Taunton Upsets Attleboro With Second Half Surge

Wesner Charles Taunton boys basketball
Taunton senior Wesner Charles dunks the ball in the fourth quarter against Attleboro. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
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ATTLEBORO, Mass. – Those who were in attendance for the clash between #3 Attleboro and #14 Taunton certainly got their money’s worth.

The Bombardiers and Tigers, playing for the third time this season, traded punches back-and-forth for the entirety of Tuesday night’s contest, one that felt at times more like a final than an opening round game. And just when it looked like Taunton was ready to land a knockout blow, the Bombardiers valiantly battled back.

But in the end, Taunton’s second-half run, punctuated with clutch free throws in the final minute, proved to be enough as the Tigers earned their first win over Attleboro this year, 61-56.

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“They knew they could perform at a higher level,” said Taunton head coach Charlie Dacey of his team. “It’s good that they got it going at this stage of the season. I think the key tonight was they we spread the points around. Our half court offense was a little unorganized but when situations broke down tonight, we had guys hit some shots in some key situations.

“It certainly helps we’ve seen them twice before. We pulled apart the game film from the first two games. We didn’t do much with it in the first half, but we knew what was coming in the second half so it’s nice when you can predict some of the offense.”

Besides Attleboro’s brief eight-point in the second quarter, the first 24 minutes of the contest was mostly a one or two possession game. It wasn’t until the late in the third quarter and early in the fourth that Taunton made its move.

Trailing 43-31, senior Lou Vendrell (10 points) hauled in an Attleboro miss and alertly pushed the ball up in transition, finding classmate John Martins (eight points) for an easy layup. Two minutes later, just a player after drawing an offensive foul, Vendrell took a handoff from Wesner Charles (10 points, nine rebounds) and drained a three, giving the Tigers just their second lead of the half.

With under a minute to go, Taunton’s defense got another stop, senior Mike Quinn grabbed the rebound and hit Dante Law (22 points, 12 rebounds) on an outlet pass and the junior used a two-handed slam to put Taunton up 48-43 heading into the fourth quarter.

Attleboro opened the fourth with a bucket from senior Mason Houle (12 points, five assists) but Taunton’s run continued as Charles hauled in an offensive board and found Law for a three. Houle answered with a free throw but Law came back down and hit another three to make it 54-46.

“It was timely shots, good stops, all of the above,” Law said. “We trust each other with the ball, so we’re able to spread it around. We talked about getting 10 points from everybody, and that’s what we what did tonight.

“We were excited to get another chance at them. Coach talked about how it’s hard to beat a team three times so we went out there and just gave everything we had.

After a scoreless two minute stretch from both sides, Charles put an exclamation point on Taunton’s run. The senior took a pass in the corner, found space on the baseline and drove to the basket, rising up and finishing with a two-handed slam while being fouled. His free throw gave Taunton a commanding 57-46 lead with 4:30 to play.

“Wesner is pretty athletic, he’s pretty strong, and he’s willing to fight,” Dacey said. “I felt like that was the key to the game was not letting [Qualeem] go off on us and Wesner made some plays for us.”

But the Bombardiers refused to go quietly, getting a spark from a pair of reserves. Lorenzo Wilson converted back-to-back offensive rebounds, and Nick McMahon finished a layup after a pull-up jumper from Bryant Ciccio (13 points, eight rebounds) to make it 57-54.

Taunton was called for an illegal screen, and the Bombardiers quickly got the ball into Qualeem Charles (14 points, six rebounds) for two, cutting the deficit to just one at 57-56 with a minute to go.

Junior Naz Kenion (11 points, five rebounds, three assists) was fouled as he drove to the basket, connecting on both ends of a 1-and-1 to make it 59-56. Attleboro had a look to tie it with 20 seconds to go, but it was off the mark and Law came down with the board. Kenion was fouled again, and he sank the first or two to extend the lead to 60-56 with 12.5 seconds to go. Law tacked on a free throw in the final seconds.

“The big thing playing Taunton is transition defense, getting stops, and rebounding,” said Attleboro coach Mark Houle. “They out-rebounded us, especially on the offensive glass and that translated into a lot of opportunities for them. In a big game like this, you can’t give good teams second and third chances. And their defensive pressure was good tonight, it was good all night long. That pressure, maybe in the second half, forced us into some quicker shots than maybe we wanted to.

