The Tigers nearly did it again in the second half, but couldn’t complete the comeback bid in the final seconds, suffering a 53-45 loss to the Rebels.
Oliver Ames trimmed a once 14-point fourth quarter deficit down to five in the final minute, even getting a chance to shrink the lead even more but came up just short as the Rebels hit enough free throws down the stretch as OA’s offense ran out of gas.
“We just didn’t finish it, we didn’t take advantage of our chances late,” said longtime Oliver Ames head coach Laney Clement-Holbrook. “We had the perfect scenario [at the beginning of the comeback], shooting free throws with no time coming off the clock trying to get back into it and we missed a couple.
“They were missing to keep us in it but we just didn’t step up to finish. We had the big comeback in the first and we had to get back into in the second, I wonder if we expended too much energy there.”
Walpole rattled off a 15-2 run over the final four minutes of the third quarter to create its second double-digit lead of the game and the Rebels’ advantage peaked just before the midway point of the fourth quarter when senior Ainsley Dundon drained a three for a 45-31 lead.
The Tigers slowly started to claw back into the game, first with defensive stops and then with trips to the line. OA went just 1-for-4 from the line in that span but sophomore Caroline Peper (19 points) sank her second three of the game on the next trip to make it 47-39 with three minutes to play.
A putback off an offensive rebound from Walpole freshman Catie Hurley and a free throw from senior Sydney Scales pushed the lead to 10, 50-40, with just over a minute to go but OA continued to fight back.
Peper scored off a nice cut to the basket, converting a feed from Tori Harney (five points, four rebounds, three assists). After Walpole missed the front end of a one-and-one, Harney drained a contested three and the Tigers were down just five, 50-45, with 57 seconds to play.
Walpole again missed the front end of a one-and-one to give the Tigers a chance to make it a one-possession game but OA couldn’t find a clean look and had a three-point shot go off the mark. Scales sank two more at the line and OA again came up short on a three. Walpole gave OA a final shot with two more misses from the line but the Tigers had two shots off the mark.
“Walpole is a good team…the Hock and the Bay State are the two best leagues in the state,” Clement-Holbrook said. “To draw somebody from that league, you don’t look at the record, that means nothing. They play tough teams throughout the year and the had beaten us before too.”
The Tigers score the majority of their points between the second and fourth quarters as the Rebels’ defense limited the hosts to just two field goals in the first quarter and seven points total, and six points total in the third.
“They really were physical with us, they didn’t give us any open looks,” Clement-Holbrook said. OA finished 3-for-14 from three-point range and shot under 30% from two-point range. “They bumped us like we’re supposed to bump others. I hope the takeaway from this is we learn from that, that’s how you defend when you’re going against teams that can shoot. You have to be right up on them, be physical.”
Trailing 12-7 after a quarter of play, OA’s offense didn’t shift into gear until it was faced with a 21-11 deficit. Anna Murphy converted down low to get the run started and junior Caroline Flynn (11 points, 12 rebounds) scored off a feed from Meg Holleran (eight rebounds).
Harney came up with a big block on Scales on one end and Peper converted on the other, and then the Tigers’ defense forced a shot clock violation before Peper hit a jumper. Holleran battled for an offensive rebound and sank a pair of free throws to make it 21-21.
Flynn hit a free throw to cap OA’s 11-0 surge to take a brief 22-21 lead before Scales answered with one of her own to make it 22-22 at the halftime break.
Holding a 26-25 lead early in the third thanks to a pair of baskets from Peper, the Tigers’ defense continued to focus in on Scales. When the two teams met in the regular season, Scales accounted for over half of her team’s points (25 of 48).
While Scales finished with less points this time around (20 points), her teammates stepped up to hit big shots. In Walpole’s 15-2 run. Scales help set up a pair of threes from freshman Brooke Walonis, who also added a strong take to the rim for eight points in the frame. Scales put an exclamation point on the run with a three that beat the third quarter buzzer.
“You know who’s who in the neighborhood and you’re going to try and take them away, but those role players for them stepped up,” Clement-Holbrook said. “They had players hit those big threes, they had the offensive rebound [putback].”
Oliver Ames girls basketball finishes the season at 14-7.
HANOVER, Mass. – After a back-and-forth competitive first half that featured seven lead changes and a pair of ties, it was only a matter of time until one team put together a game-changing run over the final two quarters.
#18 Oliver Ames wasn’t going to wait around and let #15 Hanover hit first.
The Tigers, trailing by one at the halftime break, opened the second half with a 15-2 burst over the first five minutes of the third quarter to create a double-digit advantage and Oliver Ames never looked back, earning a 62-51 win on the road in a D2 South Preliminary Round matchup.
