FRANKLIN, Mass. – For the Franklin boys basketball team, terrific defense led to easy offense.
And that combination resulted in a dominant performance and a comfortably 57-36 win over visiting Attleboro.
The Panthers flipped a two-point game upside down with a 20-0 run over the final six minutes of the second quarter to pull away from the Bombardiers, who entered the contest with a chance to win at least a share of its first Kelley-Rex title.
Franklin limited the visitors to just 22% shooting from the field in the opening half as the Bombardiers couldn’t find a connection from deep, going just 1-for-17 from three-point range. And with consistent stops, Franklin’s pushed the pace and cashed in with an impressive transition offense, converting some easy looks down low. Franklin shot 65% from the field in the opening half, making 12-of-18 shots from two-point range.
“That was definitely our best game of the season, by far,” said Franklin head coach CJ Neely. “The guys were excited to play tonight, there’s no doubt about it. I think they were a little sore about how last game went and how the season has gone in some respects. They wanted to make a statement tonight and I thought they did, especially in that second quarter. We went in at halftime, and we usually have a list of things we want to change or that we did poorly, and we didn’t have many things on the list. The guys really bought in, that was the best they’ve bought in to a game plan and scouting report all season.”
While Attleboro only had four first half turnovers, it couldn’t solve the Panthers defensively. During Franklin’s game-changing run, Attleboro only had one turnover on a shot clock violation, and 0-for-11 from the field, with eight of those shots coming from three-point range.
“They did everything better than us tonight, offensively and defensively,” said Attleboro coach Mark Houle. “They made us really feel uncomfortable all night, and we didn’t have any answers.
“We didn’t hit [a three] in the first quarter but I have confidence in our guys that can shoot it, we can get hot, but we didn’t get enough paint touches. [Franklin] did a nice job of taking that away early, something that most teams haven’t been able to do. That limited us really. But quite honestly, we weren’t executing on offense. There were still things that we could have done, but we weren’t executing, and that led to a stagnant offense. And we couldn’t attack the rim because their defense was set. That was a very good defensive effort by them.”
Franklin led 15-7 after the first quarter but Attleboro opened the second quarter with a quick 5-0 run to make it a two-point game. Bryant Ciccio (11 points) drained a three and Kevin Velazquez picked off a pace and went the distance for a layup to make it 15-13.
From there, it was all Panthers. Jalen Samuels (15 points, nine rebounds, four assists) converted his own putback and then scored off a feed from Chris Edgehill (seven points, seven rebounds, seven assists). Will Harvey (career-high 19 points, nine rebounds) sank a three-pointer off a feed from Jack Rudolph, then Edgehill came down with a defensive rebound, pushed it up court and found Rudolph for two. Samuels then drove to the basket, drew in the defense and dished it off to Harvey for an easy two and a 26-13 lead with 3:43 left in the second quarter.
The Bombardiers tried to shoot their way out of the funk, taking six triples on their next seven possessions. The lone trip that didn’t result in a three-point attempt was a turnover on a shot clock violation.
Meanwhile, Franklin continued to cash in on the offensive end. Edgehill got some space in the lane for two, Jake Macchi (nine points) sank a three on a pass from Rudolph just moments after Samuels blocked an Attleboro three, and Samuels scored in low on a floater to put Franklin up 35-13 heading into halftime.
“Getting out in transition was key for us, getting up and down,” Neely said. “And when we attacked the paint, I think the biggest thing was getting in there and then making the extra pass for some dunks and some layups.”
The second half was much more even than the first, but the damage was already done by the Panthers. Tim Callahan made Attleboro’s second triple of the game with 2:44 left in the quarter (2-for-21 from deep through three), Ciccio added five points, including Attleboro’s only two free throws in the game, and Qualeem Charles (eight points, 10 rebounds) got an early bucket, but Franklin got points from Macchi (a three), Harvey (five) and two apiece from Edgehill and Rudolph to hold a 47-24 advantage entering the fourth.
