The Oliver Ames boys' basketball team likes to win games on the defensive side of the court.
Sunday afternoon during the Val Muscato Holiday Tournament Finals, it was no different.
After trailing early, the Tigers picked up their defensive pressure in the second and third quarters on their way to a 82-77 win over Walpole to improve to 4-1. Walpole dropped to 2-3.
The shift in momentum was particularly apparent during the third quarter when senior captain Saint Clair Ryan manned up on Walpole point guard Ryan Fogarty and played the anchor-man in a stifling box-and-one defense.
"Saint is made for that," Oliver Ames coach Don Byron said. "He’s really wired to take a challenge on like that. He’s a tough match and he did a terrific job. We talked about trying to win the first four minutes of the period which we always do and that was a big part of it."
Ryan switched off with junior Nick Koeppel in the role, which frustrated the Rebels. Despite trailing Walpole 41-39 at the half, OA outscored Walpole 28-13 in the third quarter.
"We expected a box and one possibly but hadn’t really seen one of those in a long time," Walpole coach David St. Martin said. "Then, we just got going into a couple of bad technical fouls which – usually our guys play with their heads and they kind of got baited into those. We kind of let the game get away from us in the third quarter. But, we’re a good team and we came back and made it a game, which is good."
Despite outscoring OA, 23-15 in the fourth quarter, it wasn't enough to upend OA's third quarter performance.
Walpole's defense also wasn't enough to slow down Oliver Ames sophomore Ryan Carney, who ended the game with a career-high 36 points. After being called up last year as a freshman three-point shooter, Carney has become a focal point in the Tigers offense. A deadly long-range shooter, he has developed a soft touch around the basket.
"He’s a complete package on the offensive side and he’s becoming a better defensive player all around," Byron said. "He’s a very, very good kid.  points is a full night."
Carney was complimented by captains Ryan (13 pts) and Andrew Reardon who administered the offense from the point guard position and added 13 points. Nick Cidado added 8 points.
Sophomore center Brendan Welch played well in the paint, knocking down 9 points.
"He’s only a sophomore and he keeps getting better all the time," Byron said of Welch. "That was like a coming out game for him. He did some things on the offensive side that we always thought he was capable of doing and it’s starting to come."
Despite the loss for Walpole, junior center Adam Quinlan was a bright spot, knocking in 21 points.
"Adam has worked really hard this off season," St. Martin said. "He was our starting JV center last season and at the end of the year I said ‘Adam, you can be our starting center' and he worked really hard this off season. He’s capable of doing that."
Quinlan was complimented by Fogarty, who knocked down 20 points despite being smothered by OA's box-and-one for much of the game. Senior Johnny Adams finished with 12 points and junior Scott Arsenault finished with 9 points.
Byron saw Sunday as an overall quality win for the young season.
"I look at [Walpole] as a good team – a quality Bay State League team – probably a tournament level team," he said. "We expect them to give us two runs every half and it happened at the end and I thought we held our poise pretty well."