FOXBORO, Mass. – For the second time this season, Oliver Ames went into a game against Davenport division champion Foxboro without a pair of its usual starters. In the first meeting, three weeks ago, the Warriors cruised to a 40-point win. On Friday night, things went very differently.
Foxboro jumped out to a 13-point lead at halftime, but rather than let the game get away OA rallied to get as close as two points late in the fourth quarter. It was a rare test for the Warriors, who won 14 of their first 17 games by at least 23 points, but they showed resolve to make enough plays down the stretch and pull out the 58-52 victory.
With the win, Foxboro completed a perfect 16-0 Hockomock League campaign. It was the first time in her 12 years as coach that Lisa Downs had a team run the table in league play.
“I knew we had a lot of potential, but I honestly wasn’t thinking undefeated Hockomock season because each team gets better every time they step on the court and by the time you face a team the second time around, they’re going to have improved,” Downs said. “This group of girls that I have this season, their team chemistry is ridiculously good. They all just want each other to do well.”
OA dropped back to .500 on the season with two games to go, but it was a sign of the progress that a young roster was making under first-year coach Brittany Engle.
“I think it just shows a lot of growth that they were committed to executing the game plan,” Engle explained. “I thought the girls were committed to just playing loose, playing as a team, playing hard, and just everybody being aggressive. I think it was a good team effort.”
Sarah Hilliard was out injured and Kaydance Derba wasn’t able to start for the Tigers, so OA leaned on its bench at the start of the game and they provided a spark of energy that got the visitors off to an 11-4 start.
Annie Reilly and Kamryn Derba both drilled threes and Avery Gamble got out on the break to score two of her five first-quarter points. OA couldn’t have asked for a better start, but the league champs stormed right back.
Foxboro went on an 11-0 run to close out the first and grab the lead. Camryn Collins (20 points and four steals) got the comeback started with a short fall-away jumper and Erin Foley knocked down a jumper after an Ava Hill steal and assist. Collins scored on the break, two of her nine points in the first, and Hill took a nice dish from Kailey Sullivan (14 points) for a layup.
“It’s nice to be able to rely on that,” Downs said about Collins’ production, “and she’s just so athletic that defensively I can put her on whoever got hot that night. She’s just Miss Reliable.”
Momentum carried over to the second, as Foxboro would score 22 points and open up a double-digit advantage. Six Warriors scored in the quarter to help push the lead.
Kamryn Derba (18 points and six rebounds) hit a deep three and Reilly (14 points and six rebounds) drove to the basket to cut the Foxboro lead to 26-22, but the Warriors would go on an 11-2 run to close the half. Collins got that run started with a straightaway three. Addie Ruter (eight points and six rebounds) got a pair of scores in the paint and Foley got a layup after a Collins steal.
Sullivan added a transition bucket to close out the half for Foxboro. Derba would make a late free throw to cut the lead to 13 at halftime, but it looked like the Warriors were on the brink of putting the game away, Instead, OA came storming back in the third.
“We talked about mental toughness,” Engle said. “Especially with a young team, a couple mistakes in a row or a couple calls that don’t go your way and that starts getting in their heads and momentum swings. We’re always talking about next play, next play, next play and chipping away. I thought that was their best job at bouncing back.”
The Tigers put together a 16-6 run. Maddie Homer (seven points) drained a corner three that got the visiting bench going and Reilly continued to make plays on both ends of the floor. She scored on a put-back and took a nice pass from Katherine Farley for a layup in traffic. Homer hit another jumper and Derba knocked down a deep three and it was suddenly 43-40.
“Annie Reilly was huge tonight,” Engle said. “She really looked to attack. She always does the little things. She has great instincts, she hustles, and she makes all those right plays, but she doesn’t usually look for her offense. I’m so proud of Annie, she was huge tonight.”
As they had all night, the Warriors closed the quarter well. Hill continued to make big plays, as she sliced through the lane to finish, plus the foul, to stem the OA tide. She finished with seven points, five rebounds, and three steals off the Foxboro bench. Isabelle Chamberlin chipped in on the glass, pulling down 11 rebounds, as the Warriors got big contributions from role players.
OA trailed 48-40 going into the fourth and once again, the Tigers rallied. Derba hit a short, pull-up jumper in transition then Homer made a baseline drive and nice dish to Maeve Horsman, who was cutting down the lane. After another Derba pull-up on the break, OA cut the lead to just two.
Engle said of Derba, “She’s just such a competitor that at the end of the day she wants to win. We need to find the best shot and if it’s a rhythm three then it’s a three or if she can beat her player off the dribble and take the floater then that’s the best shot. Her shot selection is getting better and she’s being aggressive and that makes our team better.”
Sullivan was able to get loose for a layup, but then Homer slipped behind the Foxboro press to answer right back for two. After Sullivan hit a pair at the line with 4:06 to go, Chamberlin banked in a rare jumper to push the lead back to six. OA kept battling and Kaydance Derba hit two-of-three at the line to make it 56-52.
The Tigers got a big stop at the other end, but Sullivan, who had a rough shooting night, read the outlet pass, picking it off and then making the tough finish over Derba at the basket to effectively seal the victory.
“That was huge,” Downs said. “I always have to remind myself that she’s a sophomore. I always picture her as a senior because I feel like I’ve had her forever. She wants the ball in the end-of-game situation like that. It’s pretty rare for a sophomore to have ice in her veins like that.”
She added, “Our defensive rotation wasn’t working well and we made some adjustments and they did what they needed to do. We did enough to get by and beat a team that gave us a much harder game than the first time around.”
Foxboro (17-1) will close out the regular season with the Warriors Classic, starting with Tewksbury on Monday. On Saturday, Oliver Ames (9-9) heads to St. Mary’s (Lynn) to face Dartmouth in the opener of that end-of-season tournament.