ATTLEBORO, Mass. -– Bishop Feehan was in the midst of a 13-0 third quarter run that had cut the visiting Warriors lead to 10 points. Medfield looked like it was reeling. So, head coach Mark Nickerson called timeout and brought his unbeaten Warriors to the bench and simply told them to settle down.
When asked what Nickerson said, Medfield senior forward Kristen Fechtelkotter responded, “Definitely just to take a deep breath, slow it down, and play our game because we were definitely letting them control the pace of the game and we just needed to take it back into our own hands. We just needed to stay composed.”
The experienced, defending Division 2 state champions recovered, slowed the game down, and regained their composure and the Shamrocks would get no closer. Medfield pushed on for a 66-49 road victory and a season sweep of Feehan.
“We’re an up-tempo team, but against these guys we actually wanted to slow it down a little,” said Nickerson. “We may like to play at 100 miles per hour, but they like playing at 120 miles per hour, so if we can tone it down to 60 then it would be to our advantage. To [Feehan’s] credit they turned it up and...We started playing faster than we wanted. I just tried to calm them down a little bit.”
The game turned midway through the first quarter when Nickerson made the decision to pull away from his standard full-court pressure to focus on defending in the half-court. The Warriors slowed the Shamrocks tempo, forced turnovers, and got a number of easy baskets to turn a 9-6 deficit into a 19-12 lead at the end of the quarter.
Nickerson explained his defensive strategy in the first half, “We were trying to mix it up. We started with a little trap but that was relatively ineffective and we played a lot of man-to-man. It’s really about keeping them guessing and maybe make them take 10 seconds to see what we’re in and slow them down.”
Feehan head coach Mike Deady was impressed by the Warriors defensive ability, but disappointed in his team’s inability to get back in transition and prevent easy baskets.
He remarked, “I was disappointed in the way we got back defensively. We gave up way too many easy baskets simply because we did not get back. They got lay-up after lay-up after lay-up.”
The second quarter continued the trend as the Shamrocks continued to put tons of pressure on Medfield point guard Lauren Petit, who reached the 1,000-point mark for her career on Tuesday but scored only three points on Wednesday. But, Medfield leaned instead on Fechtelkotter (a game-high 20 points) and junior Payton Ouimette (14 points). The duo combined for 18 in the first half and the Warriors led 38-19 at the break.
About the Warriors limiting the Shamrocks to just seven points in the second quarter, Deady noted, “They’re a state championship defense –- locked down and they’re not going to give you any space. He did a good job too of switching to zone so that every time we got comfortable then we got uncomfortable.”
In the third quarter, Fechtelkotter scored the first four points to extend the lead to a high of 23, but then Feehan freshman Katherine Nelson sparked a Shamrocks comeback. Nelson scored seven of the next nine Feehan points and later buried a three to finish with 10 points in the quarter and 12 for the game.
“She’s a remarkable talent,” said Deady about his freshman. “She pressed a little bit early. She played like a freshman, you know. She wants to do so well and I thought she played an outstanding second half.”
According to Fechtelkotter, the experience of making a state title run has given the Warriors the confidence that they can handle any situation, even the pressure defense of the Shamrocks.
“We’ve gone against Olivia Healy [Reading High] and we’ve gone against Duxbury, so we know how to defend against good players,” she remarked. “We know what it’s like playing in those close games. Having that experience definitely helps.”
Junior Maddie Jolin tried to keep Feehan close with eight of her team-high 16 points in the fourth quarter, but again Medfield had the response. Fechtelkotter scored four and fellow captain Kate Thomas added six of her 12 points. The Shamrocks never got closer than 13 in the very physical final quarter.
“We have high expectations for ourselves and we schedule these games because these are the teams that know how to win the state championship,” said Deady after his team lost its second game to the Warriors this season. “We have that ability and when you lose –- you have to take something away and learn from it.”
Nickerson added, “It’s been our goal to play more physical and that’s one of the reason that we schedule games like this because it’s going to be more like that in the tournament. I’m convinced that playing these types of games helped us win a state title last year and hopefully it can help us get back there this year.”