By Eli Hearne (Boys Basketball Reporter).
SHARON, MASS — It doesn’t get better than a rivalry high school basketball game on a Friday night.
Powered by an explosive performance from sophomore Alex Kaufmann (career-high 21 points), a quiet 17 points from playmaker Ricardo Ripley and key contributions off the bench, the Eagles upset OA in their home-opener in front of an infectiously raucous crowd, 70-64.
Oliver Ames, coming off a win against Stoughton, was the heavy favorite with three strong returning varsity players in Carter Evin, Nick Welch, and Dylan Mahoney. The Eagles, on the other hand, had just lost to Taunton on Tuesday and still had not found their core.
Yet all that changed Friday night.
The score flipped back and forth for the majority of the game with the Eagles up 19-13 at the end of the first, and 29-28 at half.
As the Eagles were in a zone for the first half, Oliver Ames was able rain threes as seniors Nick Welch and Jack Spillane began to catch fire.
Yet the Eagles switched into man following halftime, making a big difference.
“We switched from zone to man and that really helped us get Evin out of the game. We were hesitant to make the change because Malik was in foul trouble, but Xavier [Hackett] was awesome in his spot,” said senior Danny Emerman.
The third quarter continued to be back and forth, with Oliver Ames taking a one-point lead into the fourth, 46-45.
It was in the fourth quarter when the Eagles pulled away.
Senior Danny Emerman provided a spark off the bench nailing two threes, split by a layup from Malik Lorquett, giving Sharon the momentum.
“My role on the team is to play with grit and provide a spark off the bench and I just wanted to do anything I can to help the team,” Emerman said.
Boys basketball taking the court for home opener vs OA. Let’s go Eagles!! pic.twitter.com/wCvtjAN2O1
— Sharon High Eagles (@SHS_Eagles) December 16, 2016
Captain Ricardo Ripley echoes the importance of bench players contributing.
“Emerman coming off the bench hit two huge threes which sparked and gave us the energy to go on a run,” Ripley told The Talon.
OA kept the game close thanks to scores from Matt Muir and Noah Fitzgerald, as well as an easy layup from Carter Evin, to get back within a point.
Then came the Eagles run. Baskets from Ripley and center Malik Lorquet, as well as five straight points from Sophomore Alex Kaufmann, put the Eagles up 64-57 with 2:37 to play.
Oliver Ames’ Muir split a pair of free throws, and Ripley answered with a circus and-one bucket to increase the Eagles lead to 9, going up 67-58.
OA clawed back to a five point difference with 34 seconds left, but a layup from junior Jayvon Monteiro followed by a made free throw sealed the game for the Eagles, 70-64.
The Eagles found their identity in this dog-fight. Their athletic play as well as key contributions from the bench proved to be the difference maker.
Although the names that jump out on the score sheet are Ripley and Kaufmann, senior Xavier Hackett may have been the unsung hero of the game.
As big man Malik Lorquet got in foul trouble early, the inexperienced Hackett filled in as center.
“Xavier Hackett got a lot of key rebounds and played great defense. He played with confidence and toughness and that’s what we need out of him,” said Ripley.
The overall story for the Eagles versus OA, as said by Ripley, was “a lot of contributions from a lot of guys, a lot of which were unsung.”
Although Sharon still needs to, according to both Ripley and Emerman, “continue to work on their rebounding as well as overall defense,” this was a huge win for the Eagles.
Sharon heads to Attleboro on Tuesday to face off with the 3-0 Bombardiers.
Also: Vote for Ricardo Ripley for Hock Player of the Week: https://hockomocksports.com/poll/