Franklin Dominates Attleboro In Hockomock Finale

Franklin boys basketball
Franklin senior Jalen Samuels attacks the basket in the first half against Attleboro. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
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FRANKLIN, Mass. – For the Franklin boys basketball team, terrific defense led to easy offense.

And that combination resulted in a dominant performance and a comfortably 57-36 win over visiting Attleboro.

The Panthers flipped a two-point game upside down with a 20-0 run over the final six minutes of the second quarter to pull away from the Bombardiers, who entered the contest with a chance to win at least a share of its first Kelley-Rex title.

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Franklin limited the visitors to just 22% shooting from the field in the opening half as the Bombardiers couldn’t find a connection from deep, going just 1-for-17 from three-point range. And with consistent stops, Franklin’s pushed the pace and cashed in with an impressive transition offense, converting some easy looks down low. Franklin shot 65% from the field in the opening half, making 12-of-18 shots from two-point range.

“That was definitely our best game of the season, by far,” said Franklin head coach CJ Neely. “The guys were excited to play tonight, there’s no doubt about it. I think they were a little sore about how last game went and how the season has gone in some respects. They wanted to make a statement tonight and I thought they did, especially in that second quarter. We went in at halftime, and we usually have a list of things we want to change or that we did poorly, and we didn’t have many things on the list. The guys really bought in, that was the best they’ve bought in to a game plan and scouting report all season.”

While Attleboro only had four first half turnovers, it couldn’t solve the Panthers defensively. During Franklin’s game-changing run, Attleboro only had one turnover on a shot clock violation, and 0-for-11 from the field, with eight of those shots coming from three-point range.

“They did everything better than us tonight, offensively and defensively,” said Attleboro coach Mark Houle. “They made us really feel uncomfortable all night, and we didn’t have any answers.

“We didn’t hit [a three] in the first quarter but I have confidence in our guys that can shoot it, we can get hot, but we didn’t get enough paint touches. [Franklin] did a nice job of taking that away early, something that most teams haven’t been able to do. That limited us really. But quite honestly, we weren’t executing on offense. There were still things that we could have done, but we weren’t executing, and that led to a stagnant offense. And we couldn’t attack the rim because their defense was set. That was a very good defensive effort by them.”

Franklin led 15-7 after the first quarter but Attleboro opened the second quarter with a quick 5-0 run to make it a two-point game. Bryant Ciccio (11 points) drained a three and Kevin Velazquez picked off a pace and went the distance for a layup to make it 15-13.

From there, it was all Panthers. Jalen Samuels (15 points, nine rebounds, four assists) converted his own putback and then scored off a feed from Chris Edgehill (seven points, seven rebounds, seven assists). Will Harvey (career-high 19 points, nine rebounds) sank a three-pointer off a feed from Jack Rudolph, then Edgehill came down with a defensive rebound, pushed it up court and found Rudolph for two. Samuels then drove to the basket, drew in the defense and dished it off to Harvey for an easy two and a 26-13 lead with 3:43 left in the second quarter.

The Bombardiers tried to shoot their way out of the funk, taking six triples on their next seven possessions. The lone trip that didn’t result in a three-point attempt was a turnover on a shot clock violation.

Meanwhile, Franklin continued to cash in on the offensive end. Edgehill got some space in the lane for two, Jake Macchi (nine points) sank a three on a pass from Rudolph just moments after Samuels blocked an Attleboro three, and Samuels scored in low on a floater to put Franklin up 35-13 heading into halftime.

“Getting out in transition was key for us, getting up and down,” Neely said. “And when we attacked the paint, I think the biggest thing was getting in there and then making the extra pass for some dunks and some layups.”

The second half was much more even than the first, but the damage was already done by the Panthers. Tim Callahan made Attleboro’s second triple of the game with 2:44 left in the quarter (2-for-21 from deep through three), Ciccio added five points, including Attleboro’s only two free throws in the game, and Qualeem Charles (eight points, 10 rebounds) got an early bucket, but Franklin got points from Macchi (a three), Harvey (five) and two apiece from Edgehill and Rudolph to hold a 47-24 advantage entering the fourth.

“One of the biggest things we worked on was long closeouts,” Neely said. “We practiced having to get there and get there with a hand without flying into the crowd. We’re going to have to live with them making a couple. We knew we’d have to focus on Q, you can’t let one guy try and do it himself. I thought Harvey played one of his best games this season, and he rebounded really well and played great defensively.”

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Attleboro’s defense limited the Panthers to 10 points in the fourth, but only scored 12 on its own. Mason Houle sank two threes in the fourth, the latter cutting the deficit to 15 points but with only three minutes to go. Harvey added four in the final frame and Matt Lazarek came off the bench to hit a triple for the Panthers, who shot 56% from the floor for the game and dominated the rebounding battle, 33-18.

“We had some good looks, but they were mostly contested shots,” Houle said. “We have to regroup. We have the opportunity to learn from this. We didn’t do many good things tonight on either end tonight. Their transition offense, we didn’t do a good enough job against it. That led to 20 straight points…and just layups. It was them getting the rebound and pushing it for a layup.”

