Norton Boys' Hoops Beat Westwood, Win Share of TVL Title
With a 42-39 win over Westwood and a Medway win over Hopkinton, the Norton Lancers will win at least a share of the TVL title.
While there was not very much scoring in Norton’s match against Westwood Tuesday night, it was a game for the defensive enthusiasts to enjoy as the Lancers toughed out a 42-39 win over Westwood to improve to 13-4 in league play and 14-4 overall.
“That’s the prettiest ugly win we’ve ever had,” Norton head coach Marc Liberatore said. “If you love defensive basketball and playing as hard as you can it wasn’t better than that. If you want the ball to go in a lot you’re in the wrong place.”
A basket from Joe Lally (15 points) at the beginning of the first quarter would give Westwood their first and only lead of the night as Norton started the game outscoring the Wolverines 14-2 in the opening quarter.
The Lancers started to pull away midway though the quarter when a dunk by James Loring (2 points) put Norton up 8-2 and then Paul Murphy (7 points) glided down the court for the easy layup on the next possession to increase the lead to eight. A pair of baskets from Dan Rafuse (16 points) capped off the dominating quarter for Norton.
With only four baskets between both teams in the second quarter, the game continued to be a defensive battle as two baskets from Lally represented the Wolverine’s points from the field.
A pair of baskets from Rafuse and Levi Kahn kept the lead in double digits but with Rafuse, Zach Ruby and Paul Schleicher going into the half with three fouls each, the Lancers would be forced to play a more conservative game.
Outscoring the Lancers 15-7 in the third quarter, the Wolverines cut the lead to six after three quarters of play when Daniel Roache’s (10 points) basket and free throws plus Lally’s three pointer with a minute to go got the deficit back to single digits with only a quarter to play.
Despite suffering from two missed free throws from Murphy that could of wrapped up the game with 47 seconds to play, an offensive rebound from Schleicher drained more time off the clock and led to a pair of free throw attempts for Rafuse with 38 seconds left.
The two misses and a rebound by Jonathan Allegrezza led to a baseline jumper from Roache to cut the Norton lead to three.
Trying to capitalize on two more missed Norton free throws, the Wolverines had one last chance to tie the game with 18 seconds to play, but two missed three-pointers would be how things would end as the Lancers picked up their 14th win of the year.
“They’re (Norton) one of the, if not the most resilient team I’ve ever coached because we miss four free throws in a row but we still defend. They just don’t ever give up,” Liberatore said of the final moments of the game.
The Lancers got some more good news after the game when Medway’s 56-35 win over Hopkinton allowed Norton to clinch at least a share of the Tri-Valley League title with one league game to go.
With five teams with a shot at winning at least a share of the league title going into last night's games, the Tri-Valley league is near completing what Liberatore called one of the most competitive seasons the league has ever seen.
“We’re at each other right down to the end and you’re going to have eight teams in this league make the tournament, seven with 10 wins or more. That’s what it is every night; everybody battles,” Liberatore said.
The Lancers will travel to Bellingham Feb. 15 for their final league game of the season.