Attleboro Holds On For Close Win Over Franklin

Attleboro boys basketball Evan Houle
Attleboro junior Evan Houle (1) looks to dribble past Franklin senior Zach Harvey. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
 
 ATTLEBORO, Mass. – In most games, it was a run that normally wouldn’t make headlines.

But in Tuesday night’s contest between Attleboro and Franklin, with points more valuable than GameStop’s stock, an 8-0 run in the fourth quarter from the hosts made all the difference.

Attleboro boys basketball

Attleboro senior Alec Eaton hit back-to-back three-pointers and junior Evan Houle added a jumper as the Bombardiers turned a four-point deficit into a four-point lead in the fourth quarter, an advantage they never relinquished — though it was close — in a 42-40 win over Franklin.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Franklin made it a one-point game, 39-38, with just under a minute to go before Attleboro senior Justin Daniels (10 points, four rebounds) hit a pair of free throws. The Bombardiers’ edge grew by one, 42-38, after Daniels sank another from the line following a Franklin turnover.

Franklin got a second chance after a miss when Zach Harvey grabbed an offensive rebound and kicked it to Andrew Byfield (12 points) for a long two (his foot was on the line) to make it 42-40 but there was just 3.4 seconds left.

The Bombardiers tried to kill the clock with a long pass down court but the ball slipped and went out of bounds, giving the Panthers one final chance. Without a timeout, Franklin ran a play for a contested three that was just off the mark and the off-balance putback attempt also missed as Attleboro held on.

“I think the message is that every possession matters in a game like that,” said Attleboro head coach Mark Houle. “We had a couple of executions of plays and some good finishes we had in the second half and I think that was the difference.

Attleboro boys basketball

“[The 8-0 run] was the turning point when Alec his those two threes. That gave us the lead that we able to hold onto for the rest of the game.”










A back-and-forth first quarter saw the Bombardiers and Panthers combine for 30 points, the latter holding a slim 16-14 lead through eight minutes. With a total of seven three-pointers, it looked like the table was set for a barn-burner type game.

But instead, it was the total opposite. From the start of the second quarter, it turned into a game of stops instead of runs.

Defense shined in the middle quarters for both teams. A clean look at the basket became harder to come by than predicting the snow total from a New England winter storm. The teams combined for a total of just six points in the second quarter, going a combined 3-for-24 from the floor.

“Extremely frustrating,” said Franklin head coach CJ Neely. “I thought we had a lot of really good looks. To score 40 points and feel like you got a lot of good looks is a weird thing to say but it felt like we had our opportunities to extend our lead or make some shots that could have put us in a good position to win the game but unfortunately, we just didn’t finish. I know our shooting percentage wasn’t pretty. [Attleboro] played hard, they did a good job, they are a physical team that plays really hard. Hopefully we can make more looks on Thursday.”

While each offense found a little bit more rhythm in the third, both sides were limited to single-digit scoring once again. Byfield had half of the Panthers’ eight points, including a breakaway left-handed slam after a steal near midcourt. Attleboro’s Evan Houle (10 points) hit a three with less than a minute to bring his team within one, 26-25, going into the fourth. It was the first made three from either team since the first quarter.

Attleboro boys basketball

“We know [Franklin] is going to come in here and defend,” Houle said. “That’s a well-coached team and they are going to be tough on defense from start to finish. I thought we matched them on defense for a little while too. I give my guys credits for defending tonight, there were some times we had some lapses on some slips where they got some good looks that we have to work on. But I thought we battled hard on the inside. I thought both Jake Struminski and Chris Holcomb came in and played well for us. Those two guys played hard and made an impact in the game.”




Franklin seemed to grab the momentum to start the fourth, scoring on back-to-back possessions as Jake O’Brien (13 points, 10 rebounds) converted a pass from Ben Harvey, and senior Declan Walmsley (15 points, nine rebounds) knocked down a three. Two plays later, Harvey came up with a steal and O’Brien converted a putback, and the Panthers, who didn’t attempt a free throw in the game, had the momentum and a 33-29 lead.

After a timeout, the Bombardiers came out and hit the most important shot of the game. A skip pass from Houle found Eaton alone in the corner and he buried a three to make it a one-point game. Struminski gobbled up a rebound after a Franklin miss and this time Eaton took a nice pass from Alvin Harrison and drained another three, this from the opposite corner.

The Bombardiers got a stop after the Panthers used up nearly the entire shot clock. On the other end, Houle drove to his left and pulled up for a 10-footer with four seconds on the shot clock to make it 37-33 with three minutes to play.

“It doesn’t seem like much at first but that’s a lot in a game like this,” Neely said of the 8-0 run. “We helped off of a shooter when I didn’t think we needed to and credit to them, they did a good job skipping it over the top finding him and he made them.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

“I think the frustration built a little bit inside the guys. Instead of moving on to the next play, it seemed like they were worried about the last miss they had instead of making the next shot. We have to be tougher than that mentally and be better than that.”

Walmsley made his second three of the quarter to make it a one-point game with just under two minutes to go. Daniels hit two from the line but O’Brien drove to the rim to make it 39-38, setting up the frantic finish.

Franklin (4-5 Kelley-Rex, 4-5 overall) will try to snap its current skid when it hosts the Bombardiers (5-2, 7-2) in a rematch on Thursday.

Attleboro boys basketball

Mansfield Rides Second Half Rally Past Franklin

Mansfield boys basketball Jack Colby
Mansfield senior Jack Colby is defended by Franklin’s Jake O’Brien in the second half. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
 MANSFIELD, Mass. – For nearly three quarters, the Franklin boys basketball was following its gameplay to near perfection.

The Panthers were sharing the ball on offense, cutting to the basket, and hitting open looks from outside. And the defense was on point too, keeping the Hockomock League’s leading scorer Matt Boen in check for over 20 minutes.

But as the visitors learned the hard way, anything short of a full 32-minute performance isn’t enough to beat the Hornets.

Mansfield boys basketball

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Franklin’s double-digit second half lead evaporated, shrinking over the final minutes of the third quarter and disappearing by the midway point of the fourth. Instead, it was Mansfield who walked away with a double-digit victory, 60-50, behind a big second half turnaround.

There wasn’t much separating the teams throughout the first half but a pair of late threes had the Panthers up 32-24 at the halftime break. Franklin added two more from downtown range in the opening minutes of the third and suddenly, what was once a back-and-forth game that featured lead change after lead change, was looking like a runaway win for the Panthers up 42-27 at the midway point of the third.

“I just thought we had to exert ourselves a little bit on both ends of the court,” offered Mansfield head coach Mike Vaughan.

It started with defense as the Hornets held the visitors without points for nearly five minutes. In fact, Mansfield allowed just two points over the final five minutes of the third quarter. And with stops on the defensive end came some confidence on the offensive end.










Boen got the offense going with a floater from the baseline and senior Brendan Foley had an easy layup after a nice back cut. After two more free throws from Boen, junior Matt Hyland (14 points, five rebounds) hit a big three and junior Chris Hill had a nice take to the rim.

Boen capped Mansfield’s 13-2 run by hitting both of his chances from the free throw line and just like that, the deficit was just four, 44-40, going into the fourth. Mansfield went 19-of-25 from the line while Franklin was 4-of-6.

Mansfield boys basketball

“It helped they missed some shots that they didn’t miss in the first half,” Vaughan added. “They shot the ball really well, they did some things to put ourselves in some bad situations. Historically I like to give Franklin credit for their defense but [on offense] they put us in some situations that don’t normally get put in with their cutting and their movement, they were really committed to it. And I don’t think it was a lack of effort as much as really good design by them. And they hit shots to follow it.”

