’s favor…we’re on the road, the crowd is getting louder. It would have been really easy for us to fold but Teddy made a senior play. Teddy’s a phenomenal defender, he gives us a lot of intangibles, he gives a lot of things that don’t really show up in the box score but that’s what seniors do this time of year. They make winning plays.
“I thought it showed a lot of character and a lot of poise, instead of us folding mentally, we showed some true toughness and came up with a big stop when things weren’t going our way.”
“It was a good fight by us to get back in it, to get it within two,” said Attleboro head coach Mark Houle. “We didn’t execute towards the end, we wanted to go inside but you never know what could have happened. Foxboro does a nice job and makes you work for everything you get.”
It was the second time Attleboro rallied in the second half, only for Foxboro to regain its footing late. The Warriors led by 10 (36-26) at halftime, but the Bombardiers executed their game plan nearly flawlessly early in the third to get back into it.
Houle (four points, six assists) drove to the basket for two, Dom Victor hit back-to-back shots in the paint, Charles converted a pair of putbacks and then completed a traditional three-point play after a feed from Houle, giving Attleboro a 39-38 lead on the back of a 13-2 run over the first four minutes of the third.
Foxboro regained the lead when senior Matt Rongione (14 points) knocked down his fourth three-pointer of the game and Maher converted a layup after an Attleboro turnover. But the Bombardiers went to work down low again, with Charles hitting two free throws after being fouled in the paint, and Victor again converting close to the basket.
“In the third quarter we came out and we did a nice job of really going high low with our bigs,” Mark Houle said. “We got a lot of paint touches and got Dom going down low. When they started overplaying our guards we had some good layup opportunities. I think we got back in it going inside, which is our strength, but Foxboro’s defense is obviously good. The outside looks we got were contested and we didn’t hit the outside shots that you’d like to be able to knock down.”
Morrison took over for the final 90 seconds of the third. He came up with a steal and went the distance for a layup. After a steal fromDevin Hassett, Morrison drained a three-pointer to put the Warriors up five. And then the senior hit a technical free throw with 7.8 seconds left to give Foxboro a 49-43 lead entering the fourth.
Morrison also had five points in the fourth quarter, including an early three that put Foxboro up nine, an assist on Borde’s alley-layup at the midway point that kept Foxboro ahead by seven, and his game-clinching free throws.
“That’s Joe…it seems like its that way in every game that in the second half, in the fourth quarter, coming down the stretch when we need big plays, Joe is the one who is right there to make it, whether its on the offensive end or the defensive end,” Gibbs said. “He’s incredible, he’s without a doubt the best pure winner and pure competitor I’ve ever coached. He just has the knack for the big play, whatever we need. We’re so lucky to have him, he’s a once in a lifetime player for me as a coach. He’s the ultimate winner and you saw it tonight.”
The first half was highlighted by mismatches on both sides of the court. Charles was Attleboro’s focus early on, scoring eight points and hauling in five rebounds in the first quarter. Douglas hit both of the Bombardiers’ three-pointers of the game in the opening frame, helping Big Blue take a 16-14 lead after one.
While Charles gave Attleboro an advantage down low on the offensive end, Foxboro’s ability to spread the floor and shoot from distance gave the Warriors a leg up, especially in the second quarter.
Foxboro hit five three-pointers in the second quarter to surge past Attleboro. Senior Bobby Harrison (career-high 15 points) was responsible for four of those triples, taking advantage of his matchup. With Charles defending the hoop in the paint, Harrison was left open and converted his chances. Rongione also hit a three in the period, helping the Warriors seize a 36-26 lead at the break.
“Obviously [Charles] presents a huge mismatch for us when they are on offense because we don’t have anyone to match his size inside,” Gibbs said. “But we were also hoping we could do the same when we had the ball and use our perimeter to cause some mismatches for them. We talked to Bobby a lot about setting ball screens on the perimeter and pulling out to either shoot or drive.
“Bobby was able to get some open looks and to his credit, he stepped up and knocked them down. He caused Attleboro some problems, I assume they don’t want [Charles] out on the perimeter chasing guys around, and he was forced to come out because Bobby made some threes.”
Foxboro finished 10-for-19 from three-point and 23-for-47 from the field overall.
“Foxboro is a talented team, and Borde and Morrison are very good off the dribble,” Houle said. “We really wanted to use Qualeem as much as we could inside to sag the middle. I think the first quarter we were able to get away with it but once Harrison hit one, we had more of a soft close out, then he hit two, then hit the third one which was a dagger. Then we had to open up more and get out and cover him. That was big because we were hoping to be able to sag more inside and not allow that ball penetration.”