“Defensively [Taunton] got after it tonight. It’s tough to simulate that in practice. They did a nice job of keeping the ball on one side of the court and got into the passing lanes. They really made us work. They got that lead and I think it was because of their ball pressure.”

Attleboro opened had four players connect on a three-pointer in the first quarter with Ciccio, Houle, Kevin Velazquez (six rebounds), and Tim Callahan all hit from deep. Taunton kept pace though as Martins had a triple and Law attacked the basket with success, scoring eight points as the Tigers trailed 17-13 after one.

Qualeem Charles and Callahan scored on back-to-back possessions to give Attleboro its largest lead of the game at 21-13. Taunton responded with an 11-1 run to take its first lead of the game. Kenion slashed to the basket, Vendrell hit a three and then a free throw and Martins connected on his second triple of the game. A free throw from Qualeem Charles tied it but Kenion was fouled and hit two free throws of his own to make it 24-22.

The teams went on a bit of a scoring spree, trading three-pointers on back-to-back possessions. First Houle drained one from deep only for Vendrell to answer seconds later. Ciccio stepped up to sink one for a 28-27 advantage but Law responded on the other end to put Taunton up 30-28.

Attleboro closed the half on a 7-2 run. Houle and Qualeem Charles converting at the rim while Ciccio broke a tie game with a triple to put the Bombardiers up 35-32 at half.

The Bombardiers shot 7-for-12 from three-point range in the first half.

“At halftime, we stated firmly to get them off of the three-point line, we don’t care what you do but get them off,” Dacey said. “We had some bad , but luckily we were able to force them further out into deeper threes.

Taunton’s pressure on the perimeter worked as the Bombardiers connected on just one three in the second half, having a couple of open looks rim out as well.

“I think we forced some shots in the second half from deep,” Houle said. “I don’t think we worked the ball around, we didn’t get as many passes per possession that we like to get. I think we settled for some outside shots and we weren’t getting offensive rebounds, and they were. They won the loose ball battle too. Those 50/50 balls and offensive rebounds, in a close game like this, that’s going to be the difference.”

Attleboro closes the season at 18-5, finishing second in the Kelley-Rex division. It was the first loss at home of the season for the Bombardiers.

“This team has been resilient all year, we’ve had a good attitude in every game,” Houle said. “I knew in my mind, if we could have gotten a little momentum we’d be right back in it, and we did. It came down to the last couple possessions, and we had some opportunities but we weren’t able to get it tied or take the lead.

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“This was a really good group of young men that battled every night. We have a lot to be proud of. This strings, especially as a home game which is something we worked hard to get, but nothing is guaranteed in the state tournament and that’s a lesson we all learned.”

Taunton boys basketball (14-8) advances to the D1 South Quarterfinal to take on rival Bridgewater-Raynham (13-8), marking the first team the two teams have played since the Tigers left the OCL and joined the Hockomock League in 2012. The game is scheduled for Thursday at 6:30 at Bridgewater-Raynham.

“I think this is huge for this team,” Dacey said. “It’s been a tough season, up and down year, a fight every day. Now they are believing and they are in a good place.”

Franklin Dominates Attleboro In Hockomock Finale

Franklin boys basketball
Franklin senior Jalen Samuels attacks the basket in the first half against Attleboro. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
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FRANKLIN, Mass. – For the Franklin boys basketball team, terrific defense led to easy offense.

And that combination resulted in a dominant performance and a comfortably 57-36 win over visiting Attleboro.

The Panthers flipped a two-point game upside down with a 20-0 run over the final six minutes of the second quarter to pull away from the Bombardiers, who entered the contest with a chance to win at least a share of its first Kelley-Rex title.

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Franklin limited the visitors to just 22% shooting from the field in the opening half as the Bombardiers couldn’t find a connection from deep, going just 1-for-17 from three-point range. And with consistent stops, Franklin’s pushed the pace and cashed in with an impressive transition offense, converting some easy looks down low. Franklin shot 65% from the field in the opening half, making 12-of-18 shots from two-point range.

“That was definitely our best game of the season, by far,” said Franklin head coach CJ Neely. “The guys were excited to play tonight, there’s no doubt about it. I think they were a little sore about how last game went and how the season has gone in some respects. They wanted to make a statement tonight and I thought they did, especially in that second quarter. We went in at halftime, and we usually have a list of things we want to change or that we did poorly, and we didn’t have many things on the list. The guys really bought in, that was the best they’ve bought in to a game plan and scouting report all season.”