“One of the biggest things we worked on was long closeouts,” Neely said. “We practiced having to get there and get there with a hand without flying into the crowd. We’re going to have to live with them making a couple. We knew we’d have to focus on Q, you can’t let one guy try and do it himself. I thought Harvey played one of his best games this season, and he rebounded really well and played great defensively.”
Attleboro’s defense limited the Panthers to 10 points in the fourth, but only scored 12 on its own. Mason Houle sank two threes in the fourth, the latter cutting the deficit to 15 points but with only three minutes to go. Harvey added four in the final frame and Matt Lazarek came off the bench to hit a triple for the Panthers, who shot 56% from the floor for the game and dominated the rebounding battle, 33-18.
“We had some good looks, but they were mostly contested shots,” Houle said. “We have to regroup. We have the opportunity to learn from this. We didn’t do many good things tonight on either end tonight. Their transition offense, we didn’t do a good enough job against it. That led to 20 straight points…and just layups. It was them getting the rebound and pushing it for a layup.”
Franklin boys basketball (12-4 Hockomock, 14-5 overall) is back in action on Sunday with a noon tipoff against New Bedford. Attleboro (13-3, 16-4) will try to bounce back when it travels to rival North Attleboro for a non-league clash on Monday.
FRANKLIN, Mass. – When Franklin junior Jack Rudolph drained an open three with just under three and a half minutes left in the game to put his team up by eight, it looked like the Panthers were on their way to evening the season series with rival Mansfield.
But the Panthers didn’t slam the door shut, and Mansfield took full advantage down the stretch.
The Hornets used a 12-4 run over the final three minutes to force overtime, and Hornet senior Tommy Dooling hit a free throw with 5.1 seconds left in the extra period to give Mansfield a 73-72 win and a regular season sweep over Franklin.
It’s Mansfield’s first season sweep of their rivals since 2014 when the Hornets won inside the field house and at the TD Garden.
“We had to fight for every [point], there was not an easy basket out there tonight,” said Mansfield head coach Mike Vaughan. “The fact that we got into the 70s was kind of shocking considering how hard it was. Sometimes when teams have a chance to put us away, they don’t and when they don’t and give us breathing room, at some point we’re going to go on a little run and ultimately that happened with enough time in the fourth quarter. And obviously making free throws in the end helped.”
Rudolph’s six triple of the game gave him a career-high 21 points and the Panthers a 60-52 lead. Franklin’s defense had prevented Mansfield from big runs for the majority of the game and the Panthers looked to be in a good position.
Dooling (19 points) earned a trip to the line and sank two free throws, an immediate and needed response to Rudolph’s three for the Hornets. After a stop on the defensive end, Dooling was fouled while shooting a three, and the senior sank all three attempts to make it a one-possession game with 2:37 to go.
Another stop for Mansfield and again, Dooling drove to the basket and drew contact. His two free throws got the Hornets within one with 2:03 to go.
Jalen Samuels (15 points, seven rebounds) sank a pair from the line on the other end to extend the hosts’ lead to three, but Mansfield sophomore Matty Boen (eight points, five rebounds) drained an open triple to tie the game with 1:38 to go. Franklin’s Will Harvey (two free throws) and Mansfield’s TJ Guy (13 points, six rebounds) traded baskets inside the final minute, Franklin missed a late three and Mansfield had a turnover on its final possession to force overtime.
Free throws from Chris Edgehill (11 points, 10 assists) and Samuels put Franklin in front, but Boen sank his second triple of the game to go up 69-67. A free throw from Makhi Baskin extended it to three, but Edgehill responded with a three to tie the game with just over two minutes left in overtime.
Samuels put Franklin back ahead with a pair from the line but Sam Stevens (nine points) answered after a terrific feed from Baskin.
Franklin had the chance for the last shot but was whistled for an off ball offensive foul. Dooling was fouled before Mansfield could inbound it out of their timeout at midcourt, and the senior went to the line with 5.1 left. After missing the first, Dooling sank the second and Franklin’s last second three was just off the mark.
