SHARON, Mass. – Standing at 6’6, North Attleboro senior Jonny Friberg often gives the Rocketeers the edge in the paint.
But due to foul trouble, North Attleboro was forced to find other ways to keep pace with the red-hot shooting Sharon Eagles.
While the Rocketeers did enough to keep pace, Friberg came back in midway through the fourth quarter. He went on to score eight points down the stretch, including the tying basket with 5.9 to send the game into overtime. And in overtime, he scored North’s first nine points and the Rocketeers came away with a thrilling 81-75 win over the Eagles.
Friberg finished with a career-high 27 points and hauled in 13 rebounds to lead the Rocketeers.
“Everything starts with [Friberg] inside and then with the shooters on the outside,” said North Attleboro head coach Sean Mulkerrins. “[Foul trouble] is something we’ve unfortunately had to deal with before. I’m really happy with how Tommy [Reynolds] and Moni [Cuevas] played inside. Hats off to Sharon, they played their butts off tonight. It’s frustrating when Jonny goes out but we’re a team and we have to win like a team, which I think we did tonight.”
It seemed like there would be no stopping the Eagles, especially after they connected on their 12th three pointer (on just 20 attempts) with just under four minutes to play in the game to go up 64-55. Jimmy Fitzhenry’s (16 points) trifecta capped a 10-1 run over the first 4:09 of the period for the Eagles.
“It reminded me of some games against Milford in the last couple of years where we fight back and they counter punch,” Mulkerrins said. “It speaks to the kids’ mental toughness, not giving up in that situation. There wasn’t much to say then we needed to defend better. They have some great kids, [Sharon coach Andrew] Ferguson does a great job with them.”
But North chipped away with Friberg finally back on the court. Senior Brent Doherty (17 points, five assists) drained a three in response to stop the run and after a stop, Friberg hauled in the defensive board and then converted on the other end. Another stop and another Friberg board led to a jumper from Doherty to make it a two point game.
Sharon’s Alex Kaufman (15 points) extended the lead back to four but Friberg hit back to back buckets down low to tie the game with 1:32 left.
With under 30 seconds to play, Sharon senior Ricardo Ripley (17 points) came away with a steal at midcourt that turned into two free throws to put the Eagles up 68-66.
Friberg took a pass from North sophomore Josh Montague (eight points) and muscled in the tying basket with 5.9 to play. Sharon’s buzzer beater attempt came up short.
In overtime, it was all Friberg – no one else on the Rocketeers attempted a field goal. After Sharon took a brief lead on a free throw, Friberg converted his own miss. Reynolds drew a charge on the other end for the Rocketeers and Friberg hit a free throw on the other end.
Kaufman drove to the basket to cut the deficit to two (73-71), but the Rocketeers simply went back to Friberg, who made a nice move in the post for two. Kyle McCarthy (six points, five rebounds, seven assists) hauled in a Sharon missed three and then assisted on another Friberg basket to put North ahead 77-71 with a minute to play.
Along with his 17 points in the fourth quarter and overtime, Friberg had seven of his 13 rebounds.
“This was a huge game for us,” Friberg said. We always preach getting the ball inside because we can have success there. If I don’t have something I’ll pass it. I just took advantage of what we had. The foul trouble is frustrating because I want to be in there but you just have to deal with it.”
McCarthy added three free throws down the stretch and Chad Peterson (eight points, four rebounds) also had one.
“We tried like hell to get [Friberg] his fifth foul but he’s just so big, he finishes around the basket so well,” said Sharon head coach Andrew Ferguson. “He’s gotten so much better than a year ago. I’m looking at the fourth quarter and overtime stats and he just killed us. We did a good job on for three quarters, and it helped he was in foul trouble. But him and Brent, those are big time players and we didn’t make enough plays down the stretch.”
The nine point fourth quarter deficit that the Rocketeers overcame wasn’t the largest deficit they erased during the game. After Sharon took a 20-17 lead after the first quarter, the Eagles rattled off a 13-5 run to build an 11-point lead with less than three minutes until halftime.
But a three from McCarthy, two free throws from Friberg, a put back from Montague and a corner three from Montague helped Big Red get within one. A late three from Ripley gave the Eagles a 36-32 lead at halftime.
Doherty was a big reason that North Attleboro entered the final quarter of the game tied. Doherty netted 10 of his points in the third quarter alone, including a three to open the frame, a field goal that gave North it’s largest lead (46-48) and five straight points late that had the game tied 54-54 after three.
“I don’t know what he was in the first half, he just was off,” Mulkerrins said of Doherty. “It almost felt like he was second guessing his shooting and decision making. We told him at halftime if he’s open just shoot the ball. We said that too everybody. It was huge to get Brent going. The second half by Brent was huge, a lot of contributions from guys in the second half.”
Cuevas finished with eight points and four rebounds while Reynolds had seven points, three rebounds and two assists for Big Red.
Malik Lorquet added eight points and nine rebounds for Sharon.
North Attleboro boys basketball (10-7 overall, 7-6 Hockomock) moves into a tie for the lead in the Davenport division with the win. The Rocketeers have the chance to clinch a playoff berth on Friday on the road at Stoughton. Sharon (3-13, 2-12) has a week off until they are back in action with a trip to Stoughton on Valentine’s Day.