NORTH EASTON, Mass. – As a freshman, Franklin forward Olivia Quinn got to experience life on the varsity team, spending every practice going up against the Panthers star center Ali Brigham during the team’s run to a Div. 1 Central title. That experience seems to have paid off handsomely for the Panthers because Quinn has taken her game to another level this winter.
In a showdown at the Nixon Gym of the top two teams in the Kelley-Rex division, Quinn was unstoppable. She poured in a career-high 32 points, including 23 in the second half, and knocked down five three-pointers, including all four that she took after the break.
Quinn and Brigham combined to score 37 of Franklin’s 41 points in the second half, as the Panthers rolled to a 71-41 victory and grabbed control of first place in the division.
“I thought on offense we executed at a high level, especially in the second half,” Franklin coach John Leighton explained. “We got under control, we didn’t kick the ball around the gym, stopped fouling, and just got good possessions. When they doubled Ali, we moved the ball and kids knocked down open shots.”
OA coach Laney Clement-Holbrook added, “We just didn’t do the little things we needed to do to stay afloat. Give them credit. They’re the real deal, they certainly are, and I’m grateful that we get another chance because there are certainly things we need to work on. That’s the level that we’re trying to achieve.”
While Brigham, the reigning league MVP and HockomockSports.com Player of the Year, will always be the primary focus for opposing teams, but the Panthers showed right away that there are other weapons for teams to deal with. Kaleigh Houlihan knocked down a pair of threes in the first quarter, including one in the corner off an inbounds pass from Elizabeth Wilson to put Franklin up 14-8 after one.
Tate Hadges knocked down a jumper and Caroline Peper (nine points) knocked down her only three of the game, and Hailey Bourne (seven points) hit a jumper off a Meg Holleran assist, as the Tigers tried to keep it close in the second.
Wilson scored all four of her points in the second quarter, Brigham (22 points and three blocks) added four more and Quinn started to find the range with seven in the quarter to help Franklin build the lead. A Quinn corner three on a Houlihan assist made it 30-18, but OA got Caroline Flynn free inside for a layup to cut the lead back to 10 heading into the locker room.
It didn’t take long for the Panthers to break the game wide open, as the Tigers simply couldn’t contain Brigham in the third. The George Washington-commit scored 12 points in the quarter on a variety of post moves on both sides of the rim and even stepping back to drill a three that put the Panthers up 41-26.
“It’s nice having a Div. I kid sitting there,” Leighton said, “but it creates good spacing and (point guard) Erin [Quaile] did a good job creating, getting to the rim when we needed her to. It really puts the defense in peril when everyone is getting touches. No kid can be a spare part.”
When OA did get the ball out of Brigham’s hands, Quinn was there to create another difficult matchup. She scored with a lefty scoop, nailed a three off a Quaile assist, and then hit another from the corner, as Franklin led by as many 22 in the third. Quaile also got to the rim for the only two points not scored by Quinn or Brigham in the quarter.
“As a freshman, I had a lot less confidence,” said Quinn, who entered the week as the fourth leading scorer in the league at more than 15 points per game. “This year, I’m taking on a bigger role in the team and they’re all helping me out and it’s been a great season so far.”
Leighton noted, “Her playing time what it was but she worked her tail off. Going at that speed, going against Ali every day in practice, makes you better. The big thing is confidence. Tonight it all came together. They had a hard time closing out and it gave her the look and she knocked it down.”
Franklin’s defense was preventing OA from keeping the game close, holding the Tigers to just three made field goals in the third. Tori Harney got a jumper after Flynn (10 points and eight rebounds) snagged an offensive board and swung the ball around to the forward. Flynn also scored inside and Bourne managed to slip through the defense on a drive, but it was Franklin by 20 heading to the fourth.
In the fourth quarter, Quinn took over. Quaile set her up for a three and then, after Brigham got a bucket inside, she buried a second one on a kick-out. An offensive rebound for two and the layup plus the foul in transition after a Meghan O’Connell steal put the Panthers up by 27. Another basket on a Brigham assist and a pair at the line completed an impressive night for Quinn and the Panthers.
“We got beat off the dribble repeatedly, we didn’t cover three-point shooters, and I said to them that they’re not 30 points better than we are, but they are today. We didn’t execute any part of our game plan and we didn’t learn from our mistakes.”
Quinn said, “Them being the only other undefeated team in the Hock, this was a big game for us and we really came ready to play with a lot of intensity and gave it to them early.”
Franklin (9-0, 8-0) will be back home on Tuesday in another showdown, this time against Davenport division leader Foxboro. Oliver Ames (8-2, 7-1) will try to bounce back from its second loss when it hosts Milford.