Podcast: Previewing Boys Hockey D2 State Final

Canton boys hockey
Canton boys hockey celebrates with its D2 South championship trophy. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)

HockomockSports.com’s Josh Perry hosts a special state championship podcast focusing on the Boys Hockey D2 State Final between Canton and Tewksbury. Perry is joined by Canton head coach Brian Shuman, Canton senior goalie Mike Staffiere, Oliver Ames coach Sean Bertoni, and 2010 Canton state champion and current New Jersey Devil Kevin Rooney.

Friday’s Schedule & Scoreboard – 03/15/19

Today’s games are listed below.

Boys Basketball
Sixth Annual Charity Basketball Classic

Team Lanigan vs. Team Perry, 8:00

Girls Basketball
Sixth Annual Charity Basketball Classic

Team Lanigan vs. Team Perry, 6:00

The HockomockSports.com Three Point Contest will take place between the girls and boys game, starting approximately at 7:00.

Franklin Drops Overtime Heartbreaker In State Semis

Franklin girls basketball
Franklin’s Megan O’Connell drives to the basket against Springfield Central in the D1 State Semifinal. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
WORCESTER, Mass. – Springfield Central is headed back to the MIAA D1 State Championship for the third straight year, but it wasn’t without a hell of a fight from the Franklin girls basketball team first.

The Panthers went toe-to-toe with the three-time West sectional champions, forcing overtime with a late bucket before bowing out of the tournament with a 64-57 loss at the hands of the Golden Eagles in the D1 State Semifinals.

“When you’re this close, you’re a game away, they are definitely disappointed,” said Franklin head coach John Leighton. “For the girls, I think in the next 24 hours, the sense of accomplishment will come back, but right now, it stinks. It’s raw because it just happened and was overtime. It’s one thing if you lose by 20, you know the season is done. But not here when you’re battling until the last 12 seconds. It’ll hurt tonight, but it’ll get better.”

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

For the second straight game, junior Megan O’Connell scored in the final seconds, this time a layup with 6.1 seconds left to tie the game at 48-48 to force overtime.

“We have a lot of faith in her,” Leighton said of O’Connell. “Her confidence has grown so much. It was a similar play to what we ran the other night, just with Ali or Meg with an inside-out option, and the lane was there so I give her credit. The kids have really grown confidence-wise. We’ve been in a lot of close games and come out ahead and I think that gives them a lot of confidence. We celebrated last game and then buried it but I think that confidence at the end helped us.”

Franklin carried that momentum into the extra period as O’Connell (16 points, 17 rebounds) drove to the basket on the opening possession to give the Panthers the lead, and two trips later, senior Shannon Grey drained a corner three for a 53-48 lead with 2:49 left.

But the Golden Eagles refused to go away, answering right away with a triple from Selenya Gonzalez (21 points). Franklin’s Ali Brigham (26 points, 25 rebounds) converted an offensive rebound to give Franklin a four-point cushion and then blocked a shot to give the Panthers possession back with under two minutes to go.

But a missed three resulted in two free throws for Jaliena Sanchez (34 points, eight rebounds) and then a turnover resulted in two free throws for Rosheda Guthrie, knotting the score at 55-55.

Turnovers hurt the Panthers all night, and their 19th and final one of the game led to one of the biggest plays of the game. After two misses, Franklin came down with another offensive rebound but a pass to the paint was picked off by Sanchez and she raced the length of the court and converted while being fouled, hitting the free throw to put Springfield Central up 58-55 with under a minute to play.

“There’s going to be plenty of swings throughout the game,” Leighton said. “I thought they had a couple of good stops, got us to turn it over a couple of times. And Sanchez was just on fire at the end, she couldn’t miss from the foul line. She did a lot of stuff, she finished strong and I thought she was the biggest difference in the game, especially in the second half and in overtime.”

Brigham answered on the other end with a pair of free throws but Sanchez went back to the line, where she finished 17-for-21, and sank another two to push the lead back to three, 60-57. Franklin was unable to convert its chance and Sanchez added four more from the line in the final seconds to ice the game.