Foxboro boys basketball (8-3 Hockomock, 12-3 overall) begins its second go through of the Davenport schedule on Friday when it hosts Sharon at 6:30. Attleboro (6-5, 9-6) will try to bounce back when it travels to take on King Philip on Friday at 7:00.
MILFORD, Mass. – It was a tale of two halves in a crossover matchup between Milford and Attleboro boys basketball. The Hawks started hot but it was the Bombardiers that finished strong.
Big Blue overcame an 11-point deficit at halftime with a stellar third quarter and then finished the job in the second half, finishing the game off with an 8-0 run over the final two minutes to beat the Hawks, 59-51.
“I think the difference in the second half was we did a good job of pressuring their guards and we did a better job in the post,” said Attleboro head coach Mark Houle. “Their post players are very talented, Kelley is very talented and Fraioli is a big talented kid that takes up a lot of space, sets good screens. Their high-low really hurt us really so in the second half we did a better job of dropping our big in the paint and kind of forcing them to take an outside shot. It could have hurt us but it ended up helping us in the long run because we got multiple stops and that’s what we needed to get.”
The fourth quarter featured plenty of momentum swings but the Bombardiers put an exclamation point on the comeback with a couple of big plays in the final minutes.
A putback from sophomore Qualeem Charles (10 points, 16 rebounds) and a pull up jumper just inside the free throw line from Bryant Ciccio (nine points) gave Attleboro an early five-point lead, but Milford chipped away with four straight points from junior Brendan White (17 points) to cut the deficit to one.
Senior Nate Douglas drained a three to get the lead back to four and then hit one of two free throws to take a 50-45 lead. Milford’s Kayden Kelley (11 points, 15 rebounds) scored four straight points, taking feeds from White and Andrew Fraioli (eight points, five rebounds) on slips to the basket to again cut it down to one.
Velazquez came up with another steal but was fouled, and hit one of two free throws to extend the lead to two. Fraioli answered immediately with a bucket while being fouled to tie the game, but couldn’t convert the free throw to take a lead.
Tied 51-51, Attleboro put together its best stretch to win the game. Immediately following Fraioli’s tying bucket, Charles scored in traffic down low to regain the lead. Milford missed a three, Dom Victor (10 points, seven rebounds) hauled in the rebound and hit one of two free throws after being fouled.
Despite missing the second free throw, Charles came across the paint to grab the board. Attleboro called timeout, and out of the break, hit a huge shot.
Mason Houle and Douglas played catch as the shot clock ticked down. With just a few seconds remaining, Houle went in to Charles in the post, sucking the defense in. Charles returned the pass to Houle with just a couple of seconds on the shot clock, and the junior could have forced a contested three, but instead made one extra pass to Douglas in the corner. The senior calmly buried a three, giving Attleboro a 57-51 lead.
“We’ve been stressing at practice, especially recent, the extra pass gets us that great look, an uncontested look,” Houle said of the play. “An inside-outside look, and then the pass to the corner and Nate Douglas hit a really big three for us. It gave us a lot of energy, and in this game [six points] felt like a cushion. It might have been our biggest lead of the game at the time and it put pressure on them to make a play.”
Victor picked off a pass two plays later and went in along, finishing with a two-handed slam to put an exclamation point on the win.
“We wanted to be team tough tonight and that means doing the right things for our team, for our teammates,” Houle said. “In the flow of the game, it’s not always going to be easy. There’s going to be runs on both sides. I was proud of the toughness we had as a team. They came right back and tied it and we showed toughness and went right back down to take the lead.”
After being outrebounded 30-25 through three quarters, the Bombardiers had a 12-8 advantage in the final frame.
“Our key is always rebounding and we did a better job of it in the second half,” Houle said. “I think overall pressuring the guards was key, it kind of got us into a good defensive rhythm. Then we were able to get out on some breaks, got some transition baskets and that gave us some energy. Our energy in the second half throughout the whole second half was very good. “
The hosts came out red-hot in the opening quarter, hitting four of their first six attempts from behind the arc and shooting 50% from the field to build an early double-digit lead, and a 14-point advantage late in the quarter.
A late three from Ciccio cut the deficit to 11 at the end of one, and the teams played an even second period. Milford led by as much as 15 (25-10) at the midway point of the period, but Attleboro outscored the Hawks 11-5 the rest of the way to keep the deficit the same at halftime as it was after one.
Momentum swung in favor of the visitors in the third quarter. Attleboro sophomore Tim Callahan bookended the Bombardiers’ 19-6 surge in the period with a pair of three’s. An inbounds play on the baseline from Ciccio to Douglas resulted in a traditional three-point play.
