After 32 minutes of girls' basketball, the (7) Hopkinton Hillers and (2) Medfield Warriors were forced to play an extra four minutes of overtime to decide who would advance to the semi-final round of the MIAA Division 2 South Sectional girls’ basketball tournament.
Yet if not for a missed free throw or any sort of offensive production to avoid a one-point quarter by Medfield, it would have been a Medfield victory in regulation.
“It (first quarter) was the key to the game because we got in early foul trouble so we couldn’t pressure like we wanted to,” Hopkinton head coach Rita Atkinson said.
The Hillers held off multiple comebacks by the Warriors to win 59-56 in an overtime thriller.
Only a free throw from Jen Narlee prevented a scoreless opening quarter for the Warriors. Medfield struggled to get the ball down low as the Hillers’ defense, led by Lindsay Ducette (11 points, 14 rebounds) and Alee Leteria (19 points, 6 rebounds) were too tight to let anything in near the basket.
“Just awful,” Medfield head coach Mark Nickerson said of the opening quarter, “Couldn’t score, couldn’t do anything.”
The outside jumper started working for the Warriors in the second quarter when a pair of threes by Ali Mileszko (13 points) helped cut the nine point deficit to two halfway though the second quarter. A three-point play by Mileszko trimmed a four-point lead to one at the half as the Warriors overcame a disastrous first quarter to get back into the game.
“Most times you don’t overcome that. I was real proud of my girls battling back,” Nickerson said.
Right as the Warriors were getting back into the game, the Hillers took control of the game right back. A 14-4 run during the third, helped by six points from Leteria, stretched the lead to nine going into the fourth quarter of play.
After trailing Hopkinton for the entire game, Kate Thomas’ (14 points, 12 rebounds) two-pointer gave the Warriors their first lead of the game with 4:44 left to play. The teams traded the lead back and forth until Hopkinton built a small four-point lead with 2:30 left in regulation.
With 5.5 seconds to play the Warriors had the lead by two but a foul by Payton Ouimette on the Hillers’ Tess Chandler (7 points) allowed Hopkinton to force overtime after two made free throws.
In overtime the tournament hopes and dreams of the Hillers seemed to be on the shoulders of Leteria at times. With seven of the team's 11 points in the extra frame, her points alone kept the Warriors from pulling away.
“She showed her senior leadership out there from the free throw line and wanting the ball at the end of the game,” Atkinson said.
A free throw and basket by Thomas gave the Warriors a 51-48 lead with 2:15 left in overtime but foul trouble on the Warriors’ part sent the Hillers to the line with all but two of Hopkinton’s overtime points coming from the charity stripe.
“It came down to they got to the line more than we did and they made their foul shots when they got there and we didn’t,” Nickerson said.
The Hillers took back the lead for good off a basket by Leteria. With 6.3 seconds left in the game, Chandler made the first but missed the second shot from the free throw line.
With time ticking away, Medfield quickly recovered the ball to allow Mileszko to attempt a three to tie the game but was stuffed by Doucette as the final buzzer went off.
The defending South Sectional champion Hillers now move on to the semi-finals of the Division 2 South Sectional tournament against (6) Natick. Like Hopkinton, the Red and Blue needed overtime to get out of the quarterfinals, defeating Duxbury 60-54. The time and location of the game is to be announced at a later date.
Medfield, who beat the Hillers twice in the regular season, finishes the year with a 22-2 record.