For 32 minutes, the Nixon Gymnasium crowd sat on the edge of their seats.
In a game that saw several lead changes and Oliver Ames senior tri-captain Nick Bruha (26 points) achieve the 1,000 point mark for his career, the King Philip boys basketball team bounced back from Tuesday’s loss to Stoughton and came away with a narrow 72-68 victory Friday night.
KP improves to 10-2 (6-2 Hockomock League) and clinches a berth in the state tournament, while OA falls to 7-5 (5-5).
“We’ve been in two great high school basketball games the last two nights, and it’s not going to stop,” said KP coach Sean McInnis. “Oliver Ames is a tremendous team and I definitely don’t want to see them again [down the road].”
Through four quarters, OA and KP took each other’s best shots.
Tied at 16 apiece after the first quarter, OA landed the first punch to start the second quarter when Bruha achieved his milestone. Although the team was called for a technical foul due to students running on the court to celebrate with the senior guard, the Tigers weathered a KP storm in the middle of the second quarter and took a 35-30 halftime lead.
Despite the aftermath, Bruha’s accomplishment was well deserved according to OA coach Don Byron.
“The way he did it was very effective,” Byron said. “He let the game come to him, took great shots and distributed when he needed to. Sometimes for kids – the ones I’ve been associated with – it’s a nerve-wracking experience and he has none of that. He’s a confident kid.”
But Jake Layman and the Warriors bounced back and landed the final blow.
As the OA defense surrounded bodies underneath by doubling and triple teaming Layman, the KP co-captain answered by using his size to his advantage notching 32 points to go along with his 16 rebounds and eight blocked shots.
The plan was executed well, but Layman's 6-foot-8 frame was too difficult to overcome on this night.
“They’re a good team and they are going to fight back on you and give you everything you have,” Byron said.
“I thought our kids were terrific. I don’t think we could’ve played any harder or any smarter. It was all just the way we wanted it, but the thing we can’t answer sometimes is the athleticism in on the glass what Layman can do.”
While Layman was drawing attention, his supporting cast also contributed.
Fellow co-captain Christain Fair contributed with 13 points, while Mike Schmidt, John Mullane, Dever Carrison and Tykei Hollman each played a pivotal part in the Warriors’ second half.
“Our supporting cast really did a great job tonight,” said McInnis. “Christian did a tremendous job and hit some big shots for us in the first quarter and John Mullane did a great job holding it together defensively and rebounding. I thought he was very solid.”
After Byron was called for a technical foul for arguing with the officials, KP started its second half surge with Layman hitting three of four free throws.
The Warriors went on a 7-0 run in the first few minutes of the third quarter, but OA answered back with a couple of clutch three pointers from Duane Johnson and John Moroney (each with five points) to help cut the deficit to one at 49-48 entering the fourth quarter.
Although the lead switched hands several times in that fourth quarter, Layman gave his team the lead for good at 67-65 with about three minutes left. KP weathered a late three from Bruha and used the double bonus situation to finally pull away and delivered the knockout.
“That’s our second one-possession loss that we’ve had this year,” Bruha said. “KP is a very good team with Layman and all the hype built up on him…hopefully we can take this negative from tonight and turn it into a positive.”
KP returns to work on Saturday in a non-league road matchup with Nashoba Valley at 7 p.m.
OA, meanwhile will look to bounce back in a de-facto non-league road game against Southeastern Regional Tuesday night at 6:30 p.m.