For three quarters, the Division 2 South Sectional Semifinals had a little bit of everything; from the physical play underneath the boards to great shooting.
In the final quarter, the top-seeded Hopkinton boys’ basketball team got the biggest shot of them all from senior guard and co-captain Wesley Ericksen in its 80-69 victory Monday night against at Newton South High School.
With about five minutes remaining in the final period, Hopkinton had taken a two-point lead on OA thanks to some timely free throw shooting from junior guard Barrett Hanlon, who was 12-of-14 from the free throw line in the last eight minutes of the contest.
Hanlon’s free throw shooting was a response to Nick Bruha’s four clutch free throws in the third quarter when Hopkinton was called for a technical foul with about three minutes remaining.
Hanlon and Bruha were the two leading scorers with 31 and 29 points, respectively, but Hopkinton's Wesley Ericksen, who is more known for his defense – at least during his first few years -- hit the clutch shot to put Hopkinton up by five.
“It really sparked the team,” said Hopkinton head coach Tom Keane about his senior guard, who finished the game with 13 points. “The great thing about him is that he’s really shot the ball well all year and he’s a kid who’s a testament because he was more known as a defensive specalist and now he’s a kid who can shoot the three for us to, which is great. He’s a kid who’s really improved his game.”
Ericksen’s shot and Will Relle’s layup afterwards seemed to take the wind out of the Tigers for the final few minutes.
“It was a two point game that went to five and then we turned it over and suddenly we were down seven in a game that was anybody’s contest at that point,” said OA head coach Don Byron about the series of events.
“He [Ericksen] made a big play and the second shot that followed [from Relle] put a little bit of space between us and them and then the clock started to become an issue after that.”
With OA holding a two-point lead entering the fourth quarter, Hopkinton mixed up its defensive set from man to zone, which seemingly worked to its advantage as they disrupted the shooting lanes.
From there, the Hillers were able to transition quickly from defense to offense and create some quality scoring chances down the other end.
“We tried to mix it up on defense,” Keane said. “We did a little bit of a 2-3 zone, we did a little bit of a triangle, we did a little bit of a matchup zone and we did a little man-to-man. We tried to mix it up everything and I think we made some key shots down the other end.”
Earlier in the game, the Tigers were able to get some solid shooting from Bruha and Andrew Reardon (1o points). In the fourth quarter, the Tigers were ice cold from the field, shooting 3-of-11.
“They did a good job running the stuff that they would like to run,” Byron stated about the opposition. “They hit all their foul shots down the stretch and I thought they did a real good job of not allowing us the chance. It wasn’t much, but they disrupted our ability to make a big shot and all of the sudden we had to start fouling down the other end.”
Hopkinton advances to the South Section finals this Saturday against the winner of the King Philip-Falmouth contest, which takes place tomorrow night at Bridgewater-Raynham.
OA, who made its first trip to the South semis since 1999, finishes its season at 15-8.