Knowing that Sharon’s season was on the line, the Oliver Ames boys’ basketball team went into Friday’s contest at the Nixon Gymnasium looking to match that desperation.
Despite the Eagles’ comeback bid in the fourth quarter, a last second shot from Ian Beach that would’ve tied the game fell short and OA held on for a 65-62 victory.
At 9-5 overall (7-5 Hockomock League, 3-2 Davenport Division), OA is a game away from clinching another berth in the state tournament. Sharon, meanwhile, drops to 3-11 (2-10 league, 2-4 Small Hock).
“It was a great effort,” Sharon coach Bruce Jackman said. “We played hard and we had a chance to steal one at the end, but it just wasn’t meant to be.”
“Hats off to Sharon. I thought they were terrific,” said OA coach Don Byron. “They were in a situation where they had to win and for all those kinds of reasons, this was a tournament level game; a win or go home type of game for them. And they played that way.”
For Beach, it was fitting for him to take the last shot in what Jackman called his best game of the season.
On a night where the OA defense drew its attention to sophomore guard Brian Mukasa (15 points, 7 assists) and James Fritzson (15 points, 5 assists), Beach provided a second option chipping in with 9 points and 6 rebounds off the bench.
“We got a real good game out of Ian Beach. He stepped it up big time,” Jackman said about his junior forward. “I would’ve loved to see that last shot go in for him."
Despite trailing by 10 after the third quarter, Sharon was able to cut into the lead thanks to its rebounding and defense. OA committed eight turnovers in that span and Sharon forwards Kevin Bartas and Sam D’Arcy provided a nice inside presence on the defensive end, forcing the Tigers to look elsewhere for offense.
However, OA’s defense held together, forcing Sharon to commit 19 turnovers on the night.
“There were times where we did some times inefficiently – especially on the offensive side – but I think we continued to play defense,” Byron said. “They caught inside and they were able to do a little bit of damage with a couple of their big kids [D’Arcy and Bartas] and I thought we could have done a little better on that end.
“But other than that, I was happy to get out of here with a victory because we knew it would be tough.”
While the Eagles had a shot to steal the victory in the end, the first three quarters put them in a hole, committing 15 of their 19 turnovers.
“We turned the ball over way too many times to put ourselves in that situation,” Jackman said about the sequence. “If we didn’t turn the ball over [as much] then it would’ve been a different outcome.”
Despite leading for much of the first quarter, OA took the lead for good at 16-14 following a last second shot from OA senior Jeff Babbitt for two of his six points.
Senior Nick Bruha and company capitalized on that late first quarter momentum sparking an early 6-0 run in the first two minutes of the second quarter. Bruha hit a clutch three to ignite the run as part of his game high 24 points to help OA earn a nine-point halftime lead.
St. Claire Ryan helped expand the margin to 10 after the third quarter scoring 9 of his 15 points.
“Saint had that burst in the third quarter that was critical,” Byron said. “We did a lot of trading during that period of time and he provided us with a nice presence.”
The Eagles to the floor Tuesday when they host Foxborough for a divisional matchup.
Also returning to action on Tuesday, OA looks to earn that all-important 10th win and pull off the upset against its (other) Davenport rivals from Stoughton.