For a home team that wasn’t really a home team, the King Philip Warriors boys basketball team and their fans did everything they could to make it a home game.
While there was a lack of green and yellow painted on the court and the gym was a little bigger than what many from KP are used to, the noise from the crowd alone made it a home game.
“I know the players win the game but those people behind us really did a great job supporting us,” KP head coach Sean McInnis said.
At times close but holding the lead for most of the game, the Warriors advanced to the quarterfinals of the MIAA Division 2 South Sectional basketball tournament with an 83-68 win over the Whitman-Hanson Panthers at Taunton High School.
A height disadvantage forced the Panthers to go to the outside shot, keeping them in the game early. A set of three outside shots from Alex Nuby (12 points) and an additional three-pointer from Dondre James (13 points) kept the Panthers within one of KP midway though the 1st. KP, though, had too many weapons.
With three players getting at least six points in the opening quarter, the Warriors widened the lead to 10 at the end of the quarter. John Mullane (17 points, 10 rebounds) chipped in six points while Christain Fair (10 points, 8 assists) and Jake Layman both had eight points.
As the Panthers started to struggle from beyond the arc, the Warriors had no problem getting to and defending the basket. Outrebounding the Panthers, the Warriors clogged up the paint while making it a 40-24 game at the half.
“That was our big thing. We wanted to make sure that we forced them [Whitman-Hanson] to shoot the three and we were not going to let them win the game by driving,” McInnis said.
The Panthers slowly chipped away at the lead to make it a six-point game with less than six minutes to play in the game but Sam McDonald (11 points) stepped up with a huge three to give KP more momemtum. The junior came up big again with the Warriors up by eight with a three off the inbound pass to increase the lead to 11 with 4:30 to go in the game.
“That’s why he stays out there,” McInnis said. “We’re gonna stick with Sam and make sure he knows that we have faith in him and that he’s shooting the ball well and tonight in the fourth quarter he really found his groove."
It was a huge fourth quarter for McDonald, who had eight points in the final frame to help prevent the Whitman-Hanson comeback.
“I haven’t been hitting many shots in the past couple games, and it felt good to finally hit them at that important of a time,” McDonald said.
Layman nearly took over the end of the game with 15 fourth-quarter points. The future Maryland Terrapin was unmatched down low as he scored 37 points and took down 19 rebounds.
The win gives KP a date with the defending South Sectional champions, the Hopkinton Hillers. Falling to the Hillers in last year’s sectional finals, to say that the Warriors wanted this is an understatement.
“That’s been in the back of my head and I’m happy we’re playing them again,” Layman said.
Last year, the Warriors lost to the Hillers 69-60 in overtime but the Warriors are confident that they can improve on last year’s result.
“We need to rebound a lot better, finish underneath the board,” Layman said. “Overall just intensity I think at times we had it and at times we didn’t,” He said about last year’s game.
The Warriors and Hillers will square off on March 1 at 7pm at Attleboro High School.