BRIDGEWATER, Mass. -- Defense is definitely the calling card of Duxbury girls’ basketball. On Sunday afternoon at Bridgewater State University’s Tinsley Center, the undefeated Dragons (19-0) showed off their strength on that end of the court by holding Division 2 rival North Attleboro to just 20 points through three quarters in a 42-32 victory in the first round of the Harry Lehmann Memorial Tournament.
When asked about his team’s approach to the game, head coach Bob Sullivan responded, “We’re a grinder. We average about 51 points per game and give up about 27-ish. We play half court man and we grind. A ‘W’ is what we’re looking for.”
Duxbury had a considerable advantage in the paint with 6-foot-1 forward Catherine Harrison (12 points and 13 rebounds) and 6-foot-4 Molly Quilty (10 rebounds), but the Rocketeers were able to limit both of their touches by using a 2-3 zone with Emily Peters fronting Harrison and Ali McHugh on the weak side, preventing passes over the top.
The defensive work of the Rocketeers forced Duxbury to look for scoring from the perimeter and junior captain Maddie Foote stepped up to provide it. She hit a jumper to spark an early 7-2 run that gave the Dragons a 10-5 lead after one quarter. Then she knocked down a three-pointer in the second (Duxbury’s only made shot in the quarter) and added two more three’s in the third, including one from several feet behind the line to close the quarter.
She finished with 17 of the team’s 42 points.
“Maddie is our leader,” said Sullivan. “She plays 32 minutes a night in competitive basketball games -- I never take her off the floor. [She] made some shots, stayed confident, and made her free throws down the stretch, which I think was the difference in the game.”
North Attleborough head coach John DelBonis remarked, “The plan was to get out on [Foote] and make the other kids shoot. She made a couple when we lost her a few times. She might have been the difference in the game.”
Offensively, the Rocketeers were getting decent looks for guards Danielle Perron and Jill Costello, but could not make the perimeter shots that have been such an integral part of the team’s run to a Hockomock League title. Costello had a particularly atypical shooting night -- she missed all 13 of her shots from the field.
Without the ability to consistently go inside to Peters, McHugh, and junior forward Melissa Beaupre, North needed to knock down shots, but the Rocketeers made only one three in the game and that was from freshman Julia Strachan in the third quarter.
“I mean...We’re not going to get a lot of inside looks against them,” admitted DelBonis. “We got some decent looks -- we just didn’t hit any perimeter shots.”
Sullivan credited the effort of his defenders. He said, “We’ve seen them a couple of times and we know how good they are. We know how well they can shoot the ball and one of our keys today was to get out on the shooters.”
Duxbury led 27-20 heading into the fourth quarter, but struggled to shake off the Rocketeers. Beaupre hit a layup for her only basket of the game and Costello (six points -- all from the free throw line) hit a pair from the line to make it 28-24.
That was when the Dragons started to find ways to get the ball to Harrison on the post.
She took a pass on the left block and dove to the rim for a three-point play. Harrison then caught a pass over the top of the fronting defender for a layup and showed off a drop-step move into the lane to knock down a shot over the top of Peters. She scored seven of her 12 points in the fourth.
Explaining the change in approach that got Harrison some space to work in the fourth, Sullivan said, “That’s a match-up 2-3 zone...a lot of front and back on Catherine. The worst thing we can do at that point is force the ball inside. For that to work, you need dribble penetration from Emma [Gill] and Jackie [Sullivan] on the baseline.”
In the final few minutes, it came down to free throw shooting and Gill (seven points) and Foote combined to go 7-10 from the line to clinch the win and continue the unbeaten season for Duxbury.