STOUGHTON, Mass. – The game kept going back and forth in the closing seconds and Stoughton got the ball back with the game tied at 50-50 and the shot clock off. The Black Knights used only a few seconds before taking a deep three. The long rebound caromed out to Sharon freshman Trinity Payne and she snagged the loose ball for the Eagles with 20 seconds remaining.
Sharon coach Sandy Lombardi called a timeout and told her team to be patient and try to take the final shot of regulation. The Eagles did as they were instructed, moving the ball back and forth around the perimeter, before it got to Payne (10 points and 15 rebounds) at the free throw line. The freshman forward rose up and knocked down a jumper with only seconds on the clock.
Stoughton needed to go the length of the court and couldn’t get off a shot before the whistle, as the Eagles raced to the bench to celebrate a dramatic 52-50 road win.
“It’s not like she’s 6-foot-5 but she plays big and for a freshman to go in there and knock down that shot at that point in game,” Lombardi said. “The kids are excited, she’s excited, and it’s something to build on for the future too. She didn’t even hesitate, just caught it and shot it.”
The teams combined for five made field goals in the opening quarter. Kaitlyn Wallace (eight points and eight rebounds) buried a pair of corner threes and Emma Eberhardt (15 points and eight rebounds) had a drive to the basket. Hailey Egan drilled a three for Stoughton and Lindsay McDonald scored on an offensive rebound, but the Eagles led 10-7 after one.
After getting off to a decent start, the Eagles went cold in the second quarter. Stoughton’s zone contained the Sharon offense and didn’t allow the visitors to get to the basket. Aliyah Wright (19 points, 14 rebounds, and five blocks) scored six points and Sydnee Hyacinthe (15 points) scored seven to turn things around and send the Black Knights into halftime up 24-18.
“Int he first quarter, we came out and had the lead but then we went cold and were standing around,” Lombardi explained. “That’s what happens when you play against zones, we tend to stand and stare, so we worked the last couple days in practice to move more.”
The Eagles bounced back in the third quarter to cut into the Stoughton lead. Eberhardt went 5-of-6 from the line in the quarter and Telishya Herbert scored six points. While Wright, Hyacinthe, and Shyanne Trinh (eight points) each knocked down a three, the Eagles made it a two-point game with eight minutes left.
Sharon grabbed the lead early in the fourth. Ally Brown hit a pair of free throws to tie the game and then after a pair of offensive rebounds she also hit a three to make it 38-35.
“We missed some rebounds that we need to come up with,” said Stoughton coach Charmaine Steele Jordan. “That’s been kind of the story. We’ve got to rebound, that’s what we’ve been harping on. Games come down to that and we kind of learned it the hard way but we need to bounce back. All we can do is keep working hard.”
The lead didn’t last long. Wright drilled a three to tie the game again and then scored on a rebound to get Stoughton back in front. Herbert got to the basket off a Wallace assist, leveling the score at 40-40, but then Hyacinthe came down and drilled a pull-up three. Things flipped again when Eberhardt dropped in a runner in traffic and Wallace added two at the line for a 44-43 edge.
Every time that Sharon got in front, it seemed that Wright had the answer for the Black Knights. She hit another clutch three for the lead, but just as quickly Herbert (12 points and eight rebounds) scored in the paint to tie it. A Trinh offensive rebound and score gave Stoughton a 48-46 lead with 1:09 left.
“It was clutch but it just wasn’t enough tonight,” said Steele Jordan about her team knocking down big shots in the fourth. “A few more shots fall for us and then it could’ve been a different outcome.”
On the other end, Sharon was called for a controversial travel that gave Stoughton the chance to extend the lead to two possessions, only for Eberhardt to rip the inbounds pass away and then finish at the rim to keep the game even.
Wright knocked down a pair of free throws for another two-point lead, but that was matched by Herbert, who had gone 0-for-3 at the line prior to knocking down two shots with 30 seconds left to play.
The Black Knights could have held for the final shot, but the ball moved quickly and they took the open three when it was presented. It didn’t fall and Payne got the rebound. Seconds later, the freshman got the game-winner as well, keeping the .
“In the last timeout, I just told them we’re going to use clock, run our regular offense, and whatever happens, happens,” said Lombardi. “If we go into overtime then we go into overtime but we’re not going to let them get a rebound and go down the other end and score. They kept their composure, made simple passes, found an opening, and she hit the shot.”
Sharon (6-8, 4-6) will face a tough challenge on Tuesday when it face Kelley-Rex leader Franklin. Stoughton (3-10, 3-7) will travel to Taunton.
STOUGHTON, Mass. – Oliver Ames came into the season with a young squad and head coach Laney Clement-Holbrook has used the metaphor of a jigsaw puzzle to explain to the Tigers how they are all going to need to put together the pieces to be successful. Those pieces formed a nice picture on day one.
Every OA player got the chance to play and the Tigers got 22 points off the bench, outscoring Stoughton’s bench 22-8, to open the season with a 46-33 road victory over the Black Knights.
“I was really happy with their effort,” said Clement-Holbrook. “Today proved to me that we have capabilities in terms of depth. Everybody played, I got some really good minutes out of a multitude of players. I wasn’t hesitant before I put the freshmen in.”
It was a rough night for the Stoughton offense, as the Black Knights struggled to find the range and shot only 3-of-34 in the first half. Defense kept the home team in the game, and allowed Stoughton to get as close as seven points in the fourth quarter.
Stoughton coach Charmaine Steele Jordan said, “The tough part is that when you’re not making shots early, that’s tough. But they showed me at the end that they have fight and they have grit and when we started getting to the rim then good things happened for us.”
The Black Knights scored the opening five points of the game, as sophomore Sydnee Hyacinthe buried a pull-up three and scored off a steal. It would turn out to be her only points of the night. It took OA four minutes to make a shot from the field, but junior Meg Holleran’s three gave the Tigers a one-point lead. Sadie Homer (eight points) scored on a fast break off a Tate Hadges assist to put Stoughton ahead 11-10 after one quarter.
In the second, Stoughton’s offense continued to struggle. Hanna Holden knocked down a lefty shot in traffic for the lone basket of the quarter, as the Black Knights managed just three points.
“We were settling for the three early and I was saying that we need to get into attack mode because we have kids that can get to the rim,” said Steele Jordan.
OA got a much-needed offensive spark from the bench. Ally Scolnick (team-high 11 points) drilled a corner three off a Holleran inbounds pass and freshman guard Caroline Peper added one from the corner as well. Freshman Hailey Bourne followed up a missed layup on the break for her first career points and then Peper got a pass from Homer and went with a reverse for a 23-13 lead at the half.
Clement-Holbrook said, “I’m trying to empower them with the understanding that if you can just do what you do well then that’s a positive and I thought tonight was a good example.”
Offense was a struggle for both teams, but it got even tougher to score in the third with the two teams combining for just 13 points.
Aliyah Wright scored her lone basket of the night on a drive, junior Heather Maddalena knocked down a jumper and senior Lindsay McDonald got her first basket of the night. That was it for Stoughton. Homer scored on the break, Erin Holmberg had a free throw and got her only basket on a transition layup, and Caroline Flynn (13 rebounds) hit a jumper. That was it for OA.
The Tigers led by 11 heading into the fourth, but the Black Knights were still in the game. Lexi Baptista (10 rebounds) started the fourth with a short jumper and then McDonald grabbed an offensive rebound and finished plus a foul. McDonald caught fire in the fourth, scoring 11 of her game-high 14 points. She also had 17 rebounds on the night.
Twice McDonald got the Black Knights within seven points, at 33-26 and 38-31, but each time the Tigers responded. Scolnick scored six points in the fourth, Holleran (nine rebounds) had one of her three assists to set up sophomore Jessica Erlich. Flynn capped the game with a transition layup to extend the lead to 13 points.
“We talked about defense, talked about rebounding, and talked about boxing out and I think we did those three things consistently tonight,” said Clement-Holbrook.
“We can only go up for here, so I’m excited for where we can go this season,” said Steele Jordan. “They competed. You always want to come out with a ‘W’ but tonight wasn’t our night and hopefully we’ll come out and Friday and it will be different for us.”
Oliver Ames (1-0) will try to make it two wins in a row on Friday night with a trip to Taunton. Stoughton (0-1) will open Davenport division play on Friday at North Attleboro.
2017-2018 Record: 9-13 2017-2018 Finish: Missed postseason. Coach: Martin Crowley
The Bombardiers were just two wins shy of a playoff spot last season under new head coach Marty Crowley and Attleboro brings back three starters and has added several new faces to the roster to try and make a postseason push this winter.
