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.