Trailing by 10, Douglas hit a pair of free throws, Kevin Velazquez drained a three then two plays later, stole a pass and went in for an easy layup. The teams traded a pair of misses before Victor hit two free throws to make it a one-point game.
Fraioli converted a putback to extend the lead back to three but Victor drove strong to the basket for two, and Callahan drained another three off a feed from Charles to give Attleboro a 42-40 lead after three.
“Playing Milford is always tough, Coach Seaver does a terrific job,” Houle said. “Their kids play hard and they have a recipe to win every single night. They have tough bigs, they can shoot it, so we knew coming in it wouldn’t be an easy game…there’s never an easy game in this league. We knew coming in we had to play well and fortunately, we played very well in the second half.”
Attleboro boys basketball (6-4 Hockomock, 9-4 overall) returns to action on Sunday to take on Bishop Feehan at 3:00. Milford (4-6, 6-7) will try to snap its current two-game skid on Tuesday when it travels to Mansfield.
ATTLEBORO, Mass. – It’s no secret that Attleboro’s 6’5 sophomore Qualeem Charles can be a game changer. But with opponents making him the focus of their defensive game plan, getting him the ball in the right spots can be a challenge.
For three and half quarters, Taunton nearly neutralized the big man, fronting him in its man-to-man defense, bringing weak side help and even double teaming when necessary. But over the final five minutes of play, Attleboro finally got Charles going.
The sophomore scored eight of his 11 points in that stretch, helping the shorthanded Bombardiers — playing without three starters — outscore the Tigers 16-7 and pick up a key division win, 57-47.
“Coming into this game we knew it was going to be a pretty big challenge for us as a program,” said AHS head coach Mark Houle. “I’m really proud of the team for stepping up. We had kids that haven’t played a lot come in and give us some quality minutes.”
Holding a 41-40 led with five minutes to go, Charles (15 rebounds) finally got into a rhythm. He increased the lead to three of a feed from Nate Douglas (nine points, six assists). Charles had all 11 of his points in the second half after the Tigers held him without a point over the first 16 minutes.
“We were a bit slow getting the inside game going and I think we were forcing it too much,” Houle said. “In the fourth quarter we started doing a better job, we kept moving the ball and keeping the flow of the offense. We used the whole court and that really opened up the inside. It was really nothing more than just good ball movement.”
Kevin Velazquez scored on a floater in the lane only for Taunton sophomore Prince Brown to answer with a three, keeping the deficit at two. Sophomore Jason Weir, who was starting his first game, drained a pair of free throws on one end and Velazquez came away with a block from behind on the other end.
That allowed Attleboro get up the court and Velazquez dumped a pass over the top to Charles for an easy lay-in and a 49-43 lead.
Despite coming off with an offensive rebound on its next possession, Taunton turned the ball over. That led to another connection between Velazquez and Charles, the latter finishing after an up fake to extend the lead to eight.
An inbounds violation gave Attleboro possession back, and Charles hit one of two free throws on back-to-back possessions for a 53-43 lead with a minute to go.
“Taunton did a nice job early in the game taking away the inside presence,” Houle said. “We were forcing it to him early on the first pass. We realized that wasn’t working. The kids trusted the offense and kept moving it until we got a better look. We had a lot more passes per possession in the last six minutes of the game and that opened up the inside game.”
The Tigers and Bombardiers were near inseparable through three quarters. A pair of free throws from sophomore Dante Law (10 points, eight rebounds) helped pull Taunton into an 18-18 tie after the first quarter.
Both offenses cooled down significantly in the second, scoring just six points apiece to a 24-24 score at halftime.
Douglas converted on a feed from sophomore Bryant Ciccio (19 points, five rebounds) put Attleboro up six, and a free throw from Charles gave the Bombardiers their best lead, 37-28, with just over a minute left in the third.
Taunton junior John Martins (eight points, three assists) scored five straight to get the Tigers within five at the end of three. The Tigers then used a 7-3 surge over the first three minutes of the fourth to get within one.
Lens Esquil (18 points, 10 rebounds) scored early to make it a three-point game, and Law followed up with a bucket down low against the zone to make it a one-point game. A free throw from Brown tied the game at 38 but Weir drained a triple to give Attleboro the lead back.
“Guys stepped up tonight…Jason Weir in his first career start, he played like an upperclassman today. He got some key rebounds, he was strong with the basketball,” Houle said. “Bryant Ciccio continued to be steady for us, putting teammates in good positions.”
Law scored again to make it a one-point game, but Charles took control over the final five minutes.
In the final five minutes, Taunton went 3-for-8 from the field with a pair of turnovers. Attleboro also had three offensive rebounds during the stretch.