Franklins seemed to shake off the Hornets’ run when senior Andrew Byfield scored down low and freshman Henry Digiorgio had a big steal that ended up with a free throw. But by this point, Mansfield was in a rhythm as Jack Colby (12 points, nine rebounds) hit two free throws after a big defensive board and Boen tied the game with five minutes to go with a triple.

Mansfield got a stop and Boen, who was limited to just five points on 3-of-3 shooting in the first half, drained another triple to put the hosts ahead. Byfield answered with a putback on one end but Colby corralled an offensive rebound on the other end, completing a traditional three-point play after being fouled on the putback.

“We have to be consistent throughout the game,” said Franklin head coach CJ Neely. “Everything we did to get that lead went out the window when they started to make that run. Honestly, I didn’t think we handled it well mentally…we started doing things that were out of character, different from what we were doing in the first half…the ball movement, the patience, the sharing the basketball, following the scout defensively…instead we started to press a little bit trying to make plays instead of letting it come to us. We had a very specific plan defensively and I thought we got away from that and they got free.”

Mansfield boys basketball

Franklin shot 46% from the field (11-of-24) in the first half but managed just seven makes (7-of-28) in the second half, including just 2-of-12 from three-point range.

Another Franklin miss allowed Mansfield to get out and run and Boen attacked the rim for two, and following a Franklin turnover, it was two more points for the senior guard for a 57-50 lead with just over two minutes to go.

“I thought we tried to make up their entire run on one possession,” Neely said. “We knew they’d make some plays but instead of buckling down when it happened, it seemed like we started to panic a bit and take shots that were uncharacteristic to what was giving us success. You can’t allow that to happen against Mansfield, they’re a great team, they are disciplined and they aren’t going away.”

An off-ball offensive foul gave the Hornets the ball back and Hyland made the most of a second chance opportunity, darting to the basket for two to ice the win.




“Once we figured their pace on offense to at least slow them down some, they missed a couple shots, and we were able to go down and score a couple in a row,” Vaughan said, “We found some rhythm and it felt like they got a little tight. As they say, you’d rather be playing well in the fourth than the first.”

Franklin’s best offensive quarter was the second with five of their six makes from the field coming from three-point range. Sean Vinson hit the first one, Jake O’Brien (14 points) hit three in a three minute span, and freshman Henry Digiorgio had another. Declan Walmsley (11 points, nine rebounds) added two three-pointers in the game while Alex Newman had one as the Panthers finished with 10 makes from downtown.

Mansfield boys basketball

Boen ended up with 12 of his game-high 23 points in the fourth quarter. With Franklin paying extra attention to the senior guard, and with Hornet senior forward TJ Guy out with an injury, Mansfield needed other players to step up. Both Hyland and Colby answered the call.

Both players scored five points in the opening quarter to help the Hornets keep pace with the visitors, who hit three trifectas in the opening eight minutes. Digiorgio (10 points) hit two of those to help the Panthers build a 15-14 lead after one quarter.

Hyland continued to attack the basket in the second quarter while Franklin’s defense continued to limit Boen’s touches. In the second half, Colby made a lot of hustle players, including a team-high four offensive rebounds, to help spark the comeback.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

“Hyland and Jack stepped up and had some big plays for us,” Vaughan said. “And granted, [Boen] hit some shots too which built our confidence. When he scores, the level of pressure for the other guys goes down. They have some room to make a mistake because they know he’s going to find a way to make a basket. Then all of a sudden, they’re making baskets too and that inflates the confidence. Both Hyland and Jack came up with big plays right when we needed them to.

“I talked to Jack earlier this season about how we needed him to be a competitor, not just someone who sits in the corner and shoots threes. We need a mixture of both and he’s really taken that to heart. If he just sits in the corner and shoots, I can sub someone else in for that. If he’s grabbing rebounds, plays defense, contests defense, I can’t replace him. He becomes one of the guys I have to leave on the floor for most of the game. And Jack, out of all kids on this team, has made an unbelievable commitment to the game and now you’re seeing the fruits of his labor, it’s paying off. Now we need to see him committed to that style of play each game.”

This will be the quickest turnaround between games for the two rivals as Mansfield (6-0 overall, 5-0 Kelley-Rex) travel to Franklin (4-3, 4-3) on Thursday for a 7 p.m. tipoff.

Mansfield boys basketball

Taunton Rides Fourth Quarter Run Past Franklin

Taunton boys basketball Tristan Herry
Taunton junior Tristan Herry goes up for a layup against Franklin senior Declan Walmsley on Saturday morning. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
 TAUNTON, Mass. – After leading for nearly the entire game, Taunton’s advantage evaporated after Franklin’s strong start to the fourth quarter.

Taunton boys basketball

Instead of letting the visitors’ momentum snowball, the Tigers fought back.

Taunton’s answer was an 11-2 run over the next three minutes, jumping back ahead for good in a 72-65 win over Franklin to give the Tigers a regular season sweep of the Panthers.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

“It was what you’d expect for a Saturday morning game, it didn’t feel like either team was there defensively,” said Taunton head coach Charlie Dacey. “We were out of it defensively all day. It was a close game in the second half and we were acting like we were down 20. We have to get over our mistakes quicker, we have kids that dwell on them too long.”

The Tigers carried a 55-51 advantage into the fourth quarter but the lead didn’t last long as the Panthers came out strong to start the final period. Jake O’Brien (13 points) finished through contact and Declan Walmsley (20 points, six rebounds, four assists) hit two from the line then drained a straightaway triple to put Franklin ahead 58-55, just its second lead after a brief one-point edge in the second quarter.

But there was no quit in the Tigers, orchestrating a run that would put them ahead for good. Senior Josh Lopes, who had been held scoreless through three quarters, hit one from the line and then finished off a traditional three-point play following a Franklin turnover.

Taunton got a stop and junior Trent Santos (nine points) dropped a pass down low for senior big man Tyler Stewart (15 points, 15 rebounds, including nine on the offensive glass, four assists) to finish. Franklin senior Zach Harvey (12 points, six rebounds, nine assists, three steals), who had a terrific all-around game for the Panthers, made a diving save out of bounds that resulted in a layup for Andrew Byfield to keep it a one-point game at 61-60.










“We spent a lot of time on the offense at practice after Thursday’s game, we knew we had to get better and take care of the ball better and have more effective movement,” said Franklin coach CJ Neely. “I thought the guys did a really good job, I was really happy with how we moved the ball and our patience. You could see what we’re capable of on offense when we moved the ball so hopefully, the guys learned their lesson.

“But we gave them too many opportunities on the defensive end, we didn’t secure enough rebounds or finish off defensive possessions like we usually do and that crushed us. You can’t let a really good team like that have second or third chances like that.”

Taunton boys basketball

Stewart, who drew double teams all game, showed off his passing skills with a nice feed to Faisal Mass (five points, six rebounds), who was cutting baseline for an easy two. Mass then blocked a putback attempt and two plays later, junior Tristan Herry (14 points, four rebounds) found Lopes for a big three and a 66-60 lead with under three minutes to go.

Walmsley answered for the Panthers with another three to make it a one-possession game but Santos confidently sliced through the defense and dropped in a floater as the clock ticked under two minutes to go. Franklin was off the mark on a three and Stewart pushed the lead to six on a free throw.

