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.
WORCESTER, Mass. – Franklin got the look it wanted to try and win the game.
Down by one with less than 10 seconds remaining, Erin Quaile swung the ball around the perimeter to her backcourt partner Shannon Gray, who looped the ball into Ali Brigham on the left block. The 6-foot-3 junior center, who had 28 points to that point, turned into her smaller defender, took a dribble, and got a look at the rim.
Unlike so many other chances that Brigham converted in Friday night’s Div. 1 Central final at Worcester State University, this one didn’t find the bottom of the net. Instead, it kicked off to the far side, but her classmate Megan O’Connell was there and pulled down the offensive rebound between three Wachusett defenders.
O’Connell instantly went back up with an off-balance shot. It bounced on the right side of the rim, took a touch on the backboard, and dropped through to put Franklin ahead 61-60 just as the final horn sounded on the program’s first-ever sectional title.
“I was thinking, ‘oh my god, it’s not going to go in,’ and then it somehow did,” said O’Connell after the game. “I was thrilled, this is all we’ve been working for. I’m just happy it all worked out.”
Gray added, “It’s amazing. I can’t believe that we’re the first team in Franklin girls basketball history to ever get a sectional and that’s just so amazing…I can’t believe it’s real.”
When the ball dropped through the basket, O’Connell seemed to hesitate for a second before the celebrations kicked in, as though she wasn’t sure if she had really just done that. That she had just won the game. “I was in shock. I didn’t really process that it went in,” she explained.
“It was like every bad Disney movie at the end where you’re just waiting and waiting,” Franklin coach John Leighton joked. “We drew up a play to get Ali the ball but we talked about at the end of the game, whoever has the ball just shoot it, not to make the extra pass. [Megan] got it, she didn’t blink, she didn’t think twice, and she shot it right away.”
There were points in the second half when it looked like Franklin may run away from the Mountaineers and cruise to the title. But, Wachusett came in undefeated for a reason and stormed back in the fourth. A 4-0 run to close the third was followed by four more to start the final quarter with junior Belle Lanpher (21 points) getting a steal and then a transition basket to cut the lead to 47-45.
Brigham answered back with a basket plus the foul and senior Bea Bondhus (10 points) knocked down a pull-up jumper from the right to push the lead back to seven. A jumper by Rachel Vinton (14 points) was matched by a Brigham layup, off a feed from O’Connell, to keep the Panthers up 54-47.
That was when things started to get very interesting.
Lanpher drilled a straightaway three to cut the lead to four points and Vinton halved that with a pair at the line. Again, Franklin turned to Brigham, who added 14 rebounds and seven blocks to her game-high point total, and she responded with a basket from a Gray assist. A layup for Jill Post made it a two-point game and then Courtney Lanpher (14 points) buried a three to put the Mountaineers up 57-56. It was their first lead of the second half.
Bondhus got fouled in the backcourt and, despite the cacophony of noise from the Wachusett student section, buried two clutch free throws with 1:19 left to give the Panthers back the lead. Courtney Lanpher was fouled and knocked down a pair at the line to make it 59-58 with 1:06 left. After another foul, Gray (seven points) hit 1-of-2 to tie it with 1:01 remaining.
“The whole time we were just like let’s do it,” said Gray. “We’ve got it and let’s just finish.”
The score stayed the same until Lanpher was fouled going to the basket with 15.1 on the clock. She missed the first and Leighton took a timeout. The senior guard made the second and instantly Wachusett went into its press. Quaile got free to get the inbound and pushed the ball up court, where the Panthers got the ball into Brigham’s hands and then O’Connell provided the heroics.
“A quarter-inch difference and Wachusett wins the game and we’re going home,” said Leighton, adding, “If that bounced the other way, I’d be just as proud of the kids because what they did tonight was give everything they had against a great team. This was as complete a game as they could play and if that ball bounced out I don’t think I would feel differently.”
O’Connell said, “We worked so hard and we had a good run in the first half and we thought we were going to win and it turned around and we had to stay put and keep playing defense and we pulled it out.”
Wachusett came out firing and took an early 10-4 lead in the first. The Mountaineers scored 19 points in the opening quarter, mostly using a high pick-and-roll in the center of the court. Franklin was aggressively jumping out to the shooters and the Mountaineers were able to turn the corner time and again and get to the rim, where Brigham was nowhere to be found because she was forced to extend out.
The Panthers changed things up defensively in the second and held Wachusett to just 10 points in the quarter.
“They shoot the lights out…so we came out trying to limit their three-point shots,” said Leighton. “We adjusted and we tried to switch a lot more and put a person in that gap so it wasn’t a straight shot to the rim. That got Ali a lot of those blocks because she had time to get back.”