The graduation of leading scorer Sam Pierce (16 points per game) means that a number of players are going to need to step in and make up for production on offense and on the glass. Senior point guard Jordyn Lako will be back to run the Bombardiers offense and provide three-point shooting, while junior Nyah Thomas is a versatile weapon on the offensive side of the ball. Both are also aggressive defenders, who set the tone on that end of the floor. Senior forward Mackenzie Roberts can score in the post or from beyond the arc and junior Liv McCall is a dynamic guard who is capable of big scoring nights.
Defense has always been the focus of teams that Crowley coaches and the Bombardiers will be no different. To keep up that defensive intensity, the Bombardiers have added depth to the rotation. Seniors Abby Struminski and Dom Garnes (who was out last season with an injury) provide leadership, while sophomores Gabby Bosh and Sonny Stuger and freshmen Meghan Gordon and Lillian Froio are newcomers to keep an eye on.
“Hopefully we can generate scoring opportunities off our defense and use our athleticism to create baskets,” said Crowley. “We have a great mix of experience and youth. We are excited about what lies ahead. Practices have been spirited and the kids have been working hard.”
2017-2018 Record: 10-11 2017-2018 Finish: Reached Div. 2 South first round. Coach: Jim Choquette
Last winter, Canton got a taste of the postseason for the first time in seven seasons and now the program will try to build on that momentum while finding a way to replace the scoring and rebounding of Hannah Jerrier, who averaged a double-double for the Bulldogs last winter. An exciting crop of underclassmen has been added to the roster and now Canton will try to build experience with a schedule that puts them on the road for the majority of the first half of the year.
While Jerrier will obviously be missed, the Bulldogs bring back the other four starters and other players with plenty of experience to try and make it a much shorter wait to get back into the playoffs. Senior point guard Julia Hamilton is back to run the offense, senior Erin Devine gives Canton control on the glass and a rim protector on defense, senior Molly Ludwig gives balance to the offense, and senior Maggie Connolly is one of the league’s top defensive players on the perimeter. Senior Nicole Galvin will add depth to the backcourt.
Junior Lilah Milton came on strong at the tail of end of last season, including a huge game in the playoff-clinching win over Weymouth, and could take up some of Jerrier’s scoring from the power forward position. Sophomore Kayla Albert gained valuable experience last season as a freshman and current rookies Sydney and Fay Gallery, and Kiara Cerruti have the potential to step right into the rotation and contribute.
“Details are everything to us,” said Canton coach Jim Choquette. “If our group of young talent and veteran leadership/experience can continue to stay focused on the details during the good times and tough times of a season then we should continue to improve and have a very excited and successful season.”
2017-2018 Record: 26-2 2017-2018 Finish: Won Div. 2 state championship. Coach: Lisa Downs
Last season was one to remember for the Warriors, who rolled through the regular season in dominating fashion and lived up to the team’s immense potential by bringing home the Div. 2 state title. With the graduation of a very strong senior class, the expectations are much lower for the Warriors this season but there are several returning players and new faces that have Foxboro coach Lisa Downs confident that the program can continue its recent run of success in the Davenport division.
Losing players like Ashley Sampson, Lily Sykes, Grace Tamulionis, and Shannon Smally is a challenge for any team, but the Warriors will bring back a pair of starters from the playoff run in sophomore Katelyn Mollica and junior Abby Hassman. Mollica is the team’s top returning scorer and will be one of the top point guards in the Hock with her ability to shoot and score off the dribble. Hassman gives Foxboro a strong presence on the glass and showed increased confidence in her offensive game at the end of last season. Senior Chelsea Gibbons and junior Lizzy Davis should see increased minutes and bigger roles in the offense this year.
Juniors Shakirah Ketant and Yara Fawaz should give Foxboro more depth in the post and contribute on the glass and both saw limited minutes in the playoffs last winter. Sophomores Adrienne Dunn and Jordyn Collins will be newcomers to the backcourt and have impressed during the preseason, while junior forward Anita Busznyak is expected to see a lot more time this year and could be a player to watch.
Downs is hoping this year’s team will learn from the graduating class. She said, “The time they spent practicing with and playing against these girls has really paid off – they know what is expected of them on the court and what is required to be a winning team. We have established a winning culture at Foxboro and the players know that I expect nothing more than what they should expect from themselves.”
2017-2018 Record: 15-9 2017-2018 Finish: Reached Div. 1 Central first round. Coach: John Leighton
The Panthers bring back 10 players from last year’s roster, which reached the state tournament but lost in the opening round to Natick, and there are high expectations on Oak St. as the new season gets underway. Franklin enters the season as the favorite in the Kelley-Rex division and its balanced lineup has the potential to make a run in the state tournament as well.
Much of the enthusiasm for Franklin’s chances this winter come from 6-foot-3 center Ali Brigham. The junior recently committed to George Washington (where her father once played) and is the lone returning player from last season HockomockSports.com First Team. While she (deservedly) garners much of the attention, the Panthers have a number of other weapons to give the opposition headaches. Senior guard Bea Bondhus, who committed to Springfield College, is one of the top three-point shooters in the Hock and sophomore guard Elizabeth Wilson is back from an injury that cut short the promising start to her varsity career.
The Panthers will also bring back versatile junior forwards Megan O’Connell and Breanna Atwood, who add size in the paint but can also take defenders off the dribble or knock down outside shots. Seniors Hailey Sanders and Calen Frongillo add depth to the frontcourt, while senior Shannon Gray and juniors Kelsey MacCallum and Sydney Garilli are capable of stepping in at either guard position.
“It is our goal to compete each night and to improve from last year,” said Franklin coach John Leighton. “With 10 returning players, we feel our experience will help us to better prepare for the season and compete against the best in our league.”
2017-2018 Record: 4-16 2017-2018 Finish: Missed postseason. Coach: Amy Siggens
King Philip had to battle injuries throughout head coach Amy Siggens’ first year in charge, including a late season injury to leading scorer Shannon O’Connor, but the Warriors are healthy coming into this season and with a year to get use to a new system, confidence is high that KP can make a push up the standings and fight for a postseason berth this winter.
O’Connor is the key piece returning for the Warriors. A four-year varsity player who has been recruited by Div. I college programs, O’Connor gives KP a consistent scorer and someone who will draw opposing defenses. Senior Julia Leroux will be back at the point and running the KP offense, while junior Faith Roy is the team’s best outside threat and has developed as a ball-handler who can score in a variety of ways. Sophomore Emma Glaser, who battled injuries throughout her freshman season, will add versatility to the lineup and can play multiple positions and her classmate Courtney Keswick is a newcomer to watch in the backcourt.
The Warriors will also have strength in the post with senior Catherine Cummings providing a solid presence on the glass and junior Faye Veilleux giving KP length and athleticism at the forward position. Newcomers like junior Taylor Butler and returning senior Kendall Mason will give added depth and strong play on the defensive end of the floor.
There is a lot of enthusiasm surrounding our team this year with our sights on continued growth and improvement upon our overall record from a year ago,” Siggens said. “Our practices have been very competitive and I’m encouraged by our team’s attitude and overall interest in getting better. I like this team a lot and I look forward to the challenge of helping each girl reach her maximum potential.”
2017-2018 Record: 20-6 2017-2018 Finish: Reached Div. 1 South final. Coach: Mike Redding
After three straight league titles and four trips to the Div. 1 South semifinal in the past four seasons (including back-to-back finals), Mansfield has been one of the most consistent teams in the Hockomock League, but the Hornets enter this season trying to replace Meg Hill, who scored more than 1,000 points and pulled down more than 1,000 points in her stellar career. With 10 seniors and loads of athleticism, this might be a very different looking Mansfield attack, but one that has the potential to keep the Hornets right back on top in the Kelley-Rex division and capable of making another deep tournament run.
The Hornets have been known for slowing the ball down and running intricate sets, but this team is suited for getting up and down the court as quickly as possible, highlighted by senior guard Mady Bendanillo, one of the quickest players in the Hock. Senior forward Maggie Danehy has emerged as a strong interior scorer and someone who can control the glass, but she is also someone who can run like a guard and get out on the break for easy baskets. Seniors Sydney Mulkern and Erin Daniel add wing scoring and are both solid shooters who can spread the floor and open lanes to the basket.
Athletic senior forwards Emily Vigeant and Steph Kemp can outrun many of the guards in the league and senior point guard Kara Bendanillo is another speedster who can push the ball off makes or misses. Sophomore Ashley Santos saw time last year as a rookie and adds to the frontcourt depth and versatility, while junior Becca Hottleman will be back to give Mansfield another option at guard.