Oliver Ames’ largest lead of the opening half was five, accomplished midway through the second quarter when senior Ryan Sullivan came off the bench and drained a three for a 20-15 lead. But true to how the rest of the first half went, the Indians crawled back into it and scored the final four points of the half to seize a 24-23 lead at the break.
Due to foul trouble, OA’s starting five didn’t play many minutes together in the second with junior Amari Brown (15 points, four rebounds, three assists) holding two fouls. But in the second half, the Tigers had its top lineup available and ramped up the defensive effort to start the third.
“We had all of our weapons to start the second half and I thought we did a really good job on the defensive end,” said Oliver Ames head coach Don Byron. “The [Patrick] Damon kid is an exceptional player, a 1,000-point player with a tremendous career and throughout that entire game, I thought Owen [Friel] was unbelievable just manning him up. We schemed a couple of things on their ball screens that I thought we did well.
“I think we played it somewhat conservative in the first half, we protected Amari [Brown] (foul trouble), who is probably our best on the ball defender arguably, though Friel does a good job of it too. Losing one of those two for a good chunk of time… we survived it okay, and we were happy down just one at that point.”
Oliver Ames senior Ryan Burkett (19 points, 10 rebounds) opened the second half with a traditional three-point play that gave the visitors the lead for good. Defensively, the Tigers drew an offensive foul, and both Burkett and Brown had back-to-back steals, the latter taking the turnover the length of the court for a bucket plus the harm. The free throw put OA u 29-24.
Hanover’s Jack Fleming hit a pair of free throws but OA senior Jay Spillane (six points, six assists, four rebounds) splashed a three in response, and after back-to-back stops defensively, Burkett took down a defensive board on one end and converted at the rim, forcing a Hanover timeout at 34-26.
The break didn’t stop the bleeding though as Burkett stood in to draw a charge out of the timeout, and then cleaned up a miss with a putback. Burkett came up with another steal and went in uncontested for two more as the Tigers capped a 15-2 surge out of the halftime break.
“You never really know how they are going to react when the bright lights come on,” Byron said. You get a sense for it, we had a good practice yesterday but you never really know. We came out and hit them first in the second half.
“We rebounded well and we had a couple of shots fall. We hit them with that first blast early in the first half that I think set them back a little bit. And from there on, I thought we were pretty efficient.”
Junior Solomon Fife gave OA a boost off the bench with some strong minutes defensively down low and added a free throw and a bucket in the post to help the Tigers take a 41-29 lead into the final frame.
Fleming scored early and Damon drained a deep three early in the fourth to get the Indians within single digits, 42-34, but yet another Tiger stepped up to answer the call. Senior Evan Craig (11 points) hit a baseline jumper on a feed from Friel for his second straight basket and then scored off an offensive rebound one possession after Burkett converted at the rim.
Friel then knocked the ball free and went in alone for a layup to give OA a 50-34 edge, the Tigers’ largest lead of the night, with 4:37 to play.
“That’s huge, just to be able to capable of having a third or fourth guy that can score, that need to be guarded,” Byron said. “If someone comes and tries to take one guy away, there’s another guy out there capable for us. Teams don’t have that every year, but we have some kids that can make baskets. Burkett came out very strong from the beginning, Craig had that baseline spot up and a couple of finishes off penetration.”
Hanover applied a full-court press to try and get back into it but the Tigers were able to navigate past it, and then hit their free throws down the stretch to ice the win.
Oliver Ames boys basketball (12-11) advances to the D2 South First Round to take on #2 Westwood (20-2) on Thursday at 6:30.
NORTH EASTON, Mass. – Laney Clement-Holbrook took over at Oliver Ames in her early 20s and over the next 44 years turned the Tigers into a perennial power. Three years ago, Clement-Holbrook became the all-time winningest high school basketball coach in the state and on Friday night at the Nixon Gym she added a new historic milestone to her already legendary career when she became the state’s first member of the 700-win club.
It was a moment that she tried to keep quiet, wanting to keep the attention on her players, especially the three players celebrating senior night. Athletic director Bill Matthews sent a notice to the media the night before the game and word spread, drawing a big crowd for the visit of Mansfield.
Any worries that her team might be distracted or not be able to handle the moment were quickly dispelled. The Tigers won each of the individual quarters, took a double-digit lead by halftime, and pulled away in the second half for a 72-49 win and a season sweep of the Hornets.
“This is what we want them to be able to handle is the big stage, so I thought for the kids this was a great experience for them just because there would be a lot more people, a lot of energy,” Clement-Holbrook said. “Hopefully this will move us forward as a team.”