“I think we just started committing to what we do on offense better,” Dooling said of what went into the comeback. “We started to move the ball more, we started to cut to the rim on slips. TJ and Sammy got some nice layups, and Matty Boen hit some big shots too.”
Mansfield went 14-for-19 from the free throw line between the fourth quarter and overtime.
“I think early we were playing passive and kind of on our heels, and everything was contested,” Vaughan said. “In the fourth, I felt like Tommy did a really nice job asserting himself into the game and did some good things. Ultimately he had the opportunities and made them.
“That’s a big pressure shot in overtime. To be able to miss the first and step back in and make the second, that’s a big play.”
After going up by eight, Franklin went 1-for-7 from the field and 9-for-11 from the free throw line over the final 3:25 of the fourth and all of overtime.
“Disappointing,” said Franklin coach CJ Neely on how he would describe how the game ended. “It was a great game. I told the guys we can be frustrated about whatever we want to be frustrated about but I didn’t think we kept guys in front defensively down the stretch without fouling, put them on the line and let them hang around in a game I thought we should have won.
“I thought we were in control of most of the game. We were playing good basketball, sharing the basketball. Chris did a great job of finding his teammates and guys were stepping up and making shots. We’ve seen them make them in practice, it’s good to see them make them in the game. I think it was 60-52 at one point, and we needed to close it out there but we started fouling, and they kept getting to the line.”
Franklin raced out to an 8-1 lead to start the game and lead 16-11 after one quarter. Rudolph hit three three-pointers in the opening frame to give the Panthers the lead. Both Samuels and Mansfield’s Damani Scott (eight points) picked up two early fouls and missed the majority of the first half.
A three-pointer from Jake Macchi just over a minute into the second quarter gave Franklin a 21-13 lead but Mansfield tightened up defensively and made a run to get back into it. Baskin hit two free throws and Stevens had an easy layup after a steal from Boen. Baskin then had a steal of his own, leading to another layup for Stevens.
The teams traded baskets for the remainder of the first half, with Mansfield going up 33-31 on a triple from Dooling (assisted by Boen) but Franklin answered just before the buzzer when Edgehill found Macchi for a three and a 34-33 halftime edge.
In the third, Rudolph his made a pair of threes within a minute and then turned a steal into a traditional three-point play, putting the Panthers ahead 43-38 with just under five left in the third.
“That’s the kind of stuff we expected from Jack coming into the season, being that third scorer for us offensively,” Neely said. “We’ve seen it in practice and things are starting to develop. I’m really proud of him, it was a great performance for him.”
Franklin’s six-point lead shrunk to just one but Samuels came up with a monster two-handed slam while being fouled to put the Panthers ahead 50-46. Two late technical free throws from Edgehill and a big block from Samuels at the buzzer had Franklin up 52-47 heading into the fourth.
“We were trading baskets, then they’d go on a little run and we didn’t counter it for a while,” Vaughan said. “It was just this grind it out, slow game that we just couldn’t get our hands on. The first game, I felt like we had control of it but this one the control was constantly slipping out of our hands. We did just enough. We shot the ball well enough from the foul line, we were atrocious there on Friday night. Making free throws down the stretch, Tommy at the line and I thought the three in the corner was big.
“CJ does such a good job you don’t know what you’re going to get with his tweaks and his matchups. Last game, they didn’t over play Tommy at all, so we put some stuff in for that and then tonight they overplayed him so we had to adjust on the fly. “
Mansfield boys basketball (11-2 Hockomock, 15-2 overall) is on the road against Oliver Ames while Franklin (9-4, 11-5) visits Taunton, both games on Friday.
ATTLEBORO, Mass. – Having to try and match up with Attleboro’s 6-foot-5, 295-pound center Qualeem Charles for 32 minutes is one of the toughest covers in the entire Hockomock League.