It is a different feel to the lineup but one that Mansfield coach Mike Redding feels can be effective. He said, “We need to rebound as a team and must change our style to up-tempo with defensive pressure/fast breaks and play to our strengths (athleticism and depth).”
2017-2018 Record: 13-9 2017-2018 Finish: Reached Div. 2 Central quarterfinal. Coach: T.J. Dolliver
Milford coach T.J. Dolliver brings back six players from the team that not only reached the state tournament last season but also went on the road and beat Burncoat handily, the program’s first playoff win since 2001. The problem for the Hawks is that almost the entire rotation from last year’s team has graduated, including 1,000-point scorer Kate Irwin.
While this may be a rebuilding year for the Hawks, Dolliver sees it as an opportunity for players to step into new roles and establish themselves as starters and as regular contributors. The lone senior back from last year is forward Grace Risio, who Dolliver said made a difference when she was given the opportunity last year, and sophomore guard Jillian Michelson saw some time in the backcourt as a rookie.
The Hawks will have eight sophomores on the roster this season, so it is clear that Milford is going to try and build with youth, similar to several teams from last year. Among the players from last year’s roster, forwards Katie Maietta, guard Emma Lawrence, and forward Carly Ferreira all got time as freshmen and could see those minutes increase significantly this winter.
Dolliver said, “With our entire rotation graduating last year, there are a lot of opportunities waiting for everyone in the program. It will be exciting to watch who emerges within the group and elevates their game to compete at the varsity level.”
2017-2018 Record: 4-16 2017-2018 Finish: Missed postseason. Coach: Derek Herber
Last year was a tough transition season for the Rocketeers, as North Attleboro moved on from a number of players who were starters for several years and incorporated a number of new, young faces into the lineup. North had a better second half to the season and will try to build on that this winter with a more experienced group of players.
Senior Julia Feid is back on the wing and is North’s top returning scorer, coming off a season in which she averaged more than nine points per game. Fellow seniors Liz Smahi and Emma Noreck will add leadership in the backcourt and try to set the direction for the team this year. Junior point guard Olivia Forbes, who was on the HockomockSports.com All-Underclassman Team last season, will be back to get the offense going and provide strong defense on the perimeter. Junior Eliza Dion also returns to add rebounding and interior scoring for a team that can’t count on a lot of height in the paint.
The North offense improved over the course of last season with the addition of sophomore Amanda Kaiser (8.6 points per game) and junior Julia Kleczkowski (40 percent from three-point range), who can both fill it up from the outside and who are both willing to take any shot that presents itself. Several newcomers will fill out the roster with the potential of adding important minutes over the course of the season, including sophomore Lydia Santos and Siobhan Weir.
“We will rely on Julia Feid to be our first option on offense and the sooner we can develop a consistent second option will be a factor in the early part of the season,” said North Attleboro coach Derek Herber. “The inside scoring option will hopefully be Eliza Dion, while both Amanda Kaiser and Julia Kleczkowski showed an ability to stretch the defense with their outside shooting in limited time last year.”
2017-2018 Record: 16-6 2017-2018 Finish: Reached Div. 2 South quarterfinal. Coach: Laney Clement-Holbrook
Oliver Ames will be making a transition this year following the graduation of Kayla Raymond, who was a two-time HockomockSports.com First Team performer and last year’s league MVP (and is already a three-time Rookie of the Week at Stonehill College), but the Tigers have a number of returning players to try and make up for Raymond’s production on both ends of the floor and make another run at a league title.
Senior Alex Sheldon grew in confidence over the course of last season and became a double-double machine by the end of the year, dominating on the glass and improving her finishing around the rim. Junior Erin Holberg emerged last year as a strong scorer on the perimeter with her touch from the outside and ability to take defenders off the dribble. Junior Meg Holleran is in her third season on varsity and is a tough, physical defender who can knock down shots from the outside.
Sophomore Caroline Flynn had a strong freshman season, playing several positions (from point guard to small forward), crashing the boards, and showing off decent range. The return of senior Sadie Homer will add energy on both ends of the floor and give the Tigers another strong outside shooter to stretch the floor, while senior Ally Scolnick came off the bench last season to add another shooter to the OA offense.
OA coach Laney Clement-Holbrook said of the experienced returning players, “They will lead the youngest team OA has put on the court in quite a long time. We are looking towards gaining valuable game experience and coming into to our own as the season progresses.”
2017-2018 Record: 2-18 2017-2018 Finish: Missed postseason. Coach: Sanda Lombardi
It was a tough winter for new Sharon coach Sandra Lombardi, as the Eagles struggled to a two-win season, but five of their losses were by 10 points or fewer and they return all but one player from last season’s team. With a year to get acclimated to Lombardi’s system, an experienced roster of returning players, and several newcomers, Sharon has its sights set on getting into the postseason for the first time since its run to the Div. 2 South final in 2013.
Sharon returns its leading scorer and playmaker in senior Emma Eberhardt, who was on the HockomockSports.com Third Team last season, and she will once again be the focal point of the offense, as well as one of the team’s leading defenders. Eberhardt’s versatility as a wing player should open things up for junior guards Kaitlyn Wallace and Ally Brown, who will both fill in as ball-handlers after the graduation of Miranda Cheung. Wallace will extend defenses with her shooting from the outside and Brown adds energy to the backcourt defense.
Senior guard Bridget McManus will add depth and junior forward Telishya Herbert provides a strong presence in the paint. Junior Olivia Langol-Leonard added frontcourt depth and was active on the glass in her time on the court, while senior forward Evanjuline Elisma can score in transition and adds another solid wing defender.
“We only lost one player due to graduation,” said Lombardi. “We have the entire team back and we added some height. I’m excited to see what the season brings. The girls are working hard and our goal is to qualify for the postseason.”
2017-2018 Record: 13-9 2017-2018 Finish: Reached Div. 2 South quarterfinal. Coach: Charmaine Steele Jordan
Stoughton started last season with five straight defeats and only one win in the opening eight games, but the Black Knights turned things around with a vengeance, winning 11 of its final 12 games of the regular season and winning its opening game of the state tournament. Stoughton’s only two losses in its final 14 games of the season were to state champion Foxboro. That is a lot of momentum for the Black Knights to carry into this year.
It may be a little different look for Stoughton this winter after the graduation of Val Whalen and Jordan Motley. Instead of being a team that dominates the paint, there will be a host of guards and wing players who can still battle on the glass, but will bring energy and tenacity on the perimeter on both ends of the court. Junior Aliyah Wright is back as the team’s point guard and her length makes her a factor guarding multiple positions. Senior Lindsay McDonald adds versatility as a combo guard and sophomore Sydnee Hyacinthe is a dynamic guard and stretches defenses with her ability to shoot from the outside.
While there are a lot of familiar faces returning for the Black Knights, there are several players who will have more responsibility this year and the potential to make big contributions. Junior Lexi Baptista defends well at the forward position and gives a different look on the post, while seniors Hailey Egan and Heather Maddalena will add extra toughness to the backcourt. Junior Shyanne Trinh is still battling an injury at the beginning of the season, but she will give Stoughton a big scoring boost when she returns.
“This season will be all about our effort, energy and enthusiasm on defense,” said Stoughton coach Charmaine Steele Jordan. “The Black Knights will be most successful when we put in work on the defensive end and finish each play with a Black Knights rebound.”
2017-2018 Record: 7-15 2017-2018 Finish: Missed postseason. Coach: Walter Harrigan
Taunton started last winter well and had the potential for making a return to the state tournament, but injuries slowed things down for the Tigers and they missed out on the postseason. While the year didn’t end the way they would have hoped, a number of younger players were given valuable varsity experience and there are a number of returning players ready to make an impact.
Senior Lily Patneaude will be the player to watch for the Tigers, as the team’s leading scorer from last year. After battling an injury down the stretch, her return gives Taunton a consistent primary offensive weapon and takes some of the scoring pressure off her teammates. Senior point guard Alexa White is also back to provide leadership, energy, and tenacity on the defensive end of the floor. Sophomore Kelsey White showed flashes as a rookie of being the secondary scorer that Taunton needs, with her ability to knock down shots from the outside and take defenders off the dribble.
Even with a year of experience, Taunton is still a relatively young team. Sophomores Jaelyn and Sonya Fernandez will provide athleticism from the forward positions and give Taunton effort in the paint, while sophomore Tori DaRose, and freshmen Abby Souza (who saw brief minutes as an eighth-grader last season) and Braeley MacDonald give the Tigers depth off the bench.