When asked what it has meant to coach at OA for as long as she has, Clement-Holbrook praised the coaches who she learned from, including Val Muscato, Bill Nixon, and Sue Rivard, and she also pointed to the numerous alumni that came back to celebrate the special night.
“Some of these kids played for me in the 80s,” she said with a laugh. “I’m just so grateful to have the chance to be here for so long. It was the first place and it will be the last place I coach. It’s a special moment.”
After the handshake line, Clement-Holbrook shared a quick word with Mansfield coach Mike Redding. He expressed his admiration for someone he has coached against for more than 20 years.
“It’s been an honor going against her. I’ve done 23 years and they have been the standard bearer,” he said. “Just the quality every single year is amazing. She still has the passion, the enthusiasm, she’s been doing it 40-plus years but it’s still like her first year coaching.”
OA senior guard Meg Holleran is the third member of her family to play for Clement-Holbrook, following her older sisters Kate and Shannon, who were both in attendance, and was a freshman on the varsity team when Clement-Holbrook set the wins record three years ago.
“She wanted this to be about senior night and just getting the win,” Holleran said. “We actually heard it was the 700th from a parent, she didn’t even tell us herself. We just wanted to come out and we had a big surprise for her at the end.”
The Tigers got off to a fast start, as Caroline Peper (21 points and four assists) drilled a pair of threes and scored eight points in the first. Her second attempt came on the third shot of a possession, as OA dominated the glass. Senior Tate Hadges (seven points) added four in the first and classmate Erin Holmberg (four points and five assists) got on the board off a pass from Holleran.
Ashley Santos tried to keep the Hornets close in the second, as she scored 10 points in the quarter, but Mansfield only managed one more point as a team. Meanwhile, the Tigers were getting contributions from up and down the roster. Tori Harney (10 points) hit a couple of long jumpers and had six points in the second and Caroline Flynn (13 points, nine rebounds, and six assists) got a layup after a Peper steal.
Mansfield cut the lead from 11 points down to seven after back-to-back buckets by Santos, but the Tigers closed the half with threes from Jess Erlich (eight points) and Peper to go into the break up 36-23.
“We had some turnovers and they took advantage and it seemed like anytime we had a little momentum, we couldn’t get a stop,” Redding explained. “We try hard, but we’re just maybe not quick enough, tall enough. We had a decent effort, they just had some kids step up.”
OA broke the game wide open in the third. Peper came out firing again, scoring eight points on a pair of threes and a transition layup, all assisted by Flynn, who added four points of her own. Santos continued to stay hot for the Hornets with five more points and Kayla Vine got an and-one for her lone points of the night, but OA’s depth pushed the lead to 19 by the end of the quarter.
A three by Santos cut the lead to as little as 14 in the fourth, but the Tigers never allowed Mansfield to get too close, finishing the game on a 14-5 run. Hailey Bourne got it started with an offensive rebound and layup, Flynn added a drive plus the foul, and then Erlich had a corner three to restore a comfortable margin.
The final minutes were largely a countdown to history. Only when the horn sounded on another OA victory, did Clement-Holbrook finally crack and smile and acknowledge what the student section had been chanting about over the game’s closing minutes.
It was the perfect way to end a day filled with recognition of one of the state’s most successful coaching careers.
“It has been a very busy day,” said Clement-Holbrook, who gave the keynote address at the MIAA’s Girls and Women in Sports Day at Faneuil Hall in Boston in the morning. “What an incredible honor it was today to walk into Faneuil Hall and for it to be such a historical event. To see this game go from me playing six-player basketball at Dedham High School to this in my lifetime is incredible.”
Holleran added, “I’m so happy for her. She deserves it so much. I got to go see her give the speech today at the MIAA Girls and Women in Sports Day and it’s just surreal, she’s achieved so much, and I’m so proud of her. It’s great to be part of it.”
When asked to try and put 700 wins into perspective, Redding replied, “It’s mind-boggling. Just the longevity, the quality, and just classy young women. It makes this league special, such good people, great competition, and we’ve become good friends. Pretty special coach, got to be the best in Massachusetts history and one of the best in national history.”
Oliver Ames (13-3, 12-2) will travel to Franklin on Tuesday hoping to hand the Panthers their first loss of the season and push the Kelley-Rex title race to the final game of the season. Mansfield (6-12) will host North Attleboro on Sunday afternoon and try to stay alive for the postseason, needing to win out to qualify.
