By James Kinneen
Hometown Weekly Reporter
The Dover-Sherborn basketball team had two chances to win at least a share of the TVL title against Norton, the first coming in a challenging loss on the road on February 13. Unfortunately for the Raiders, DS couldn’t close the deal on Tuesday night in front of a gym full of Raider fans. With the Raiders up six points at the half, in the end, it was Norton who secured a piece of the TVL title with a 54-41 victory.
It was an extremely emotional night for Dover-Sherborn. After seniors Zachary Spellman, William Whittlesey, Sam Bauman and Ethan Lynch were honored and photographed with their parents on senior night, just before the National Anthem, there was a moment of silence and then some brief words in memory of classmate Owen Bingham, who was tragically killed in a car accident just days before on Saturday, February 12.
Dover-Sherborn started out a bit shakily, with a turnover on an inbounds play leading to a Norton layup and a five seconds call on an inbounds, leading to Norton going up, 7-2. After a Zach Spellman three put Dover-Sherborn on the board, Norton moved to a press, which Dover-Sherborn immediately broke for a Luke Rinaldi layup, before Rinaldi drove, was fouled and hit both free throws to tie the game at 7-7. With three minutes left in the quarter, Dover-Sherborn’s defense forced two consecutive shot clock violations and Rinaldi hit a midrange jump shot to give Dover-Sherborn its first lead at 9-7. Norton tried to pick Spellman up full-court, which was hugely successful for them in the first matchup, but Spellman just let a teammate bring the ball up and Norton eventually abandoned the tactic after it seemed to be having no effect. Dover-Sherborn did have a turnover that led to a layup, though, and the quarter ended tied, 9-9.
The Raiders seemed like they were about to go on a run in the second quarter. After a steal led to Charles Fang finding Luke Rinaldi with a pretty bounce-pass for a transition layup, after a stop on defense, Rinaldi was fouled on a drive, but hit just one of two. On defense, Ethan Lynch blocked a corner three and screamed into the student section. Unfortunately, with all that momentum on their side, Dover-Sherborn bailed Norton out with a foul with just a few seconds left in the shot clock. Still, after Norton briefly went up 13-12, a Spellman three, a Rinaldi steal with the ball slapped of the Norton player’s foot out of bounds, and a Mason Melchionda three had Dover-Sherborn up 18-13 with four minutes left in the half, and the hometown crowd chanting that the Lancers were “rattled”; considering Norton immediately threw an entry pass off the post player’s foot, the student section may well have been right.
After Brian Olson was fouled on a put-back and hit one of two and Spellman hit a floater, Dover-Sherborn was up 21-13 with 2:38 left in the half. Although they gave up some points, after a Brian Olson drive and some Olson free throws, Dover-Sherborn headed to the locker room up, 25-19.
Early on in the second half, it once again seemed like Dover-Sherborn was going to pull away. Brian Olson’s three made it 28-21, only for Norton’s Andrew Tetrault to respond with a three of his own. Then, after another Norton player was fouled and hit his free throws, a Spellman three was matched by another Norton three, and the score was 31-29. This was the last lead Dover-Sherborn would have on the night. Norton went on a bit of a run, and soon enough, it was a 33-33 game with 2:19 left in the third quarter. Dover-Sherborn needed a timeout. Out of the timeout, a Dover-Sherborn turnover gave Norton a 35-33 lead, which a pair of Spellman free throws erased. However, after the Raiders went cold, Norton hit a three that gave them a 38-35 lead to start the fourth quarter.
Norton hit a three and a midrange jump shot to give them a 43-35 lead with 6:37 left, as Dover-Sherborn took a timeout and the Norton fans responded with their own “home team’s rattled” chant as both teams headed to their benches. After Spellman missed a three, Brian Olson got the rebound and was fouled. Unfortunately, he missed both free throws, and after Rinaldi was fouled soon after, he missed the front side of a one-and-one. With five-and-a-half minutes left, Sam Bauman’s corner three was blocked, Dover-Sherborn had a technical foul and Norton’s Justin Marando (who was the game’s high scorer with eighteen points) hit both his free throws. Seemingly out of nowhere, with 4:48 left, Norton had a 47-35 lead.
Mason Melchionda threw the ball out of bounds looking for Luke Rinaldi in transition, Marando’s steal led to a layup, Jake Ogilvie hit a fadeaway jumper along the baseline and Norton was firmly in control 51-35 with 2:46 left to play. With about two minutes left and the matter essentially decided, Dover-Sherborn had all their seniors on the court, then substituted them out with around a minute left in the game to hug the coach and receive their adulation from the home crowd. Seconds later, the Lancers celebrated their victory.
With Zach Spellman leading the way for the Raiders with 16 points, Luke Rinaldi adding 11 and Brian Olson scoring eight, Coach Rick Grady shot down any idea that the pressure of the crowd, the unique circumstances the team was dealing with and the increased media attention the game received played any role, noting, “our kids were ready to play. It’s certainly been a tough week, but our kids were ready to play. We just didn’t execute enough, that’s all.”
Instead, Coach Grady pointed to Norton’s play in the second half as the difference maker: “Obviously it was a really tough second half. Credit to Norton, they played well and made it tough for us to score. We tried a couple of different things but between misses, some missed free throws and some turnovers, we just had some really tough stretches.”
When asked if any particular stretch stood out to him, he answered, “The whole second half was pretty rough. We obviously didn’t score many points. They’re a good team so we need to do a bit more. When we don’t score, we can’t set up our defense, and it just makes it really hard.
“It’s disappointing and it stings, but we need to pick our heads up and be ready to play. We have a game tomorrow against Medfield, so it’s a quick turnaround, but we have a lot of basketball still to be played. We’ve got work to do, but we’ve got time to address these things.”
When he was asked about any individuals who stood out to him, on senior night, Coach Grady instead wanted to talk about all his seniors.
“I just want to thank our seniors for all their hard work for the basketball program. It’s been a pleasure to coach all of them, and I appreciate everything they’ve done for me. I’m looking forward to having more time with them.”
How much more time? It depends on how well Dover-Sherborn plays.
“Hopefully a long time. Hopefully another month, but we’ll see. We have two more regular season games and the playoffs after that.”
The Raiders concluded their regular season with wins on the road against Medfield (65-60) and Millis (68-39), respectively.