“We have great group of enthusiast student athletes consisting of senior leadership, youth, athleticism, and talent,” said Taunton coach Walter Harrigan. “This team is looking forward to a fun and exciting season.”
STOUGHTON, Mass. – Although Stoughton entered the playoffs on a roll, having won 11-of-12 games since a 1-7 start to the season, the Black Knights are a young and relatively inexperienced crew and there is a different feel to postseason play.
In front of a packed house and a vocal home support, Stoughton came out of the gates a little rushed and struggled to pull away from ninth seed Dighton-Rehoboth, leading by just five at the break. After halftime, the Black Knights looked like the team that rolled through the end of the season.
Stoughton held D-R to just six points in the third quarter and used a 16-0 run to break the game wide open and push the lead to as many as 22 points in a 52-35 win that advances the Black Knights to the Div. 2 South quarterfinal.
“Once they took a deep breath, I said listen, this half is ours,” said Stoughton coach Charmaine Steele Jordan. “I said, if you go out and defend the way I know you can defend, we’re turning the momentum in our favor and they rose to the occasion. We got deflections that gave us transition baskets, which gave us the confidence, and they just kept pushing.”
The Black Knights got off to an inconsistent start, jumping out to a 7-2 behind a pair of jumpers from Lindsay McDonald (eight points and six rebounds), but struggling to take care of the ball and allowing D-R to tie the game despite only making one shot from the floor in the first quarter.
Sophomore Mariah Harris came off the bench and scored in transition from an Aliyah Wright assist and then again scored on the break, this time following a Val Whalen steal and long outlet pass.
“She is a spark and she can get deflections,” said Steele Jordan. “She does a good job reading the quarterback’s eyes and getting in the passing lanes. She’s a tough kid. I get on her, I push her, and the expectation for this program is that if you want to play then you need to show you’re going to bring it on the defensive end and she did that for us.”
The Falcons got off to a quick start to the second quarter with an 8-2 run giving the visitors a 15-13 lead. Freshman Sydnee Hyacinthe tied the game off a steal and pull-up jumper and Wright (10 points, eight rebounds, four steals, and four assists) gave the Black Knights back the lead with a transition basket. Hyacinthe drilled a three and then Harris got back-to-back steals and layups for four points in less than 10 seconds and a seven-point edge.
Steele Jordan said, “I knew there was going to be a lot of jitters, but I was confident that they could get it done. I knew we could win, we just needed to settle and get into a groove. We executed on offense and that’s key at this point in the season, you’ve got to execute.”
At halftime, the Black Knights settled down and it showed with a dominant third quarter.
“We went down to the locker and I just told everyone, we’re doing okay right now but we can do better definitely and we just need to slow down on offense,” Whalen said about the message to her teammates during the break. The message was well-received.
McDonald knocked down a jumper and senior Jordan Motley, who sat much of the first half with foul trouble, scored to push the lead to double digits. A three-point play and a three-pointer from the visitors, sandwiched around a pair of Whalen (eight points and 15 rebounds) free throws, cut the lead back down to six, but then Stoughton broke the game wide open.
Motley scored with a spinning layup off a Hyacinthe assist and then the freshman guard knocked down her second three of the game. McDonald capped the quarter with another jumper for a 13-point advantage.
The run continued in the fourth, as Wright scored plus a foul and followed it with an offensive rebound and put-back. Whalen added a three-point play and Hyacinthe pushed the lead to 22 points, 47-25, with a steal and layup and effectively put the game out of reach with half of the fourth quarter remaining.
“Coach always says it starts on defense and then it will happen on offense, shots will fall,” said Whalen. “If we have a good defensive half and then the next half will be offense.”
Steele Jordan added, “Your first playoff game is always the most challenging because you’ve just got to get over the nerves and we’re young…so for us, they just needed to take it all in. All of the atmosphere was an adjustment for my team and it was great to get that first ‘W’ at home.”
Stoughton (13-8) will now likely face a third meeting with Davenport division champion and top seed Foxboro, which won both meetings by double digits in the regular season. While the Warriors will be the favorites in the quarterfinal, Whalen for one is looking forward to getting a third crack and the league champion.
“We’ve just got to keep a positive attitude at all times,” she said. “My sister’s team beat Foxboro both times in the regular season [in 2014] and then they beat them in the playoffs, so I’m just expecting to go out there and have fun because it might be one of my last games playing.”
STOUGHTON, Mass. – Even with a raucous crowd roaring just to her left, sophomore Lilah Milton knocked down the first of two free throws with fewer than 20 seconds remaining in the game to give Canton a one-point lead at Stoughton and put the Bulldogs on the brink of tournament qualification for the first time since 2011.
Milton’s second free throw bounced off the front of the rim and was rebounded by Stoughton junior Lindsay McDonald, as the home crowd somehow got even louder, adding to the playoff-like atmosphere of the rivalry game. Maggie Connolly came within inches of a steal for the Bulldogs at midcourt, but Aliyah Wright came away with it and found McDonald open in the corner.
With adrenaline pumping, McDonald’s shot sailed over the rim, over 6-foot-3 Canton center Erin Devine and right to the hands of Jordan Motley. The forward went up strong, finished around the outstretched arms of Devine with four seconds on the clock, and lifted Stoughton to a thrilling 49-48 come from behind victory.
Here is the frantic final sequence of tonight’s game, Lilah Milton hit the first of two free throws to put Canton ahead but Jordan Motley’s rebound and score gave Stoughton the win #hockomockpic.twitter.com/J8okWfH23T
A night that began with Motley being honored on the court with the rest of Stoughton’s senior class ended with her being swallowed up by her classmates who stormed the court after the final horn sounded.
“Canton played phenomenal and for us we just grinded it out with our defense,” said Stoughton coach Charmaine Steele Jordan. “We missed a ton of free throws but we got it done at the end of the game and Jordan Motley came through like you hope for any senior on senior night with a tough finish down there.”
“Throughout the season we haven’t had a lot of fans,” Motley said in between photos with friends and family after the game, “but tonight they showed out and that pushed us even when we were down. Even when we were losing they still cheered for us and that was awesome.”
It was a heartbreaking finish for Canton, but the Bulldogs season is far from over. Canton will travel to Weymouth on Tuesday and a win will clinch the program’s elusive return to the playoffs.
“We always talk about playing our best towards the end of the year going into the tournament, whether we make it or not, and we are playing great right now,” said Canton coach Jim Choquette. “We put ourselves in the position to beat a playoff team and a team that beat us the first time around. The girls just dug deeper and deeper and deeper.”
Stoughton got off to a great start, leading 6-0 in the early going, but Canton bounced right back behind junior point guard Julia Hamilton, who caught fire from three-point range. Hamilton hit four from beyond the arc, scoring 12 of her team-high 14 points in the quarter. With Devine on the bench with foul trouble, Milton stepped in with four points to help the Bulldogs to a 16-10 lead after one.
The Black Knights came back strong in the second by getting the ball into senior forward Val Whalen (19 points and 14 rebounds). She scored nine points in the quarter and was helped by Wright (15 points), who also scored nine in the second. After a Whalen put-back, Connolly went end-to-end for a layup but Stoughton went into the break leading 31-28.
Canton came out strong in the second half, holding Stoughton to two points on a couple of free throws in the third quarter and putting together what ended up being a 17-4 run that put the Bulldogs ahead by as many as 10 points (45-35).
After being held to just five points in the first half, senior forward Hannah Jerrier (13 points and 14 rebounds) scored six in the third, including a layup off a Connolly offensive rebound and assist.
“Most games we know everyone is going to focus on her and do everything they can to stop Hannah,” said Choquette. “Once Julia hit some shots and Lilah was able to get some seams then it left Hannah open.”
In the fourth, Canton continued to be aggressive on the offensive end with Milton (12 points) competing a three-point play and Hamilton driving and dishing to a cutting Connolly (six points and 10 rebounds) for a layup that extended the lead to 10 points and forced a Stoughton timeout.
“We just said keep our heads up,” said Motley about the conversation in the huddle. “Our team is very young and they haven’t been in situations like this that often so Val and I as seniors we told them it’s our senior night, we want to win, and to keep our head up the whole game.”
The Black Knights regrouped, switched to man-to-man defense and were spurred on by one of the largest crowds the team has drawn this season. Wright scored off a Sydnee Hyacinthe assist in transition to start the comeback and Motley scored in the post to cut the lead down to five. A Whalen transition basket made it a three-point game and this time it was Canton forced to call time.