O’Brien found space and converted at the rim for two to make it 69-65, and the Panthers got an important stop but Herry was the first to the floor to pounce on the loose ball for the offensive rebound (Taunton’s 18th offensive rebound) and got a timeout to keep possession with 29.2 seconds to go. Santos hit two from the line to ice the win.

“[Tristan] is the energizer bunny for us, he really is,” Dacey said of Herry, who not only grabbed the key offensive rebound but also shined defensively and stepped in to take charges. “And the other kids feed off of it too, and they feed off of Danny [MacDougall] too. We have some guys that are laid back, and that was one issue today where we had too many guys too laid back simultaneously. So getting the energy from those two guys really helped.”




While MacDougall didn’t factor into the fourth quarter scoring, he played a huge role through the first three quarters for the hosts. He came off the bench and hit two shots in the first quarter and grabbed two boards, helping the Tigers to a 22-19 lead after eight minutes.

Taunton boys basketball

He added two more field goals in the second quarter with nice takes to the rim and dished out three assists, while Isiah Seldon also came off the bench for a pair of field goals in the second as Taunton staked a 41-35 halftime lead.

Franklin made it a two-point game early in the third before Santos pushed it back to five with a three. Then MacDougall came up with a steal and found Lopes streaking up the court. Lopes’ feet were accidentally tripped up by a defender and he tossed the ball up as he was falling out of bounds, and MacDougall alertly sprinted the floor and grabbed possession, and laid it in for two and a 51-44 lead. MacDougall finished with a career-high 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting.

“Danny’s unbelievable…he did a good job today,” Dacey said. “We felt like we weren’t losing anything, there wasn’t a drop off when we put Danny in today. He really helped out.”

While Herry and MacDougall provided a big energy boost for the home team, Harvey did the same for the visitors. The senior guard was a menace on both ends of the court, locking up one of the Tigers’ top guards while running the offense.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

On top of his career-high 12 points (on 6-of-8 shooting), he dished out a career-high nine assists with only two turnovers, grabbing three steals on defense. His ability to penetrate the defense led to easy layups and open looks from three-point range for the likes of Walmsley, Alex Newman, and freshman Henry Digiorgio (13 points, 3-of-8 three point).

“Zach’s a captain for us for those types of reasons,” Neely said. “He doesn’t do many of the fanfare things that everyone sees, but it’s nice to see he get some assist numbers. But his contributions go far beyond the stat book. He was spraying it around and getting guys good looks, he takes on tough defensive matchups. He had Lopes today and held him scoreless until the fourth. I’m really happy for him because he had a great game, I just wish it could have been a ‘W.’”

Taunton (2-0) returns to action next week on Tuesday when it travels to take on Kelley-Rex newcomer Milford. Franklin (4-2) will try to snap its current two-game skid when it makes the trip to take on rival Mansfield on the same day.

Taunton boys basketball

Taunton Holds Off Franklin To Give Dacey 400th Win

Charlie Dacey Taunton boys basketball
Taunton head coach Charlie Dacey, who earned his 400th win on Thursday, watches the action in the second half. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
 TAUNTON, Mass. – Most teams in the Hockomock League are hitting the halfway point of the regular season this week, but the Taunton boys basketball team is just getting started.

Charlie Dacey Taunton boys basketball

While it was a victory for Taunton to just get on the court after weeks of delays, the Tigers were in search of a different kind of win.

Buoyed by a hot start offensively and solid defense throughout, the Tigers won their season opener, 55-46, giving head coach Charlie Dacey his 400th career win — all coming with Taunton.

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“I thought our defense was pretty good,” Dacey said. “That’s a lot of motion, you can’t duplicate what they do in practice. If they were hitting their shots we would have been in trouble because they had some decent looks.

“We were hitting the threes [early] which certainly helps. Then we kind of insisted on shooting them as the game went on, which drives me crazy.”

Dacey coached at the sub-varsity level for over a decade, including seven years at Taunton, before taking over for the 1989-1990 season.

“It’s always a matter of longevity,” Dacey said of his milestone win. “We’ve got a little bit of a culture here in Taunton and there’s an expectation here. But it’s the kids, it’s true, it’s all about the kids. You don’t get this many wins without having some good, coachable kids and this is the most coachable group I’ve had in a while.”

The Tigers didn’t show much rust at the start of the game, shooting just under 50% from the floor and connecting from three-point range four times. The pace was frantic from the start, with the teams combining for over 50 possessions in the first eight minutes.

Charlie Dacey Taunton boys basketball










Junior Faisal Mass (13 points, six rebounds) converted a pass from Trent Santos (10 points, four rebounds) on the opening possession and the Tigers were off and running. Tyler Stewart (11 points, 12 rebounds, four blocks) scored down low, Josh Lopes (11 points, four rebounds) scored five straight surrounded by a pair of Franklin turnovers, and Santos sank a three as Taunton jumped out to a 12-5 lead just over three minutes in.

Santos hit his second trifecta of the period, Stewart hit two from the line after being fouled, and Lopes capped the quarter with his second three-pointer to give Taunton a 20-11 lead after one.

That momentum continued into the second as senior Danny MacDougall came off the bench to give the Tigers an early boost. After a free throw and a Franklin turnover, MacDougall knocked down a corner three. Taunton’s defense kept the hosts off the board for almost three minutes to start the second.

After a little lull, Mass sank a corner three and Nigel Choate came up with a steal, the Tigers eventually getting a three-pointer from Tristan Herry to make it 30-15 just past the midway point of the second. Lopes scored at the rim, Stewart cleaned up a miss with a putback, and Herry made a late layup for a 36-20 halftime lead.

“I think the start of the game was, unfortunately, the difference right off the bat,” said Franklin head coach CJ Neely. “It felt like they got all 20 points in the first five minutes. It’s a big hole to dig against a really good team. It was a game we could have easily lost by 30 but credit to our guys for sticking with it. I thought defensively we did a really good job but scoring 46 points isn’t going to get it done.

“Just too many turnovers throughout the game really hurt us. Credit them for their defensive pressure, they had some blocked shots early so we were a little tentative taking it to the rim at times.”

To no one’s surprise, Franklin didn’t lay down and slowly crawled its way back into the contest. Even though Mass hit a three to open the second half to give the Tigers a 19-point lead, it would be the last triple for the visitors. And the Panthers held Taunton to just six points the rest of the third.

Charlie Dacey Taunton boys basketball

Freshman Henry Digiorgio connected from downtown early in the frame andAndrew Byfield (from Zach Harvey) added another triple as the Panthers stayed within striking distance. Despite limiting Taunton to just nine points in the quarter, Franklin entered the fourth quarter staring at a 45-30 deficit.




Taunton’s offense continued to sputter against Franklin’s aggressive defense. Not only were the Panthers doing a good job taking away open looks on the three-point line, Franklin put plenty of attention on Stewart, who dominated the paint all of last season.

Missed free throws and turnovers plagued both teams for the first four minutes of the final period, so when Santos finished off a fast break transition basket to make it 49-35 with 4:33 to go, Taunton’s lead looked safe.

But Byfield (nine points, six rebounds, two blocks) crashed the offensive boards for two, Jake O’Brien (17 points) drove the lane and hit a floater, and Declan Walmsley (nine points, eight rebounds) went coast-to-coast for two and suddenly it was just 49-41 with 2:27 to play.

“I don’t think fatigue was the issue but it was like, what’s going on?…we just lost our mojo [in the second half],” Dacey said. “The difference in games played matters. This is the first time we’ve been at game speed, and it certainly showed in places.”

