The effort was there, so was the defense, but the offense never got going for the Medfield High School girls' basketball team in Wednesday's 50-40 loss to Bishop Feehan in the quarterfinal round of the MIAA Division 2 South Sectional State Tournament.
"The effort was there," said Medfield head coach Mark Nickerson. "It was just the execution of a couple things that could have been a little bit better. ... We just couldn’t score. We weren’t getting a whole lot of opportunities but when we did get opportunities to finish, we couldn’t. As well as we played defensively, they matched us. ... Defensively, we were outstanding. Where we got hurt was on the offensive glass. I haven’t looked at the numbers at all but I would guess they had 15 points from the line and 24 off of offensive rebounds."
The bracket's eighth seed, Bishop Feehan of Attleboro (15-6) created chance after chance on the offensive end of the floor by beating Medfield defenders for position in the paint and grabbing loose balls around the basket. Sierra Schrader led the Shamrocks in rebounding and Alexis Sells (16 points) always seemed to be in the right position on the offensive side of the court, working for the ball and scoring.
Despite the 10-point loss, Medfield, the section's No.1 overall seed, was in the game for three and a half quarters and even led 9-8 at the end of a low-scoring first eight minutes. But Feehan got rolling over the final 24 minutes and led at the end of the remaining three quarters – 19-17 at halftime, 29-27 after three and 50-40 to end the game.
With the probability of trailing by four at halftime staring the Warriors in the face, Hillary Collins answered with a big bucket right before the buzzer off an inbound pass under the hoop. Medfield took that momentum and opened the third quarter on a 6-0 run to take a 22-19 lead but Bishop Feehan responded with a run of its own to recapture the lead and force Medfield to play from behind for most of the third quarter.
With time running out in the third, Nickerson took a chance with his defense and called for a full-court press with under 10 seconds remaining in the frame.
“I went and watched [Bishop Feehan] play on Monday and Duxbury never tried [the full-court press] and I thought [Feehan’s] guards were pretty decent ball handlers so I was reluctant to try it, but we were struggling to score so much, we were going to try and score off our defense,” Nickerson said.
The gamble paid off as Maddie Bouchard picked off the inbound pass and drew the shooting foul with 5.7 seconds remaining in the quarter. Bouchard hit both free throws and Nickerson ordered the press again and again, and both times it worked.
“We threw it on, we got a hoop and we threw it right back on at them and we got a steal and then they kind of turned the ball over a couple of times on their own so that was huge,” Nickerson said.
The full-court press got Medfield and its home crowd back into the game in a momentum-swinging series of plays, but it could not be sustained throughout the fourth quarter.
“That really helped us stay in the game through the third and for most of the fourth quarter,” said Nickerson. “But we got a little sloppy with the basketball, made a couple turnovers of our own that didn’t need to happen. It was almost like a little bit of panic starting to set in, realizing we were down four, which seemed almost insurmountable because we were struggling so much to score.”
Feehan turned up its defense in the final two minutes and Medfield could not find an offensive rhythm, being forced to foul Shamrock ball handlers to keep time on the clock. When the final buzzer sounded, it was a 10-point victory for the Feehan and an early state tournament exit for the Warriors.
Unlike previous losses in the state tournament, Nickerson was pleased with his team’s effort and fight, especially on a night when the offense just wasn’t there.
“The last three years that we have lost, not including this year, we’ve really struggled in our final game,” Nickerson said. “Maybe not three years ago but the last two we’ve gotten beaten up pretty good. I told [our team] I’ve walked away from those games really feeling lousy because we didn’t really show up for [those games] and we certainly showed up and played 100 percent [Wednesday]. That’s what we talked about before the game and that’s the effort it was going to take.”
Medfield ends its season with a 20-3 record and a third straight Tri-Valley League Championship, including a second unbeaten TVL season in three years.
Its five seniors, according to Nickerson, likely played their last competitive basketball games of their careers and that’s a sad, difficult realization for many of the girls.
“It’s tough, they’ve meant a lot to this program,” Nickerson said of his five seniors. “Hillary [Collins] and Maddie [Bouchard] have been on the varsity team for three years now and they’ve been a big part of it. [Kate Wasley] has kind of been the floor general of our team this year and obviously [Natalie Dickinson] was a big part of our success. Bridgett [Carrigan] has been a good personality to have on the team and I know it’s hard for them. There were a lot of tears in the room, by them especially, after [the game]. They’re not going to play basketball in college and it’s been a big part of their lives to this point. For a couple of them it’s kind of identified who they are."
Bouchard led the Warriors with 10 points, three rebounds, three steals and three assists, playing great all around basketball and providing a spark for Medfield throughout the game.
Dickinson netted seven points and grabbed six rebounds. Wasley had two points and four assists. TVL Player of the Year, sophomore Jen Narlee netted eight points and grabbed seven rebounds to go with four steals. Kristin Fechtelkotter added four points and was huge on the boards, grabbing 12 rebounds. Lauren Petit added six points.
The season may have ended much sooner than the Warriors would have liked but the bottom line is it was still a solid season turned in by a talented group of girls.
“It’s hard always after the last game to say it was a great year but it was,” Nickerson said. “To win the TVL and go undefeated, win it for the third straight year, that was a good team and we played well. We were in that game [against Feehan] and had a chance to win it. As a coach and team that’s all you can really ask for.”
Bishop Feehan advances to the MIAA Division 2 South Sectional Semi-finals, where it will play the winner of Friday’s Hopkinton-Foxboro game.
“I expect [Bishop Feehan] to go pretty far,” Nickerson said.