ACTON, Mass. — At first glance, Acton-Boxborough may look like a lumbering, big team that will only play in the half court and lull you to sleep in the post with size at seemingly every position.
But once the Colonials get into the flow of a game and move the ball inside and out, you start to realize that the size also has a little hop to its step. The Colonials put that gitty-up on display last night in the Div. 1 North quarterfinals in a 63-58 win over lightning quick No. 7 Lawrence at Regan Gymnasium.
The Colonials had three players in double figures, as Kevin LaFrancis — who added 12 rebounds — and Jake Pilecki each scored 20 points. Joey Flannery contributed with 12 points, nine rebounds and four assists, as the No. 2 seed will now face Lexington in the semifinals.
“We are versatile,” said Flannery. “It was pretty much a contrast in style, so we had to pick our spots when we were running and everything. We had to try and take advantage inside against them and try to deal with their quick guards.”
Flannery himself is the ultimate measure of versatility for A-B. At 6-foot-4, Flannery is the de facto point guard and he had to deal with the quick hands of Yadoris Arias, Franklin Martinez and Leonny Burgos buzzing around trying to swipe the ball out of his mitts all night.
“When I was playing up top with the ball they were pressuring me hard,” said Flannery. “They took the ball from a couple times, but I just had to use my size to my advantage.”
There was a stretch in the third quarter when Flannery went out with foul trouble that really could have turned the tide in the Lancers (15-6) direction. Flannery went to the bench with his third personal at the 3:39 mark, and the Colonials had trouble breaking the extended pressure in the backcourt.
The Colonials played survival for that time period without much flow to the offense and held a 51-46 lead at the end of the quarter and averted a bit of disaster.
“That was a time, late in that third quarter, we give up a basket and suddenly the momentum could change,” said Colonials head coach Rick Kilpatrick. “I thought that was big.”
Pilecki Comes Up Big Again: Kilpatrick has talked over and over again about the spark that his senior captain brings to the team in the most dire of situations, and Pilecki came up big again.
With the shot clock dwindling down to two, Pilecki fired away a deep, straightaway 3-pointer and drained it to push the lead back up to 8 with a little over four minutes left to go in the game.
“I’m just going to pull it,” Pilecki said of his mindset. “It feels good. I practice shooting it deep and I’m always screwing around from deep before practice. I throw it up there and it goes in, so I guess it works.”
Lancers Cold From Outside: Lawrence relies heavily on its speed to create a nightmare matchup for anyone trying to guard it for 32 minutes. But the Lancers also use the deep ball to open up the lanes for Burgos, Martinez and Arias to play around and use their ballhandling skills to get to the rim.
The shots just weren’t falling like they were in the first round victory against St. John's Prep. The Lancers finished 1-of-17 from behind the 3-point line, eliminating a major weapon in Paul Neal’s arsenal.
“They took that away from us,” said Lawrence head coach Paul Neal. “They really took away what we were good at. We couldn’t get anything going.”
Kilpatrick switched to a zone defense in the first half and stuck with it most of the night after starting out in a man-to-man look.
“I didn’t think we were going to play a whole lot of 2-3 (zone),” said Kilpatrick. “I thought we were going to play more man. We threw it at them in the first quarter, late first quarter, and it seemed to work. We still played some man, but obviously we played a lot of 2-3 the rest of the way. I thought we did a great job in the zone of recognizing where the shooters (were).”