FRANKLIN, Mass. – It remained a two-possession game deep into the fourth quarter, but then Kelley-Rex division leader Franklin showed off another gear, putting together a run over the closing minutes that turned a close contest into another dominant victory.
After a Shakirah Ketant basket cut Franklin’s lead to 44-38, the Panthers stepped on the gas, scoring 17 straight points to pull away and hand Foxboro a 61-40 loss. It was a lopsided final score that wasn’t indicative of the bulk of this showdown between division leaders.
“They have a strong desire to be good,” said Franklin coach John Leighton about his team. “Games aren’t won on Tuesdays and Fridays, they’re won in practice. We grind it out. If you play good ‘D’ and get stops, then our offense will take care of itself and I thought we did a good job of that. That confidence snowballs.”
Ali Brigham (game-high 19 points and 13 rebounds) got the run started with a basket and then snagged a missed free throw by Erin Quaile and put it back up and in to extend the lead to 11. Sophomore Olivia Quinn, fresh off a career-high against Oliver Ames, got behind the Foxboro defense for a bucket in transition and then knocked down a jumper. She scored nine of her 11 points in the final quarter.
Quaile, who played tight defense on Foxboro star Katelyn Mollica (15 points) and also spearheaded the Franklin offense with six assists, knocked down 7-of-8 free throws in the fourth quarter to ice the game and seal the win.
“Mollica, you can chase her around the court all night, but she’s going to get her points,” Leighton explained. “Erin wants zero credit and just wants to grind. She’s happy with that assignment. I thought she did a wonderful job of making Mollica work for everything and making her work defensively too.”
The Panthers started the game with a run as well, jumping out to an 8-0 lead. While the attention is, as always, on Brigham in the middle, it was Franklin’s outside shooting that made the difference in the first half. Kaleigh Houlihan nailed three from beyond the arc, scoring all nine of her points in the first, and Elizabeth Wilson (10 points) buried one in the first.
“It’s impossible because you have to double Ali,” said Foxboro coach Lisa Downs. “There’s no way around it otherwise she’s just going to continue to score in the paint. The girls were hustling and doing what I asked them to do defensively. That team was just hot tonight.”
Ketant (eight points) was able to step back and knock down a pair of free throw line jumpers to bring Brigham out of the paint a little and Abby Hassman got to the rim for a three-point play to keep Foxboro down just eight after one.
In the second, Foxboro went on a 10-4 run to get back within two points. Lizzy Davis (nine points and seven rebounds) knocked down a deep three and then got a second one after Hassman (eight rebounds) crashed the glass. After Hassman knocked down a jumper, the Franklin lead was only 20-18 and the Warriors looked like the more aggressive team.
Again, it was the outside shooting that got the Panthers back on track. Wilson nailed a pair of threes to stretch the lead right back up to eight and Quaile set up Brigham for a basket to make it 28-21 at the break.
The third quarter was all about defense, which isn’t surprising for two of the league’s top defensive teams. It was also about the league’s top two scorers, as Mollica hit a pair of threes and scored all eight of Foxboro’s points in the third and Brigham scored six of Franklin’s on the other end, including a pair of baskets on offensive rebounds.
Things continued to be back-and-forth in the final quarter. After Wilson teed up Quinn for her first three of the night, Mollica was fouled on a shot from distance and made all three at the line (her final points of the night). Ketant knocked down a baseline jumper to cut the lead to 39-34.
Emma Sousa came off the bench and hit a jumper on the other end, which was answered by Hassman. Sousa then got a look from deep and buried Franklin’s eighth three of the night to keep the lead at eight.
“It’s not the world’s trickiest game plan to shut down the top two scorers and I thought Foxboro did a great job of doing that, but you have to give something up,” said Leighton. “We did a great job of moving the ball and the kid who should shoot it, shot it. We didn’t force many shots.”
Foxboro got it back to two possessions with another Ketant hoop, but that would be it for the Warriors until Davis hit a pair of free throws in the game’s final minute and with the result all but decided.
“It didn’t feel like a 20-point loss,” said Downs. “I thought we saw some good things. Shakirah battled as much as she could in the paint. For her to do what she did against Ali Brigham, I give her a lot of credit. We gambled a little bit and didn’t really focus on some of the girls who were hitting their threes tonight. They were lights out.”
Franklin (10-0, 9-0) will travel to Attleboro on Friday night, while Foxboro (9-2, 7-2) will be on the road at North Attleboro, which is currently two games back of the Warriors in the Davenport standings.
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