Leading 55-53 with 31 seconds remaining in regulation, the Foxborough High School girls’ basketball team needed to make a stop.
A usually stingy Warriors’ defense was having an off night Friday but managed to string together enough stops in the second half, underlined by their effort in the final half minute to grind out a 57-53 victory over rival Mansfield.
“They put the pedal to the medal and decided they wanted to win this game,” said Foxborough head coach Lisa Downs.
With that determination came the reward of Foxborough earning a MIAA State Tournament berth – the Warriors first since the 2010-11 season and Lisa Downs’ first as a varsity head basketball coach.
“I feel like we can breathe a little bit more and not always feel like we have to get that one more [win for the state tournament],” Downs said. “Now that we’re there we can focus more on fine-tuning some things for the state tournament.”
Downs said making the state tournament was a routine occurrence when she played for the Warriors and while she was confident Foxborough would qualify this season, she recognized the basketball culture has changed since she wore the uniform as a player.
“When I used to play here many years ago we used to qualify routinely and that’s just not the case here anymore,” Downs said. “The girls worked very hard [to qualify for the state tournament] … obviously the earlier we qualify the more opportunity we have to get more wins and potentially have a home game, which would be fantastic.”
To earn the postseason berth, Foxborough had to overcome a 35-27 halftime deficit.
“We got pulled into playing complacent on defense, at least in the first half,” Downs said. “Mansfield was getting some really good looks and they were hitting their threes and we just weren’t getting a hand in their face so most of them were uncontested shots but they were making them so hats off to [Mansfield].”
The Hornets hit nine 3-pointers in the game, including three apiece from the Stoyles. Jessica finished with a team-high 14 points and Gina ended with 13.
“Defensively we didn’t play our game and then all of a sudden, approaching the fourth quarter we decided to actually start playing our defense,” Downs said. “I was proud of them in that last quarter.”
The Warriors trailed Mansfield, 48-43 entering the final quarter but remained persistent in their comeback bid, taking the lead for good with 4:39 remaining in regulation.
“They worked hard,” Downs said. “We were distributing the ball a little bit more in the fourth quarter.”
Mansfield head coach Mike Redding said he was proud of his team despite the loss and credited Foxborough for making the right adjustments in the second half.
“I was proud of our team,” Redding said. “We played well against a very good team. … We put 35 points up in the first half on a team that held Sharon to 29 the other night. Lisa made some great adjustments in the second half. Give them credit.”
Foxborough was led by Katherine Tamulionis with 18 points, followed by Ashley Snyder (13) and Andrea Marcotte with 11 points, including three 3-pointers.
The Warriors will return to the MIAA Division 2 South Sectional state tournament for the fifth time in six seasons.
Foxborough (10-3, 8-3) returns to action Tuesday on the road in North Attleboro. Tip-off is 6:30 p.m. Mansfield (3-13) hosts Milford Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.