When asked after the win over North Attleboro, whether his team had enough to beat King Philip, Attleboro senior guard J.J. Jolaoso responded confidently, "Of course. I think we can compete with anyone."
Tuesday night he almost single-handedly proved that to be true.
The Attleboro High Bombardiers, led by 29 points from Jolaoso, made a strong fourth quarter push to pull the upset and stay alive in the hunt for the postseason but KP held on, in a typically difficult night on the road in the Hockomock League, 70-65.
The Bombardiers (7-12) were eliminated from postseason contention with the loss.
KP led by as many as 14 in the fourth quarter but Attleboro stormed back, finishing the game on a 13-4 run. The comeback started routinely enough with a putback by E.J. Santarpio and then a tough bucket by Jolaoso.
Tim Walsh then regained his outside stroke, knocking down two clutch threes either side of two free throws by KP captain Christian Fair. With Attleboro needing a stop, Chris Walsh made a steal on the sideline and finsihed a three-point play making the score 68-65.
Both Walsh brothers had shots to tie for the Bombardiers, but could not hit and Jake Layman wrapped things up with two free throws with only three seconds remaining.
"We certainly had some chances at the end and that's where we want to be," said Attleboro head coach Mark Houle. "We want to play good teams and compete to the point that we have a shot to win. The guys played hard."
Attleboro led 33-32 at halftime thanks to 15 first half points from Jolaoso, who eight rebounds to go with his 29 points, and KP coach Sean McInnis was impressed by the Bombardiers senior. "He's such a strong kid and it's a real match-up nightmare. I love watching him play, just not against us."
The Warriors have their star player in Layman, a 6'9" forward, who will be playing at the University of Maryland next year, and he showed his full repertoire of dunks and outside shooting to finish with 27 points and 13 rebounds. During the game he passed the 1,000-rebound plateau for his career.
It wasn't an easy 27 points though, as Attleboro used a variety of players on Layman, including 5'9" guard Matt Borgellas. "Matt played against him last time and did a good job," said Houle. "He had good footwork and was physical down there."
McInnis recognized Borgellas' strong play on the block, but gave credit to the entire defensive scheme for making his star work hard on the block. "It took us so long to find him in the post that by the time Jake fought to the post side they triple teamed him," he said. "As soon as Jake's feet landed there were two guys on him."
The Warriors got solid contributions from the support players who shot the ball well from the outside. John Mullane had a double-double of 13 points and 11 rebounds, while senior Mike Schmidt had 10 points (seven in the fourth quarter) and junior Sam McDonald made two huge three's in the third quarter and ended with seven points.
Attleboro used far fewer players off their bench than KP and all but four points came from starters. Tim Walsh made five three-pointers for 15 points and his brother Chris had seven points. Santarpio, the sophomore forward, stepped in with six points (all in the second half) and four rebounds.
The Bombardiers still want to finish the season strong starting on Friday when they host Sharon in the crossover game. KP (14-3) will play host to Oliver Ames in a battle of division runners-up.