Second Half Push Nets Stoughton Playoff Win

Stoughton girls basketball
Freshman Sydnee Hyacinthe scored a team-high 10 points to help Stoughton to a first round win against Dighton-Rehoboth. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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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.

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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.”

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Stoughton Edges Canton On Last Second Motley Winner

Stoughton girls basketball
Stoughton forward Jordan Motley (35) capped her senior night by scoring on a rebound with four seconds remaining to lift Stoughton to a win over Canton. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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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.

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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.

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.

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Stoughton On Brink of Tourney After KP Win

Stoughton girls basketball
Stoughton freshman Sydnee Hyacinthe (4) had a big night on the perimeter to help the Black Knights move within one win of clinching a tournament berth. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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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.

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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.

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Whalen Double-Double Earns Stoughton Win at North

Stoughton girls basketball
Stoughton senior forward Val Whalen (14) scored 19 points and pulled down 19 rebounds to help the Black Knights earn their first league win of the season. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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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.

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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.

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2017-2018 Hockomock Girls Basketball Preview

2017-2018 Hockomock Girls Basketball Preview
The girls’ basketball season is about to tip off and we’ve got capsules for each of the 12 teams that are looking to bring home Kelley-Rex and Davenport division titles. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

By HockomockSports.com Staff

2017-2018 Hockomock Girls Basketball Preview

Attleboro

2016-2017 Record: 16-8
2016-2017 Finish: Reached D1 South Quarterfinal
Coach: Marty Crowley

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.”

Canton

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!”

Foxboro

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.”

Franklin

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

2016-2017 Record: 7-13
2016-2017 Finish: Missed postseason.
Coach: Amy Siggens

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.”

Mansfield

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.”

Milford

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.”

North Attleboro

2016-2017 Record: 18-7
2016-2017 Finish: Reached Div. 2 South Quarterfinal.
Coach: Derek Herber

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.”

Oliver Ames

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.”

Sharon

2016-2017 Record: 6-14
2016-2017 Finish: Missed Postseason.
Coach: Sandra Lombardi

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.”

Stoughton

2016-2017 Record: 8-10
2016-2017 Finish: Missed Postseason.
Coach: Charmaine Steele-Jordan

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.”

Taunton

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.”

Experienced Rocketeers Hold Off Stoughton

“North
North Attleboro senior Ashley Ahern (13) scored a team-high 17 points, including 10 in the second half as North pulled out a win at Stoughton. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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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.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

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.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Balanced Bombardiers Put Knights Away In Second Half

Attleboro girls basketball
Senior forward Julia Strachan (20) scored a game-high 14 points to lead four Bombardiers in double figures in a 30-point win for Attleboro against Stoughton. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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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.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

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.”

Attleboro (2-0) will travel to Sharon on Tuesday night, while Stoughton (0-2) continues its very difficult stretch by hosting Mansfield.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Girls Basketball: 2016-17 Davenport Division Preview

2016-2017 Davenport Girls Basketball Preview
Shannon Smally (15) of Foxboro and Val Whalen (14) of Stoughton battle in the post in one of last season’s Davenport division meetings. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

By HockomockSports.com Staff

2016-2017 Davenport Girls Basketball Preview

CANTON

2015-16 Record: 6-14 (3-13)
2015-16 Finish: Missed playoffs
Head Coach: Jim Choquette

The Bulldogs continue to add to the program both on the court and on the bench with former Canton and UMass Boston star Olivia Murphy joining the coaching staff this season to help out with the freshman team. It is a sign of the continued growth of the program under head coach Jim Choquette, who is hoping that the momentum built at the end of last season will carry over to this year.

Senior forward Emma Murphy returns after a league all-star season and will be joined on the front line by returning starters senior Casey Shea and juniorHannah Jerrier, who was an honorable mention for all-star last winter. Adding depth on the front line will be sophomore forwards Molly Ludwig and Erin Devine, who lacks inexperience but adds significant height.

Jess Powers is recovering from an injury suffered during lacrosse season and her return will add more scoring punch to a deep and quick backcourt group. Sophomore Julia Hamilton is back to run the point for the Bulldogs and will be joined by classmate Maggie Connolly, junior Lindsey Barrett, senior Taylor Carrington, and junior twins Lillian and Evelyn Carrington. This group will allow Canton to keep defensive pressure high all game long.