“We got into these lulls, and we seem to crack under not so great pressure,” said THS head coach Charlie Dacey. “[Attleboro] scores easily and we don’t. And getting the ball to [Charles] is a pretty good way to score easily. We have to really work hard to get a good shot, and sometimes when we get a good shot and we miss it.”
With Attleboro playing a zone defense for the majority of the game, Taunton was held to its lowest scoring output of the season, including just 4-for-14 from three.
“With a short bench, we wanted the tempo tonight to be our tempo,” Houle said. “The kids did a nice job controlling the tempo of the game, not allowing too many transition baskets. We knew they’d be effective in their zone offense at times, but as the game kind of progressed, the zone kind of was shrinking with Lens getting it in the high post and Dante getting it in the short corner. But our guards did a nice job of shrinking the zone down. I know they hit some outside shots but fortunately not enough of them.”
Attleboro boys basketball (5-3 Hockomock, 8-3 overall) will look to make it two in a row when it hosts rival North Attleboro on Tuesday at 6:30. Taunton (4-4, 7-5) will look to bounce back when it travels to rival Coyle & Cassidy on Sunday at 1:00.
“I think it started with our defensive energy,” said Attleboro head coach Mark Houle. “Early on, they kind of had their way, they had some transition baskets early. In the second half, we did a better job of getting back and not letting up any easy baskets. It was a physical game.
“We finally started penetrating their zone on the offensive end, which got us some open looks, and we were able to penetrate and go inside to [Qualeem Charles]. It took a little while to get the rhythm going, we really didn’t have it. Once we did that then we felt more confident and knock down some shots.”
The Bombardiers were limited to 10 points in the first quarter and 11 points in the second. Meanwhile, Oliver Ames senior Jack Spillane (career-high 34 points) was getting almost everything he wanted. He scored 18 of the Tigers’ first 19 points and helped OA take a 31-21 lead at the break.
Attleboro started hot in the third quarter, quickly getting the game within six but then went cold from outside. Big Blue missed from three-point range on six straight possessions, allowing Oliver Ames to get out in transition and convert, taking a 41-27 lead with 3:35 to go in the third quarter.
But on the ensuing possession, Attleboro finally got the ball in low as junior RMff (eight points, six assists) found sophomore Qualeem Charles (13 points, 15 rebounds, six blocks) who converted plus the harm. Charles’ traditional three-point play set the Attleboro offense in motion.
“You want to have some balance there but we weren’t getting the ball inside enough,” Houle said. “With any zone, there are some gaps and once we started penetrating with guard play to get into them, that created some opportunities for our bigs. When you play a zone you can get a three anytime you want, but when you’re not hitting them you have to get some paint touches.”
Senior Nate Douglas (17 points, four rebounds) and sophomore Jason Weir (seven points, five rebounds) made back-to-back baskets, and then Weir came up with a putback off of a missed three to keep the momentum with Attleboro.
“Jason Weir was one of the guys that came off the bench for us and had a terrific game,” Houle said. “Not only scoring but he got some key rebounds and some second-chance opportunities for us. And he played a physical game for us. We talked at halftime about how we needed guys to step up and he was one of them.”
After an Oliver Ames miss, sophomore Bryant Ciccio (career-high 18 points, five rebounds, five assists) went coast to coast, finishing with a nice up and under move high off the glass. Big Blue got another stop and this time fed Charles at the top of the key, sucking the defense in which allowed the sophomore to find Ciccio for a three-pointer.
Douglas hit a pull up on the baseline shortly before the buzzer to cap a 16-2 run, tying the game 43-43 at the end of the third.
With the game in the balance over the final eight minutes, Attleboro finished the job.
Spillane gave OA an early lead with a nice take to the basket, but Charles hauled in an offensive rebound and converted a putback to tie it. Charles scored on another offensive rebound only for OA’s Noah Fitzgerald (six points, three assists) to respond.
Attleboro put the game away over the next two and a half minutes with a 14-2 run. Ciccio started the surge with a layup and then Houle picked off a cross-court pass and went in alone for a layup, plus the foul, for the traditional three-point play.
Spillane brought OA within three with a pair of free throws but Douglas and Kevin Velazquez drained threes to extend the lead to 58-49. Charles finished the run with a free throw and yet another putback.
“Nate Douglas played his best game of the season, he was aggressive on offense and made impact plays for us on both ends of the court,” Houle said. “He played like a senior and we needed him to perform like he did for us to come back and win the game.”
After shooting 40% in the first half (50% from three-point range), the Tigers shot just 30% from the field in the second half and hit just one triple.