“We had several close games at the start of the season and it kind of prepared them to keep it together, keep their cool,” said Steele Jordan. “My team believed in each other and getting stops.”
Wright swooped across the rim for a lefty layup on the break to make it a one-point game at 45-44, but Hamilton answered with a pair of clutch free throws for the Bulldogs. Whalen assisted on a Wright basket to again make it a one-point game and then the senior made 1-of-2 at the line to tie it.
Had the Black Knights not gotten the win, free throw shooting would have been the story for the hosts, who made only 14-of-32 at the line.
Instead, the win gives Stoughton, which has now won 10-of-11 since a 1-7 start to the season, even more confidence heading into the tournament, especially if the Black Knights continue to get this level of support from the fans.
“Oh my goodness, the atmosphere was fantastic,” said Steele Jordan. “The stands were full. The fans were phenomenal. For me, this is the way you want a senior night to be.”
Choquette dismissed the idea of this being a tough loss to recover from with one game to play. He insisted, “No, we’re not bouncing back from some team that we should’ve beaten who’s 5-15. We lost on a last-second shot to a playoff-caliber team and we earned the right by playing so well all year to play another game and have a chance to go to the tournament.”
Stoughton (11-8, 10-6) will close out the regular season on Monday when Norwood pays a visit. Canton (9-10, 7-9) will travel to Weymouth on Tuesday night.
STOUGHTON, Mass. – Exactly a month ago, Stoughton earned its first league win of the season on the road at North Attleboro. Following the game, Black Knights coach Charmaine Steele Jordan said that she was looking forward to a strong second half of the season from her team. She turned out to be right.
On Monday night, behind strong performances from freshman Sydnee Hyacinthe and sophomore Aliyah Wright, the Black Knights beat King Philip 61-49, making it eight wins in the last nine games. After starting the season 1-7, Stoughton is now just one win from clinching a spot in the state tournament.
“It’s exciting to see how the program has evolved,” said Steele Jordan about the progress of the youth on the roster. “We have young guards, but that makes for promise for the future. We’ve got a lot of youth coming up and I’m excited where the program is going. I feel like we’re a fun group to watch and when we’re on, then we’re on.”
The game got off to an even start. Wright got a steal and layup off the Stoughton press and Lindsay McDonald (eight points) knocked down a jumper after an offensive rebound for an early lead. Faith Roy (nine points) completed a three-point play to tie the game at 5-5, but Hyacinthe (15 points) knocked down the first of her five three-pointers and Wright (17 points) got one of her eight steals and turned it into a layup for a 12-8 lead after one.
KP was playing without leading scorer Shannon O’Connor, who was injured in the last game against Taunton, and the Warriors offense stalled a little at the start of the second quarter.
“It’s an adjustment for the team, for the coaches, for everybody,” said KP coach Amy Siggens. “We did alright and I think someone needs to step up into that role and I don’t think they know who that is yet. Everyone had to contribute and we started off a little slow but then we started to figure it out as the game went along.”
The Black Knights ran off the first eight points of the second with sophomore Mariah Harris (10 points) knocking down a pair of jumpers and senior Val Whalen (11 points and 15 rebounds) adding four as well. Roy tried to bring KP back with a pair of threes that cut the lead back to five. Hyacinthe answered with a three but, after free throws from Stoughton, Julia LeRoux (nine points) hit a three to keep KP within nine at the half.
In the third quarter, Stoughton continued its hot shooting to break the game open. Hyacinthe was particularly accurate from downtown, nailing three from beyond the arc in the third, while McDonald also buried a pair of deep jumpers, as the Black Knights scored 22 as a team in the quarter.
“It’s great to see those girls knocking down shots,” said Steele Jordan. “They’ve been working on their games all season and it’s nice when it finally rolls over into a game and they’re being consistent and shooting with confidence.”
While the offense was clicking, Steele Jordan was also pleased with the defensive effort. The Stoughton press was forcing turnovers that led to baskets for Harris and Wright in the quarter.
“We’re fueled off our defense,” she explained. “When we’re moving our feet, we have active hands, and we’re anticipating, we have several girls who can be a step ahead of the pass and see where it’s going. It’s nice to see them use their athleticism and get those deflections.”
Christina Hathaway tried to keep the Warriors in the game with four points in the quarter and junior Catherine Cummings scored five of her team-high 11, but KP trailed by 17 heading to the fourth.
Stoughton continued to tack on to its lead, eventually extending it to as many as 23 points after a jumper by Wright and a three from Harris.
“We work a ton on our help and doubling down because we knew how good their bigs were and…you’ve got to give up one or the other and we just weren’t able to close out,” said Siggens. “I can’t take anything away from how well they shoot and how quick they are.”
KP continued to battle in the final minutes and would cut into the lead behind six points from Cummings, who knocked down a pair of jumpers and finished an offensive rebound. Freshman Emma Glaser also added three points for the Warriors.
“She’s worked really hard all season to work on those moves,” said Siggens of Cummings. “She’s due for a monster game, so it’s nice to see those going in for her.”
Stoughton (9-8, 8-6) will try to clinch its state tournament berth on Tuesday night when it hosts Sharon. King Philip (4-12, 3-11) will be right back in action on Tuesday with the visit of league champ Mansfield.
NORTH ATTLEBORO, Mass. – Coming into Friday night’s game at the Pickering Gym, Stoughton had lost four games by seven or less points, struggling to find ways down the stretch to pull out wins. When North Attleboro climbed back to within five points in the fourth quarter, it looked like that may happen again for the Black Knights.
Instead of letting the game slip away, senior forward Val Whalen took over down the stretch. She scored 10 points, made 8-of-10 from the free throw line, and dominated the paint to help Stoughton close with a 17-6 run that sealed a 59-43 victory over North and ended the Black Knights’ winless start in the league.
“This is the best game of Val’s senior year so far and I know she’s going to continue to do great things,” said Stoughton coach Charmaine Steele Jordan. “It was clutch. She stepped up to the line and knocked them down. Obviously, her offensive rebounds were important, but it was nice to see her do well from the free throw line.”
Whalen finished the game with 19 points and 19 rebounds, while also adding four assists and two blocks. North struggled to find an answer for the senior on either end of the floor.
“She’s a nightmare and causes a lot of problems,” said North Attleboro coach Derek Herber. “She can shoot a little bit and it drags you out and then you’ve got [Jordan] Motley to grab all the backside rebounds. So, you’ve really got to have two posts and if you don’t have two posts you’re always playing a matchup game.”
Stoughton took over on the boards right from the opening tap. Whalen pulled down nine rebounds in the first quarter and scored seven points, with both of her baskets coming on putbacks at the rim. Sophomore guard Aliyah Wright (13 points, nine rebounds) also chipped in with six in the first.
North tried to stay close with its perimeter game. Julia Feid (team-high 12 points) and Emily Haskell (eight points) each knocked down threes to keep North within seven (17-10) after one quarter.
The Rocketeers made only one shot from the floor in the second, but were managing to stay close thanks to 9-of-12 shooting from the free throw line. Stoughton’s aggressive defense was giving North free points, but sophomores Shyanne Trinh (14 points) and Mariah Harris (seven points) each hit threes to keep the Black Knights ahead.
With North hanging around, down just eight inside the final few seconds of the half, Trinh took off on a coast-to-coast run that ended with a layup and a 30-20 halftime lead, which left North’s bench frustrated.
“We did okay with our game plan, but they’re a good team, they’re battle-tested, and they’ve got some kids who’ve been on varsity for two or three years now,” said Herber.
Fouls continued to rack up for Stoughton in the second half. North shot 12 free throws in the third and reached the bonus before the end of the quarter. Feid scored on an offensive rebound to cut the lead back to 10 and Julia Santos (eight points, 11 rebounds) added a putback as well.
Heading to the fourth quarter, Stoughton’s lead, which had been as many as 13 was down to just seven.
“We were in foul trouble and that really hurt us,” said Steele Jordan, “but we’ve had several close ones that we needed just a little bit more and I think those games helped us in this instance.”
North continued to battle early in the fourth. Sophomore Eliza Dion (seven points) drove through the Stoughton defense for a layup that made it 40-35 and, after a pair of Whalen free throws, Haskell drove on the other side for a bucket that again got the Rocketeers within five points. It was as close as North would get.
Herber said, “They fight, they fight and that’s why I feel so bad for them because they do fight. We’ve been in the last couple of games but we just couldn’t get that big shot.”