It was back-and-forth for the majority of regulation, with neither team grabbing a significant lead at any point. Springfield Central jumped out to a 6-0 lead to start the game but Franklin settled in and took a 13-11 lead by the end of the first quarter.

Buckets from O’Connell and Brigham midway through the second helped the Panthers build a brief five-point lead at 19-14 but a 7-1 swing from the Golden Eagles put Springfield Central ahead. The Panthers got points from Bea Bonhus and Erin Quaile, plus four straight from Brigham to take a 28-26 lead into halftime.

Sanchez worked her way to the line early and often in the third, hitting five free throws but Brigham answered with a three-point play, a rare shooting foul called against the Golden Eagles while defending Brigham.

A four-point play from Sanchez — a made three plus another foul — gave Springfield Central a 37-33 edge and the momentum but the Panthers stole it back with a 10-0 run to end the quarter. Brigham scored the first four then O’Connell scored three straight baskets for a 43-37 edge heading into the fourth.

Franklin was held to just one point — a free throw from freshman Olivia Quinn — for the first six minutes of the fourth. The Panthers finished the game just 2-for-18 from three-point range.

“We’d love to have a couple more of those [threes],” Leighton said. “And the thing is, I thought we took good shots, we weren’t forcing them, they just weren’t falling. Not that we’ve been living off the three all year, but they were urging us to shoot it and we had to take the open shots. “

Quaile sank two free throws with 1:40 left to get Franklin within one before O’Connell’s tying basket late.

“This team is historic,” Leighton said. “They went further than any other Franklin girls team has ever gone. This is a cohesive group, which is really special. I’d love to take credit for it but I have nothing to do with it. These girls love each other.”

Franklin girls basketball finishes the season at 21-4.

Player of the Week: Megan O’Connell, Franklin Hoops

Morse Insurance
 

Megan O'Connell
 
By HockomockSports.com Staff

Franklin junior Megan O’Connell has been selected as the HockomockSports.com Player of the Week, presented by Morse Insurance, for March 3 through March 9. O’Connell is the 23rd player chosen as Player of the Week for the 2018-19 school year and the 13th player in the winter season.

O’Connell has been an important part of Franklin’s league championship season, but that went to a new level on Friday night at Worcester State when she hit arguably the biggest shot in the program’s history (to this point). With the Panthers down one to undefeated top seed Wachusett in the Div. 1 Central final, O’Connell grabbed an offensive rebound and hit an off-balance putback at the buzzer to secure the program’s first-ever sectional title.

“Megan is the ultimate team-first player who has done everything we have asked of her to help this team win,” said Franklin coach John Leighton. “In the playoffs, she has raised her game to a whole new level both offensively and defensively. I could not be prouder of her.”

O’Connell finished the sectional final with 10 points and nine rebounds and she continued to combine well with center Ali Brigham, using her ability to take players off the dribble to open up passing lanes to get the ball into her classmate. In addition to her heroics against Wachusett, O’Connell rebounded from a tough shooting night in the playoff opener to spark Franklin to a big win against Concord-Carlisle in the semifinal.

She scored 10 of Franklin’s 14 points in the first quarter, taking advantage of the attention being paid top Brigham to find driving lanes. She finished with 19 points and 13 rebounds, as the Panthers advanced to the Central final for the first time since 2015. O’Connell also knocked down a big jumper late in the comeback against Westford Academy that kicked off Franklin’s tournament run.

The Player of the Week, presented by Morse Insurance, is selected by the HockomockSports.com staff. Nominations can be submitted throughout the week up until Saturday night at midnight. There may be a poll posted on every Sunday with the nominations. The results of the poll influence the selection but do not strictly dictate the decision.

Morse Insurance

Franklin’s Vail Looking to Get Pride On Track This Spring

Jack Vail
Former Franklin standout and HockomockSports.com Player of the Year Jack Vail (14) is looking to follow up an all-NEWMAC season with a strong senior campaign at Springfield College. (Springfield College Athletics)

Josh PerryFollowJoshPerry


Things haven’t started exactly as planned for the Springfield College men’s lacrosse team through the opening four games of the new season. The Pride are 1-3 after four games, but senior attacker Jack Vail is confident that the team, which received votes in national preseason polls, is capable of challenging for the NEWMAC title.