“Part of it is offensively we did more [in the first half],” said OA head coach Don Byron about the first half effectiveness of the zone defense. “They’re taking the ball out of bounds, we’re setting our defense every time. Once it turns into a more free-flowing game, we’re at a disadvantage then.
“We worked hard it but our efficiency in the second half wasn’t as sharp, We threw some passes away, made some simple, unforced mistakes. We just didn’t shoot the ball as well. And a couple of guys that we kept quiet early found themselves and we weren’t able to knock them off their stride at that point.”
Attleboro boys basketball (4-2 Hockomock, 7-2 overall) is back in action on Tuesday in a key Kelley-Rex division showdown with first place Franklin; a battle of the division’s top scoring team against top defensive team. Oliver Ames (2-4, 4-5) hits the road to take on Taunton on the same day.
“In the game of basketball it’s those surges and runs that can make the difference,” said Attleboro head coach Mark Houle. “If you pile those back to back, you can really pull away. We went from a six-point lead to a 14 point lead, and once you get another one, you’re able to cut out any chance of a comeback.
“It’s been a while since we’ve been able to put away a team early and I think today, early in the second half we did that. It started with defense, especially our half-court defense which was pretty solid.”
Dartmouth closed the first quarter strong to stay within two possessions (14-6) after eight minutes. But the separation came early in the second. Sophomore Qualeem Charles (eight points, seven rebounds) converted one of two free throws before sophomore Tim Callahan, fresh off the bench, came up with a steal and easy layup.
After a miss, Charles came up with a big offensive rebound and putback and two possessions later, junior Mason Houle (eight points, three assists) drained a three off a feed from Ciccio to make it 22-8 with just over five minutes left in the third.
“We’re still learning, we turned the ball over a lot against the zone, it’s the first time we’ve seen a zone team,” Houle said. I think we were prepped for it earlier this year but didn’t see it and we just didn’t take care of the ball in the half court as much as we should have. And our transition defense is something we have to work on, things we can’t do going forward.”
Mason Houle banked a three from just over half court at the halftime buzzer, giving Attleboro its largest lead, 33-14, heading into the locker rooms.
While the teams were level for the first four minutes of the third quarter, the Bombardiers put the game away with an 11-0 run over the next two minutes.
Callahan (career-high 15 points) got it started with a triple, then came up with a steal for an easy layup. Ciccio forced another turnover and Nate Douglas (six points) hit a jumper. Ciccio then split the defense and hit a pull up jumper and Callahan capped the run with a strong take to the basket.
“He scored when we needed him too, and he’s capable of doing that,” Houle said of Callahan. “He’s a solid player, and only a sophomore. He’s filling his role very well right now coming off the bench. As soon as he comes in he gets open looks and he’s ready to knock them down. He made some mistakes in some rotations on defense but overall he definitely had his finest game for us.”
Ciccio finished with a game-high 16 points along with three assists.
“I think Bryant really played a solid game for us,” Houle said. “And Bryant’s done that for us the last couple of games. He’s leading us from the point guard position and he’s doing a nice job defensively. He’s getting open looks and he’s hitting shots. He scored the first eight points and they were all from what we want to do. I definitely think Bryant’s last couple of games, both ends of the court, he’s really playing solid for us.”
Attleboro shot 50% (27/54) from the floor overall and hit 12 of its 25 three-point attempts. It marked the third straight game that the Bombardiers hit double-digit threes, following 11 triples against Stoughton and 10 against Sharon. On Wednesday afternoon, five different Attleboro players connected for at least one three-pointer.
“When you can shot 50% from three good things are going to happen,” Houle said. “Guys start running out at you and then it opens things up inside too. We have a nice balance right now. Kids are understanding where the shots are coming from and they are working hard on them. When the ball goes in, it makes it easier.”
Attleboro boys basketball (2-1 Hockomock, 3-1 overall) is back in action on Friday when it welcomes in-town rival Bishop Feehan at 6:30.
Attleboro High School announced Marty Crowley as its new girls basketball coach on Tuesday morning. Crowley, who spent four years as the girls basketball coach at King Philip, takes over for Rick Patch who stepped down in May.
“We welcome Coach Martin Crowley to AHS,” said Attleboro Athletic Director Mark Houle in a press release. “Coach Crowley’s basketball experience and vision to cultivate a positive experience for our girls at all levels of our program is promising. I look forward to working with Coach Crowley to reach the girls basketball programs goals.”
Crowley takes over a program that posted an impressive 16-8 record last season and finished third in the Kelley-Rex division. The Bombardiers have reached the postseason five straight seasons. During his four years patrolling the bench at King Philip, Crowley helped the Warriors to 33 wins and a playoff appearance in 2014.