Wright scored on a runner in the lane and found Whalen leaking out in transition for an easy basket to push the lead back to nine. Whalen grabbed an offensive rebound and kicked it out to Trinh for an open three that put Stoughton up by double digits and then Whalen sealed the win with six free throws in the closing minutes.
“They can do some things in the post that we didn’t have any answers for,” Herber admitted. “Whalen and Motley (14 rebounds) down the stretch really gave us problems and we tried to get them in foul trouble but couldn’t at the end.”
Steele Jordan said, “It’s tough. You have a few tough losses back-to-back, but I have a fantastic team and they work hard for me every day. They dug down, played solid ‘D’, and took their time on offense and it showed today.”
After earning its first win in the league, Steele Jordan is hoping that the team can build off this performance. She said, “They’re young, but they’re coming into their own, which is nice because you always worry about peaking too soon. I’m glad my team is starting to turn the wheels now and really get going.”
Stoughton (2-7, 1-5) will travel to Sharon on Tuesday night trying to make it two in a row in the Hock. North Attleboro (1-7, 0-6) will try to get its first win in the league on Tuesday at Milford.
The Bombardiers enter the season with a new coaching staff and a very different starting lineup to the one that nearly knocked off Mansfield in the Div. 1 South playoffs last season. Former King Philip coach Marty Crowley has taken over after Rick Patch stepped down in the off-season and he will have only a few returning varsity players to call on this winter.
Senior forward Sam Pierce will be the key piece on offense, as Attleboro tries to replace the more than 30 points per game that was lost with the graduation of Sarah Deyo and Julia Strachan. Pierce has been a consistent scorer and rebounder for the past few seasons, but this will be the first time that she is the primary offensive weapon and could be poised for a breakout year. Junior Jordyn Lako and senior Grace Mayer are strong on-the-ball defenders and should help Crowley implement his high-pressure defensive scheme. Senior Kim White will also be one of Attleboro’s ball-handlers in the backcourt.
One of the players who saw a little time on varsity last season that is expected to make a big jump is sophomore Nyah Thomas, who has the length to be a tough defender and showed in her few appearances last year that she can rebound and take the ball to the basket. Sophomore Liv McCall is a fearless shooter that will stretch the floor and transfer Mackenzie Roberts will give the Bombardiers added size in the paint.
Crowley said, “For us to be successful we must be able to play defense consistently and rebound. Sam, I am sure, is going to draw a lot of attention from other teams, so we must make sure that we are smart offensively and get touches for everyone.”
2016-2017 Record: 6-14 2016-2017 Finish: Missed postseason. Coach: Jim Choquette
There has been excitement around the Canton program for the past few seasons and that continues this winter, as the Bulldogs look to secure a place in the state tournament behind an experienced lineup that has been developing together for several years.
Senior Hannah Jerrier is the key for the Bulldogs, as the forward is coming off a league all-star season in which she emerged as a potential double-double night after night. Jerrier is a solid rebounder and scorer in the paint, reaching the 20-point mark nine times last season and averaging more than 16 points and nine rebounds per game. Junior Julia Hamilton will be back at point guard for the Bulldogs to help get the Canton into its offensive sets and provide pressure, on-the-ball defense. Senior Jess Powers is also back after missing a season to a knee injury and will add a boost to the team’s outside shooting and take pressure off Jerrier on offense.
Junior Maggie Connolly returns for her second year in the backcourt and seniors Lindsey Barrett, Nikki Gefteas, and Leya Conard will all add depth to the Canton roster this season, while junior Erin Devine adds another important post presence on both ends of the floor. The versatility of the roster will allow head coach Jim Choquette to change his game plans every game, slowing it down to play half-court or ratcheting up the pressure to go up tempo.
“Canton remains focused on playing together and staying positive for the best season possible,” Choquette said. “Leading up to our first game there’s been an extreme amount of effort and energy by a large group of unselfish girls and our seniors have all been great examples of staying positive throughout all situations!”
2016-2017 Record: 22-3 2016-2017 Finish: Reached Div. 2 State Semifinal Coach: Lisa Downs
After winning the Div. 2 South title and reaching the TD Garden last winter, this year’s Foxboro team will have high expectations, but with four starters returning, including reigning Hockomock League MVP Ashley Sampson, the Warriors will once again be the favorites to take home the Davenport division crown.
Having already passed the 1,000-point mark for her career, Sampson enters her senior season as the focal point of the Foxboro offense. Her ability to get into the lane and finish, as well as step back and knock down shots, makes her a tough cover and opens space for her teammates. Fellow senior Lily Sykes is one of the beneficiaries of that space and she can take advantage of open looks on the perimeter. Senior Grace Tamulionis is another player who can stretch the floor for the Warriors and can be an ‘X’ factor for Foxboro in big games. Senior Shannon Smally adds rebounding and post presence to keep defenses honest.
The Warriors are now the veteran team in the division, but there are also several younger players that have developed into critical pieces off the bench, including sophomore Abby Hassman, who has grown in the off-season into a strong rebounder. Freshman Katelyn Mollica will add backcourt depth with her tenacity on defense and already impressive court awareness. Junior Chelsea Gibbons is another player that is expected to step into a bigger role this season.
Foxboro coach Lisa Downs said, “This group of seniors have been part of our Varsity team since their freshmen year and with each year, they have learned and developed more – all of the girls on this year’s team put in the necessary work; now its time to execute.”
2016-2017 Record: 9-11 2016-2017 Finish: Missed postseason. Coach: John Leighton
Franklin got off to a rough start last season, beginning 0-6 with an inexperienced roster, but then closed the year with nine wins in the last 14 games, just missing out on a return to the postseason. This year, the Panthers will try to build on that year of experience and book a return to the playoffs.
The Panthers will have strength in the middle to try and get off to a much better start this season. Sophomore Ali Brigham, last year’s HockomockSports.com Underclassman of the Year, has received several Div. I NCAA offers, including one from the University of Minnesota, and at 6-foot-3 can dominate the paint on both ends of the floor. Franklin will also have outside scoring with junior guard Bea Bondhus, who is a consistent three-point shooter and will stretch defenses to open up the post for Brigham.
Franklin has plenty of size this season. Sophomore forwards Breanna Atwood (5-foot-9) and Megan O’Connell (5-foot-10) and senior forward Kate Morse (5-foot-11) will provide plenty of depth on the inside. Junior Shannon Gray will be back to run the point and senior Grace Sameski will add backcourt depth. Freshman guard Elizabeth Wilson is poised to make an instant impact for the Panthers, as she did in the season opener by knocking down three free throws in the final seconds to force overtime against Holy Name.
“We are a young team with only two seniors, but I am very pleased with the effort and progress of the team,” said Franklin coach John Leighton, who is excited about the return of the majority of the team’s scoring and the potential of the youth on the roster.
King Philip has a new coach this season, with former Wellesley assistant Amy Siggens taking over for Marty Crowley, and there could be a period of adjustment for a still relatively young Warriors roster to adapt to the new system, but there is excitement about the progress being made by the seven returning varsity players.
Boston University-commit Shannon O’Connor will once again be a player to watch for the Warriors this winter. The junior’s ability to shoot off the dribble, defend multiple positions, and take the ball to the basket has made her one of the league’s elite perimeter players. As O’Connor continues to develop as a playmaker that will create open looks for her teammates, including junior Julia Leroux and sophomore Faith Roy. Senior Christina Hathaway (one of only two seniors on the roster) will add strength in the paint on both ends of the floor.
The Warriors will not lack for size this season. O’Connor is listed at 5-foot-11, junior Catherine Cummings and sophomore Faye Veilleux are listed at 5-foot-10, and Roy is listed at 5-foot-9. The versatility of those players will give Siggens room to switch up lineups when needed. KP is still pretty young and Siggens has added two freshmen, Emma Glaser and Brianna James, to this year’s roster.
Siggens said, “Early on we will stress the importance of being unselfish on offense and being tough and aggressive on defense. Knowing mistakes will be made, there will be no small emphasis on the importance of playing hard all the time… I am encouraged by our team’s enthusiasm and attitude.”
2016-2017 Record: 20-4 2016-2017 Finish: Reached Div. 1 South final. Coach: Mike Redding
Replacing the production of last season’s HockomockSports.com Player of the Year Jen Peel is a difficult task, but Mansfield has the talent, depth, and experience in the roster to make it work. The Hornets return four starters from last year’s squad and will lean on a loaded and versatile junior class to try and make it a three-peat of league titles.
