Panthers Stifle Bombardiers and Sweep Season Series

Hockomock Franklin Sarah Deyo Jillian Spolidoro

Jillian Spolidoro (20) scored a game-high 21 points and the Franklin defense limited Attleboro to just 39 points, despite 15 from Sarah Deyo (32). (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

By Josh Perry, Managing Editor

ATTLEBORO, Mass. – In the first meeting between Attleboro and Franklin this season, the Panthers matched up with man-to-man defense and pulled out an 11-point victory. On the road looking for the season sweep of its Kelley-Rex rivals, Franklin changed things up and went to a 1-2-2 zone.

The Panthers used their speed and length to disrupt the Bombardiers offense, while constantly rotating to Attleboro’s two leading scorers Emily Houle and Sarah Deyo. In the first half, the duo was held to just nine combined points as Attleboro managed only 13 as a team. It was a hole from which the Bombardiers could not escape.

Senior Jillian Spolidoro knocked down a handful of three-pointers on her way to a game-high 21 points and senior point guard Julianne Pisani had eight of the Panthers 14 steals, as Franklin, which never trailed, pulled out a 56-39 road victory.

“Last time we played a lot of man and we played a good game,” said Franklin coach John Leighton, “but I realized that it didn’t put us in the best position, so we made a concerted effort to go zone tonight and really cut down space for them.”

Spolidoro referenced the Panthers loss to Mansfield last week in which they scored only 30 points. She said, “That was a wake-up call for us and we know that we have to come out strong regardless of who we’re playing and tonight we really proved that we could do that…everyone that stepped on the floor worked hard and it paid off.”

Senior forward Lexi Martin (13 points, seven rebounds) opened the game by scoring its first six points. It took Attleboro more than four minutes to get on the board when Houle (14 points) knocked down a three to cut the lead in half. It was three minutes later before the Bombardiers scored again on a Deyo (15 points) jumper.

“We’re getting better, but we have those spurts of six to eight minutes like the first quarter where we had 10 turnovers,” said Attleboro coach Rick Patch. “We get in the halfcourt and there are certain mental breakdowns and it puts a little pressure because people aren’t in the right spots, shot clock winds down, and we’re just not making good decisions.”

He added, “Against certain teams you can get away with that, but against good teams like Franklin, North Attleboro, Mansfield you can’t.”

The offensive struggles continued in the second quarter with Julianne Pisani getting into the passing lanes on the wing and twin sister Tracy causing problems at the top of the zone. At all times, the Panthers were focused on the Bombardiers two scorers and making sure that they were covered.

Leighton said, “They’re two of the top scorers in the league, so our job was to make those two work as much as we can…which created some opportunities because…they got a little out of sorts.”

Spolidoro added, “We just had to rotate quick on defense, talk and communicate with each other where they are at all times and make sure that they’re never left alone and we did that pretty well.”

On the offensive end, Franklin got into a groove in the second and it was Spolidoro and Pisani that provided the spark. The Panthers broke the game open with a 14-0 run that included three treys by Spolidoro. After four points from Deyo cut the lead to 23-11, Pisani (six points, seven rebounds, four assists) got into the lane for a layup for her fifth point of the quarter.

Franklin went into the break leading 27-13.

“You start to get into a rhythm and it just fuels you to keep going and work hard,” said Spolidoro about the hot shooting in the second quarter.

Leighton explained, “Julianne is so quick off the dribble and when Jill starts knocking down threes then it really opens up because they have to stretch out even more.” About Spolidoro, he added, “She’s got a great touch and nice quick release. Last year it took a good amount of time to shoot it, but now it’s much quicker and it’s deadly.”

Franklin came out of the break looking to put the game away. Martin knocked down a pull-up three in transition to start the third and spark a 12-3 run that extended the lead to 23. The defense continued to be the key with Pisani creating several turnovers and getting the Panthers out on the break.

“The age of three-sport athletes is dying,” said Leighton, “but luckily Julianne is a dinosaur and we’re lucky we have her. The skills she learns in soccer and lacrosse — the same anticipation works here. Her speed is just special.”

Attleboro continued to battle back. Deyo scored six points in the third and Houle knocked down a pair of threes that had the crowd and the bench energized, but every time that it seemed as though the Bombardiers would make a serious dent in the lead, Spolidoro (12 points in the second half) was there to answer with a basket.

“We talked about it at halftime that if we could get it down to 10 [points], eight, then we have a great crowd and they’ll give you energy to get closer,” said Patch. “We would get it down to 12 and have that great look but not get it to fall.”

Franklin (10-2) qualified for the tournament with its win on Friday and can now set its sights on the league title. The Panthers take on Milford on Tuesday, before a showdown with league leading North Attleboro. The Bombardier will host Canton on Tuesday before beginning a four-game road swing still needing three wins to secure a spot in the postseason.

Josh Perry can be contacted at JoshPerry@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @Josh_Perry10.
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Ryan Lanigan

Ryan Lanigan is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of HockomockSports.com. You can contact him at RyanLanigan@hockomocksports.com and follow him on Twitter at @R_Lanigan.
Ryan Lanigan
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