At times during the second half of Norton’s game against the Dover-Sherborn Raiders, it appeared that the Raiders were constantly on the verge of taking over the game. Yet with two strong performances from Dan Rafuse and James Loring, the Lancers were able to hold off Dover-Sherborn during the team's 64-57 win. Improving to 10-3 (9-3 in the Tri-Valley League), a combined 48 points from Rafuse and Loring helped the Lancers get past the Raiders.
Up 7-4 early in the first quarter, a pair of baskets from Rafuse and a three pointer from Chris Huff helped extend the lead to 11 as all signs pointed to a good night for the Lancers early on. With time ticking away, a three pointer from Paul Murphy at the buzzer capped up a 21-10 first quarter.
An early second quarter basket from Loring and a three pointer midway though the second helped the Lancer keep the lead but a strong end to the half by the Raiders brought the lead back down to single digits at halftime.
Ben Maletta started the Raider rally with two minutes left in the half by scoring a three point play off a steal that cut the lead to seven. With a shot from Nick Tupanjanin from beyond the arch at the end of the half, the Raiders were able to cut the lead to five.
Despite the Dover-Sherborn surge, a dominating first half by Rafuse made the difference. Recovering from a hamstring injury, the Norton senior scored 17 points during the first half.
“That was nice to see out of Dan Rafuse. He’s been struggling with a hamstring injury and he’s back now,” Norton coach Marc Liberatore said. “He attacked the basket in the first half and that was really important to us.”
After relying on Rafuse to control the first half, Norton turned to Loring during the second half to keep the Raiders at bay. With a couple of early baskets from the Norton center, the Lancers were able to keep the lead despite the play of Dover-Sherborn.
“I though Dan carried us in the first half and I said ‘come on James, you got to pick it up,’ and he went and got 16 points in the second half. I thought he responded real well,” Liberatore said.
With less than a minute to play in the third quarter, Charlie Stenhouse’s two pointer brought the Raiders to within two but a basket from Loring gave the Lancers a four point lead after three quarters.
Up by four with 2:30 to play, a big three pointer from Huff put the Lancers up by seven. Huff continued to step up late in the game with a big assist to Loring and two free throws with a minute to play to extend the lead to 11 and lock up the Norton win.
Both Rafuse and Loring led the game with 24 points each. Chris Huff had 10 points and Zach Ruby had six rebounds.
The win clinches a spot in the MIAA Division 3 South tournament for the Lancers for the sixth year in a row.
The Lancers are back on the court on January 29 at Hopkinton in a game that will most likely play a roll in the race for the TVL title.