While Attleboro only had four first half turnovers, it couldn’t solve the Panthers defensively. During Franklin’s game-changing run, Attleboro only had one turnover on a shot clock violation, and 0-for-11 from the field, with eight of those shots coming from three-point range.

“They did everything better than us tonight, offensively and defensively,” said Attleboro coach Mark Houle. “They made us really feel uncomfortable all night, and we didn’t have any answers.

“We didn’t hit [a three] in the first quarter but I have confidence in our guys that can shoot it, we can get hot, but we didn’t get enough paint touches. [Franklin] did a nice job of taking that away early, something that most teams haven’t been able to do. That limited us really. But quite honestly, we weren’t executing on offense. There were still things that we could have done, but we weren’t executing, and that led to a stagnant offense. And we couldn’t attack the rim because their defense was set. That was a very good defensive effort by them.”

Franklin led 15-7 after the first quarter but Attleboro opened the second quarter with a quick 5-0 run to make it a two-point game. Bryant Ciccio (11 points) drained a three and Kevin Velazquez picked off a pace and went the distance for a layup to make it 15-13.

From there, it was all Panthers. Jalen Samuels (15 points, nine rebounds, four assists) converted his own putback and then scored off a feed from Chris Edgehill (seven points, seven rebounds, seven assists). Will Harvey (career-high 19 points, nine rebounds) sank a three-pointer off a feed from Jack Rudolph, then Edgehill came down with a defensive rebound, pushed it up court and found Rudolph for two. Samuels then drove to the basket, drew in the defense and dished it off to Harvey for an easy two and a 26-13 lead with 3:43 left in the second quarter.

The Bombardiers tried to shoot their way out of the funk, taking six triples on their next seven possessions. The lone trip that didn’t result in a three-point attempt was a turnover on a shot clock violation.

Meanwhile, Franklin continued to cash in on the offensive end. Edgehill got some space in the lane for two, Jake Macchi (nine points) sank a three on a pass from Rudolph just moments after Samuels blocked an Attleboro three, and Samuels scored in low on a floater to put Franklin up 35-13 heading into halftime.

“Getting out in transition was key for us, getting up and down,” Neely said. “And when we attacked the paint, I think the biggest thing was getting in there and then making the extra pass for some dunks and some layups.”

The second half was much more even than the first, but the damage was already done by the Panthers. Tim Callahan made Attleboro’s second triple of the game with 2:44 left in the quarter (2-for-21 from deep through three), Ciccio added five points, including Attleboro’s only two free throws in the game, and Qualeem Charles (eight points, 10 rebounds) got an early bucket, but Franklin got points from Macchi (a three), Harvey (five) and two apiece from Edgehill and Rudolph to hold a 47-24 advantage entering the fourth.

“One of the biggest things we worked on was long closeouts,” Neely said. “We practiced having to get there and get there with a hand without flying into the crowd. We’re going to have to live with them making a couple. We knew we’d have to focus on Q, you can’t let one guy try and do it himself. I thought Harvey played one of his best games this season, and he rebounded really well and played great defensively.”

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Attleboro’s defense limited the Panthers to 10 points in the fourth, but only scored 12 on its own. Mason Houle sank two threes in the fourth, the latter cutting the deficit to 15 points but with only three minutes to go. Harvey added four in the final frame and Matt Lazarek came off the bench to hit a triple for the Panthers, who shot 56% from the floor for the game and dominated the rebounding battle, 33-18.

“We had some good looks, but they were mostly contested shots,” Houle said. “We have to regroup. We have the opportunity to learn from this. We didn’t do many good things tonight on either end tonight. Their transition offense, we didn’t do a good enough job against it. That led to 20 straight points…and just layups. It was them getting the rebound and pushing it for a layup.”

Franklin boys basketball (12-4 Hockomock, 14-5 overall) is back in action on Sunday with a noon tipoff against New Bedford. Attleboro (13-3, 16-4) will try to bounce back when it travels to rival North Attleboro for a non-league clash on Monday.

Hornets Hold Off Attleboro to Force Tie Atop League

Mansfield boys basketball
Mansfield junior Sam Stevens scored a team-high 13 points to help the Hornets split the season series with Attleboro and force a tie at the top of the Kelley-Rex division. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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MANSFIELD, Mass. – The first time Attleboro and Mansfield met, the game went to overtime before a winner could be decided. On Friday night in the Albertini Gym, it looked like the two teams could be headed for another extra period when the Bombardiers battled back to tie the game at 53-53 in the fourth quarter.

