The third time proved to be the charm for the Tigers against Medfield as Oliver Ames, who had lost back-to-back games to the Warriors at the end of the regular season, emerged from a hard-fought battle with a 62-59 overtime win to earn a spot in the D2 Final.
The victory wasn’t secure until the last second — all tenths of it — ticked off the clock and the final buzzer sounded in overtime. The journey to get there was full of twists and turns, punches and counter punches, and momentum swings you couldn’t script in a Hollywood thriller.
“When you play the same team three times, all sorts of things happen,” said Oliver Ames head coach Laney Clement-Holbrook. “You’re just so very familiar with each other and what each other does…it comes down to execution. There were moments I thought we had it, and then there were times we made it a little too easily for them. But the thing I’m most proud of is their resiliency because they didn’t quit, they didn’t give up, and they came back.”
While Medfield had the edge for the first two quarters, Oliver Ames surged ahead during the second half. But even with some big runs, the Tigers couldn’t quite put the Warriors away in regulation.
Similar to their 10-0 run in the third quarter, Oliver Ames hit its stride in the fourth quarter and looked poised to run away with the win. The Tigers rattled off a 13-6 run over a four-minute span, a triple from sophomore Kaydance Derba (nine points, four assists) shortly after OA broke the press put OA ahead 51-43 with two minutes to go in the game.
But similar to how the Warriors responded to OA’s big run in the third (a 7-0 run of their own), Medfield quickly turned the game on its head. Ann McCarthy (28 points, eight rebounds) drew back-to-back fouls for four straight free throws. After a traveling call on OA, McCarthy attacked the rim for two more to make it a two-point game.
Medfield kept the pressure up and forced another turnover and McCarthy splashed in a triple to complete a personal 9-0 run as the Warriors suddenly jumped ahead 52-51 with under a minute to go.
OA had a shot blocked and then turned it over on the ensuing inbounds play, giving Medfield the ball with the lead and just 19.1 seconds to go.
There was no quit in the Tigers as both senior Hailey Bourne (three steals, three blocks) and sophomore Jasmyn Cooper (14 points, eight rebounds, eight assists, three steals) read the inbounds play perfectly and combined for the steal. Cooper found classmate Sarah Hilliard (six points, 10 rebounds, four assists), who alertly dished it off to senior Caroline Peper (26 points, eight rebounds, three blocks) for an easy layup and OA was back up 53-51 with 12 seconds to go.
Bourne came up with a steal on Medfield’s ensuing inbounds but after a foul, the Warriors got a steal of their own, and McCarthy was fouled. The Medfield star hit the first to tie the game but was short on the second. OA grabbed the rebound, was fouled instantly but their 1-and-1 chance from the line with 0.2 seconds left was off and the game headed to overtime.
“I want to give kudos to our crowd,” Clement-Holbrook said. “We’ve had a couple of the boys come to practice with us the last week and they showed up and brought more people, and they were so important. Those foul shots at the end, I just kind of turned to them and they ramped up the noise. That’s high school basketball.
“These kids just love to play, the senior class has been absolutely amazing in terms of paying it forward for these young kids. They are demonstrating the right things, saying and doing the right things, both on and off the court. I’m so proud of them.”
After each team hit a free throw to open overtime, Cooper came down with an offensive board and put it back in to give the Tigers a 56-54 lead. A baseline make from Medfield tied it but Derba fired a beautiful bullet pass to Cooper cutting to the rim for two and another lead.
Although OA got a stop, the Tigers turned it over trying to take it over half. Bourne had another terrific play, coming up with a block that was called a jump ball, and OA had the possession arrow.
The Tigers couldn’t add to the lead and McCarthy came back with another layup to tie it, but Peper was fouled and went to the line in the double bonus.
She sank both.
Medfield answered with one of their own, but with under 30 seconds to go, the Warriors had to foul and OA made sure to get the ball to Peper.
She sank both, again.
“Yeah, that’s a situation I want to be in, that was the plan to get the ball,” Peper said. “I’m pretty confident in my free throw shooting, I shoot a lot of them in practice. I was ready to be in that position.”
With a 62-59 lead, the Tigers got another final stop, and one last halfcourt heave from the Warriors was off the mark to seal the win.
“When it went to the situation in overtime where they had to foul, we want Peper at the line,” Clement-Holbrook said. “She’s got ice in her veins. We wanted her to get her hands on the ball.”
Oliver Ames saw a pair of eight-point leads disappear, once in each quarter. The latter putting the Tigers just seconds away from a defeat, but Bourne credited her teams’ resiliency for being able to bounce back.
“We never put our heads down, we just kept going,” Bourne said. “Even when there was just one second left on the clock, we never put our heads down. We all came together and just really looked at each other and said, ‘We got this.’ No one dropped their head at all. I think that just goes to show how determined we are.
“It’s very hard to beat a good team three times and we felt like we had nothing to lose.”
It was a slow start on the offensive end for the Tigers, who got early baskets from Cooper and Peper, and a late one from Anna Anna Murphy but trailed 12-6 after a quarter.
Once OA was able to get its outside scoring going, the offense opened up. Peper hit a pair of triples and Derba added one of her own to get the Tigers within one. After Medfield responded, Peper hit nothing but net on another triple, and Cooper found Hilliard down low for two as the Tigers cut the deficit to 24-22 at the break.
“[Peper] and Kaydance got the offense going,” Clement-Holbrook said. “We wanted to get the ball inside but Medfield did a great job of taking it away, there was not a lot of space. I have three sophomores in my starting lineup, so this was really their first time with this environment. Just from an emotional standpoint, the noise, the crowd, I thought they handled themselves beautifully.”
Hilliard returned the favor to Cooper three minutes into the second and that sparked a 10-0 run for OA. Peper hit another three and then found Maddie Homer for a layup. A steal from Hilliard ended up with yet another three from Peper and the Tigers surged ahead 38-30. Medfield applied its full court press and closed the quarter with a 7-0 burst to make it 38-37 going into the fourth.
“We knew the pressure was on them,” Peper said of playing Medfield for a third time, having lost the two meetings. “We believed we could beat them because we had some of our players missing on those games that are pretty key components to our team. We weren’t ourselves those games so we came into this game wanting it so bad.”
Oliver Ames girls basketball will take on the winner of #1 Norwood and #5 Whitman-Hanson in the Division 2 State Championship at the Tsongas Center, with the date (either Friday, Saturday, or Sunday) and time to be announced.