The key returner for Mansfield is 6-foot-3 center Meg Hill. The Stonehill College-commit is already the program’s best in blocked shots and is soon to be the career leader in rebounds, while improving her offensive game every season. With Peel gone, junior Mady Bendanillo will be tasked with getting the ball into the post to Hill and to fellow junior Maggie Danehy, who had an impressive start with a double-double against Medfield in the Endowment Game. Reigning HockomockSports.com Defensive Player of the Year Ann Maher will also be back at shooting guard and is one of the team’s most consistent three-point threats.
Juniors Erin Daniel, Emily Vigeant, Sydney Mulkern and Kara Bendanillo will likely compete for the fifth starting spot and all should see plenty of playing time this year. With 5-foot-11 senior Maeve Carney and 5-foot-10 freshman Ashley Santos, the Hornets should be able to dominate the paint and sophomore Becca Hottleman will add depth at the point guard position.
Mansfield coach Mike Redding said, “We have a chance to be very good again with our junior group getting a ton of experience last year and we hope to compete for league title again.” He added that the Hornets bolstered the schedule this season as well. Redding said, “Our record may not be as good as last year when we earned the No. 1 seed, but we will be more battle tested for the state tourney in March.”
2016-2017 Record: 10-11 2016-2017 Finish: Reached Div. 2 Central first round. Coach: T.J. Dolliver
A year after returning to the postseason for the first time since 2012 (and nearly pulling off an upset of Marlboro on the road), Milford brings back seven seniors to try and make a push for a Davenport division title and another state tournament appearance.
The Hawks have a versatile lineup led by four-year starter Kate Irwin. The lefty point guard is one of the most dynamic perimeter scorers and playmakers in the league and she continues to improve each season. Her ability to get into the paint opens up room for her teammates and she can also step back and knock down threes. Irwin will be helped by fellow seniors Gillian Valanzola and Juliana Tracy, who add size on the post.
Senior Emily Piergustavo is a knock-down shooter from beyond the arc and her classmate Jess Tomaso has proven to be a solid rebounder from the guard position. There are also two sophomores and four freshmen on the roster this season to add depth and build for the future under third-year head coach T.J. Dolliver.
Dolliver said, “I am very excited for our team this year. This is my 3rd year with a lot of these girls and seeing how they have progressed over the years have really set this team up for a fun season.”
Last season, North Attleboro boasted one of the most experienced lineups in the league with five of its top six players being seniors, but this year the Rocketeers will be incorporating a number of new faces, as only six players (only starter) return from last winter.
The lone returning starter is junior guard Julia Feid, who had a breakout season on the wing and will be counted on to lead the offensive attack this year. Feid’s classmate Emily Haskell will also be on the wing for North this season and will also have a large chunk of the offense run through her. Senior Emily Pastore, junior Liz Smahi, and sophomore Michelle Pothier will also contribute scoring from the wing, while junior Lauren Pezzi and sophomore Olivia Forbes will run the point and distribute the ball in the half court.
The graduation of Caroline Collard and Liz Morehouse leaves an opening on the post, but North has several players that will step in to provide a presence in the paint. Senior Julia Santos and juniors Emma Noreck and Kaley Sullivan will each get opportunities to contribute. North faces a tough early season schedule with the likes of Franklin, Oliver Ames, Archbishop Williams, and Hingham, so it will be critical for the new players to find their feet quickly.
North Attleboro coach Derek Herber said, “The team has quickly began to gel and I am hopeful that we if we can survive the early part of the season, we can qualify for the tournament.”
2016-2017 Record: 13-8 2016-2017 Finish: Reached Div. 2 South First Round. Coach: Elaine Clement-Holbrook
Oliver Ames struggled to find consistent offense last season and it kept the Tigers from being able to challenge Mansfield for the league title or make another run in Div. 2 South, but a healthy lineup with several key returning players has OA optimistic for improvements this winter.
The main focus will be on senior forward Kayla Raymond. The Stonehill College-commit is one of the most versatile players in the league, with the length and leaping ability to dominate in the paint and the range to step out and knock down jumpers. Raymond is listed as a forward/center but could potentially be used at multiple positions. Senior guard Abby Reardon is back to get the Tigers into their offensive sets and as one of the league’s top on-the-ball defenders. Classmate Katie Flynn also returns to give Raymond help in the post.
In addition to the seniors, junior Alex Sheldon will provide depth at the forward position and junior Sadie Homer was a dynamic scorer on the perimeter before an injury cut her season short last year. Homer was a solid three-point shooter last year and will be expected to stretch defenses again this season. Sophomore guard Meg Holleran emerged as a playmaker during her freshman campaign and could see a bigger role this year.
“OA is looking to blend some younger talent and are working hard to provide some depth in the backcourt,” said OA coach Laney Clement-Holbrook. “Looking forward to the fight for the Kelly Rex Division.”
In addition to a new coaching staff, Sharon will see a number of new faces on the roster, as several of last year’s players are focusing on other sports this winter. Former Rockland and East Bridgewater assistant Sandra Lombardi takes over for Cliff Tomassian and will have a young group to work with in her first head coaching position.
Junior small forward Emma Eberhardt is one of the returning players that will be expected to provide leadership and scoring for the Eagles. Eberhardt, a HockomockSports.com All-Underclassman Team performer last year, was Sharon’s top scorer last winter and also has the size to be a problem for opponents on the glass. She scored 16 points in Sharon’s win over Nipmuc in the season opener. Senior guard Miranda Cheung will also be back for Sharon to provide ball-handling and perimeter shooting.
Sophomore Telishya Herbert made the jump from JV to varsity midway through last season and had an instant impact on the Eagles with her athleticism and her ability to score in the paint. She had 10 points against Nipmuc and could be ready for a breakout year as Sharon’s second scorer to take some pressure off Eberhardt. Also back from last year’s roster are junior Evanjuline Elisma and sophomore Ally Brown.
Lombardi said of her new team, “We are going to be quick and aggressive. I’m excited to see what the season will bring.”
The Black Knights narrowly missed out on the postseason last year, despite having a number of underclassmen in the roster, and expectations for this season include a return to the playoffs under third-year head coach Charmaine Steele-Jordan.
Senior Val Whalen was the team’s MVP last season after leading the Black Knights with more than 13 points and nine rebounds per game. Whalen has improved every season and her intensity on defense and on the glass boosts is contagious. Stoughton is a physical team that likes to put pressure on the ball defensively and Whalen sets the tone. Senior Jordan Motley is also a tenacious rebounder and gives the Black Knights another strong presence in the paint.
Sophomore guard Shyanne Trinh had a breakout freshman campaign, scoring more than 10 points per game, and her ball-handling and long-range shooting opens things up for the post players. Fellow sophomore Aliyah Wright also had a strong rookie campaign and her size is a difficult matchup for many of the point guards in the Hock. Stoughton will also count on junior guards Lindsey McDonald and Hailey Egan and sophomore Lexi Baptista. Freshman Sydnee Hyacinthe has also been called up to add depth in the backcourt.
Steele-Jordan said of her senior forwards, “I’m looking forward to their leadership, hustle on the court and their defensive presence this year. Whalen and Motley’s veteran play along with our returning sophomores will be great for the Black Knights this season.”
2016-2017 Record: 1-21 2016-2017 Finish: Missed Postseason. Coach: Walter Harrigan
Taunton is coming off a difficult season in which the Tigers finished with just one victory, but one game into the new year and Taunton has already matched that total. The season opening win over Cumberland (R.I.) fits with the optimism around the program, as the Tigers blend youth with experience in the hopes of making a run at a playoff spot.
The Tigers will be led by senior forwards Hannah Moniz and Mackenzie Handrahan, who combined for 26 points in the win at Cumberland and provide a mix of rebounding, scoring at the rim, and outside shooting to balance the Taunton offense. Junior Lily Patneaude also returns from an all-star season and is Taunton’s most dynamic scorer with range from well beyond the arc. Junior Alexa White is another guard that will provide solid contributions on both ends of the floor.
Junior Shantel Andrew, a 5-foot-7 forward, is expected to be a significant contributor this season, after missing two years with knee injuries. As usual, Taunton has plenty of youth on the roster with four freshmen making varsity, a couple of whom got playing experience last year as eighth graders. Forwards Jaelyn and Sonya Fernandez and guards Kelsey White and Tori DaRosa are going to be counted on to play big roles this year for the Tigers.
Taunton coach Walter Harrigan said, “Our goal for this year is to continue to work hard while focusing on the development of good habits which will hopefully lead to team improvement and a trip to the state tournament.”