Having to try and stop him for four more minutes in overtime just might be impossible.
Franklin stormed back from a 15-point fourth quarter deficit to tie the game in the final seconds and send the game to overtime but Charles scored half of Attleboro’s points in the overtime period to help the Bombardiers secure a 51-46 decision in overtime.
Charles scored 13 of his game-high 18 points after halftime and hauled of his 17 rebounds after the break as well.
“We always want to go inside, they did a nice job of challenging him early,” said Attleboro head coach Mark Houle. “He’s very unselfish so a lot of the times he got the ball he was kicking it out and we were getting great looks and we weren’t knocking them down. We told him in the second half when you touch the ball, you shoot the ball and he did that more consistently. If he didn’t score the field goal, he went to the line and he hit his foul shots which was key for us.”
After Mason Houle (nine points) and Will Harvey traded three-pointers to open the extra stanza, the Bombardiers got Charles going inside. Kevin Velazquez (six points, nine rebounds) found the big man in the post and Charles used a nice post move to go up two.
The teams traded misses before Attleboro came up short on a Tim Callahan three. But Callahan was quick to hustle back on defense and drew a charge to get the ball back with 1:32 to play and a 46-44 lead.
Attleboro went back inside and Charles was fouled, hitting one of two attempts to extend the lead to 47-44. Franklin missed a three and Charles came down with a big rebound. On the offensive end, the Panthers’ collapsed to try and cover Charles, allowing Velazquez to take it strong to the basket for two.
Franklin once again came up short on a layup attempt and Charles hauled in the rebound while being fouled. He hit two free throws to give Attleboro 51-46 lead with 28 seconds and that’s how the game finished.
After putting up just five shots in the first half total, Charles attempted five field goals in the third quarter and then went 2-for-2 in the fourth.
“I was definitely overlooking at times, I wanted to find teammates,” Charles said. “I know my teammates can make those big shots but they weren’t falling tonight so I had to try and close it out. Eventually my shot started falling. Their bigger players started getting in foul trouble, so I was getting more of a mismatch so I was able to convert.”
There wasn’t much happening for either side in the first half. The teams combined for just six made field goals in the opening eight minutes with Franklin senior Jalen Samuels (eight points, 10 rebounds, five assists) finding Thomas Gasbarro for a layup right before the buzzer to give Franklin a 9-7 edge.
But that would be the last field goal Franklin would make for the half. The Panthers were held scoreless for nearly the entire second quarter. Sean Leonard hit a pair of free throws with 26 seconds left to get Franklin on the board.
Meanwhile while Attleboro’s offense didn’t exactly catch fire, it was able to use an 8-0 run over the first seven minutes. Bryant Ciccio and Nick McMahon made shots while Callahan and Houle sank two free throws apiece. A late bucket from Charles gave Attleboro a 17-11 lead at half.
“It’s a problem, he’s a big kid, and there’s not a lot of guys that can move him when he gets position where he wants to be,” Neely said of matching up with Charles. “We had a plan that was working early but late in the game, I think guys were a bit tired. I stuck with the same lineup for a long time. They get worn down banging around with him for a whole game and he was able to get some baskets, he’s a tough cover.”
The offenses for both sides came alive to start the second half. The Panthers matched their first half production in just over five minutes in the third quarter. Buckets from Chris Edgehill (12 points, eight rebounds), Jake Macchi, and Leonard brought the Panthers within two, 24-22, with 3:46 left in the third.
Attleboro answered with a 10-0 run to close the third quarter. Ciccio, Charles, and Houle hit back-to-back-to-back layups, and McMahon converted down low after a nice offensive rebound and pass from Velazquez to give the Bombardiers a 32-22 advantage heading into the final quarter.
“Coming into the game we talked about defensive stops and consecutive defensive stops and Franklin is terrific at it,” Houle said. “The last three games they’ve given up 40 points or less and they lead the league in defensive scoring average. So we knew we were going to have to execute. We wanted to take care of the ball, be strong with the ball, and attacking them when we can on ball reversals. We didn’t shoot the ball particularly well, but neither did they, and I think that’s a credit to both defenses.”