“Our strengths will be scrappy defense and rebounding on both ends,” said Choquette. “our goal is to improve each game and be playing our best headed into the last part of the season…the faster we find chemistry the faster we’ll find the win column.”

FOXBORO

2015-16 Record: 15-7 (11-5)
2015-16 Finish: Reached Div. 2 South quarterfinal
Head Coach: Lisa Downs

Despite a lot of youth in the lineup, Foxboro has been one of the top teams in the Davenport division for several seasons and this year should be no different, as the Warriors enter the winter with very high expectations and as one of the favorites for the league title.

A lot of the interest in the Warriors stems from the continued development of junior point guard Ashley Sampson, who has turned into one of the best all-around guards in the Hockomock and is the player that the Foxboro offense flows through. Sampson has plenty of help in the backcourt with classmate Lily Sykes, who offers scoring from the perimeter, and seniors Lauren Flahive, Riley Collins (back after an injury), and Hailey Maling, who are all strong on the ball defenders.

In the front court, Kristen Bortolotti is back after missing last year with an injury and will add speed and a strong mid-range game. Junior Grace Tamulionis is another matchup nightmare for the opposition with her size on the boards and on defense and her ability to step outside and shoot the three. Junior Shannon Smally continues to improve and gives the Warriors an inside presence, while newcomers Chelsea Gibbons and Abby Hassmancould make big contributions for the Warriors.

“The girls have been playing together throughout the summer and fall and this familiarity should work to our benefit this season,” said head coach Lisa Downs. “We will continue to focus on our running game and our defensive efforts and I am fortunate to have the players that not only buy into this system, but, also appreciate this pace.”

MILFORD

2015-16 Record: 9-11 (5-11)
2015-16 Finish: Missed playoffs
Head Coach: T.J. Dolliver

After missing out on a playoff spot by one game a season ago under first-year head coach T.J. Dolliver, Milford enters this winter with high hopes of making the leap into the postseason with a deep and versatile roster that has gained a lot of experience together over the past few seasons.

The enthusiasm for the Hawks begins with dynamic junior point guard Kate Irwin, who has shown the ability to get to the basket at will, draw defenses to get open looks for her teammates and also be a pesky on the ball defender. With Irwin creating open shots, junior Emily Piergustavo’s return after missing last year with an injury will be a big boost on the perimeter along with senior guard Jill Burley.

Milford will also have plenty of players to contribute on the glass and in the paint. Senior Nicole Dahlgren, a two-year captain, is a strong rebounder but can also step out and hit threes as can junior Jess Tomaso. Five-foot-8 senior Christine Pye, 5-foot-11 junior Gillian Valanzola, 5-foot-8 senior Emma Liskov, and 5-foot-10 Juliana Tracy give Milford an imposing group of front line players.

“These girls have been playing together for a while and their team chemistry is amazing,” said Dolliver. “We are starting to learn the minor details of offense and defense in order to give our team a better chance of success.”

NORTH ATTLEBORO

2015-16 Record: 11-10 (9-7)
2015-16 Finish: Reached Div. 2 South tournament
Head Coach: Derek Herber

The Rocketeers head into their first season in the Davenport division with eight returning players from last year’s team that was two points away from a first round victory in the Div. 2 South tournament against Hock rival Oliver Ames.

Senior Ashley Ahern is a three-year starter at guard and was the team’s leading scorer last winter. Ahern will be the player that gets the offense going, but she will get plenty of help from her classmates, Emily Schromm and Samantha Taggart. Schromm was one of the top defenders in the league and can stretch a defense with her outside shooting and Taggart can play all three guard positions and led North in assists last year. In the paint, senior Caroline Collard is the team’s leading rebounder and showed a soft touch around the basket.

North can also look for improvements from sophomore Julia Feid, who got valuable minutes as a rookie last year, senior Liz Morehouse, who adds depth in the post, and juniors Julia Santos, who both brought athleticism off the bench at the wing positions. Sophomore forward Mackenzie Roberts is a newcomer who adds size and outside shooting and junior Emily Pastore can step in at all three guard positions.

The Rocketeers have plenty of experience on the roster and will be one of the favorites for the league title at the beginning of the season. While head coach Derek Herber can count on a number of returning players, he hopes to “mix in a few new faces into the lineup to help with depth.”

