By Ryan Lanigan, Editor-in-Chief
MILFORD, Mass. – After a slow start to the game, Milford scored nearly three quarters of its points in the middle two quarters to pull away from rival Hopedale for a 44-21 win.
Between turnovers, nerves and a clock issue that required a stoppage, there was little to no flow in the first quarter of the first game for both squads.
After the teams combined for just 13 points in the first frame (an 8-5 edge to the Scarlet Hawks), Milford was about to create some separation.
“We started off very slow,” Milford first year head coach TJ Dolliver said. “It didn’t help with all the technical difficulties we were having, we just didn’t start off well. But I keep preaching it — all the little fouls, we have to get rid of them.”
First it was a combined five points from juniors Jill Burley and Brianna Croteau. Once Hopedale pulled close again, senior Jill Powers drained a pair of three pointers and junior Christina Capone added three more to give Milford a 22-11 advantage at the break.
“I told them at halftime we needed to get rid of those little fouls,” Dolliver said. “We were only up 11 at halftime. I told them if we get rid of the little fouls and keep the intensity up, we’ll be in a good position. And they listened for the most part.”
The speech seemed to work and once the second half started, it was all Scarlet Hawks.
Milford sophomore Kate Irwin, who missed a good chunk of the first half after picking up two fouls, started the second half with a steal and a pair of converted free throws and just the next series, repeated the same sequence. On the next possession Irwin drained a three to complete a quick 7-0 run for the Scarlet Hawks.
“That’s the type of player she is, she’s very skilled,” Dolliver said. “I think she learned a lesson early on with the fouls and one of those two first fouls could have been avoided, one of those small fouls. She did pretty well with it too in the second half and I think she only ended with two fouls so she definitely listened and took direction which is great, all of these girls have been very coachable which is all you can ask for.”
The home side went on to outscore their neighbors 18-2 in the third quarter with five points from junior Emma Liskov, two each from Juliana Tracy and Croteau and two more from Irwin.
While Hopedale tried to get their offense in gear, they struggled to keep possession. By the end of the third quarter, the Blue Raiders had turned the ball over 25 times. One big reason that the offense couldn’t get into gear was the press from Milford, which used it from the get go.
“We have a lot of athletes and they’ve been pressing for years,” Dolliver said. “And they’re very good at it from what I’ve seen so far. It’s not even made to steal the ball but they do a good job at matching up to whoever’s closest to them and they do a good job at forcing turnovers.
Irwin finished with a team-high 13 points, Powers and Croteau each added six and Liskov and Gill Valanzola (seven rebounds) each had five points. Tracy and Jess Tomaso combined for nine boards as well as the Scarlet Hawks won the rebounding battle.
The Scarlet Hawks only allowed Hopedale to convert five field goals while the Blue Raiders went 11/19 from the line.
Milford (1-0) will begin its league schedule on Tuesday when they host North Attleboro, the defender Kelley-Rex division champs, at 6:45.
Ryan Lanigan can be contacted at RyanLanigan@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @R_Lanigan.
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