Taunton turned it over coming out of a timeout and Walmsley found Byfield for two. The Tigers had three chances at stopping the run but couldn’t find the bottom of the net. Franklin’s three-point attempt was off with under a minute to go and Stewart hit one free throw after grabbing the defensive rebound.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Two more from Mass pushed it to 52-43 but a corner three from Alex Newman brought it back to a six-point game. Taunton made enough from the line down the stretch to hold on.

“They have three or four guys that can easily be a league all star so it’s kind of like pick your poison, trying to figure out which guy you want to stop,” Neely said. “We saw it last year, you stop one and another one gets going. They are a great team, I feel bad they don’t have a state tournament to play in because that’s one of the best teams around.”

Taunton (1-0) will host Franklin (4-1) in a rematch on Saturday morning at 11:00 AM.

Charlie Dacey Taunton boys basketball

Strong Team Effort Pushes Panthers Past Hawks

Franklin boys basketball Jake O'Brien
Franklin’s Jake O’Brien goes up for a shot in the first half against Milford. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
 FRANKLIN, Mass. – If there was a textbook on how to play Franklin basketball, it would look a lot like how the Panthers played on Tuesday night.

In a 62-52 season-opening win over visit Milford, the Panthers’ unselfish offense resulted in four players reaching double-figures in the scoring column and their aggressive defense never let the senior-laden Hawks get comfortable.

Maybe more impressive was that the game marked the first meaningful minutes for all but two Panthers — Declan Walmsley (game-high 18 points, six rebounds) and Andrew Byfield (13 points, 13 rebounds). The other seven Franklin players that checked in were experiencing their first meaningful minutes in a varsity game.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

“There’s a certain level of expectation we have and guys like [Jake] O’Brien and [Zach] Harvey, they watched as juniors and didn’t get to play very much but they were at practice every day, playing that type of defense and they know how much it means to our team,” said Franklin head coach CJ Neely, who is in his seventh season at the helm of the Panthers. “They don’t just become good defenders all of a sudden because they are seniors, they’ve been working at it, going against really good players in practice so it’s not a total shock when they get the chance to play. These guys are tough, they have good attitudes and they come to work. Defense is something we’re always going to take pride in.”

Walmsley was a steady presence throughout for the Panthers, the top-scoring option returning from last year’s squad that graduated an experienced and talented group of players. The senior hit a three in the opening quarter, earned a trip to the line, and came up with a steal to set the tone for the hosts.

Byfield overcame some early jitters and turnovers to score 10 of his points in the second half. His game-high 13 boards helped limit the visiting Hawks to a total of four offensive rebounds.

To top it off, the Panthers got a big boost from freshman Henry Digiorgio (15 points), who provided a big spark off the bench in the opening quarter with a pair of threes. And when Milford made its biggest run of the game, Digiorgio sank arguably the biggest shot of the game in the third quarter to push the hosts’ lead back to double-digits.







A back-and-forth first quarter had Franklin ahead 15-14, Milford staying in it on the back of senior Jordan Darling (10 rebounds, four assists) who scored nine of his game-high 25 points in the first eight minutes. The Panthers’ defense really shined in the second as they held the Hawks to just five points on 2-of-13 shooting with three turnovers.

“You always want to jump on teams early but we knew Milford has a lot of experience, a lot of guys that have played in big tournament games, guys that won a division title last year…we knew we’d have our hands full but we wanted to be aggressive and make it difficult on their offense,” Neely said. “Getting a couple to go early and getting a lead early at home is nice, and those guys have to just come into the gym with all this stuff going on, maybe they aren’t comfortable right away and we get a cushion early on.”

Meanwhile, Franklin’s offense inched away on some success from three-point range. Walmsley connected early and O’Brien (12 points, four assists) hit two more to push the lead to 24-16. Byfield hit a three in the final minute to give the Panthers a 29-19 lead at the break.

“We weren’t ready to play, period,” said Milford head coach Paul Seaver, also in his seventh season. “Mentally we just weren’t ready to play. [Franklin] hits shots and they defend, and they do it amongst the best teams in the state year in and year out. I’m disappointed right now, we have to be better.”




Milford made its move in the third quarter, hitting a pair of threes — one from Ben Blanchard (10 points) and one from Max Martin (12 points) — in the first 90 seconds of the half after connecting from downtown just twice in the first two quarters.

The Panthers answered with a 7-0 burst when Byfield converted off a turnover and O’Brien used a quick step to get past his defender for an easy two. But Milford continued to claw back as Darling sparked an 8-0 run with a three. Ralph Franklin Jr. got to the rim for two and Martin hit another corner three and the Panthers’ lead shrunk to just 38-33 with two minutes left in the third.

Digiorgio sank a pair of free throws to snap the run, and two possessions later, the freshman sank a straightaway three with the shot clock about to expire and just seconds left in the third to push the Panther advantage back to 10 at 43-33.

“We knew he was a good player, we had seen him play at the Metro level,” Neely said of Digiorgio. “You never know how it will translate to the varsity level but he has confidence which is good. We told him you’re either varsity or not, doesn’t matter a sophomore or freshman. That was a huge bucket.”

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

An early five points from Darling gave the visitors some hope for a comeback but Byfield, O’Brien, and Digiorgio scored in succession, and the Panthers’ lead never shrunk to single digits again.

The teams won’t have to wait long for a rematch as the Hawks (0-1) will host the Panthers (1-0) on Thursday night, tipping off at 7:00.

“I think being at home will benefit us, I think it’s that type of situation this year,” Seaver said. “It’s a little more of a comfort level given the protocols. But we have to be better. We have to be better in practice tomorrow and we have to be better in the game on Thursday.”

Teams of the Decade: Top Playoff Runs

Teams of the Decade

Over the past couple of months, our staff has reviewed hundreds of championship-caliber Hockomock League teams from the past decade (Fall 2010 through Winter 2020) and selected its Top 20 “Teams of the Decade.” During that process, we came across so many talented teams that accomplished so much. Below is a list of teams that just missed out on the final list but stood out for their postseason performances.

2019 Taunton Baseball

Record: 21-7
Division 1 State Champions

The stars aligned perfectly for the Tigers when the postseason rolled around. Although Taunton finished in third in the Kelley-Rex division in the regular season (behind Super 8 selections Franklin and Mansfield), the Tigers took full advantage of their opportunity in Div. 1 South. At 11-7 midway through May, Taunton won four straight to finish the regular season at 15-7 for the fourth seed in the D1 South bracket. After dispatching Marshfield, the Tigers rallied to stun Catholic Memorial with a seventh inning rally, scoring the game-winning run off a bunt from Lucas Martins. Taunton followed with a shutout of Catholic Conference power Xaverian before taking down Hockomock rival Attleboro, 6-1, to win the South.

The magic continued for Taunton, head coach Blair Bourque, and its playoff hero Nic Notarangelo in the D1 State Semifinals. Against a powerful Lincoln-Sudbury side (21-2 entering the game), the Tigers fell behind 3-0 in the top of the first inning. Logan Lawrence had a huge game, hitting a two-run home run in the first and pitching four scoreless innings in relief. Notarangelo smacked a hard hit to right to score sophomore Ty Cali in the bottom of the ninth inning for the game-winning run. Taunton capped its magical run with a 5-3 win over Shrewsbury and 6’8 Boston College-commit John West. Josh Lajoie made his first start of the playoffs, senior Evan Melo put a cherry on top of a special individual postseason by driving in the game-winning run, and both Notarangelo and Lawrence – as they had done all tournament – made key plays in the final innings to help Taunton secure its first-ever Div. 1 State Championship.