Franklin boys basketball (12-4 Hockomock, 14-5 overall) is back in action on Sunday with a noon tipoff against New Bedford. Attleboro (13-3, 16-4) will try to bounce back when it travels to rival North Attleboro for a non-league clash on Monday.

Hornets Hold Off Attleboro to Force Tie Atop League

Mansfield boys basketball
Mansfield junior Sam Stevens scored a team-high 13 points to help the Hornets split the season series with Attleboro and force a tie at the top of the Kelley-Rex division. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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MANSFIELD, Mass. – The first time Attleboro and Mansfield met, the game went to overtime before a winner could be decided. On Friday night in the Albertini Gym, it looked like the two teams could be headed for another extra period when the Bombardiers battled back to tie the game at 53-53 in the fourth quarter.

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As they had all game long, the Hornets made shots when they needed to, closing the game on a 10-4 run and sealing a 63-57 win that split the season series against the Bombardiers and forged a tie atop the Kelley-Rex division.

T.J. Guy got the Hornets off to a good start to the game, scoring the team’s first seven points, including a three-pointer, to take an early lead. Sam Stevens hit his first of three from beyond the arc to extend the lead to 10-4. Attleboro climbed back into the game by getting the ball into the post to junior Qualeem Charles (21 points and 17 rebounds). He scored eight in the first to keep the Bombardiers close.

Tim Callahan drilled a three to get Attleboro back within three but then Damani Scott (11 points and 11 rebounds) answered with one of his one and finished with Mansfield’s last eight points of the quarter to give the hosts a 22-17 edge.

Tommy Dooling (10 points) got free on back-to-back possessions in the second and drilled a pair of threes to extend the lead to 30-19, which was the largest of the night. Even without injured point guard Bryant Ciccio, the Bombardiers kept finding ways to hang around. Charles got a three-point play off a Mason Houle assist and then Houle (nine points) got a steal and assist for a Kevin Velazquez transition basket.

“All season long, we’ve had guys down and had guys step up,” said Attleboro coach Mark Houle about battling through the game without Ciccio. “This group really plays for each other. We’re still first place in the league…and we need to finish strong, take care of what we need to do, and work hard then we’ll be alright.”

A Matt Boen three pushed the lead back to nine, but a Charles layup off a Nick McMahon feed and a pair of baskets from Houle kept Attleboro within seven, 37-30, heading into the break.

“We tried to really run at Mason and really neutralize Q,” said Vaughan. “I mean, Q is going to get his points but if we neutralize him and really make it difficult for Tim and Mason to get going I thought that was probably our best recipe for winning. You’ve got to pick your poison.”

The Bombardiers cut the lead down to four at the start of the third quarter, but every time Mansfield would have a response. This time it was Boen drilling a corner three from a Dooling assist and then Stevens got going with seven points in the quarter. When Boen (12 points) hit his second three of the quarter, and third of the night, the Hornets led 53-42 and felt on the verge of putting the game out of reach.

Instead, Attleboro rallied with 11 straight points. Callahan hit a three and McMahon beat the buzzer with a pull-up jumper in the final seconds of the third. Callahan hit another to start the fourth and Charles scored off a Houle assist and got fouled on an offensive rebound to tie the game.

“We had to rebound,” said Vaughan. “I think in the third quarter when they made a push, the first time I thought we could’ve put them away, it was all done on the offensive glass.”

Houle noted, “We’re a resilient group. There were a couple possessions we’d like to have back, kind of settled a little bit, but Mansfield’s good. They buckled down on two, three possessions that ended up being key when we had momentum going.”

After a Scott free throw, Stevens got a good look at a straightaway three and nailed it to make it 57-53. Dooling beat his man for a layup and then Scott followed up a miss with a rebound basket to put the home team up seven with time running out.

“They made shots,” said Houle. “We adjusted some things at halftime and it was the first time we played zone all year. I think it took them out of their rhythm for a little while and we were gritty, scrappy, and I’m proud of our effort. We played like champions need to.”

With the Hornets struggling at the line, just 3-for-10 in the fourth quarter, Attleboro was still in the game and Houle buried his first three of the game to make it 61-57 with 43 seconds left. It just wasn’t enough for the Bombardiers as time ran out on the latest comeback attempt.

“If you’re not making free throws,” Vaughan explained, “you give opportunities and they had a few opportunities but they missed a few shots there that could’ve changed the outcome of the game. Some of it is they’re just not used to the moment, so having games like this will definitely prepare us come tournament time.”

The win moves Mansfield into a first place tie, but both teams have to run the gauntlet of division play over the final four games in the league.

“It doesn’t getting easy for either one of us,” said Vaughan about the closing stretch in league play. “It’s what I love about the league is that it isn’t easy and they didn’t make it easy for us tonight. Now we’ve got to enjoy this tonight and come out on Tuesday and be ready for Franklin because they’re going to come out and say hey this is our league title game.”

