WRENTHAM, Mass. – After playing at King Philip’s pace for the opening eight minutes and heading into the first break down by a point, Franklin coach John Leighton implored his team to slow things down, move the ball around, and look for good shots not just the first shot.
Over the next two quarters, the Panthers did just that, scoring 40 points in the second and third quarters combined and turning that deficit into an 18-point lead. Franklin would lead by as many as 25 points in the fourth and earned a sweep of the Warriors with a 62-48 victory.
“Something you never want is a slow start and that’s exactly what we had,” said Leighton. “We had way too many turnovers, we went too fast, but what I was impressed by is that by the end of the quarter they had bought into the idea of slowing it down, seeing the next step, and when you start getting defensive stops they can’t press as much.”
KP had the Panthers on the run in the first, playing the frenetic style that the Warriors thrive on. After back-to-back threes by Emma Glaser and Courtney Keswick (10 points), the hosts held a 10—6 lead. Olivia Quinn (game-high 22 points, six rebounds, and four steals) answered back with a three of her own and a layup to put Franklin in front, but Caroline Aaron’s drive to the basket put the Warriors up 12-11 after one.
Franklin has plenty of experience on its roster and the players talked in the huddle about the need to settle down and play their game. The defending state champions started to look more like themselves in the second.
Brigid Earley scored six of her 10 points in the second, as Franklin made an effort to get the ball inside. Elizabeth Molla responded with a three that cut the lead back to three, at 25-22, but the Panthers scored the final seven points of the half to lead by double digits.
Elizabeth Wilson crashed the boards for a putback and then Earley (four assists, seven rebounds, and two blocks) picked out Quinn for a short jumper. Quinn was the focal point of the offense, scoring eight points in the second and 13 in the first half, as Franklin led 33-22.
“I said to them that we were down 11 at halftime, but it felt like it could’ve been tied,” said KP coach Dan Nagle, who was on the bench for the first time this season. “We had a couple of live-ball turnovers where we missed wide open layups and they go down and we get a steal and throw it to them right under the basket. You can’t even be mad because your kids are flying around and working hard.”
Things clicked into high gear for the visitors in the third. After Jackie Bonner (eight points) drilled a three to start the second half, Franklin went on a 16-0 run to break the game open.
Quinn came right back with a three off a Stefany Padula drove and kick, Erin Quaile’s steal led to a Katie Peterson basket, and Earley had a pair of assists on Quinn buckets to push the lead to 17. Peterson (10 points) got open again underneath, this time on a Kayleigh Houlihan assist, and Quaile found Teagan Collins for an open three to make it 49-25.
KP scored seven straight to get some momentum, including threes by Cat Spellman and Keswick, but Peterson’s offensive rebound and layup put the Panthers ahead by 18 heading to the fourth.
Leighton said, “This year, we have three or four kids who can score every night. The pressure isn’t on Liv to carry us on her back, we have a lot of kids who can contribute. This is the deepest group we’ve had in a very long time.”
One of the features of Franklin’s play was its passing. Quaile finished with eight assists, while Earley had four and Padula had three. The Panthers were spreading the ball around and making it difficult for KP to trap.
“Unselfish ball is good, especially today,” Leighton explained. “When they’re going to double you, they’re trying to make you go faster, so if you can pass and find the open kid then everyone has more time. It buys time and space.”
That continued at the start of the fourth, as Quinn hit a short jumper after a good drive and kick out by Bridget Leo and then Quinn played provider on a corner three by Emma Sousa, who had missed the first three games of the season. Franklin stretched its lead to 60-35.
Although a comeback was unlikely at that point, the Warriors never stopped running and pressing and kept battling to the final whistle. Bonner had a steal and layup and Julia Marsden assisted on Keswick’s third three of the afternoon. Aaron (11 points) had another drive through the lane and stepped back to knock down a three of her own to help the Warriors cut the deficit to 14.
“Us just realizing that all those little plays matter is a good lesson,” Nagle said. “Franklin is where we want to be eventually and we competed with them at a high level. We had them playing faster than they want to, we turned them over a good amount. Today was progress, not perfection, but it was a good effort.”