2016 Franklin Boys Hockey

Record: 18-4-5
Division 1 State Champions

Just one year removed from a historic trip to the Super 8, and after graduating 21 seniors, Franklin showed off the depth in its program and erased its demons at the TD Garden, ending a three-decade wait for a second state title. A team without a true star, Franklin’s depth and its work rate were its greatest strengths. The Panthers were 12-3-5 and the fourth seed in Div. 1 when the playoffs began, but it felt like a wide open bracket. The tournament run began with a 2-1 win against Wellesley, followed by a 1-0 win against Walpole in a jam-packed Pirelli Rink.

After dispatching a third straight Bay State Conference team, Newton North, in the semifinal, Franklin avenged a late-season loss against highly-regarded Marshfield. In the state title game at the TD Garden, a place where Franklin and head coach Chris Spillane had come up empty three seasons in a row earlier in the decade, the Panthers led 3-1 heading into the third period against St. Mary’s (Lynn), a team that just missed out on a Super 8 berth. The game went to double overtime before senior Jake Downie assisted on sophomore Luke Downie’s dramatic game- and title-winner and secured a first state title since 1983.

2018 Franklin Baseball

Record: 21-5
Division 1A (Super 8) State Champions

It was a season that started with high expectations and ended in history, but it was hardly a straight and easy path for Franklin. Few will remember because of how the season ended, but the Panthers opened the season by being shutout by Foxboro, were swept by Taunton, and finished a game behind Mansfield in the league. Through it all, Franklin put together a good enough resume that it was selected for the Super 8 for the first time in program history. The Panthers (21-5) entered as the No. 7 seed, but once the playoffs began everything seemed to fall into place.

Thanks to the dynamic duo of Jake Noviello and Bryan Woelfel and a lineup filled with clutch hitters, Franklin beat Wachusett in the opening game and then proceeded to beat St. John’s Prep and Central Catholic (twice). The final three games were all one-run wins. In the Super 8 finale against the Raiders, head coach Zach Brown brought Noviello into the bottom of the eighth in a tie game with runners at second and third. He struck out three of the next four batters (hitting one in between) to somehow keep it tied and in the top of the ninth Evan Wendell’s perfect suicide squeeze plated Steve Luttazi with the title-winning run.

2016 Foxboro Girls Tennis

Record: 19-2
Division 2 State Champions

The third time proved to be the charm for the Foxboro girls’ tennis team. After coming up short in the state final in 2014 and 2015, the Warriors took a 3-2 decision over Wayland to clinch the title. The Warriors dropped two matches all season, both 3-2 to eventual Davenport division champion Sharon, as Foxboro finished second in the division at 14-2. The sister combination of Diana Prinos at first singles and Sophia Prinos at second singles gave Foxboro a huge advantage while junior Lexi Nelson was such a steady presence at third singles.

Behind interim head coaches CJ Neely and Jon Montanaro, the Warriors earned the fourth seed in the Division 2 South bracket and survived an early scare with a 3-2 win over Westwood. The second doubles team of Michaela McCarthy and Morgan Krockta helped the Warriors knock off a strong Hingham team in the quarterfinals and Foxboro swept singles action in both the sectional semifinals and finals to defeat previously unbeaten and top-seeded Apponequet and Hopkinton, respectively. After dropping a singles match in the state final, the Warriors had to show off their depth as a team and the first doubles pairing of sophomore Kayla Prag and freshman Julia Muise pulled out a 7-6 (7-4), 7-5 win to secure the title.

2012 Sharon Football

Record: 10-3
Division 3 Eastern Mass. Champions

It’s hard to think of a more special individual season than the one the Sharon football team had in 2012. To put things in perspective, the Eagles had just won seven games over a seven-year span in the previous decade and its last winning season came in the late 1980s. Head coach Dave Morse led Sharon to four wins in his first year in 2011 but that turned out to be just a preview of what was to come. The Eagles had a special group of players come together and accomplish something a lot of people thought they would never see: bringing a Super Bowl title back to Sharon.

While it wasn’t a perfect season, the Eagles got it done against division foes. Sharon knocked off Canton in overtime, scored with under a minute left to stun previously unbeaten Stoughton, and used a gutsy fourth-quarter fourth-down conversion touchdown to secure a win over Foxboro and clinch its first Davenport division title. In the playoffs, the Eagles held on for a 7-6 win over Pembroke when the Titans’ two-point conversion with a minute to go fell short. In the Super Bowl, senior running back Sean Asnes capped a terrific season with a pair of touchdowns as Sharon notched a 12-3 win over Wayland in a freezing cold game at Bentley University.




2018 Mansfield Boys Basketball

Record: 27-2
Division 1 State Champions

Mansfield’s playoff run during the 2017-2018 season was as close to perfect as you can get in basketball. The Hornets were very good during the regular season, but they were close to unstoppable once the state tournament rolled around. Mansfield suffered two setbacks during the season, one in December to BC High and a 15-point loss on the road to rival Franklin in January. Head coach Mike Vaughan has said that second loss might have been the spark that ignited one of the most impressive playoff campaigns of the decade. With seven seniors (John McCoy, Tyler Boulter, Ryan Otto, Nick Ferraz, Alex Ferraz, Justin Vine, Sam Hyland) and a trio of talented juniors (Damani Scott, Tommy Dooling, Khristian Conner), the Hornets made the most of the playoff opportunity.

The top-seed in Division 1 South, Mansfield rolled through the bracket — and we mean rolled. Mansfield beat all four of its opponents by double figures, dismissing Newton South (76-49) in the first round, avenging its loss to BC High (71-58) in the quarterfinals, eliminating a very good Newton North (70-50) team in the South semis, and beating a talented Brockton (79-65) squad to win the South championship. The momentum continued as the Hornets secured a spot in the state final with an impressive win over Everett (73-65) at the TD Garden. In the D1 State Championship, the Hornets capped a terrific postseason run by taking down rival Franklin (67-54); the matchup marked the first time a pair of teams from the same league met in the D1 final.

2017 Franklin Boys Basketball

Record: 22-5
Division 1 State Finalists

This Franklin boys team might not have won it all, but it packed some of the most memorable games into its great postseason run. The Panthers were good throughout the regular season, and they certainly had their fair share of impressive wins including one over league champ Mansfield, one over a very good Cardinal Spellman team, and concluded the regular season with arguably its best win, a 70-53 decision over a good Tech Boston team. But there were five losses too, including on the road at Canton, and early season tilts against Malden Catholic and Catholic Memorial.

The wins over Spellman and Tech Boston to finish the regular season were a clear sign to head coach CJ Neely that this squad was ready to make some noise in the state tournament. Junior Jalen Samuels helped the hosts knock off upset-minded Acton Boxboro in the opening round and senior Connor Goldstein gave Franklin a needed spark in its semifinal win over St. Peter Marian. In the Central final against perennial power St. John’s Shrewsbury, freshman Chris Edgehill sank a huge three with just over a minute left in overtime and then hit two from the free throw line in the final seconds to help secure Franklin’s first sectional title. In the state semifinal against Springfield Central, the Panthers snatched victory from the jaws of defeat with an improbable 8-0 run in the final 20 seconds to force overtime. Four minutes later, Franklin was on its way to its first state championship. Although the Panthers ran into a juggernaut in Cambridge, the run that the Panthers had leading up to that point was a very memorable one.