“Our main focus is just to work really hard on ourselves and competing against each every single day,” Vail explained in a conversation ahead of last weekend’s trip to Union College (N.Y.). “We’ve been definitely working hard to improve and just keep getting better every day.”

Through four games, Vail is fourth on the team with four goals and seven points, but his role as a senior and as a captain is bigger than just scoring. A former Hockomock League MVP and two-time HockomockSports.com Player of the Year at Franklin, Vail is also the leader of the attacking unit and he takes that responsibility seriously.

“I’m able to be a more vocal presence and mold the team into what we want it to be as a senior class,” he said. When asked how it felt to be selected as the captain by his teammates, Vail replied, “It was a great feeling. I’ve always aspired to be in those leadership roles, so being voted captain was a satisfying feeling.”

The leadership role is one that Vail has developed in his four years in Springfield. He only played three games as a freshman, which was a big adjustment for someone who was an automatic selection every game in high school.

He admitted, “ I definitely thought, at times, that I could be out there and making an impact but just being a part of a college-level team you get a much deeper bond than you would on your average high school team, so I was able to understand my role and be really working on the scout team and getting better every day.”

Looking back now, he recognizes that his freshman year was a positive learning experience to help him get acclimated to the speed and physicality of the college game. Vail jumped in as a sophomore and made a big impact, scoring 32 goals and recording 16 assists. Last spring, he scored 26 goals and had 30 assists to earn first team all-conference honors.

If Vail puts together similar numbers this spring, it will see him jump into the top 20 all-time in career goals, points, and assists. Not that he is too worried about that right now.

“I’ve never really been a big listener to all-conference awards and hype and stuff like that,” he said. “I’ve just been focused on my team and getting better and winning games. Just making sure I can be the best player for my team and helping everyone around me get better.”

That attitude was put into place early on, as Vail was part of the early stages of the Franklin youth lacrosse programs, which now regularly produces college-level talent and has helped the Panthers dominate the Hockomock in recent years. In high school, Vail was a dynamic scorer, with 55 goals and 38 assists his senior season, and his six goals against Xaverian (five in the second half) helped Franklin get past the Hawks and into the Div. 1 South semifinal for the first time in program history.

“There’s definitely a lot of great memories associated with those years,” he said. “Being able to have that bond with those guys all these years later and also being able to look at the program now and all those kids who were just coming up and are now big contributors and senior leaders.”

There has been a Franklin pipeline to Springfield College in recent years. Vail was introduced to head coach Keith Bugbee and learned more about the program thanks to family friend and Springfield alum Jake Versprille. Now, Vail is connecting other Panthers to the program, including current Springfield sophomore Packie Watson and freshman Kyle McEniry (North Attleboro grad Thomas Lindstrom is also a freshman at Springfield).

“It being a great fit for Jake, I knew it would be a great fit for me,” Vail said. “Going back to Franklin and seeing kids who I think would be a good fit here, like Packie and Kyle, just really kids who would buy into the program and be hard workers and then get the opportunity to meet with Coach Bugbee and eventually come here has been great, keeping that pipeline alive.”

The Pride have reached the NCAA tournament for 11 straight seasons and, despite a tough start, Vail believes that the team can get things in order to be playing its best lacrosse when NEWMAC play kicks off at the end of March.

“I just want our team to be as close as we can be and have the most fun we can,” he said. “By doing that, the wins will sort of take care of themselves. If you can continue to get better every day then play your best lacrosse in the late season then hopefully you can make a deep playoff run and that’s all we want.”

As a senior closing out his lacrosse career, it is no surprise that Vail emphasizes fun as well as results. He is trying to enjoy his last few months on the lacrosse field.

“You’ve definitely got to take a step back and think about how far you’ve come in these four years,” he explained. “They have sort of flown by and I have so many great memories associated with them. Being an in-season college athlete, it’s a really fast-paced schedule, so you need to find time to take it all in before it all ends.”

Springfield College will be back in action on Saturday with a trip to Endicott College.