It appeared the Bombardiers had the game in hand when they pushed the lead to 37-22 on a Callahan triple, a 15-point advantage with six minutes left.
But Attleboro’s offense stalled as the Panthers continued their pressure defensively. And over those six minutes, shots began to fall for the visitors. Steve Karayan drained a three after a steal from Will Harvey then Edgehill drained a transition three after an Attleboro turnover to make it 37-31 with three minutes to go.
Samuels hit a free throw and Harvey came up with another steal that led to two made free throws, cutting the deficit to 37-34 with two minutes left. After a five-second call on the inbounds, Harvey sank another free throw to make it 37-35.
Attleboro finally got some points on the board when Callahan hit Charles down low and the junior converted with a nice spin move. But Karayan drained another triple to make it a one-point game with just over a minute to go.
Velazquez missed but was fouled as he hustled for the offensive rebound and he sank two free throws with 42.6 to play.
Franklin came up short on the tying three, but the offensive rebound was batted out and corralled. Attleboro chose to foul with a three-point lead with 8.4 to go. The strategy worked as Franklin missed both free throws but the rebound was batted out to Edgehill, who alertly made an extra mass to Karayan for a straightaway three-pointer with 2.4 left, sending the game into overtime tied 41-41.
“We found something that was working down the stretch,” Neely said.”But in the end, we weren’t ourselves in the first half. We weren’t playing the way we needed to play if we wanted to win. You can get away with that sometimes but not on the road at Attleboro in a big game tonight. We played good defense in the first half but they opened it up in the second half. I’m proud of them, they stuck with it. They shared the ball and got back into the game. Free throws hurt us, and that’s cost us basically in every loss this year. It’s frustrating to have a good offensive possession and get to the line and come away with nothing.
“We had a 15 point lead and they whittled it down to go to overtime, that’s Franklin,” Houle said. “They are a very good, gritty team. We knew coming in it wouldn’t be an easy game. As they were coming back, it felt like we weren’t playing to win anymore, we were just trying to hold on. After one of the timeouts, we talked about playing to win. We started to play with a bit more energy and were able to make some plays.”
Attleboro boys basketball (9-1 Hockomock, 12-2 overall) is back in action on Tuesday on the road at Milford. Franklin (7-3, 9-4) is also on the road with a trip to Sharon on tap.
FRANKLIN, Mass. – After seeing a large first half lead disappear, the Franklin boys basketball team was on the verge of letting a second half lead evaporate as well.
Holding a five-point lead with 1:30 to, Franklin’s advantage quickly shrunk to just one after a putback from Taunton senior Michel Quinn and a strong take from Lou Vendrell with 39.8 to go.
The Panthers, after scoring 20 points in the first quarter, had been limited to just 30 over the next 23 minutes and were in need of a spark. After a timeout, Franklin got the ball into the hands of junior Chris Edgehill (13 points, five assists), and he took advantage of a Taunton miscommunication after a double screen to get enough separation for a three with 20 seconds left, helping secure a 50-45 win over Taunton.
“It was absolutely a grind,” said Franklin head coach CJ Neely. “Getting off to a great start helps a lot especially when you aren’t playing your best in the middle quarters. The second and third quarters we got really stagnant on offense. We stopped doing everything we did in the first quarter that was working. We weren’t running the floor as hard, we weren’t cutting or screening as hard, we weren’t reacting off screens really well. The motion got stymied, we weren’t moving the ball.”
Franklin was nearly flawless in the opening quarter, racing out to an 18-2 lead over the first six and a half minutes finishing with a 20-6 advantage after one. The Panthers shot 54% from the field and forced seven turnovers to build a big lead.