Brigham was on fire early in the game, as the Panthers got the ball inside early and often. O’Connell (10 points and nine rebounds), fresh off a 19-point game in the semifinal, was also getting free and taking the ball to the rim. Gray nailed a three in the final seconds to tie the game at 19-19 after one.
In the second, Franklin’s outside shooting started to find the range. Bondhus and Quaile each hit threes and Brigham added another six points as Franklin pushed the lead to as many as 10, 35-25. A quick 4-0 run at the end of the half got the top seed back within single digits at the break.
A Belle Lanpher three cut the Panthers advantage to 40-37 in the third, but then Franklin went on a 7-0 run to again push the lead to 10. Brigham got an offensive board and put-back and Bondhus drilled a three in the run. But again, Wachusett was able to score four straight to get back within six at 47-41 and set up an exciting finish to this rematch of the 2015 Central final.
Franklin (20-4) now advances to the state semifinal for the first time and will face West champion Springfield Central.
BRIDGEWATER, Mass. – After two years as the top team in Div. 2 South, defending state champion Foxboro saw its quest for a three-peat come to a very abrupt end on Wednesday night against Pembroke at Bridgewater-Raynham High.
The Titans held the Warriors, who led the Hockomock League in scoring at more than 60 points per game, to single digits and no more than three made field goals in each quarter. Pembroke pulled away in the second quarter and left the Warriors in the rearview mirror, pulling out a 50-24 victory that sends the Titans to the South final.
It was obvious from the start that Foxboro had the target on its backs and Pembroke wanted to be the team that ended its run.
“It definitely doesn’t help, but we didn’t come out ready,” said Foxboro coach Lisa Downs about facing every team’s best effort. “I don’t know if it was that we were scared because they didn’t seem that way when they warmed up, so I think it was a matter of they maybe thought we were better than we were and taking that team more for granted than we should have.”
Chelsea Gibbons, who scored half of her team’s points, opened the game with a three that barely even made the net ripple as it dropped through. Foxboro didn’t score again for more than six minutes. Pembroke went on a 13-0 run to take control.
The Warriors did climb back into the game before the end of the quarter. Jordyn Collins drove baseline for a layup and Yara Fawaz got one at the line after a rare offensive rebound. Gibbons (12 points) swished another three and suddenly it was a four-point game (13-9).
It felt like Foxboro was on the verge of righting the ship and preparing to go on a run to get back in front. That wasn’t how it played out.
The Titans came out firing in the second, knocking down each of the first five threes that they took. Gibbons hit a third from beyond the arc to cut the lead to 19-12, but then three more triples for Pembroke pushed the lead to 14. Lizzy Davis got her only points on a putback but the Titans went into the break leading 30-14.
Downs explained, “We tried to do a matchup 2-3 zone at one point and then we went to a half-court 1-3-1 trapping zone. We forced a turnover and then we dribbled out of bounds, things that we don’t do. So many things that were very atypical for us.”
Jayne Howe hit three from the outside in the second quarter and scored 15 of her 17 points in the opening half, outscoring the Warriors by herself. Pembroke used a 17-5 quarter to pull away.
“They’re a very good team,” Downs said. “All of our game plans that we put together to keep the ball out of the hands of [Howe] and [Katie Galligan], we just didn’t execute and it didn’t help that we had no rebounding whatsoever. It was just a perfect storm for us that we couldn’t do anything right.”
Katelyn Mollica knocked down her only jumper of the night to bring Foxboro back within 18 at 35-17 and then Gibbons answered a Pembroke basket with another three. It was as close as Foxboro would get. In fact the Warriors only managed four more points for the rest of the night.
“She couldn’t get into a rhythm at all and then she’s trying to force shots because she knew that she had to score,” said Downs about Mollica, who led the team ins coring as a sophomore, averaging more than 18 points per game. “She was a little bit tight and she wasn’t following through because she was trying to get a shot off quickly.”
Abby Hassman and Collins each scored in the fourth quarter but that was all that the Warriors managed as Pembroke was running down the shot clock on every possession and typically getting multiple looks thanks to its control of the glass.
Coming into the season, following the graduation of influential players like Ashley Sampson, Lily Sykes, Grace Tamulionis, and Shannon Smally, no one saw the Warriors as the potential No. 1 seed in the South. Despite the new faces in the lineup, Foxboro (20-3) still won a third straight league title and reached a third straight South semifinal.
“Each game that we played, each practice, I would see something a little more that I hadn’t expected,” Downs said. “We’re still a young team. They’ve had some good experience the last two years that hopefully they can build on and learn from and hopefully set some goals that after tonight’s game you never want to feel this crappy.”