SHARON

2015-16 Record: 5-15 (3-13)
2015-16 Finish: Missed playoffs
Head Coach: Cliff Tomassian

Sharon is another team that has been building with youth and has created a lot of depth on its roster and, despite losing three of its top four scorers from last winter, has garnered preseason hype as a potential sleeper to make a return to the postseason for the first time since the Eagles made a run to the Div. 2 South final in 2013.

The Eagles will be hoping for an improvement on the offensive side of the ball, which was a challenge at times last winter. Junior point guard Shira Stoller, a three-year starter, is continuing to improve at limiting turnovers and looking for her own shot as well as setting up teammates. One of the players that benefits from Stoller’s ability to get into the lane is sophomore Emma Eberhardt, who was third on the team in points as a rookie and continues to develop into a consistent wing scorer.

Sophomore Veronica Wallace has emerged as one of the top backcourt defenders during the preseason and is one of the fastest players on the Sharon roster. Senior Ana Crosby, who is also a standout on the soccer and lacrosse fields, is another player that is continuing to improve and will have an increased role this season. Freshman Kaitlyn Wallace is a newcomer to watch and could have a bigger role to play over the course of the year.

“Our defense is going to have to be our key in order to compete, and our girls know that,” said third-year coach Cliff Tomassian. “We get our best looks on offense off of great defensive stands. Our girls are going to have to be patient and vigilant on both ends and be ready to take chances.”

STOUGHTON

2015-16 Record: 7-11 (7-9)
2015-16 Finish: Missed playoffs
Head Coach: Charmaine Steele Jordan

The Black Knights lost six seniors to graduation but this offers plenty of opportunities for a new crop of younger players to get playing time and learn the system of second-year head coach, and former Stoughton star, Charmaine Steele Jordan.

Two of the players that will be counted on most this season are junior forwards Val Whalen and Jordan Motley, who are two of the best rebounders in the league and can also get out on the break and score in transition. Their development in the half-court offense will be a key for Stoughton making a playoff push in the Davenport division this season. Senior Lili Njiem is another player that could make a big impact, as one of the team’s three captains.

The Black Knights will have as many senior as freshmen on this year’s roster (three) along with four sophomores and three juniors, so the foundation for the future is in place. Shyanne Trinh, Lexi Baptista, and Aliyah Wright are the three newcomers to the program who will be hoping to make an instant impact.

“So excited for the upcoming season,” said Steele Jordan. “We lost six seniors so there is lots of opportunity for our players to step up. Our returnees from last year will contribute for us despite being pretty young.”

North Gets Past Offensive Struggles to Beat Stoughton

Caroline Collard
North Attleboro struggled offensively at times, but found enough points, led By Caroline Collard’s nine, to beat Stoughton. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

Josh Perry

NORTH ATTLEBORO, Mass. – Offense was in short supply in the Kenneth Pickering Gym on Tuesday night, as for long stretches North Attleboro and Stoughton looked like there was a lid over both baskets.

In the end, the home team had just enough spurts of scoring coupled with a strong defensive effort to hold off the Black Knights and pull out a 45-26 victory that puts the Rocketeers within one win from clinching a spot in the state tournament.

The game was essentially decided in the first half. North Attleboro ran out to a 13-1 lead after the first quarter with five players getting on the board, including Ashley Ahern who scored five of her seven points on the night.

It did not get much better in the second. With 4:22 remaining in the half, Stoughton had the lone point of the quarter on a free throw by Ava Seigel, who also scored the Black Knights’ lone point of the first. With 3:07 left in the half, Stoughton got its first field goal on a jumper by Sarah Quattrucci to cut the lead to 10.

“I think we were a little hurried, a little anxious,” said Stoughton coach Charmaine Steele Jordan. “We only scored four points in the first half, so everyone is anxious to score and you’re doing things faster than you normally would.”

North put together a 9-0 run to close out the first half with all nine points coming in the final three minutes of the second. Caroline Collard (team-high nine points) knocked down three straight free throws and then the lid lifted for a couple of minutes to allow Emily Haskell and Julia Feid to knock down threes for their only points of the game.

“Right now, we play great defense, rebound, and just can’t score a basket,” said North coach Derek Herber. “I think we get a little frustrated because we’re not scoring.”

He continued, “The kids work really hard, just right now we got through those stretches where we have to hang our hat on defense and try to hang in…but we do need to get a little better on offense, more efficient.”

