NEWTON, Mass. -- Newton South had 10 days to sit and stew on its heartbreaking overtime loss to Central Catholic in the last game of the regular season, which wiped away the Lions’ perfect record.
But the host No. 3 Lions (20-1) channeled those emotions into a blistering first half from the perimeter to drop No. 19 Brockton, 67-53, in the first round of the Division 1 South tournament on Wednesday night.
Sophie Bikofsky scored 20 of her game-high 23 points in the first half, while the Lions shot an efficient 57 percent (12-of-21) from behind the three-point line in the first 16 minutes of the game. They sizzled in the second half, going 2 for 13 from deep, but still finished 41 percent on three's.
“We had a pretty good shooting performance behind the 3 in the first half,” said Bikofsky, who finished 5-of-11 from deep. “I think everybody did. We were taught to look for the shooter that is hot, and today it happened to be me in the first half.”
Bikofsky helped the Lions build a 16-7 lead in the first four minutes of the game with 11 points in the run. The Lions were able to get shooters in the correct spots and seemed to never have a hand in their face when launching from deep.
As a team, the Lions shot 8-of-11 from beyond the arc and built a 30-14 lead at the end of the first quarter. Bikofsky was perfect from the left corner, a spot she said hasn’t really been her sweet spot.
“She ran to the right spots,” Lions head coach Sam Doner said. “She actually moved without the ball really well.”
Kayla Burton, Kendall Burton and Semira Haghayeghi all added three’s in the second quarter, and Bifosky’s traditional three-point play capped off the half and an 18-point lead.
But halftime could have been the worse thing that happened to the Lions. The home team came out of the break ice cold in the third quarter, only scoring five points, while the Boxers (11-11) slowly started clawing back into the game.
The Boxers held the Lions scoreless over for the last four minutes of the quarter and went on a 7-0 run in the process. Brockton was able to hold the Lions without a 3-pointer in the quarter by closing out on shooters, and snatching offensive rebounds against a frontcourt that is missing starting center Julia Sloan-Cullen.
“We were playing for pride at that point,” Boxers head coach Eric DiBiase said.
Christina McDuffy’s offensive rebound and put back got the Boxers to within nine at the end of the third quarter, but Kayla Burton scored nine straight points for the Lions to push the lead back to 16 with 5:04 left in the game.
Doner spent a little extra time in the locker room trying to grab the attention of a talented Lions squad that is still learning to play without size in the middle. The head noted that sometime overconfidence can plague his team at times.
“(Brockton) started making their shots and we started walking,” said Doner. “I didn’t do a good job of getting them back and making them feel better about themselves and getting their confidence back.”
Brockton was led by Nephie Marsh’s 15 points, while Alicia Rosario canned four 3-pointers as part of a 14-point effort off the bench.