TAUNTON, Mass. – It looked like the game was about to get away. Hingham went on a 12-5 run to start the third quarter and pushed its lead to double digits in Saturday morning’s Div. 2 South final at Taunton’s Rabouin Field House. Foxboro’s season was on the brink.
Experience took over. Foxboro has been in this position before, having reached the South final three out of the last four years, and a lineup filled with upperclassman turned around the 11-point deficit by locking down on the defensive end and grinding out possessions on offense.
After scoring 29 points through 19 minutes, Foxboro rallied with 28 points over the final 11 and held Hingham to only 10 points in that stretch. The Warriors turned a 40-29 Hingham lead into a 57-50 victory and claimed another South title.
“We faced something like this before two years ago when we won the championship,” said senior forward Yara Fawaz, referencing a 20-point second half comeback against Pentucket in the 2018 state semifinal. “I think we just had to keep our composure both on defense and offense. We played as a team and it turned into a great win.”
Junior guard Katelyn Mollica added, “It’s really important in these kind of games to never stop fighting. It’s just so important to keep hitting those shots, keep fighting on defense. I know most of my team is older, so we’ve all kind of been there in this position and it’s really helpful having that past experience.”
Hingham only made two shots from the field over the final 11-plus minutes, but in the first half the Harborwomen showed the shot-making that got them to the final. Caroline Connelly was controlling the glass, grabbing 12 of her 16 rebounds in the first half, and had four points in the first quarter. Perry Blasetti had eight points in the first, including a pull-up three that put Hingham up 14-11 after one.
The Warriors were struggling to find a rhythm offensively in the early going. Mollica hit her first three and Fawaz had four points in the first, including a steal and layup and then basket off a Lizzy Davis assist to tie the game at 9-9. Hingham pushed the lead to as many as five twice in the second quarter, but each time Foxboro battled back.
Shakirah Ketant got her first four points in the second and also assisted on a Jordyn Collins jumper that cut the Hingham lead to 25-22. After Fawaz got two at the line, Foxboro was back within one, but then Grace Bennis got free for a deep three at the buzzer (her only made field goal in the game) to make it 28-24 heading to the locker room.
“Fortunately I have a whole bunch of seniors who a year ago would have absolutely crumbled and they just knew that they’re resilient and they just focused on the next basket,” said Foxboro coach Lisa Downs. “I knew that if we went into halftime within a basket or two that we were going to win the game because we’re a second half team.”
The momentum from that shot seemed to carry over into the second half.
Ryley Blasetti (13 points) got to the basket for an and-one and Connelly (nine points) grabbed an offensive board for a three-point play that pushed the lead to 11. Mollica (17 points) answered with a drive for two, but a pair of free throws by Perry Blasetti (14 points) made it 40-29.
Fawaz (11 points) gave the Warriors a little life by snagging an offensive rebound in traffic and kicking it out to Mollica for a three. It was the start of a 13-1 run to close out the third quarter. With Foxboro back within four, Fawaz got a steal at one end and then finished off a nice pass from Morgan Sylvestre to make it 40-38.
The Warriors had been dominated on the glass for the better part of three quarters but another offensive rebound, this time from Mollica, led to an open jumper from Sylvestre to tie the game. Hingham got one at the line to regain the lead, but Ketant (13 points, 10 rebounds, and three blocks) got on the glass for two of her seven third quarter points and a 42-41 lead heading to the fourth.
Foxboro was in serious foul trouble in the second half. Abby Hassman picked up her fourth with 5:24 left in the third and just 20 seconds later Davis got her fourth as well. Ketant and Collins both got their fourth fouls in the fourth quarter.
But, the Warriors kept making plays on both ends and Hingham shot just 5-of-10 at the line in the final quarter. Ketant buried a jumper off a Collins feed to make it 44-43. After Hingham came back to lead 48-46 on a Ryley Blasetti floater, Collins got an open look off a Hassman rebound and dish to tie the game again.
“Every shot they had had to be a contested one and they had to really earn it,” said Downs about the defensive effort. “They’re a fantastic team and if they got into a shooting rhythm we’d be in trouble, so we just had to have a hand up on every shot.”
Mollica put the Warriors in front to stay with a runner on the baseline and Foxboro went 9-of-10 at the line in the final stretch to seal the win. Mollica and Davis were both a perfect 4-for-4 in the fourth quarter. Davis also drew an important charge with 18.6 on the clock and the Warriors up by five.
“I’m just so proud of them,” said Downs. “Any given day it’s going to be somebody else’s game. We have the capabilities on any given night to make sure that whoever is having a good night gets the ball. Defensively, that’s what won the game for us.”
Fawaz, who was on the bench but didn’t play the last time that Foxboro won the South, credited that experience for helping win this year’s title.
She said, “I think we just had the opportunity to play with those five seniors who were there two years ago and I think a lot of people doubted Foxboro girls basketball after that but we proved to them that we can still do it and still come back.
“It feels awesome. We knew what we wanted to do and we did it.”
Foxboro (23-2) advances to play at the TD Garden for the first time in four years (snow moved the 2018 state semifinal from the Garden to Woburn High) and will face North champion North Reading on Wednesday at 5:30.