No. 11 Medfield survives gritty Medway

MEDWAY, Mass.- Down by eight with two and a half minutes against Tri-Valley League rival Medfield, with the ball in their own offensive zone, the Medway girls' basketball team fumbled the opportunity to make it a two-possession game.

Sarah Hope for three? Missed, but rebounded by a teammate. Kayla Corshia for three? Missed, but rebounded by a teammate. Sarah Coakley for three? Missed, but rebounded by Corshia with an open lane for a layup. She missed that too.

This time, No. 11 Medfield corralled the rebound, sent it the other way for a transition basket, and was on their way to a sloppy 46-38 victory.

With the win, the Big Blue move to 12-0 on the season, sweep the season's series with Medway, and move into pole position for winning the Tri-Valley League for the third year in a row. Medway fell to 11-3.

“We have to get better going into the tournament,” Medfield head coach Mark Nickerson said. “We’re 12-0, and that puts us in first place with two games up on Hopkinton, and three games up on (Medway). We’ve got a tough stretch of games coming up with Holliston, Hopkinton, and Westwood all next week, all away.”

Both teams came out of the gate using a full-court press, trying to create turnovers. In the first half, Medfield broke the Mustangs' press well, using crisp and timely passes the whole length of the court and often ended up with easy lay-ups in the offensive end. However, Medfield only lead .

“What was interesting is that both teams were pressing opportunistically at different times during the game,” Medway head coach Joe Iannone said. “Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t. I think we were sort of playing a cat-and-mouse game and press when the other team’s best ball handler wasn’t on the floor, but it was a good battle.”

In the second half, Medway used a half-court trap to stifle the Medfield offense, keeping the score within six until halfway through the third quarter. That was when Medfield’s 6-foot-3 center Natalie Dickinson (5 points, 3 blocks) and her teammates started crashing the defensive glass and got the ball in its guards’ hands for transition baskets, stretching their lead to 42-31 by the end of the third quarter.

Despite its lack of offensive productivity in the fourth (five total points), Medway only surrendered four points.

“We didn’t tire, I just think on the offensive end we didn’t finish,” Iannone said. “I think it was a war of attrition like it always is against them.”

Medfield’s leading scorer, Jen Narlee, came into the game averaging eight points, and ended up with exactly that. But she made most of her noise on the glass with 10 rebounds. On the other bench, Coakley lead all scorers with 16 points and was a vital part in keeping the game as close as it was for so long.

The game featured an inordinate amount of turnovers -- specifically, traveling violations -- for both teams, which Iannone found ironic.

“It’s funny because by record, these are the two best teams in the league, but to have that many traveling calls is a little bit unusual,” he said. “I don’t know if the floor was slippery or maybe the girls were getting a little over-excited because they knew the competition was so good.”

Medfield has lost in the South sectional during the playoffs for the past three seasons. With nine games remaining on its schedule, Nickerson believes the biggest thing preventing his team from overcoming that drought is itself.

“I said to the girls, ‘Probably the toughest competition we’re going to see is at practice,” he said. “The girls work real hard and push each other in practice, but we certainly need to get better at taking care of the basketball and things like that, so if we play our game and give 100% we’re going to be a tough team to beat.”