The Oliver Ames girls' basketball team went into Wednesday night's Walpole Tournament championship game facing one final test before the Massachusetts State Tournament.
They were certainly tested in more ways than one.
A scrappy and relentless Medfield squad stood in the way of Oliver Ames heading into the state tournament unbeaten. The Warriors won the back-and-forth game, 61-55.
The Tigers dropped to 18-1 overall.
"It’s really too bad that somebody had to lose this game," Oliver Ames coach Elaine Clement-Holbrook said. "That’s just the way it goes. It’s not one of those things where everyone gets a trophy and everyone is smiling."
The game was a rematch of last year's Walpole Tournament finals in which Oliver Ames spoiled Medfield's perfect season hopes with final-minute heroics.
This year, Medfield did the spoiling. And, unlike last year, the Warriors held on to their late lead in the final seconds to take the tournament championship.
The Warriors improved to 19-2.
"We talked about that during our timeout with five seconds left," Medfield coach Mark Nickerson said. "I said ‘You’ve been here before. If the old adage is true that you learn more from your mistake than you do from your successes, we should be all set.’ We just talked about what happened last year and things we can do to avoid that from happening now and the girls did a good job executing."
Medfield was able to come back despite trailing 17-11 after one quarter and 32-26 at the half. The Warriors fell behind early, handing the Tigers a 10-0 lead to start the game.
"You never want to spot a team like that 10 points," Nickerson said. "It wasn’t looking good to start. We really struggled offensively and they slowed us down with the pressure. We were trying to be careful but too careful. By being too careful we were just playing aweful. I think we started to pick up as the game went on."
Medfield set the tone in the second half by outscoring the Tigers 18-10 in the third period, then holding onto their lead in the final minutes.
The Warriors were carried by junior Lauren Petit, who scored 16 points on her way to being named the tournament's Most Valuable Player. Senior Jen Narlee finished with 14 points and was named to the all-tournament team.
OA's Caitlyn Abela finished with 16 points on the night to earn all-tournament honors.
Despite the accomplishments, Medfield smothered the OA co-captain early and held her to four points in the first half.
"They defended her to perfection," Clement-Holbrook said. "Initially, we struggled a little bit in terms of recognizing that we do have other players on the floor. [Junior forward Michaela Lievi] went out on a tear and had the first few points of the game. We had to recognize - 'take a deep breath girls, it’s not just all about Caitlyn' - and just try to play our game."
Lievi led the Tigers Wednesday with 22 points. Senior co-captain Asia Mitchell added 10 and junior Kate Holleran added 5.
With the loss behind them, the 18-1 Tigers will look ahead to the State Tournament. Seedings are announced Friday.
"We’re going to take it one game at a time," Abela said of her team's focus. "We’re going to try really hard every day in practice and everything and hopefully just play to the best of our ability."