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As they had all game long, the Hornets made shots when they needed to, closing the game on a 10-4 run and sealing a 63-57 win that split the season series against the Bombardiers and forged a tie atop the Kelley-Rex division.

T.J. Guy got the Hornets off to a good start to the game, scoring the team’s first seven points, including a three-pointer, to take an early lead. Sam Stevens hit his first of three from beyond the arc to extend the lead to 10-4. Attleboro climbed back into the game by getting the ball into the post to junior Qualeem Charles (21 points and 17 rebounds). He scored eight in the first to keep the Bombardiers close.

Tim Callahan drilled a three to get Attleboro back within three but then Damani Scott (11 points and 11 rebounds) answered with one of his one and finished with Mansfield’s last eight points of the quarter to give the hosts a 22-17 edge.

Tommy Dooling (10 points) got free on back-to-back possessions in the second and drilled a pair of threes to extend the lead to 30-19, which was the largest of the night. Even without injured point guard Bryant Ciccio, the Bombardiers kept finding ways to hang around. Charles got a three-point play off a Mason Houle assist and then Houle (nine points) got a steal and assist for a Kevin Velazquez transition basket.

“All season long, we’ve had guys down and had guys step up,” said Attleboro coach Mark Houle about battling through the game without Ciccio. “This group really plays for each other. We’re still first place in the league…and we need to finish strong, take care of what we need to do, and work hard then we’ll be alright.”

A Matt Boen three pushed the lead back to nine, but a Charles layup off a Nick McMahon feed and a pair of baskets from Houle kept Attleboro within seven, 37-30, heading into the break.

“We tried to really run at Mason and really neutralize Q,” said Vaughan. “I mean, Q is going to get his points but if we neutralize him and really make it difficult for Tim and Mason to get going I thought that was probably our best recipe for winning. You’ve got to pick your poison.”

The Bombardiers cut the lead down to four at the start of the third quarter, but every time Mansfield would have a response. This time it was Boen drilling a corner three from a Dooling assist and then Stevens got going with seven points in the quarter. When Boen (12 points) hit his second three of the quarter, and third of the night, the Hornets led 53-42 and felt on the verge of putting the game out of reach.

Instead, Attleboro rallied with 11 straight points. Callahan hit a three and McMahon beat the buzzer with a pull-up jumper in the final seconds of the third. Callahan hit another to start the fourth and Charles scored off a Houle assist and got fouled on an offensive rebound to tie the game.

“We had to rebound,” said Vaughan. “I think in the third quarter when they made a push, the first time I thought we could’ve put them away, it was all done on the offensive glass.”

Houle noted, “We’re a resilient group. There were a couple possessions we’d like to have back, kind of settled a little bit, but Mansfield’s good. They buckled down on two, three possessions that ended up being key when we had momentum going.”

After a Scott free throw, Stevens got a good look at a straightaway three and nailed it to make it 57-53. Dooling beat his man for a layup and then Scott followed up a miss with a rebound basket to put the home team up seven with time running out.

“They made shots,” said Houle. “We adjusted some things at halftime and it was the first time we played zone all year. I think it took them out of their rhythm for a little while and we were gritty, scrappy, and I’m proud of our effort. We played like champions need to.”

With the Hornets struggling at the line, just 3-for-10 in the fourth quarter, Attleboro was still in the game and Houle buried his first three of the game to make it 61-57 with 43 seconds left. It just wasn’t enough for the Bombardiers as time ran out on the latest comeback attempt.

“If you’re not making free throws,” Vaughan explained, “you give opportunities and they had a few opportunities but they missed a few shots there that could’ve changed the outcome of the game. Some of it is they’re just not used to the moment, so having games like this will definitely prepare us come tournament time.”

The win moves Mansfield into a first place tie, but both teams have to run the gauntlet of division play over the final four games in the league.

“It doesn’t getting easy for either one of us,” said Vaughan about the closing stretch in league play. “It’s what I love about the league is that it isn’t easy and they didn’t make it easy for us tonight. Now we’ve got to enjoy this tonight and come out on Tuesday and be ready for Franklin because they’re going to come out and say hey this is our league title game.”

As Vaughan noted, Mansfield (14-2, 10-2) will travel to Franklin, which is just one game out of first, on Tuesday night. Attleboro (13-3, 10-2) will also be on the road, traveling to Oliver Ames, looking to stay in the hunt for its first ever Hock title.