As Vaughan noted, Mansfield (14-2, 10-2) will travel to Franklin, which is just one game out of first, on Tuesday night. Attleboro (13-3, 10-2) will also be on the road, traveling to Oliver Ames, looking to stay in the hunt for its first ever Hock title.

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Attleboro’s Beland Making Most of Final Salve Season

Kerri Beland
Attleboro High grad Kerri Beland battled back from a knee injury in high school and has gone on to play four years of college basketball at Salve Regina, including two years as the team captain. (Rob McGuinness/Salve Athletics)

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In the summer before her senior year at Attleboro High, Kerri Beland suffered a torn ACL while playing with her AAU team. It was the type of injury that could have ended her final season at Attleboro and even cost her a chance to play basketball at the next level, but Beland fought her way back. She missed soccer that fall but managed to get back on the court for the final few games of basketball season.

Despite the injury, Beland remained focused on her goal of playing collegiate basketball. With the help of former Attleboro and current Adelphi University coach Missy Traversi, Beland reached out to local schools to find the right fit.

Salve Regina coach Cori Hughes took a chance that Beland could make it back to full fitness and contribute. It was a decision that paid off, as Beland jumped right into the rotation as a freshman and is in the midst of her second year as captain for the Seahawks.

“She told me, ‘It’s going to be hard, but it will be fine. You just have to keep working,’ and I did,” Beland said of her conversations with Hughes during the recruitment process. “She’s been a huge supporter of me and she always gave me a lot of opportunities, which was nice.”

It has been a long road for the senior guard, but Beland appreciates the new perspective that she gained from being sidelined. Beland explained, “It sucks getting hurt but it’s an eye-opening experience. You see the game from a whole different perspective sitting on the bench. I feel like I learned a lot from sitting on the sidelines, as much as it sucked, it was horrible, but I learned a lot.”

The Seahawks had a four-game win streak coming into the week, but dropped games to Roger Williams and Nichols and dropped back to 9-11 overall and 5-6 in the Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC). Beland has started all 20 games this season. The 5-foot-8 guard is second on the team with 12.6 points per game, and leads the team with 7.6 rebounds per game.

“We’re playing together better,” she said about the win streak. “We have a lot of strong players on our team but it took us a while to really mesh. We have so much talent but it was one person or a few people trying to do too much and not spreading the floor out.”

After three straight first round exits in the CCC Tournament, Beland thinks that the Seahawks have the opportunity to make a run this winter. “This is anyone’s year and it’s exciting,” she said.

When asked what it would mean to bring home a title during her senior year, Beland replied, “It would be indescribable. The girls that I play with just love the game and my senior class, which is half of the team, we’ve just been through it all together. Finishing it out with them…words wouldn’t even be able to explain how happy I would be.”

Heading into her senior year of high school there was also a lot of excitement for Beland and the Bombardiers. After a playoff appearance the season before, Attleboro looked poised to make even more noise in the Kelley-Rex division. But then Beland went down with an injury and not long after Traversi left to take the job at Adelphi. “It just felt like my whole senior year was crashing down honestly,” Beland reflected. Traversi stayed close with Beland and used her contacts in the coaching world to keep Beland on the radar of area colleges.

Beland made it back onto the court with a few games remaining in the regular season, but it was difficult to adjust to playing after the injury. “It was definitely frustrating,” Beland said. “I’ve never been a quick player and so that was really frustrating to be even slower than I was before and to have to drag around the extra weight on my leg.”

“it was just amazing to play again because basketball has always been a huge part of my life. It was crazy to go that long period without being able to play.”

She admitted that it took a long time to get back to playing like she did prior to the injury. It wasn’t until her sophomore year at Salve that the brace came off and she was able to play with the freedom of not worrying about her knee. That season Beland, who is also a member of the Salve lacrosse team and two-year captain in the spring, was named third team All-CCC and named the 2016-17 Salve Sophomore Athlete of the Year.

“When I had the brace, I could go a little harder because I knew it was there but when you lose the brace you have to kind of start all over about being nervous of hurting yourself again,” she said.

Spending so much time on the sidelines was a reminder of how much she loved the game of basketball and gave her a unique perspective on the work that it takes to play at this level.

“DIII is draining,” Beland said. “You’re not getting money for it and you’re putting in as much time as any other division. You have to love it and, honestly, the injury reminds me every day that there was a time when I didn’t get to play and I never want to have to feel that way ever again. It’s nice to know that I don’t have any regrets.”

With the end of her basketball career in sight (and even with a lacrosse season still to come), Beland and her classmates are trying to slow down and enjoy these final weeks together.

“We’re kind of at that stage right know where we’re at the edge of the cliff and we want to walk back because we’re so nervous,” she said with a chuckle. “It feels like it’s coming to an end so quickly and we just want to slow the time down.”

Salve has five games left before the conference tournament kicks off and will get the final stretch started with the visit of Endicott.