Stoughton came out of halftime and scored as many points in the opening 1:55 of the third quarter as it did in the entire first half.

“They fight,” said Steele Jordan. “We talked about that at halftime. It’s a clean slate; we’re not going to get it all back at once, but lets start in the third quarter and chip away. They just ran out of gas.”

Senior Alecia Quinones, who came in as the league’s leading scorer, suddenly found her groove driving to the basket and scored all of her game-high 11 points in the quarter and got the Black Knight as close as 12 twice.

Steele Jordan added, “We brought it to within 12 but we got shaky at our point guard position and when we’d turn it over they’d score or I felt like they got a million second chance opportunities. And the ball didn’t go in the basket and you need that too.”

Herber said, “Quinones is a matchup nightmare. You try to put a guard on her and she goes in the post and you put a post player out there and you’ve got some issues.”

North answered again. Emily Schromm picked up a steal and took it the length of the floor for a layup and Liz Morehouse came off the bench to score in the paint. Collard hit two free throws and then Samantha Taggart scored four quick points to end the quarter and send the Rocketeers to the fourth up by 16 (35-19).

The Rocketeers were like a boxer who knows when the end of the round is coming and always seemed to put together the spurt they needed to extend the lead.

Herber explained, “We can feed off of that defense and we can put in those runs. When we do find it then we can score some points, but it’s when we do find it.”

After Jordan Motley opened the fourth with a basket, Collard scored plus the foul and Schromm (six points) added a pair of layups to extend the lead out to 21.

Stoughton could not keep up with the Rocketeers offensively, but did hold its own on the boards. In a game with plenty of rebounds to be had, Val Whalen pulled down a game-high 16 and Motley added 10. North was led by senior Emily Peters who snagged 13 rebounds, while Collard had 11, Kiersten Bixby had nine and Haskell grabbed eight.

“They’re the team that’s most like us in the post,” said Herber. about the battle on the glass. “They’ve got three or four bodies that can go in there and they bang and there’s no one afraid of going in there.”

Stoughton will try to find its shooting touch before the visit of Canton on Friday. The Black Knights still need two wins to qualify for the postseason and Steele Jordan is confident the team will be able to put Tuesday night’s struggles behind it.

“They work hard, they fight, and I couldn’t be happier with where we are right now in the season.,” she said. “They all want it and I know they’ll be ready to go back to the drawing board tomorrow.”

Stoughton (7-6, 7-5) will be at Canton on Friday, while North Attleboro (9-5, 8-4) will be at Attleboro.

Josh Perry can be contacted at JoshPerry@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @Josh_Perry10.

Historic Night as OA Coach Sets New Career Mark

Laney Clement-Holbrook
Laney Clement-Holbrook hugs captains Sam Bamford and Kaitlyn McCarthy after setting a new Massachusetts girls’ basketball record with her 634th career victory. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

By Josh Perry, Managing Editor

NORTH EASTON, Mass. – She had tried so hard to hide the milestone, trying to keep it secret from her team, so that the players would not be worried about her looming record and could focus on continuing a league-leading start to the season.

Clearly, her attempts to hide it had failed, as signs adorned with ”634” started to filter through the Oliver Ames crowd like contraband, during the final minutes of Tuesday night’s 40-27 victory over King Philip. The printed signs, joined the multitude of homemade posters and even a giant photo.

As the clock ticked down and the win was assured, the crowd rose to its feet, roaring for the now winningest coach in Massachusetts girls’ basketball history. When the buzzer sounded, the intense scowl slowly disappeared and Laney Clement-Holbrook finally allowed herself to smile.

With Tuesday’s win, No. 634 in a career that stretches back 40 years (all with the Tigers), Clement-Holbrook eclipsed the previous career record held by another Bridgewater State alum, Vi Goodnow, who won 633 games in 40-plus seasons at Frontier Regional.

“It’s incomprehensible to me currently,” said Clement-Holbrook after the official on-court festivities had ended and she had a moment to speak with her team in the locker room.

She explained that while she knew Goodnow as a BSU graduate, she was unaware of the record or how close she was to it. She only discovered it after searching MassHoops.com to see if the site had put former star player Lauren Battista in its Hall of Fame.

“I was totally clueless,” she said. “I had no idea. If I hadn’t been snooping to make sure that LB got her just desserts, I would not even have known about it.”