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Charles, Attleboro Get Past Franklin In Overtime

Qualeem Charles
Attleboro’s Qualeem Charles (right) goes up for a shot against Franklin’s Sean Leonard in the second quarter. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
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ATTLEBORO, Mass. – Having to try and match up with Attleboro’s 6-foot-5, 295-pound center Qualeem Charles for 32 minutes is one of the toughest covers in the entire Hockomock League.

Having to try and stop him for four more minutes in overtime just might be impossible.

Franklin stormed back from a 15-point fourth quarter deficit to tie the game in the final seconds and send the game to overtime but Charles scored half of Attleboro’s points in the overtime period to help the Bombardiers secure a 51-46 decision in overtime.

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Charles scored 13 of his game-high 18 points after halftime and hauled of his 17 rebounds after the break as well.

“We always want to go inside, they did a nice job of challenging him early,” said Attleboro head coach Mark Houle. “He’s very unselfish so a lot of the times he got the ball he was kicking it out and we were getting great looks and we weren’t knocking them down. We told him in the second half when you touch the ball, you shoot the ball and he did that more consistently. If he didn’t score the field goal, he went to the line and he hit his foul shots which was key for us.”

After Mason Houle (nine points) and Will Harvey traded three-pointers to open the extra stanza, the Bombardiers got Charles going inside. Kevin Velazquez (six points, nine rebounds) found the big man in the post and Charles used a nice post move to go up two.

The teams traded misses before Attleboro came up short on a Tim Callahan three. But Callahan was quick to hustle back on defense and drew a charge to get the ball back with 1:32 to play and a 46-44 lead.

Attleboro went back inside and Charles was fouled, hitting one of two attempts to extend the lead to 47-44. Franklin missed a three and Charles came down with a big rebound. On the offensive end, the Panthers’ collapsed to try and cover Charles, allowing Velazquez to take it strong to the basket for two.

Franklin once again came up short on a layup attempt and Charles hauled in the rebound while being fouled. He hit two free throws to give Attleboro 51-46 lead with 28 seconds and that’s how the game finished.

After putting up just five shots in the first half total, Charles attempted five field goals in the third quarter and then went 2-for-2 in the fourth.

“I was definitely overlooking at times, I wanted to find teammates,” Charles said. “I know my teammates can make those big shots but they weren’t falling tonight so I had to try and close it out. Eventually my shot started falling. Their bigger players started getting in foul trouble, so I was getting more of a mismatch so I was able to convert.”

There wasn’t much happening for either side in the first half. The teams combined for just six made field goals in the opening eight minutes with Franklin senior Jalen Samuels (eight points, 10 rebounds, five assists) finding Thomas Gasbarro for a layup right before the buzzer to give Franklin a 9-7 edge.

But that would be the last field goal Franklin would make for the half. The Panthers were held scoreless for nearly the entire second quarter. Sean Leonard hit a pair of free throws with 26 seconds left to get Franklin on the board.

Meanwhile while Attleboro’s offense didn’t exactly catch fire, it was able to use an 8-0 run over the first seven minutes. Bryant Ciccio and Nick McMahon made shots while Callahan and Houle sank two free throws apiece. A late bucket from Charles gave Attleboro a 17-11 lead at half.

“It’s a problem, he’s a big kid, and there’s not a lot of guys that can move him when he gets position where he wants to be,” Neely said of matching up with Charles. “We had a plan that was working early but late in the game, I think guys were a bit tired. I stuck with the same lineup for a long time. They get worn down banging around with him for a whole game and he was able to get some baskets, he’s a tough cover.”

The offenses for both sides came alive to start the second half. The Panthers matched their first half production in just over five minutes in the third quarter. Buckets from Chris Edgehill (12 points, eight rebounds), Jake Macchi, and Leonard brought the Panthers within two, 24-22, with 3:46 left in the third.

Attleboro answered with a 10-0 run to close the third quarter. Ciccio, Charles, and Houle hit back-to-back-to-back layups, and McMahon converted down low after a nice offensive rebound and pass from Velazquez to give the Bombardiers a 32-22 advantage heading into the final quarter.

“Coming into the game we talked about defensive stops and consecutive defensive stops and Franklin is terrific at it,” Houle said. “The last three games they’ve given up 40 points or less and they lead the league in defensive scoring average. So we knew we were going to have to execute. We wanted to take care of the ball, be strong with the ball, and attacking them when we can on ball reversals. We didn’t shoot the ball particularly well, but neither did they, and I think that’s a credit to both defenses.”

