ROCKLAND, Mass. -– With the scored tied and the last seconds of overtime ticking away against Cohasset, Rockland’s Matt Nicholson unleashed a potentially game-winning 3-pointer in front of a packed gym on Saturday afternoon.
The ball came down squarely on the rim, the result being a long rebound back out toward foul line. With the miss, it looked for sure that the Bulldogs would be headed to a second overtime in their final South Shore League contest of the year.
Sophomore John Furr had other ideas.
“I was out looking for a three-pointer on the right wing, and when I saw the shot going off the rim I knew it was heading toward a gap where no one was on the floor,” Furr said. “I just got there, grabbed the rebound and wanted to get a shot up and hoped it would drop.”
In one motion, Furr took off from behind the free throw line, caught the rebound and sent the ball back toward the basket before he landed. The ball arced high off the backboard, clanged off the front of the rim straight up in the air, came down on the back of the rim, and slowly rolled in, giving the Bulldogs a 65-63 win that caused the capacity crowd to rush the floor in celebration.
“I was prepared for double overtime, but I knew Matty shot that with enough time that we might be able to do something,” said Rockland coach Fred Damon. “I saw Johnny coming in from wing. I said ‘just get in and get one chance.’ We’ve been telling the kids all year if they get that chance to put that shot off the glass, because if you try to finesse it, it goes off the back rim and falls out.”
Before Furr’s game-winner could be possible, the Bulldogs (15-4) needed some late-game heroics just to force overtime.
Trailing by five with under two minutes to go, Rockland used a 3-pointer from Furr, who had a game-high 19 points, to cut the lead to two. Cohasset drew a foul on the ensuing possession, but connected on just one of two free throws.
On the other end, Rockland couldn’t get an open look at a potential game-tying 3-pointer, and instead worked the ball down low to Ian McDonald, who used a strong post up-and-under move to lay the ball and cut the lead to one.
Rockland was unable to come up with a steal on the inbounds pass, but quickly fouled. The Skippers (17-1) again went 1-for-2 at the line, leaving the Bulldogs trailing by two.
After a Rockland timeout, the Bulldogs set up their offense and worked the ball around looking for an open shot. As the clock ticked under five, Joe Kimball fired a pass to Andrew Frazer in the corner, just in front of the 3-point line.
Frazer went up with a jump shot, let it fly and saw it snap through the twine to the tie the game.
Nicholson ensured they’d head to overtime when he picked off Cohasset’s Christian Laettner-style heave attempt in a manner that would make Ed Reed proud.
“The last two minutes says a lot about this team,” said Damon. “We were down five, and we came back against a good team like that. You could feel the momentum change there.”
Skippers sailing despite loss: Despite being dealt its first loss, Cohasset looked like a team primed to wreak havoc in the D4 South Sectional Tournament. That was especially true in overtime, when Rockland rode the end of regulation to a quick five point lead in OT.
The Skippers pulled closer at the free throw line, just to see Rockland expand its lead up to six points with 1:01 left. On the very next possession up the floor, before the offense even got set, Chris Haggerty unfurled a deep 3-pointer to cut the deficit to just three.
A defensive stop gave Cohasset the ball with 35 seconds left.
Cohasset moved the ball around the perimeter, finally landing in the hands of defensive-minded Joe Buckley, who let a fade-away 3-pointer go near the corner. His shot ripped through the net to tie the score with just 15 seconds remaining in overtime.
“That’s why they were undefeated,” said Damon. “That team doesn’t quit. They just keep coming, and have a lot of different guys who can make big shots.”
That’s something Skippers coach Bo Ruggeiro is very proud of, especially when considering that Cohasset graduated 1,000 point scorer Shane Haggerty, as well as SSL All-Star point guard Christian Davis last year.
“Considering what we lost, I’ll take a 17-0 start. Now we’re 17-1, but we have sole ownership of the SSL title,” Ruggeiro said. “I’m really proud of these guys to come into an atmosphere like this, and play well out here today.”