WOBURN, Mass. – Running through a perfect league campaign and putting up an average margin of victory of more than 30 points per game has earned Franklin a consensus No. 1 ranking in the state. On Saturday night at Woburn High, the Panthers had the chance to show if they could be that dominant against one of the state’s other top teams.
Franklin answered the bell and then some, leading right from the opening whistle and never letting up to earn a 58-41 victory against Div. 1 title contender Bridgewater-Raynham.
“We talked a lot about playing in a big game,” said Franklin coach John Leighton. “The lights are brighter, the crowd’s bigger and that’s fine. We believe in what we do. We need to adapt to whoever we’re playing and see what we can do.”
He added, “When you play teams of this caliber, you get to really find out who you are. You play some teams and the game’s over kind of early, the kids don’t go all four quarters so it’s a different look.”
Senior center Ali Brigham paced the Panthers with 19 points, 18 rebounds, and four assists, while being guarded by B-R sophomore Shay Bollin (21 points), one of the few players Brigham has faced this season that can match her in height. “I got blocked a couple of times, so that was different,” Brigham joked.
“I think it validated that we’re here to play,” she explained. “A ton of people came from all over to watch the game and we still played our game solid. I think it says a lot about our program and how well we’re playing together.”
In front of a crowd filled with potential playoff opponents, Franklin jumped out to an early lead. Sophomore Olivia Quinn (14 points and six rebounds) scored off an assist from senior Megan O’Connell (14 points and nine rebounds), who added a drive to the basket and a three-pointer on a kick-out by Quinn. Franklin took an early 11-4 lead.
B-R knocked down a three to cut the lead to four after one, but the Panthers got the offense on track in the second, scoring 20 points to extend the lead to double digits by halftime. While Brigham was making an impact in the paint, the scoring was largely coming from other sources.
“It’s insane,” Brigham said of having other players step up on both sides of the ball. “It takes so much weight off your shoulders, especially lately Liv Quinn has been stepping up. We can work high-low and there’s been a ton of other people on the team that can knock shots down.”
After an offensive rebound by Elizabeth Wilson, Erin Quaile started the second with a three. Leading 19-12, Kaleigh Houlihan (eight points) drilled another three on a skip pass by Brigham, who scored on back-to-back post moves and pushed the lead to 13. O’Connell added a runner, but B-R went on a 7-4 run to make it 31-21 at the break.
Bollin had nine points in the first half and B-R point guard Kenzie Matulonis added six of her 10 points in the second to keep the Trojans close, but the two stars were being made to work hard for all their points. Quaile was matched up on the point guard and Quinn did an admirable job of guarding Bollin one-on-one, which allowed the Panthers to stay home on B-R’s shooters.
“I thought we made them work to get good shots,” said Leighton. “I don’t know if we gave [Shay] more than two or three three-point attempts. We really wanted to take away her big weapon from her if we could.”
In the third quarter, B-R kept battling back, but could only get as close as seven points (on four different occasions). Each time, Franklin had an answer and it was usually going into Brigham in the paint. She scored nine of the team’s 14 points in the third. O’Connell drove and found Quinn for a bucket and then Brigham closed out the third with another post move, putting Franklin ahead 45-33 after three.
Franklin has been the league’s top defensive team all season, allowing only a little more than 35 points per game, and the Panthers showcased that end of the floor in the fourth. B-R scored eight points in the final quarter, all of them by Bollin and half of those points coming from the line.
Brigham drilled a straightaway three to push the Franklin lead to 49-33, but the Trojans came back with six straight to keep within striking distance. Quaile drove and found Quinn for a layup, but Bollin answered back with a drive on the other end to make it 51-41. It was the last point of the night for B-R.
The Panthers used up the shot clock and swung the ball around to Houlihan for her second three of the night then Brigham was able to set up O’Connell for a layup. After a defensive rebound, Brigham threw a long outlet pass to get Quinn a transition bucket in the final minute to seal the win.
“You could see at the end how we had our composure,” said Brigham. “Last year we probably wouldn’t have had that, so the experience and the age on our team is good.”
Leighton noted, “That’s what this time of year is all about. I know Olivia Quinn’s not going to get a lot of easy looks and Ali’s going to see a lot of doubles so who can do the other things. I thought Erin was incredible with the ball against really good defense, Megan took what was there, and Houli on the reverse had the green light if it was there.”
Franklin (19-0) will be back at Woburn to close out the regular season against another highly-ranked state title contender, Cathedral, on Monday.
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