It took an additional four minutes to decide the Walpole—Natick game last Friday, December 14. Tied at 56 after the end of regulation, the inexperienced Rebels found themselves in unfamiliar waters—playing a close basketball game against one of the Bay State Elite. Unfortunately, the boys came up short, losing 67-65 in what was their most exciting basketball game since 2011.
“This year, we are not going to settle for ‘almost’ or ‘close enough’ games — having said that, I was very pleased with the way we played on last [Friday] night,” said Coach Dave St. Martin. “I really did not know who was going to win that game, but at 8:30, I said to myself…we have a pretty damn good team this year.”
Natick was preseason favorites to win the Herget Division this year, and their supposed aptitude was apparent early on Friday night, leading 22-14 after one. The Rebels started four juniors including Adam Quinlan, Maurice Young, Scott Arsenault, and Ryan Fogarty (who transferred to Walpole after playing for Xaverian Brothers High School freshman and sophomore year). Walpole’s inexperience was evident as Natick continued to score in the first quarter while the Rebels were still trying to ignore their early nerves.
Senior Captain Johnny Adams—who started at guard for the rebels—said, “Both teams came out with high energy because it was the opening game. But it took us a little while to settle in and hit our shots while Natick was ready from the start. In the second quarter though, we were able to fight back.”
Walpole cut the deficit to five mid-way through the second quarter, but Natick junior guard Alex Hilger continued to drive the lane and dominate the front court. Hilger could not be stopped on Friday—finishing with 30 points and 7 assists. “He’s a legit player,” said Coach St. Martin. “We had a tough time guarding his quickness and closing out on his outside shots. Hilger is the best player on our side of the league . . . he could not be stopped.” Hilger and the Natick Red & Blue led by eight at halftime.
In the second half, the Rebels proved resilient—coming back from a 13 point deficit with unyielding defense and clutch three-pointers from Arsenault. An Adam’s layup gave the Rebels the lead with two minutes left in the quarter and the Walpole High School Gymnasium erupted with elation. “You could almost smell the victory,” said Quinlan. “We were playing with so much confidence late in the second half that it seemed like we couldn’t be stopped.”
Early in the fourth quarter, Adam Quinlan— who contributed 19 points for the Rebels—drained a three-pointer with a Natick defender in his face. Back-peddling to half court, Quinlan pretended to shove two guns back into their holsters like he was Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder. At that point, the WHS gym was as loud as any game during the ‘Recovery’ season back in 2011.
In the final seconds of the fourth quarter, the game was knotted at 56. Natick had a final opportunity to win the game with 0.7 seconds left on the clock, but Natick senior Peter Erhardt’s fade-away shot fell short and the game was headed for overtime.
In high school basketball, four minutes is added to the clock in overtime to decide the fate of the game. Walpole struck first as Quinlan snatched an offensive rebound over junior forward Troy Flutie of Natick and put it in. On the next possession, Fogarty drove hard off a Maurice Young pick and finished in the lane. The Rebels felt confident, leading by four with a little more than two to go, but Natick stormed back after six straight points from Hilger.
With nearly seven seconds remaining in overtime, the Rebels were down 67-65, but had possession of the ball. Adams pushed it ahead to Fogarty who drove to the lane. He was able to put up a fade-away layup as time expired, but unfortunately, to no avail.
“I think we definitely deserved to win that game,” said Quinlan. “Everyone played their best, but Natick just had their ‘A’ game tonight. We just need to bring that same intensity and motivation to Newton North [on Tuesday] and hopefully the tide will turn.”