(Woburn MA) I preach to anyone who will listen that no one player loses/wins a team game.
I start with that point because individuals on the losing team can think that they lost the game because they missed free throws or turned the ball over.
They may have done those things but in a game thirty-six minutes long, every player on the floor is a contributor to the final outcome. No one player loses a game!
But can one player win a game? Wouldn’t have said so before tonight’s Foxboro win over Pentucket but afterwards? Ashley Sampson was about as good as you can get in overtime, leading Foxboro into the D2 state finals on a win over Pentucket on Wednesday night at Woburn High School.
Ashley (commit to D2 Adelphi on Long Island) finished with twenty-two points but had FOURTEEN of them in the 4-minute overtime.
And just to get to overtime, Ashley had the only points in the last minute of regulation. She had an old-fashioned three to get the Warriors within two (43-41) and then with two seconds left drove the left baseline to tie it.
You never saw two different halves.
Pentucket, led by Casey Hunt (19 points), made shots and played an excellent brand of half-court man-to-man defense.
Foxboro (24-1) didn’t score a point in the final 4 ½ minutes of the second quarter while Pentucket put up nine points. In that segment, Jelly Hurley (15 points) had a layup and a three. Maddi Doyle had two free throws, and Emily Riley (assist to Liv Cross) added a layup.
All that good defense/offense put the Sachems ahead, 29-14, at the half.
“Our man-to-man defense wasn’t good in that first half,” said Foxboro coach Lisa Downs afterwards. “They were penetrating way too much and we weren’t getting a lot of help defense.”
Senior Lily Sykes was more blunt about the Warriors first half: “We were playing like 4th grade basketball in the first half.”
The Sachems would add five more points to their lead to start the second half and to bring their advantage to twenty (34-14) on a Casey Hunt rebound hoop and a Jess Galvin trey.
Down by twenty, one minute into the second half, you had to like the Sachems chances of being on a bus to Springfield on Saturday. The Warriors had other ideas.
Foxboro had been averaging 66 points a game so that first-half, fourteen points was likely to change significantly.
What turned this game around for Foxboro, however, was their defense. Overmatched by the Pentucket offense, the Warriors resorted to a zone defense in the second half. Usually when a team is down, they are forced to play man-to-man to change the tempo. Going the other way, from a man-to-man to a zone, however, struck gold for the team from the Hockomock League.
As their offense picked up, especially long range, the zone defense did what it was supposed to do.
The Warriors drained five 3’s in the second half; two by Katelyn Mollica (3rd quarter) and three by Lily Sykes (4th quarter).
The Warriors zone did its part forcing the Sachems to rely on long shots (which weren’t falling) and getting control of the boards.
It was a terrific offense/defense combo for Foxboro and slowly but surely the Pentucket lead began to vanish.
The wildcard was Ashley Sampson and her 19 points per game average. Sophomore Jelly Hurley came off the bench in the first quarter to shadow Ashley and it worked up until the last minute of regulation. Ashley had only three points and was on the verge of ending a 1500-point career on a bad note.
“I just didn’t want this to be the last game,” Ashley told me afterwards.
Ashley would get the final five points Foxboro needed in the last minute to gain overtime.
Pentucket had only nine points in the second half after taking that twenty-point lead. They couldn’t hit from long range and they couldn’t get to the basket. Almost every possession was one-and-done.
But they still were in good shape after Jelly Hurley nailed a three (from Casey Hunt) with 1 ½ minutes left in regulation. They were up by five (43-38).
The rest of regulation was a virtual nightmare for the team from West Newbury; two turnovers, misses on the front end of two one-and-one’s, and the inability to secure a rebound on Foxboro’s next-to-the-last possession. Delete any of those disasters and I suspect that the team from the Cape Ann League would now be a lot happier.
Ashley Sampson tied the score in regulation and then had two three’s in the first two minutes of OT. A Maddi Doyle layup cut the FHS lead to two, 49-47, but Ashley answered back with a layup.
The rest of the way Foxboro shot free throws. Grace Tamulionis made one while Ashley was six-for-six.
“Coach always says that free throws win games,” said Ashley post-game. “Tonight, we hit ours at the end like we practice every day.”
Maddie Doyle and Casey Hunt hit three’s in the last few seconds but Foxboro still won, 58-54.
The Warriors will face Hopkinton on Saturday in Springfield. Those two faced each other twice this season and each team won once. Should be a good battle.
Saturday’s title game will be Foxboro’s first one in fifteen years.
Coach Downs: “Ashley played at the end like the MVP she is. When the pressure is on we want the ball in her hands.”
Lily Sykes: “We knew if we were to get back in the game it would have to be defensively.”
“Once we started making shots in the second half our confidence built up,” said Ashley.
Casey Hunt (19 points) had a terrific game. The sophomore had ten points in the first half getting freely to the basket several times.
Jelly Hurley dropped three 3’s on her way to a 15-point night. Her defense on Ashley Sampson was very good until Ashley got it going late in the game.
The quality of Foxboro was evident when Pentucket couldn’t turn them over with their pressure. Foxboro ended up with twelve turnovers while Pentucket had fourteen, including two in the final ninety seconds.
The Sachems (23-3) graduate three from the team but should be very strong next year.
I managed to get lost getting to Woburn High School. Seems that Montvale Street will get you to a quiet neighborhood. However, Montvale Avenue will get you to the high school. Fortunately, for me, a mailman was able to straighten me out on that significant difference and I adjusted my GPS.
(All of the pictures above and below will enlarge if you click on them.)