2018 North Attleboro Baseball

Record: 22-2
Division 2 State Champions

North Attleboro rolled through the regular season, finishing 14-2 in the league and 18-2 overall. Big Red ended a 12-year wait for a league title and took the top seed in Div. 2 South. North’s run to a first-ever state title was hardly a surprise, but the way that the Rocketeers rolled through the South bracket was more than impressive. North scored at will over the first three games of the tournament, out-scoring its opponents 41-4, including a 20-2 win against Dartmouth in the semifinal and a 19-2 win against Oliver Ames in the final.

Behind the pitching of Nick Sinacola and the clutch bat of Zach DeMattio, the Rocketeers were unstoppable heading into the final against Beverly and jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the state championship game (all four runs driven in by DeMattio). The Panthers got to Sinacola for three runs in the fifth to cut the lead to just one run, but he settled down, with the help of his defense, to get through a scoreless sixth and seventh inning and becoming the second Hockomock League baseball team in a week to win a state title.

2018 Taunton Softball

Record: 26-2
Division 1 State Champions

Taunton had lost in the first round in each of the past two postseasons, both times on its home field and both times to league opponents (King Philip in 2016 and North Attleboro in 2017), but the Tigers put it all together in 2018 to erase those playoff struggles. Always one of the most feared lineups in the state, the Taunton offense exploded for 44 runs in six playoff games. The Tigers, under the guidance of legendary coach Dave Lewry, scored nine runs against Dartmouth and Bishop Feehan, six against Newton North, and 13 in the state final against previously unbeaten Wachusett.

The toughest, and arguably most memorable, game of the playoff run was the Div. 1 South final against KP. The Warriors won the league title and had also scored 21 runs in three games to get to the final. After rallying to tie the game in the fifth, Taunton scored the game-winning runs on a single down the third base line by surprise starter and No. 9 hitter Rylie Murphy. KP got the tying runs on base in the seventh, but freshman starter Kelsey White escaped the jam and the Tigers went on to win their first state title in 11 years in blowout fashion (13-2 over Wachusett).

2016 King Philip Softball

Record: 24-4
Division 1 State Champions

There is nothing unusual about King Philip softball going on a playoff run, after all this was the program’s third state title in seven seasons, but the Warriors entered the season as the No. 7 seed in Div. 1 South, had lost the Kelley-Rex title to Taunton, ending a run of nine straight league championships, and lost four times during the regular season. Once the playoffs began, the Warriors flipped a switch. Thanks in large part to a dominant run of games from starting pitcher Kali Magane, KP allowed only two runs in six playoff games and outscored opponents 29-2.

The Warriors beat Taunton in the quarterfinal, winning the season series against the Tigers, and avenged an extra-inning loss from 2015 by beating defending South champion Silver Lake in the final. Magane saved the best for last, striking out 13 and tossing a one-hit shutout in the state title game against Doherty. Magane finished the season by striking out the side in the seventh and closing out an unlikely championship campaign.

Franklin Drops Heartbreaker To St. John’s In D1C Final

Franklin boys basetball
Franklin’s Thomas Gasbarro takes a shot in front of his bench in the D1 Central Final. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

By Joe Clark, HockomockSports.com Contributor

WORCESTER, Mass. – The Franklin and St. John’s Shrewsbury boys basketball teams are no stranger to each other, squaring off in the state tournament for the fifth time in the last seven years.

And just like the times before it, it came down to the wire.

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Behind a pair of free throws from sophomore TJ Power with 4.9 seconds left, top-seeded St. John’s squeaked out a 56-55 win over the sixth-seeded Panthers in the D1 Central Final.

“Franklin’s got a heck of a team, they’re well-coached, but we’re not bad either,” St John’s coach Bob Foley said after the Pioneers win.

With St John’s leading 52-51 with just over two minutes left to play, Franklin senior Chris Edgehill sunk a free throw to tie the game up, but Power hit a turnaround jumper on the other end to give St. John’s a 54-52 edge.

On Franklin’s ensuing possession, junior Declan Walmsley (eight points, three rebounds) found senior Brayden Sullivan in the corner and the senior knocked down a three to put the Panthers up 55-54. Sullivan then made an outstanding defensive play on the other end to force a backcourt violation by St. John’s.

Franklin couldn’t get a basket on their next possession, but they forced a St. John’s miss to get the ball back with under 30 seconds left. Franklin got to the line with 24.9 seconds left but missed the front end of a one-and-one.

With 4.9 seconds left, Power got fouled shooting from the corner on what at first looked like a three-point attempt, but after some initial discussion from the officials, it was ruled he was inside the three-point line. He made both free throws to put St. John’s up 56-55, and Franklin was unable to score despite having two looks at the basket in the final four seconds.

Both teams got off to a cold start, with neither team in double digits as Franklin led 9-8 after the first quarter on the strength of seven points from Edgehill (game-high 20 points), including a three right before the first-quarter buzzer.

The offenses got going in the second, as Franklin hit five threes in the frame to take a 29-25 lead into the half. St John’s came out hot to start the second half, as Charles Daniels (eight points, 11 rebounds) scored four quick points to tie the game.

Power went 1-2 at the stripe to cap a 5-0 St. John’s run, but Edgehill scored down the other end to put Franklin back on top. After a Malakhi Knight bucket, Edgehill once again found the bottom of the net to put Franklin up 33-32.

A 9-2 St John’s run gave them a 41-35 lead, but Edgehill found Thomas Gasbarro (seven points, five rebounds) and then Walmsley hit a triple to g get Franklin within a point at 41-40.

A Power bucket with just over a minute left in the quarter would be the last basket of the third quarter, with the Pioneers holding onto a 43-40 lead.

The fourth quarter was tight throughout, with the largest lead being at 50-46 for St. John’s with over four minutes to go. Down four, Edgehill sparked Franklin with a three-pointer and then matched a Charles Daniel basket with one of his own before tying the game up at the stripe.

“He’s our all-time leading scorer, he’s been a captain for two years, he’s a guy that always shows up in moments like this, there’s never been a tournament game I don’t think Edgehill hasn’t shown up and not been ready to go and really led us along the way and made all kinds of tough shots,” said Franklin coach CJ Neely. “We’ve had such an unbelievable four years together, it’s gonna be weird going to a Franklin practice or game and not see Chris Edgehill running around out there, it’s been quite a run.”

Along with Edgehill, Franklin graduates Andrew Cunningham, Thomas Gasbarro, Steven Karayan, Matt Lazarek, Brayden Sullivan, and Jack Rudolph from this year’s team.

“This senior class is one of the best senior classes I’ve had since being at Franklin, if not the best,” Neely said. “Basketball players aside, the people that go through practices every day, the type of attitude they brought to practices every day, there was a never that time where you look at it and you say, hey somebody’s being whatever or you have to deal with an attitude problem or not, there’s none of that going on, there’s always just positive people looking to get better for Franklin and nobody looking for themselves…love those guys.”

With the loss, Franklin finishes the season at 18-6. St. John’s will play Springfield Central in the state semi-finals.

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Panthers Claw Past Colonials In Central Semis

Franklin boys basketball Brayden Sullivan
Franklin senior Brayden Sullivan goes up for a layup against Worcester South in the second half. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
WORCESTER, Mass. – The Franklin boys basketball team has proven to be a serious threat from behind the three-point season throughout the course of the season.

The Panthers have a handful of capable shooters that can get hot any given quarter of any given game.