In the past two weeks, as the record neared, news broke and the countdown began for staff, administration, and for players, which was something that Clement-Holbrook tried not to burden her team with.

“It wasn’t fair to them to be concerned about me because that’s the lesson you try to teach kids about a team – it’s not about any one individual,” she remarked. “It’s not about me; it’s a celebration of all of them. I’m just lucky, I landed in the right spot.”

Senior captain Samantha Bamford admitted that there was some pressure on the players entering Tuesday, especially with a packed house of alumni, including former players from all four decades of Clement-Holbrook’s career.

“We were a little shook up in the beginning because we had a lot going on in this game,” said Bamford. “There were a lot of tweets and stuff and then we found out the game before, but we tried not to focus on it.”

“We just couldn’t be more happy for her.”

Over the course of 40 years spent in one program and in one league, Clement-Holbrook has become a living legend but as Mansfield coach Mike Redding said, “You measure yourself against her teams. OA has been the consistent measure of whether or not you’re doing well as a program in the Hockomock and in Eastern Mass.”

Redding has coached against Clement-Holbrook for more than a decade and in fact has coached against her longer than any other coach in the league. He also married one of Clement-Holbrook’s former players and he joked that when the Hornets face OA he is unsure for which team his wife is cheering.

“She’s such a class act on and off the court,” Redding said of Clement-Holbrook. “It’s more about the people than the Xs and Os.”

Last year, Redding hit a milestone of his own when he recorded his 200th career win, but he could only laugh when asked to put that in context with 634. He said, “Six hundred and thirty-four is beyond my imagination.”

On Friday, OA will travel to Stoughton and face first-year head coach Charmaine Steele Jordan, who is looking forward to her first battle of wits on the sidelines with Clement-Holbrook after playing against the Tigers for four years as one of the Black Knights’ all-time leading scorers.

“I’m excited to experience that again because for me as a player it was the one game on the schedule that I was really amped up for,” said Steele Jordan.

“The kids have great fundamentals, they respond, they can be coached and I think she does a great job putting effort into Easton basketball. Kids want to go there; they want to play there… Her fieriness and her passion for the game…I think her players really feed off that.”

Do not ask Clement-Holbrook to tell you about the first game that she won. She does not remember. She cannot remember the opponent, the score, or how the game went, simply that the Tigers came out on top.

She remembers the players though and many of them have stayed in touch for the past 40 years. One word keeps coming up when talking about the program and what has made the Tigers successful for so many years – family.

“She’s a mentor to all of us,” said senior captain Kailtyn McCarthy. “She puts her life into this program and we’re her family. She just loves us so much and it’s nice because we look up to her and she’s been there for us no matter what.”

In the preseason, Bamford was struggling as her father was hospitalized after an accident in his home (she said he is doing much better now) and Clement-Holbrook was there visiting the family in the hospital and allowing Bamford to miss practices to be with her family.

“She gets to know you really personally,” said Bamford. “ She’s just an amazing person and she tries to reach out and help everyone and she understands if something is going on in your life…I couldn’t be more thankful for that.”

“I’ve been getting text messages all day long from kids that played for me in all the decades,” Clement-Holbrook remarked. “They’re like my family. From my perspective, I love them like they’re my own kids,” and then she smiled and added, “The only good thing is I didn’t have to take them home.”

When asked if some of the pressure was off now that the milestone had been reached, she quipped, “It’s a big deal. I’m going to be able to sleep now because I’m looking…a little ragged around the edges.”

When anyone thinks of Oliver Ames basketball, the two state championships, the eight 1,000-point scorers, the numerous league titles, there is always one name associated with thoseachievements, as much as she may hope to pass the attention on to others.

“It wouldn’t be the right thing to focus on that because that’s not we’re about here,” she said. “You walk into that gym and you see the banners on the wall and you know there’s a lot of pride and tradition here and it’s really important to all of us.”

“It’s not about me; it’s a celebration of all of them. I’m just lucky, I landed in the right spot.”

Oliver Ames basketball can count itself lucky too.

Laney Clement-Holbrook made her way down the hallway and back out onto the court to greet the dozens of alumni, friends, family, youth players, school staff, and former classmates who all waited for one more chance to say congratulations to a legend.

Josh Perry can be contacted at JoshPerry@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @Josh_Perry10.