To win the game or send it into overtime, the Tigers would have to execute each play, nail each shot, and have everything fall into place.
Everything went stunningly perfect.
The Tigers (18-2) came back to win, 68-62 in overtime Wednesday night to take the Walpole Tournament title for the fourth year in a row and propel themselves into the state tournament riding an incredible wave of momentum.
"That’s what you want to have happen and that’s what happened," Oliver Ames coach Elaine Clement-Holbrook said. "It was unbelievable. I’m really proud of them because they stayed composed and I think this is a tremendous growth for them."
Point guard Asia Mitchell dribbled the ball down the floor.
With Medfield playing tight defense, her only option was to take the reins herself. Mitchell pulled up at the 3-point line and drained it. With 1.4 seconds on the clock, OA was down 2.
Needing a steal, turnover, or quick foul, OA buckled down and took away every option for Medfiled on the ensuing inbounds pass. The ball sailed out of bounds and back into the hands of the Tigers with no time lost.
Mitchell inbounded the ball under OA's own basket.
"Thankfully with 1.4 seconds left, there’s no time ticking until it touches someone’s hands," Clement-Holbrook said. "What we were trying to do is we were trying to figure out what they were doing defensively. I had originally set up something else, but then when we saw them pick [man to man] we went to a different play."
The play was flawless.
Mitchell found co-captain Candace Steadman wide open under the basket. The OA forward laid it in at the buzzer to tie the game, 57-57 at the end of regulation.
For the Warriors, the OA comeback was deflating as they headed into the extra period.
"At the end of the game, we were in control," Medfield coach Mark Nickerson said. "When you’re up 5 points with 6.9 seconds left, you’re starting to think, who’s going to be my MVP for the tournament?
"..It’s hard to rebound from that. In our minds, I think we had won the game and in actuality that wasn’t true."
Thanks in part to Mitchell's 6 points; OA outscored the Warriors 11-5 in overtime.
It was a victory that meant more for OA than the Walpole Tournament title. Clement-Holbrook was happy that her team was able to perform well under pressure. OA's only two losses on the season were to Franklin in close contests.
"The two times we played Franklin and in tough scenarios we didn’t really rise to the occasion and I think tonight we certainly did," she said.
Mitchell, with 11 points on the night, was named to the All-Tournament team. Steadman and junior forward Caitlyn Abela were named co-MVPs. Steadman finished with 24 points on the night and Abela finished with 21.
"It was really difficult," Clement-Holbrook said. "How do you pick? In a comeback like that, I’ve done this tournament for 30-something years so I had no recollection of anything coming down to that and I just felt, how do you decide that? And, I think we did the right thing."
The Tigers also had significant contributions from co-captain Emily Romans, who finished the night with 10 points, including 8 in the 4th period and OT.
Off the bench, sophomore guard Kate Holleran contributed with strong defense for the Tigers and senior point guard Jen Byron stepped in early and often for Mitchell, who was in foul trouble for most of the game.
"I thought Jen Byron did a great job coming in," Clement-Holbrook said. "She did a really good job because that’s a lot of pressure for a kid to come off the bench and maintain her composure."
For Medfield, sophomore forward Kristen Fechtelkotter, who dominated the glass, earned a spot on the All-Tournament team. Sophomore guard Lauren Petit led the team in scoring with 18 points. Sophomore Kate Thomas finished with 16 and junior captain Jen Narlee finished with 10.
The Warriors led throughout most of the game. Heading into the fourth period, Medfield touted an 8 point lead, 42-34, and momentum.
"It was a back and forth game for most of the game," Nickerson said. "I thought for a while there at the end of the third quarter we kind of took control of the game. They fought back at the beginning of the 4th quarter and then we fought back again."
It was a disappointing way to end a near-perfect regular season for Medfield (21-1), but Nickerson said he hopes it will add strength as the post-season looms.
"We played two tough games," Nickerson said. "We played a tough game against Walpole yesterday and we were fortunate to win that one. I thought we played well today. That’s a very good OA team. The girls know those are the types of teams we’re going to have to beat and these are the types of games we’re going to be involved in. Its good for us to compete with those teams at that level and get the close game experience. We haven’t had a whole lot of that this season."
Riding high, the Tigers will look to carry momentum into the post-season. Pairings are expected to be announced Friday.
"I said to them in the locker room, this isn’t where it stops, this is where it starts," Clement-Holbrook said. "That’s a big difference."