But on Sunday evening, Franklin couldn’t find its rhythm. Only senior Chris Edgehill connected from deep, once in the first quarter, and once each in the third and fourth quarters. The rest of the Panthers, despite some good looks, just couldn’t find the range, missing on nearly two dozen attempts from deep as a team.

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So when push came to shove, Franklin turned to what the program has hung its hat on year in and year out: defense.

The sixth-seeded Panthers got five straight stops to close its D1 Central Semifinal matchup with Worcester South, including a pair of three-pointers that could have tied the game, to earn a hard-fought 45-42 win over the second-seeded Colonials.

“We were getting the looks we wanted early, I thought it was nerves and we would start to settle in but we never really did,” said Franklin head coach CJ Neely. “We turned to our defense. We can always control the defense, the offense will come and go. Some nights you’ll make a ton, some nights you’ll struggle. So we had to rely on our defense and we were able to get the stops.”

Seconds after Thomas Gasbarro put the Panthers ahead with a free throw, South’s Octavio Alexander sprinted past Franklin’s defense for two and a 42-41 advantage with just 1:39 to play.

Franklin had a turnover out of a timeout but came up with a big stop and a big defensive rebound from Gasbarro. Edgehill (20 points, nine rebounds, six assists) drained an elbow jumper to put the Panthers ahead with just over a minute to go.

South’s leading scorer Damien Joseph (12 points) was off the mark but Wilton Causey hauled in the offensive board, fouled in the process. However, Causey missed the front end of a one-and-one and Edgehill raced to track down the rebound.

South had to give the foul with 24.5 seconds to go and senior Brayden Sullivan gave the Panthers enough breathing room, sinking both for a 45-42 lead.

Joseph was off the mark on a three-point attempt and Edgehill once again fought for the rebound. Although he missed the front end of his one-and-one change, junior Andrew Byfield won the fight for the offensive board. He tossed it to Jack Rudolph, who made a terrific play while falling out of bounds to pick out Sullivan and keep possession.

South still had a chance as Sullivan missed the free throw, and the Colonials got a look at the buzzer for the tying three but it was off the mark.










“The way we’ve been rebounding the ball, you can’t really go with the foul strategy,” Neely said. “They had such length, they were getting rebounds on their free throws so I just felt like we couldn’t [foul]. We had to rely on the fact that we can get a stop, that’s been our strength all year. Holding [South] to 42 is a nice number for us. We’re happy with that…that’s two games in a row where basically one stop gets it done, and that’s what we did.

“They had a lot of size, multiple bodies they can throw in there. We did a good job for most of the game on the interior but late in the game, they made it an emphasis and made a lot of baskets.”

Matt Lazarek scored twice and Gasbarro added another bucket to help Franklin’s offense get going early, and Edgehill added a late three but the Panthers trailed 11-9 after one.

Offense was hard to come by in the second, the team’s combing for 19 points total. Junior Declan Walmsley finished off an alley-oop with a slam to get the quarter started, Edgehill added two from the field and two from the line and both Rudolph and Gasbarro scored while cutting to the basket but South maintained a lead by half, taking a 20-19 advantage into the locker room.

Franklin had a bright start to the second half, using a 9-0 run over the first two and a half minutes. Edgehill splashed in an early three and then found Rudolph underneath for a creative finish off the glass. Lazarek sank two from the line before Edgehill and Rudolph hooked up again for a 28-20 lead.

South battled back, closing the half on an 11-6 burst that made it a three-point game after three. Steven Karayan finished off an offensive rebound after another missed three from the Panthers, ending a short drought to give Franklin a 34-31 lead heading into the fourth.

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The Colonials knotted the score at 35-35 following a pair of free throws from Joseph before Edgehill connected on his — and Franklin’s — third three of the game. South’s Joseph Cabrera scored in the post to make it 39-39, setting up the frantic finish over the final couple of minutes.

“It’s always great, it never gets old being here,” Neely said of the WPI experience. “It’s not guaranteed you’ll make it back here so it’s awesome. We’re excited [to get to the final], you never know how many opportunities you’ll have. So we’re going to try and get the most out of it, hopefully we’ll be up for the challenge one more time.”

Franklin boys basketball (18-5) advances to its fifth D1 Central Final appearance in the past seven seasons. And for the fourth time, the Panthers will meet up with St. John’s Shrewsbury, the top-seed in the bracket this year, on Friday at 6:00 at Worcester State University.

Sullivan Sparks Franklin in Opener Against Doherty

Franklin boys basketball
Brayden Sullivan (25) scored a game-high 23 points and sparked the Panthers with a typically strong defensive effort as Franklin opened the playoffs with a big win against Doherty. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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FRANKLIN, Mass. – One of the strengths of Franklin this season has been different players stepping up at different times. The Panthers are a hard team to match up with because it is hard to pinpoint one player that needs to be shut down.

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In Monday night’s Div. 1 Central opener, Franklin’s depth was on full display. Senior guard Brayden Sullivan led the way with a game-high 23 points, including 12 in the third quarter alone, but he had plenty of help. Three players scored in double figures, as the Panthers beat visiting Doherty 77-59 and advanced to the sectional quarterfinal.

“That’s been the strength of ours all season, not having one guy that you come in and shut down and say we’ll stop one guy and be fine,” said Franklin coach CJ Neely. “We have a lot of guys who put it in the hoop and we’ve got a lot of guys who do a lot of different things for us.”

Chris Edgehill (nine points) got the night going by scoring Franklin’s first five points, but then Sullivan started to heat up. He drilled a three-pointer to put the Panthers up 10-7 and then got a steal and a layup, plus the foul, to extend the lead to six. He scored eight points in the first quarter and Franklin grabbed a 17-10 lead after one.

Franklin pushed the lead into double digits in the second. Senior Jack Rudolph scored nine of his 14 points in the quarter, half of his team’s 18 in the period. He drilled a three to make it 24-14 and grabbed an offensive rebound for a basket that made it 30-21. Steve Karayan (seven points) followed with a three to make it a 12-point game.

Doherty came right back with four straight points from Noah Callery (12 points) to cut the lead down to eight and Zac Taylor (16 points) had a steal and breakaway to make it even closer. Sullivan chased down Taylor, rose up with the Doherty guard, and blocked his layup attempt.

With the home crowd at its loudest point of the night, Rudolph took the rebound and turned it into a break for the Panthers, finishing to put the hosts up 35-25 at the break.

“Defensively all year, if he’s not the best defensive player in the Hock then he’s definitely in the conversation,” Neely said of Sullivan. “It’s nice to have a guy every game you can say Brayden go guard the other team’s best player and they’re going to have a tough night. So much of what this team’s made of comes from Brayden Sullivan.”

The Panthers threatened to put the game away in the third quarter, as Sullivan caught fire again. He scored 12 of Franklin’s 17 in the third, helping them build the lead to as many as 19 points,

Leading 37-30, Sullivan went on a personal 12-1 run to break the game open. He cut through the lane and finished at the rim, then took advantage of Doherty sinking under a screen to drain a three. Another drive led to a layup and he got out onto the break as well. He finished the run with another steal and layup.

Neely noted that Sullivan just missed out on being selected as an all-star this year and admitted it may have been extra fuel for Monday’s performance. He said, “I think he had something to prove tonight when he wasn’t selected and we thought that was a little extra something for him tonight. A little extra boost.”

