PROVIDENCE, RI — North Attleboro erased an eight point deficit over the final three minutes of the fourth quarter, but left just enough time left on the clock for Milford senior Zack Tamagni.
After two free throws with 5.7 seconds from North Attleboro senior Brent Doherty tied the game, Tamagni took the inbound pass, broke through a pair of defenders at the three point line and then danced his way past the last defender, laying it up with his left and in off the glass as time expired to give the Scarlet Hawks a 57-55 win.
“The leaders on this team stepped up today,” said Milford head coach Paul Seaver. “We’ve talked in the last couple of weeks about guys stepping up. Nate Davila stepped up, Zack [Tamagni], Anthony [Arcudi] and Kayden [Kelley] stepped up and Zach Tammaro stepped up coming off the bench, maybe not statistically but he helped big time in the second half.”
Milford had the original comeback of the game, cutting an 11-point deficit at halftime (35-24) down to just one (41-40) entering the final quarter by outscoring the Rocketeers 16-6 in the third quarter.
The Hawks carried that momentum into the fourth quarter with Nate Davila (14 points) draining an early three to give Milford its first lead since the first quarter. North’s Jonny Friberg (nine points, 13 rebounds, six assists) responded right away to tie the game at 43, but Milford would create separation with an 8-0 run over the next four minutes.
“Everyone will talk about the shot at the end but Milford got themselves back into the game in the third quarter,” said North Attleboro head coach Sean Mulkerrins. “I thought we had some decent shots in the third quarter but we just couldn’t get any rhythm. I thought when the scoreboard got a little tight, we played a little tight. When we’re loose, we play our best basketball. I’m proud of the guys because they fought back but its just tough losing on a play like that. I have to do a better job coaching in those late game situations.”
Tamagni (17 points, four assists) hit two free throws, Ryan Sullivan (10 points, five rebounds) hit one and then three possessions later, Arcudi converted a putback with four minutes to play. Kayden Kelley (12 points, 13 rebounds) came up with a block on the defensive end and then converted a three-point play to put Milford up 51-43 with just over three minutes to play.
That’s when North Attleboro took its turn crafting a comeback. It started with a strong take from Thomas Reynolds (10 points, three boards, two assists) off a feed from Friberg and then was cut to five when Reynolds hit a free throw.
The Rocketeers then forced a turnover, resulting in Reynolds finding Doherty (game-high 18 points) for a three to bring North within two.
Tamagni (38 seconds left) and Friberg (22 seconds left) then each hit a pair of free throws to keep Milford’s two point lead. Tamagni then hit two more but Hacmoni Cuevas converted a putback, plus the harm, to get within two. North corralled the missed three throw and Doherty was fouled with 5.7 seconds left, converting both at the line to tie the game before Tamagni’s heroics.
“We told him to go to the hoop,” Seaver said of the last play. “It was something we tried to do on Friday to tie the game and things didn’t go our way. We were able to get it today.
“Coming out of halftime, they needed to go and earn the victory if they wanted it, and the kids did that so credit to them.”
North Attleboro came out on fire to start the game, going 7/12 from the field in the first quarter to build a 19-13 lead. Milford was efficient as well, going 5/7 and a perfect 3/3 from deep but had seven turnovers.
“They came out like we did here last year,” Seaver said. “We were on the other side of it this time, it is what it is. We just trusted our defense and in the end, I guess we got one more stop, or just made one more play at the end.
“They were hitting shots early. They had 19 points in the first quarter, we couldn’t guard anyone. We trusted our defense, we didn’t really make an adjustment. We stayed with the zone in the second half and it paid off just enough to get that little separation.”
The Rocketeers’ offense continued its strong start by going 6/9 from the field in the second. At halftime, North Attleboro was 6/10 from deep. But in the second half, Big Red managed just one three on 10 attempts.
“They did a better job on collapsing on [Friberg] in the second half, I don’t think he got many touches in the second half,” Mulkerrins said. “He got a couple of late ones. Missing Chad [Peterson], our rotation was a little screwy. Guys are playing extra minutes and in positions they aren’t always used to playing in. Some guys have to be a shooter when they usually aren’t.”
Milford takes over the top spot in the Davenport division with the win, moving to 8-6 overall and 6-4 in league play. The Scarlet Hawks will try to extended their division lead on Tuesday when Mansfield comes to town. North Attleboro (8-6 overall, 5-5 Hockomock) looks to get back into the win column when it hosts King Philip on the same night.