It appeared the Bombardiers had the game in hand when they pushed the lead to 37-22 on a Callahan triple, a 15-point advantage with six minutes left.

But Attleboro’s offense stalled as the Panthers continued their pressure defensively. And over those six minutes, shots began to fall for the visitors. Steve Karayan drained a three after a steal from Will Harvey then Edgehill drained a transition three after an Attleboro turnover to make it 37-31 with three minutes to go.

Samuels hit a free throw and Harvey came up with another steal that led to two made free throws, cutting the deficit to 37-34 with two minutes left. After a five-second call on the inbounds, Harvey sank another free throw to make it 37-35.

Attleboro finally got some points on the board when Callahan hit Charles down low and the junior converted with a nice spin move. But Karayan drained another triple to make it a one-point game with just over a minute to go.

Velazquez missed but was fouled as he hustled for the offensive rebound and he sank two free throws with 42.6 to play.

Franklin came up short on the tying three, but the offensive rebound was batted out and corralled. Attleboro chose to foul with a three-point lead with 8.4 to go. The strategy worked as Franklin missed both free throws but the rebound was batted out to Edgehill, who alertly made an extra mass to Karayan for a straightaway three-pointer with 2.4 left, sending the game into overtime tied 41-41.

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“We found something that was working down the stretch,” Neely said.”But in the end, we weren’t ourselves in the first half. We weren’t playing the way we needed to play if we wanted to win. You can get away with that sometimes but not on the road at Attleboro in a big game tonight. We played good defense in the first half but they opened it up in the second half. I’m proud of them, they stuck with it. They shared the ball and got back into the game. Free throws hurt us, and that’s cost us basically in every loss this year. It’s frustrating to have a good offensive possession and get to the line and come away with nothing.

“We had a 15 point lead and they whittled it down to go to overtime, that’s Franklin,” Houle said. “They are a very good, gritty team. We knew coming in it wouldn’t be an easy game. As they were coming back, it felt like we weren’t playing to win anymore, we were just trying to hold on. After one of the timeouts, we talked about playing to win. We started to play with a bit more energy and were able to make some plays.”

Attleboro boys basketball (9-1 Hockomock, 12-2 overall) is back in action on Tuesday on the road at Milford. Franklin (7-3, 9-4) is also on the road with a trip to Sharon on tap.

Attleboro Pulls Away From Rival North For Big Win

North Attleboro boys basketball
Attleboro’s Mason Houle drives to the basket as North Attleboro’s George Ladd (33) attempts to block the ball. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
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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.

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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.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

“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.

Hockomock League Unified In Promoting Inclusion

Unified Track
North Attleboro athletes and partners enjoy their time at the first ever Hockomock League Unified Track meet, held at Franklin High. North was one of several schools that added unified track this spring, bringing the total to nine Hockomock schools. (Peter Raider/HockomockSports.com)

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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.

Click here for a photo gallery from the inaugural Hockomock League Unified Track and Field Meet.

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.”

Athletes from Attleboro compete in the inaugural Hockomock League Unified Track and Field meet. (Peter Raider/HockomockSports.com)

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.”

Click here for a photo gallery from the inaugural Hockomock League Unified Track and Field Meet.

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 Track
Partners and athletes enjoy a break on the infield in between events. (Peter Raider/HockomockSports.com)

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.”

Click here for a photo gallery from the inaugural Hockomock League Unified Track and Field Meet.

Brockton’s Defense Overwhelms Attleboro In Opener

Attleboro boys basketball
Attleboro junior Mason Houle drives to the basket in the first half against Brockton. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
 
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
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.

Attleboro Rides Big Second Half Past North Attleboro

Attleboro boys basketball
Attleboro’s Bryant Ciccio attempts a layup against North Attleboro in the first half. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
 
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
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.”

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

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.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

“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.”

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Foxboro Holds Off Late Surge To Beat Attleboro

Foxboro boys basketball
Foxboro’s Brandon Borde goes up for a layup in the second half. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
 
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
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.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

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.”

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

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.

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Attleboro Grounds Hawks With Second Half Comeback

Attleboro boys basketball
Attleboro’s Jason Weir attacks the basket in the first half against Milford. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
 
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
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.”

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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.

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“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.

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