The game seemed to be in control, but the Highlanders made a 9-2 run to make things interesting heading to the fourth. Taylor nailed a pair of threes and then Billy Everson (team-high 20 points) grabbed a rebound and finished just before the horn sounded. It was 52-40 after three.

“We were letting them off the hook on some of our possessions,” Neely explained. “We were taking some quick ones and it’s hard because when we have guys open from three we want them to shoot it but sometimes early in the possession we can get that later on and if we grinded them down a little bit, make them fight through a few more screens, couple more cuts, we could’ve gotten even easier looks.

Everson kept the Highlanders hanging around in the fourth quarter, twice answering Franklin baskets with and-ones on the other end, but the Panthers proved to have too much firepower.

Declan Walmsley was the player to step up in the final stretch. He scored 10 of his 16 points in the fourth. He got a layup off a Thomas Gasbarro assist, then a three when Rudolph swung it around the perimeter to him. After Rudolph made 1-of-3 at the line, Walmsley grabbed the offensive rebound and finished to make it 65-50.

Doherty whittled the lead back down to 10 but Gasbarro responded with a drive to the rim and Edgehill was left open for a corner three that proved to be the dagger.

Franklin (16-5), which won the Central crown in back-to-back seasons before being knocked out in the first round last year by a strong Algonquin team, will now face a trip to No. 3 seed Natick, which had a strong first season under former Franklin assistant Mike Masto.

“That was one of the best games I’ve ever been a part of, unfortunately we were on the wrong side of it,” said Neely about last year’s playoff opener, “but it was nice to get into here and get that off your shoulders. Get yourself into the next round and now we have a huge challenge ahead of us with Natick.”

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Charles Hits 1,000, Ignites Bombardiers Past Panthers

Attleboro boys basketball Qualeem Charles
Attleboro senior Qualeem Charles (35) celebrates in front of the home crowd after scoring his 1,000th career point. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
 
ATTLEBORO, Mass. – Attleboro High School had 1,000 point fever, and the only prescription was more ‘Q.’

‘Q’ being senior Qualeem Charles, the 6’5, 290-pound center and four-year starter for the Bombardiers, who went a perfect 11-for-11 from the floor, the last bucket giving him his 1,000th career point. Charles is the second Bombardier to reach the milestone in the past nine days, joining classmate Bryant Ciccio.

Behind Charles’ 27 points, 18 coming in the second half, Attleboro grinded out a 62-56 win over a hot-shooting Franklin squad, giving the Bombardiers a season sweep of the Panthers for the first time since joining the Hockomock League.

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“I was aiming for 15 in the first half, but I wasn’t mad it didn’t happen, it was a close game and Franklin is a tough team,” Charles said. “I came out hot in the third quarter and the team kept feeding me. I’ve been a pass-first guy but all of my teammates keep rooting me on to shoot it, even if I miss, they want me to keep shooting. My teammates were patient in getting me the ball.

“It’s crazy to get the sweep over Franklin, the first time [Attleboro] has done that. Ever since we were in fifth grade, this is all me and Bryant have talked about so it’s crazy to both get it.”

An even, back-and-forth first half had the teams tied at 28-28 through two quarters. And from Attleboro’s first possession of the second half, it was clear the emphasis would be on getting Charles the ball.

Nick McMahon (10 points, seven rebounds, six assists) found the big man for a traditional three-point play, and while it was close and even tied at points through the rest of the game, the Bombardiers never trailed.

Q sank a pair from the line, two more down low on an entry pass from Tim Callahan, and another three-point play gave Attleboro a 38-35 near the midway point of the third. Callahan accounted for four straight points before Charles got back into the scoring column. Justin Daniels hit his second three of the game as Attleboro held a 47-42 lead after three. After scoring nine points in the opening half, Charles scored 12 in the third.

“He’s a very unselfish player, we had to tell him to shoot more,” said Attleboro coach Mark Houle, who has coached a pair of 1,000-point scorers for the second time in his career. “About six weeks ago, we told him if he gets the ball inside you have to put it up. It helps our team when he shoots. He’s been doing it more the last month and that’s helped us be a better team.”

While Attleboro had plenty of success down low, the Panthers were keeping pace because of their outside shooting. The Panthers hit six three-pointers in the opening half while Jack Rudolph, Steven Karayan, and Andrew Byfield (13 points, four rebounds, four assists) each connected from downtown to keep Franklin in the game.

With Charles having the hot hand, and just six points away from the milestone, the Bombardiers continued to find ways to get him the ball. A patient approach that often featured more than a half dozen passes before getting a look into the paint to Charles helped open lanes.

“We had to work hard for everything,” Houle said. “I think the best thing about tonight was we trusted our motion offense more than we have all year. I thought our kids executed very well, we made the extra pass…and it was everyone, kids came off the bench like Alec [Eaton] and Justin [Daniels]…and that opened up the offense. We hit the right guys.

“And I don’t think that we forced the ball inside, I think it came within the flow of the offense. I was proud of the way we played. And we defended better tonight. Hard to say that with them hitting 13 three-pointers but we defended better than the past two games and that’s a step in the right direction for us.”

Charles scored Attleboro’s first bucket of the quarter on a feed from Callahan, repeated that feat on the next trip, and did the same exact thing on the third possession of the quarter, the last one giving him his 1,000th point.

“It’s hard to help off on him, you’re trying to pick your poison where it’s coming from,” said Franklin head coach CJ Neely. “Last game we helped off a ton and Weir got loose for a big game, Ciccio had over 20. We were trying to flip the script a little bit, change it up and see what we can do without over helping. They did a really good job of moving the ball and being patient. They switched sides a couple of times and made us work, and I thought our guys played hard, it’s just such a tough matchup.”




The big bucket pushed Attleboro’s lead to 53-45 with 6:11 to go but Franklin got a big response on a three from Rudolph but a mid-range baseline jumper from Jason Weir and a three from McMahon gave the hosts a 58-50 lead with three minutes to play.

Franklin missed on a three but Brayden Sullivan (nine points) came up with the Panthers’ fifth offensive rebound and found Chris Edgehill (17 points, four rebounds) for a three. After another stop. Edgehill returned the favor and Sullivan sank a three to make it 58-56 with 1:31 to play.

The Panthers had a strong defensive possession but McMahon was able to get the ball on his right and got around a defender for a layup just before the shot clock to push the lead back to four. Franklin, which finished 13-for-30 from three-point, was off the mark from three.

“Shooting is obviously one of our strengths but at the same time, we would have liked to get to the rim a little bit more,” Neely said. Franklin had a total of 16 attempts from inside the three-point line. “I didn’t think we made Q defend enough on the ball screen, which was part of the game plan, and we got away from it early. I thought overall our offense was pretty good, we got some good looks down the stretch but credit [Attleboro], that matchup was tough for us.”

Ciccio came up with a steal on Franklin’s next possession and went in for an easy two to help seal the win.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

“Just so proud of this senior group and all the work they put in,” Houle said. “And they work hard for each other, they work hard for each other. I’m proud of seeing Bryant and Q being able to enjoy this at home with the Attleboro fans, a pretty special moment for them.

“This group really wants to pull for each other. That’s that part you don’t see on a scoreboard or in stats. You see it in practice, you see it after wins, you see it more so after losses. And they came together and played tougher tonight, that comes from them playing for each other.”

Attleboro boys basketball (12-4 Hockomock, 14-5 overall) is back in action on Sunday at the Comcast Tournament at Woburn High, taking on Newton North at 6:30. Franklin (11-5, 14-5) travels to Weston on Thursday at 1:00.