North Attleboro recently announced that former assistant coach Nikki Correia has taken over as the new girls basketball head coach, replacing Derek Herber, who stepped down this spring after five seasons in charge. Correia has been with the program for the past five years, starting as a freshman coach and working up to be the JV coach and varsity assistant.
“I’m very excited for the opportunity,” Correia said on Monday. “The last five years I’ve been lucky enough to be part of this coaching staff and learning a lot and I truly adore the entire program. They’ve been nothing but supportive the last five years, so I’m really excited to get going in the head role.”
This is Correia’s first head coaching position at the varsity level, but she has been an assistant at North and at the AAU level. Correia also had a very successful playing career at Attleboro High, scoring 1,030 points for the Bombardiers, before going on to play at Wheaton College.
Correia said, “I’ve played for different coaches, with a lot of different personalities, and I think I was able to take a little things that I responded to well and what I didn’t respond to well and say, okay I didn’t really like that when I was coached that way, so I’m going to coach it this way.”
North won back-to-back Kelley-Rex division titles in 2014 and 2015 and reached the playoffs for the first three seasons after Herber took over. The Rocketeers have struggled in the last two years, winning 11 games combined with a young, guard-heavy lineup. Correia hopes to exploit the team’s speed next season.
“I want to get out in transition, we want to run, we want to be fast,” she said. “I know what they have to offer and I have to put them in the best positions to succeed. We’re small and quick and we’re going to get out in front and go.”
Being promoted to head coach from within the program, Correia knows the Rocketeers inside and out. She knows the players and they know her, which she believes will make the transition more comfortable for everyone.
“There’s definitely going to be changes,” she explained, “but I do think knowing the players and being a part of it the last five years, just being able to develop that relationship with all the kids, they know what to expect from me and I know what to expect from them.”
“Coaching at Fitchburg over the last three years was a great experience and I learned a lot from it,” Nagle said. “High school has always been a great fit and King Philip with its proximity and its tradition made it a really attractive job when I saw it open up.”
Nagle went 27-50 with Fitchburg State, winning nine games in each of his three seasons. He previously coached at Worcester Academy and at Bellingham High. With Bellingham, Nagle proved successful at the high school level, leading the Blackhawks to the 2014 Div. 3 Central title and a 20-4 overall record.
The Norton native will take over a team that had success last winter and has the potential to be one of the top teams in the Kelley-Rex division, bringing back a number of key pieces, including HockomockSports.com first teamerFaye Veilleux. Nagle introduced himself to the Warriors following a recent summer league game and he believes that the players will fit right into his up-tempo style.
“The good thing is that I knew a lot of them already from AAU and just from being at the facility all the time,” Nagle said. “It’s good to know there are good players. Sometimes when you take over a program you have to start over but the program is in a good spot right now.”
He added, “I think the expectations are really high and that’s exciting for me. I’ve never been one to back away from a challenge, but at the same time it’s nice to go where the ball is already rolling and I have to keep it moving in the right direction.”
In addition to the announcement of Nagle as the new basketball coach, King Philip announced that former Franklin and Dean College coach Lisa Cropper will be its new field hockey coach. Cropper won four league titles in eight seasons as head coach of the Panthers and will take over the two-time defending league champions.
Also, this summer KP announced that former JV coach Mike O’Neill will be the new varsity coach for the boys soccer team.
Taunton athletic director Mark Ottavianelli confirmed this week that the Tigers have filled two coaching positions for the upcoming school year. Joe Rocha has been hired as the new girls soccer coach and Amy Siggens will be the new head coach of the girls basketball program.
Rocha replaces Edith Dixon, who had been coach since 2014 and led the program to its first playoff victory in 2015. Siggens, who is moving across the Hockomock League from King Philip, will take over from Walter Harrigan, who stepped down after 12 years as the head coach.
Siggens spent two years as the head coach at KP, her first high school head coaching position, where she compiled a record of 18-24. She was formerly an assistant at Wellesley High. After an injury-plagued first season, Siggens led the Warriors to a record of 14-8 this past winter, including 10-6 in the league, and KP reached the Div. 1 South quarterfinal before a loss on the road at top seed Bridgewater-Raynham.
“I’m patient enough and understanding enough to know it’s going to be a process,” said Siggens about the new opportunity in Taunton, “and I probably have way more than can get done immediately but I’m excited for the challenge. I think the longevity of this position is going to help me get to do what I want to do.”
Taunton finished last season at 7-15 (2-14 in the Hockomock League), but brings back a young lineup. The Tigers graduated four seniors but there is only one player from this year’s roster that will be a senior next season. In addition, Taunton had four freshmen and five sophomores on the varsity roster and Siggens is excited to develop that young core.
“You see that they work hard and they want to play,” she said. “I hope they’re ready for the challenge that I’m going to face with them. I want to have a lot of fun but I really want to develop these young women and these athletes and give them the confidence and show them something different that they haven’t seen for a long time.”
Siggens is excited about the new challenge and is already working on plans to get involved from the youth leagues on up. She said, “We’re jumping feet-first in ready to get dirty. Talking about any way to get involved – summer league, camps, clinics – I’m throwing everything at them to see what we can start.”
Rocha is a familiar face in Taunton. He coached the boys soccer team from 2002-2010, helping to revitalize the program, including the addition of a freshman team, which is a goal that he has set for the girls as well, according to an interview this week by the Taunton Gazette.
The Tigers have struggled since winning their only playoff game, having only won 11 games in the three years since that afternoon in Wellesley. This past fall, Taunton was 3-16-0, including 1-15-0 in the ultra-competitive Hockomock League, and scored only 16 goals over the course of the season.
Below are the official 2019 Hockomock League Girls Basketball All Stars, selected by the coaches in the league.
Hockomock League MVP
Ali Brigham, Franklin
Hockomock League All Stars
Liv McCall, Attleboro
Julia Hamilton, Canton
Kiara Cerruti, Canton
Kaitlyn Mollica, Foxboro
Chelsea Gibbons, Foxboro
Ali Brigham, Franklin
Bea Bondhus, Franklin
Shannon O’Connor, King Philip
Faye Veilleux, King Philip
Maggie Danehy, Mansfield
Sydney Mulkern, Mansfield
Julia Feid, North Attleboro
Caroline Flynn, Oliver Ames
Caroline Peper, Oliver Ames
Emma Eberhardt, Sharon
Aliyah Wright, Stoughton
Sonya Fernandez, Taunton
Jordyn Lako, Attleboro
Maggie Connolly, Canton
Abby Hassman, Foxboro
Erin Qualie, Franklin
Faith Roy, King Philip
Mady Bendanillo, Mansfield
Grace Risio, Milford
Amanda Kaiser, North Attleboro
Sadie Homer, Oliver Ames
Kaitlyn Wallace, Sharon
Sydnee Hyacinthe, Stoughton
Alexa White, Taunton
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.”
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.
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.