STOUGHTON, Mass. – The home team just would not go away. Despite trailing by double digits in the fourth quarter against Davenport division-leading North Attleboro, which came in with only one loss on the season, Stoughton continued to fight and twice cut the lead to as little as six points.
There was no panic on the North bench. With four seniors in the starting lineup and eight players returning from last season’s trip to the state title, the Rocketeers have plenty of experience in close games on the road.
Senior Ashley Ahern scored five of her team-high 17 points and dished out an assist for a Julia Feid three, as North went on a 10-0 run to put the game away late. The Rocketeers continued their unbeaten start to the league campaign with a 59-47 and extended their lead in the division to 1-1/2 games over Milford and Foxboro.
“We had a lot of these games last year and they’ve learned from them,” said North coach Derek Herber. “They’ve learned all the bad things that can happen and they persevere and hit the tough shots, get the big rebounds and go from there.”
North led 43-34 heading into the fourth quarter, but after Feid knocked down a pair of free throws to put the Rocketeers ahead by double digits freshman Shyanne Trinh (six points) drilled a three off a Val Whalen assist. On the next possession, Lili Njiem, Stoughton’s lone senior in the regular rotation, snagged an offensive rebound (her 12th rebound of the game) and laid it in to cut the lead to six.
Caroline Collard (12 points, 10 rebounds) hit a pair from the line, but freshman Aliyah Wright (11 points, nine rebounds) answered right back for the Black Knights with a drive to the basket. After a turnover, Jordan Motley (19 rebounds) had a chance to cut it to four, but her free throws would not fall.
North got the rebound and took control. Samantha Taggart hit Collard on a roll to the basket for a layup, then Ahern drew the defense and kicked out to Feid for a three in front of the North bench. Julia Santos kicked out to Ahern for a deep three and then she added a pair from the line to push the advantage back to 16.
“They are veteran and they’re solid and they’re tough and they win close games,” said Stoughton coach Charmaine Steele Jordan about North. “They got it done.”
There was plenty for the Stoughton coach to be proud of on Friday night. The Black Knights played with intensity from the opening tip, dominated on the glass, and kept the Rocketeers off-balance on the offensive end of the floor.
Steele Jordan said, “I as impressed with their effort and their intensity. They really played hard. There’s a lot of winnable games in the Hock and we just have to believe that we can get it done.”
North jumped out to a lead in the first quarter, showing off the team’s depth. The Rocketeers would have eight players on the scoresheet in the game, including junior Emily Haskell, who scored all four of her points in the first to help out North ahead 14-8. Trinh hit a three at the buzzer to cut the lead in half going to the second.
Thanks to four points apiece from Ahern and Collard and contributions off the bench from Santos and senior Liz Morehouse (six points), North extended the lead to 10 by halftime.
“She brings energy all the time,” said Herber of Morehouse. “She does so many little things for us, the rebounding, the boxing out, the taking a charge. She’s one of those kids who knows what we need to get out of her and she knows her role and plays it the best.”
Stoughton hung around in the third and kept the deficit to single digits thanks largely to the play of Whalen. The junior forward put in a monster performance, pulling down 23 rebounds on the night and scoring 15 of her game-high 20 points after the break, including nine in the third quarter alone.
“She just goes so hard,” said Steele Jordan of Whalen. “She’s a workhorse and she gives me effort every night. She’s definitely progressed a lot from last year to this year. She’s got that mentality that I can compete in the Hock and I’m one of the best post players. I love that about her.”
Njiem added a three in the third and Wright had four points in the quarter, but North kept a solid lead thanks to its seniors. Ahern had five, Collard had four and Morehouse and Emily Schromm each had three in the period.
Stoughton never backed down, but in the end North made the plays to come out with the win. Herber explained, “We knew going in that it was going to be one of those games. We play the same style of basketball they do, slow it down, make it a little ugly, play good defense, rebound and get opportunistic offense.
“We were able to get some offensive looks off our press and pull it out.”
Steele Jordan added about the Black Knights, “I couldn’t be prouder to coach them and I keep telling them we can do this. There’s still a ton of season left. They’re starting to buy into it and that’s important when you’re young.”
North Attleboro (8-1) travels to Cranston East on Saturday and then will take on the two teams tied for second in the Davenport, starting with Milford on Tuesday. Stoughton (1-7) will look for its first league win of the season on Tuesday against Sharon.
ATTLEBORO, Mass. – Before Friday night’s game, last year’s league MVP Emily Houle was honored for reaching the 1,000-point plateau and had her name added to the gym’s banner. Once the game tipped off all eyes were a current MVP candidate as she went in search of the same milestone.
While much of the focus from the fans, and from the Stoughton defense, was on Attleboro senior forward Sarah Deyo, who came into the game needing 36 points to reach 1,000 for her career, the Bombardiers showed that they have other weapons to give opponents problems.
Led by a game-high 14 points from senior Julia Strachan, Attleboro had four players reach double digits and saw 10 players record at least a single point in an emphatic 65-35 victory over Stoughton. Deyo finished with 10 points and 20 rebounds on the night, leaving her 26 points short of the milestone.
“Even last year, we had the ‘big three’ and this year people are saying the ‘big three’ again but we think we have another three that can do that on any given night,” said Attleboro coach Rick Patch. He added, “We don’t even play polished basketball and we still win by 30.”
Stoughton jumped out to a 3-0 lead on early free throws and after a Jordan Motley layup led again at 5-3, but Attleboro took over and went on a 24-2 run to seemingly take control of the game. The Bombardiers knocked down four shots from beyond the arc in the opening quarter with Jordyn Lako (11 points and eight rebounds), Mish Logie (six points and six assists), Sam Pierce (11 points and six rebounds) and Strachan each knocking down one.
“For us it’s mentally we have to decide that we’re not going to let anyone outwork us,” said second-year Stoughton coach Charmaine Steele Jordan. “The threes they got early were uncontested. Our hands were down and we’ve got to keep improving being long on defense.”
The Attleboro run continued in the second with Lako scoring off a Logie assist then feeding freshman Nyah Thomas for a layup. A Deyo putback and another Strachan three had the Bombardiers ahead 27-7 and forced a Stoughton timeout.
The Black Knights got themselves back into it after the breather. Motley (four points and 11 rebounds) got a putback basket and freshman Aliyah Wrightdrilled a three. Another three from senior Lili Njiem and a layup for freshman Shyanne Trinh (team-high 12 points) cut the lead to just 12. Deyo hit a corner three to stem the comeback, but the Black Knights were down just 13 heading into halftime.
“We were disappointed with the last three- or 3-1/2-minute stretch,” said Patch. “We made an emphasis at that point to call out the entire team for the effort and having the bench more engaged. When they’re in you really can’t skip a beat.”
The Bombardiers heeded the coaching staff’s message and put the game away in a dominant third quarter. Attleboro outscored Stoughton 19-2 in the third, held the Black Knights without a point for the first 6:30 of the half and extended the lead to 30 points heading to the fourth.
“We kept them to one-and-done and kind of dictated the play and put them in positions not to get great looks,” Patch explained. “None of them were layups.”
While the trapping defense of Attleboro certainly played its part against a very young Stoughton lineup that features three freshmen, four sophomores, and just two seniors, Steele Jordan also saw the Black Knights miss some looks that could have kept them in the game.
“We missed a lot of shots,” she said. “We had open threes that didn’t fall for us. We’ve just got to keep getting to the rim.”
Deyo got another rebound and putback to start it and then Strachan, who transferred from North Attleboro last winter but injured her knee in the third game and missed the rest of the 2015-16 season, knocked down a jumper. Pierce buried a three and freshman Liv McCall hit one as well to help Attleboro pull away. Lauren Berteletti had the lone bucket in the third for Stoughton.
In the fourth, Attleboro continued to pile on, eventually getting the lead to as many as 36 points. One of the question marks for the Bombardiers coming into the season was who would run the point for them and Patch credited Logie for working hard to make that position hers.
“This year she’s in much better shape,” he said. “We’ve demanded of her to shoot her shot. Last year she was very tentative but she’s much more confident.”
Stoughton’s biggest bright spot on Friday was the play of Trinh. Despite missing a large portion of the game due to foul trouble, she stepped up in the fourth quarter with seven of her 12 points, including a three and a runner in the lane. Steele Jordan admits it will be a steep learning curve for her young roster (especially with Oliver Ames and Attleboro as the opening two games) but she is still confident in the Black Knights’ potential.
“I’m excited for my whole team,” she said. “Everyone brings something different. Shyanne was bright spot and she works hard for us. There’s a lot of season left and we’re just going to keep grinding it out.”