NORTH EASTON, Mass. – For three quarters, Oliver Ames did its best to make life difficult for Davenport division leader Foxboro in its visit to the William F. Nixon Gym on Friday night. Playing without the team’s and the league’s top scorer, senior Kayla Raymond, the Tigers turned up the defensive pressure and forced the Warriors to grind out each possession.
Unfortunately for the hosts, all it took was one big quarter for the Warriors to break the game open and get another league win. Foxboro closed the first half on a 10-3 run to lead by double digits, used a 21-0 run to start the second half to build a big lead, and withstood a late OA rally to win 61-39.
It was the eighth time this season that Foxboro has won by at least 20 points, although few 20-point wins were as difficult as this.
“I honestly thought we saw that Kayla wasn’t playing and decided to take a night off a little bit,” admitted Foxboro coach Lisa Downs. “There’s no excuse for that. OA is always going to be a quality team…and they’re always great defensively, so we should’ve been ready for the pressure.”
OA needed an offensive spark without Raymond and in the first quarter sophomore Erin Holmberg provided that lift with seven of her 11 points, including the Tigers’ lone made three on the night. Junior Alex Sheldon (12 rebounds) added six of her game- and career-high 20 points in the first.
“We don’t have Kayla obviously but nobody has to do anything extraordinary,” said OA coach Laney Clement-Holbrook about the message prior to the tip. “Everybody has to do their job and maybe a little extra and we’ll be okay. Just keep digging, just keep digging, just keep digging.”
She added, “Play good defense, try to limit them to one shot, limit their threes and we’ve got a chance. And for three quarters of the game that’s exactly what they did.”
Even with the defensive pressure ramped up, Foxboro held an 18-13 lead after one quarter. Lily Sykes (12 points and six assists) had seven points and Grace Tamulionis (team-high 19 points) knocked down a pair of threes for six points.
The second quarter was even better for the OA defense, stifling the Warriors and limiting the transition game that allows Foxboro to create so much separation, but the offense struggled. A floater on the baseline by Holmberg cut the OA lead to 19-15, but the Tigers would only get one more basket (a layup by Ally Scolnick off a Katie Flynn inbound pass) in the second.
Foxboro started to push the lead with a 10-3 run to close the half. Ashley Sampson (16 points, six steals, and four assists) scored plus a foul and got to the basket on a Sykes assist to make it 29-18 at the break.
The Warriors came out of the break a totally different team. Sampson scored in the half-court and instantly the full-court press started to force turnovers. Tamulionis drilled her third three of the game off an Abby Hassman assist and then Tamulionis assisted on a Sykes three.
“She’s instrumental,” said Downs of Tamulionis. “She works hard and she has a beautiful shot and I think the less time she has to think about that shot the better off she is. We recognized that she was the open player and she hit some big shots for us.”
Suddenly, the floodgates were open for Foxboro.
Sampson twice scored off her own steals, Tamulionis added five more points, Sykes scored in transition, and Shannon Smally (10 rebounds) scored all four of her points in what ended up being a 21-0 run (31-3 including the second quarter) and a 50-18 lead.
“They played a little better in the third quarter and the defense picked up a little bit,” said Downs. “We were able to get a few deflections, a few steals, and that generated layups and then we just got the momentum.”
With the game seemingly out of reach, OA started to settle down again and began a big run that would see the Tigers creep back within reach. Caroline Flynn scored off a Meg Holleran pass, Scolnick scored on the break and Sheldon added two more to make it 52-24 heading to the fourth.
“These were significant minutes in terms of pressure,” said Clement-Holbrook about getting playing time for her younger players. “We were playing against Foxboro’s first five, so I think it was a good barometer for us to see who can do what in what situations. I thought they adjusted.”
OA continued to grind in the fourth quarter. The Tigers held Foxboro without a point for six minutes, scored the first 15 points of the fourth (21-2 run overall), and climbed back with 13 points. Sheldon was the major force in that run, as she scored 11 points in the fourth quarter alone, twice getting on the break for three-point plays.
“It was awesome,” said Clement-Holbrook of the comeback. “We’re really proud of them. Hopefully we can not revert back from this point now, hopefully we can move it forward.”
When asked about the fourth quarter, Downs replied, “Not pretty at all.” After dropping back into a half-court defense, Downs called for the press for the final minutes and Foxboro ran off nine straight (five from Tamulionis) to seal the win.
“They’re more comfortable in the press,” Downs said, “so we were in half-court because of the score but once they chipped away a little we went back and they were like, okay this is where we’re comfortable.”