Strachan, Rocketeers Shoot Down Division Title Rival

Hockomock Strachan North Attleboro basketball

Sophomore Julia Strachan buried four three-pointers on her way to 17 points, as North Attleboro swept the season series with Franklin to open up a three-game lead over the Panthers. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

By Josh Perry, Managing Editor

FRANKLIN, Mass. – Two years ago Franklin and North Attleboro shared the Kelley-Rex title and last season the Rocketeers made it back-to-back championships edging out the Panthers by a single game. On Friday night, the North girls took a big step towards a three-peat by going on the road to complete a season sweep of their rivals.

Sopnhomore Julia Strachan had one of her best games of the season with a game-high 17 points, including a quartet of first half three-pointers, and the Rocketeers went 9-10 from the line in the fourth quarter to hold on for a 54-45 win that puts the Panthers three games back in the league standings.

“They’ve talked about it before we even started,” said North Attleboro coach Derek Herber after the game. “Our goals were to win the league title, get into the tournament, and see how far we can go from there. This is another step in that direction.”

He added, “They know what’s at stake right now and that we’re going to get everybody’s best.”

From the start, North was able to cause the Franklin offense problems with its fullcourt press and turnovers were an issue throughout for the Panthers. Sophomore guard Ashley Ahern (13 points) got the Rocketeers out to an early lead with five quick points. Franklin was also hampered by two fouls to star Lexi Martin in the opening three minutes of the game. Martin would sit the majority of the first half.

“We got into foul trouble early with Lexi,” said Franklin coach John Leighton. “Losing her was certainly a factor. We kind of struggled to make up for Lexi in the first half. The turnovers got to us.”

After a three-pointer by Lauren Rudolph (her only points of the game) gave Franklin the lead at 10-8, the Rocketeers ran off the next eight points. Strachan knocked down her first triple of the game to give North an 11-10 lead, Melissa Beaupre (15 points, five rebounds) scored on a layup and Danielle Perron (six points, four steals) knocked down a jumper to make it 16-10.

In the second quarter Franklin made a push. Jillian Spolidoro knocked down a three from the corner after Meghan Georges pulled down an offensive rebound and Franklin had the lead down to 21-19, but the Rocketeers proceeded to break the game wide open by scoring the next 13 points.

“They’re long and athletic and Melissa does a lot at the front of that press and it gave us a little more trouble than it has in the past,” said Leighton. “It kept us from getting into transition and doing some of the things that we wanted to do.”

Strachan was the key to North making a push. The sophomore, who plays a stretch forward position, hit three treys in the second quarter to score nine straight Rocketeers points.

“I just kind of felt good today,” said Strachan. “It’s kind of like the first time that I’ve played like that, but it felt good. It just proves how deep we are, how good we are, and how many great players we have.”

Herber added, “Tonight she just took us on her back and shot the ball very well. We were able to run the offense through her because they were giving us some problems in the zone and she was able to shoot them out of it.”

Leading by 13 at the break (32-19), Beaupre would get the opening bucket of the second half for North, but then Franklin made a push to get back into it. Martin would score eight of her 14 points in the third and started to crash the boards along with junior Aubrie Kutil (eight points, 11 rebounds) to get Franklin as close as seven points.

“Offensively, she’s starting to emerge,” said Leighton of Kutil, “but defensively on the boards she’s been incredible. Once we had both [Lexi and Aubrie] inside then we rebound pretty well.”

Strachan knocked down a pull-up jumper to extend the lead back to 10 for the Rocketeers. In the fourth quarter, the Panthers kept attacking, but could never pull any closer than seven points thanks to terrific free throw shooting by Ahern, who went 8-8 from the line in the quarter.

“We do a lot of free throw shooting and we do a lot with situations in pressure time when they’ve got to put you on the line. We did a good job tonight all around,” said Herber.

Leighton said, “In the second half, I thought the offense was better. We switched up the defense and were able to make some runs, but give them credit they answered every time.”

North Attleboro was also without sophomore forward Caroline Collard, who had her wisdom teeth removed on Friday. With a short bench, the Rocketeers were still able to pull out a crucial road victory and Herber was especially proud of the way his team rallied together.

“Franklin is a great team and it’s a great barometer for our program,” he said. “To be able to come onto their home court and play with them and be able to win…I’m just so happy for our kids.”

North Attleboro will be home on Monday night to play a make-up game with Davenport Division leaders Foxboro. Franklin (10-3) will also play on Monday against the top team in the state and defending Div. 1 state champions, Braintree.

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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