ACTON, Mass. — Rick Kilpatrick knew his team struggled in the second half. He just didn’t realize what kind of drought his team actually went on.
Acton-Boxboro (16-1) didn’t record a field goal for 9:07 to begin the second half, but still hung on to defeat Westford Academy 59-53 last night at Regan Gymnasium in a battle of Dual County League large division heavyweights.
There was almost a look of disbelief, maybe a little shock, when Kilpatrick found out just how long his team went without a field goal.
“I did not realize that,” said Kilpatrick. “I’d say that we probably don’t win the game. You aren’t going to win many games like that. Obviously we were very fortunate. The thing that we talked about more than anything was our defense and making stops and not giving up second shots. … The fact that we went that long without a made basket means that defensively that’s what held us up.”
The Colonials got five free throws in the third quarter and held the Grey Ghosts to eight points in the period to take a 39-35 lead after three. Jake Pilecki finally broke the span with a lay-in with 6:53 left in the fourth quarter to push the Colonials lead to seven and that seemed to settle the rest of the team moving forward.
The hosts scored 11 of the next 16 points as Kevin LaFrancis got back to work on the inside to get to the hoop and get to the line.
“To be honest I didn’t know we had no field goals in the third,” said Pilecki, who finished with 15 points, nine rebounds and five assists. “That’s a tough stat. We kind of got stagnant off the ball and weren’t moving like we were in the first half. We were taking quick shots, but we got better at the end, which is what counts.”
Seniors step up: There were two big buckets by LaFrancis (17 points, 15 rebounds) and A.J. Gotthelf that helped seal the victory for the Colonials, who can claim the DCL Large with a win over Lincoln-Sudbury.
The Colonials had a tough time establishing LaFrancis in the post during the entire third quarter, but after the drought ended they were able to get him back-to-back touches in his comfort zone.
Joey Flannery fed LaFrancis on the low left block, and the 6-foot-6-inch center moved in, took the contact and finished with the whistle blaring for a possible 3-point play. LaFrancis sank the freebie and gave the Colonials a 47-39 lead with 6:03 left in the game.
“That was big,” said Kilpatrick. “They were right on the verge and (LaFrancis) has done that for us all year. He makes the big baskets at the big times, and we wanted to get the ball inside to him and we did. It paid off there.”
Gotthelf is about a foot shorter that LaFrancis, but his bucket may have been the bigger, game-finisher with under two minutes to go. Gotthelf had an offensive rebound come right to him and he looked around for someone to feed the ball too. When he realized he was left all alone he fired up a 3-pointer and found nothing but net to help stop a 6-0 run by the Grey Ghosts.
“I was on the other side of the court and I saw the look in his eye and I was like ‘No, don’t shoot it,’” Pilecki said with a laugh. “I know coach might have yelled it too. When he pulled up I just rushed the rim in case there was a rebound, but went it went in the place just went crazy. It was so relieving.”
Slowing down Jann: The Colonials looked like they were running away with the game in the first quarter, but the sharpshooting of Ryan Jann slowly moved Westford Academy back into the game.
Jann hit 4-of-6 from 3-point range and finished with 16 points to lead all scorers in the first half. He did struggle with foul trouble in the second half, and when he was in the game, the Colonials held him to three points on 1-of-7 shooting in the final 16 minutes.
“We just wanted to get out on him a little bit,” said Kilpatrick. “We didn’t get out above the 3-point line enough. He’s such a tall kid and you really have to get your hand up to contest his shots. I thought we did a better job of getting out and trying to contest.”