ATTLEBORO, Mass. – Heading into the final six games of the regular season, Oliver Ames needed at least five wins and a tie in order to qualify for the postseason, but for the second time in 11 days the Tigers found themselves trailing Attleboro as the second period was winding down.
Last time out, in the league meeting between the two teams, the Tigers scored three times in the third period to pull out the win. On Wednesday evening at the New England Sports Village, OA didn’t wait quite as long to rally. Cam Perron tied the game with two minutes left in the second and then broke the tie four minutes into the third to power the Tigers to a 2-1 victory and a season sweep of the Bombardiers.
“We’ve had to grind out wins all season long, so being down a goal or two goals, these kids don’t give up,” said OA coach Mike Zucarelli. “It’s something I’m really proud of them.”
OA dominated the first period, outshooting the Bombardiers 11-4 and pinning the hosts back in the defensive zone for long stretches. Ross Carroll had one of the early looks with a wrister that Attleboro goalie Nick Piazza saved but dropped in front of the crease causing a scrum. Perron nearly broke the deadlock when he slipped in between two defenders but Piazza smothered the partial break.
Attleboro created a couple of scoring opportunities late in the period. Aidan Dryjowicz skated in from the left side but shot wide at the near post and then Ryan Morry struck the post with a wrist shot from the right circle. After Brad Powers had his close-range shot stuffed by Piazza, Jaydin Rossi snuck out and got behind the OA defense for a last-second breakaway that Owen Connor was able to stretch and save.
The late flurry at the end of the first period was foreshadowing for a much better start to the second for the Bombardiers. Attleboro needed only 28 seconds after the intermission to grab the lead. Nate Parker saucered a perfect pass to Owen Dryjowicz on a two-on-one break and the junior finished at the far post to make it 1-0.
“It was horrible,” Attleboro coach Mark Homer said of the first period. “We talked about it in the locker room and they realized that we can compete with OA. This was a game that we could’ve won, so it’s a matter of settling down, control your emotions, and go out there and do the simple things.”
The game got more physical as the period wore on and a procession to the penalty box ensued. Both teams found themselves guilty of giving away power play opportunities and scoring chances. Aidan Dryjowicz skated through a pair of defenders and forced Connor into a stop and then Ryan Gottwald sprung Costello with a perfect two-line pass, but Piazza made the blocker save.
With 2:03 left in the second, Perron caught the Attleboro blue line pinching in on the power play and Costello hit him with a perfect pass to spring a breakaway. This time, Perron gave Piazza no chance by going bar-down to make it 1-1.
OA started the third period with 2:43 of power play time, including a full two minutes with a two-man advantage. The Tigers thought that they made it count when Perron fired a shot from the point that smashed the bar on its way into the back of the net, only to be ruled out because there was a man in the crease.
Piazza also denied the Tigers on a pair of golden scoring chances. Gottwald got the first look from the left side of the net only to have Piazza kick out the right pad to stop what looked like a sure goal. Costello followed up on the rebound but again the sophomore netminder was able to respond quickly to block it and help the Bombardiers get back to even strength.
Homer said, “I thought he had a rough start, he wasn’t seeing the puck well, wasn’t controlling his rebounds, but this is the thing about Nick, he doesn’t let that bother him. You saw in the second and third periods, he’s a stalwart. He regains his focus and he plays for the next shot.”
The Attleboro goalie stood no chance on the go-ahead score. While falling down in the high slot, Perron was able to squeeze a shot through traffic in front of goal, past the unsighted goalie, off the bar (again) and into the back of the net.
Zucarelli joked, “He went bar-down in the second and a kid on the bench said, ‘You won’t do that again,’ and he went and did it two more times just too bad the second one didn’t count.”
Morry forced a blocker save out of Connor with a chance from the left side, Duncan Pereira was denied by Piazza on a shorthanded breakaway chance, and Power saw a chance go off the post, as both teams continued to fashion scoring opportunities in the closing minutes.
“It was a 2-1 game, you’ve got to put the puck on net,” said Homer. “We should’ve been in a better rhythm. We didn’t get into a rhythm until the late stages of the game.”
Zucarelli credited the Tigers for not getting down when they fell behind or when they failed to make the long power play count at the beginning of the third and finding a way to pull out a win.
“Our record shows that we got off to a real slow start,” he said, “and they had the option to put their heads down and sulk and see if it continues or to grind it out and work hard and get better and that’s what they’ve done. That third period showed the work that the team has put in all season.”
Oliver Ames (5-9-2) will try to keep things heading in the right direction on Saturday in a trip to King Philip. Attleboro (4-10-1) still has its own playoff hopes through the Sullivan rule and will travel to Stoughton this weekend.