(TRIPLE PLAY: Three Natick defenders tried to stop Michela North from scoring two of her 31 points.)
There is no denying the 2011-12 Duxbury HS girls’ basketball team played with heart in the MIAA Division II South Sectionals that ended for the Lady Dragons with a 60-54 OT loss to Natick on Friday night in Natick.
Led by Michela North’s 31 points, the Lady Dragons wiped out an 11-point deficit in the final three minutes of regulation to force overtime before losing in the extra four minutes.
North was incredible, scoring 11 points in a two and a half minute span to tie the game at 50-50, and then buried two clutch free throws with 23 seconds left in the game to tie it up at 52-52. It was the second straight OT playoff game for Duxbury, but this one ended on a sour note with their comeback effort running out of gas.
After their stunning upset win over No. 3 seeded Falmouth, Duxbury had good vibes heading into Friday night’s game with the No. 6 seeded red and blue.
As both teams battled back and forth in the first eight minutes, the Lady Dragons would grab the lead at the end of the first quarter with a pair of North baskets to make it 11-8.
Neither team was able to pull away in the second quarter, as a Katie Norton three-pointer gave Duxbury a 14-10 lead, only to have Natick’s senior captain Lexi Gifford (28 pts.) bury five straight points for a 15-14 Natick lead.
North continued to do damage underneath and combined with freshman Jackie Sullivan for five free throws and a 19-15 Duxbury lead with 3:10 left in the half.
Bridget Furdon (12 pts.) would get Natick back in the game with four points and the game was tied at 23 when both teams went to the locker room.
Amanda Singer would open the second half for Natick with a three-pointer, but Duxbury stayed close at 32-30 with 3:30 left in the third quarter until the red and blue started to pull away at 38-30 with a minute left.
Freshman Maddie Foote shut down the Natick run with a three-pointer, but Furdon ended the quarter with a basket to give the hosts a 40-33 lead with eight minutes left in the game.
Natick’s Katie Anderson and Gifford buried threes, and Singer followed with a basket of her own, giving the blue and red a commanding 48-39 that prompted Duxbury Coach Bob Sullivan to call a timeout with 4:07 to go.
When the teams came back on the floor, Gifford sank two more free throws and the Lady Dragons were faced with a 50-39 deficit with four minutes before elimination.
Staring defeat in the face, Duxbury had just one option left: feed North in the paint.
Over the next three minutes North scored 11 straight points to tie the game at 50-50 with 51 seconds remaining.
The Duxbury defense dug in, but Gifford hit an unconscious fall-away from the paint to give her team a 52-50 lead with 40 seconds on the clock.
After getting the ball inbounds Sullivan called a timeout to talk about what could be their next offensive play.
The call went to the All-Star forward, who was fouled as she went to the basket and converted both free throws.
Duxbury would steal the ball as Natick went for the winning shot, but they were stripped from behind as the Lady Dragons moved the ball into the front court with two seconds left in regulation.
The Lady Dragons seemed to run out of gas in overtime, as Gifford went on a tear with six points in leading the red and blue to an 8-0 run and a 60-52 lead. North would score her 31st point to cap the night for Duxbury, as they watched their comeback bid go for naught.
“This is a special group of kids,” said Sullivan. “I’m really, really proud of them. Our second OT game in an opponent’s gym and they could have packed it in, but they showed a lot of heart. We didn’t lose this game. I think we just ran out of time.”