What looked like a potential blowout slowly turned into a dogfight as the Tigers scratched and clawed their way back in the game. Taunton’s defense stepped up to limit Franklin to just nine points in the second quarter while its offense found a grove, scoring 17.
Quinn (13 points) and John Martins (11 points, eight rebounds, five assists) each hit a three, preceded by a bucket by Vendrell. Two free throws from Dante Law (who missed the majority of the game with foul trouble and fouled out with 5:36 left on a questionable call) cut the deficit to four, 22-18, before Franklin answered with three straight points. Law, Edgehill, Vendrell, Jalen Samuels, and Naz Kenion all missed minutes on the second due to foul trouble.
Taunton’s bench was able to provide a spark with Tyler Stewart (six points, five rebounds), Josh Lopes, Fabio Goncalves, and Krishon Nairne (two rebounds, block) coming to to give the Tigers some valuable minutes. A late three-point play from Jack Rudolph extended Franklin’s lead to eight but Martins responded with a triple. Franklin led 29-23 at half.
“That first quarter was one of the best quarters we’ve had all season,” Neely said.”I think what happens is you get that lead early, you start feeling like you don’t have to work as hard. You start taking some bad shots and then they hit a couple and make a couple of hustle plays, and all of a sudden it’s a close game. Those guys play hard, they are a good team, they have a lot of pride. I give them a lot of credit, they battled back and took a lead on us after going down big. Taunton did a good job, I was impressed with their fight.”
Quinn sandwiched two buckets around one from Martin to knot the game early in the third, and a bucket in low from Stewart gave Taunton its first lead at 31-29.
“In the second and third quarters, we did a nice job defensively,” said Taunton head coach Charlie Dacey. “But with our offense, we have to maximize our opportunities and I felt like we had too many quick shots tonight. We have to be more patient and run our stuff.”
That’s when the Panthers turned to Samuels (12 points, eight rebounds), a senior captain, to weather the Tigers’ push. Samuels answered with a nice take to tie the game, and then used a two-handed flush to put Franklin back ahead. Samuels made a heads up play on defense, intercepting a pass and going the length of the court for a bucket while being fouled. His free throw completed the three-point play and put Franklin up 36-35.
“That’s a classic Jalen game, when we need him most he shows up,” Neely said. “Those takes to the rim late were huge for us. Defensively, he just finds a way, I know his back is killing him but he had some nice rebounds. I thought he made all the big plays for us down the stretch for us besides Chris’ three.”
Taunton closed the third with a mini 4-0 run – a free throw from Kenion, a layup from Stewart, and a technical free throw from Martins – to make it 36-35 heading into the final frame.
Will Harvey (12 points, seven rebounds) scored early and then capitalized on a Taunton turnover by adding a free throw to put Franklin up 39-37. Thomas Gasbarro and Kenion traded buckets before Samuels extended Franklin’s lead to four with 3:38 to play.
Taunton had three looks but couldn’t convert but Quinn pickpocketed Edgehill at half court and went in for two to make it 43-41. Harvey hit a free throw after being fouled on an offensive rebound and Gasbarro drove to the basket for two after a Taunton turnover to make it 46-41 with 1:30 to go.
“We just talked about what’s made us great over the years and that’s defense and that’s what we have to rely on now,” Neely said. “So down the stretch I went with more of a defensive lineup so we could get some stops. Putting Tom and [Jake] Macchi in there, they really grinded it out. Tom made some big plays for us, got some turnovers and gave us a huge lift defensively.
Quinn scored on a putback after a missed three Franklin got a stop and Vendrell drove to the basket for two with 39.8 left but Edgehill’s triple sealed the win.
Franklin boys basketball (4-2 Hockomock, 6-3 overall) is back in action on Tuesday when it travels to North Attleboro. Taunton (4-2, 7-3) will try to bounce back when it travels to Milford on the same day.
MANSFIELD, Mass. – Mansfield sophomore Matty Boen has witnessed dozens of Mansfield and Franklin clashes from the stands, watching older brothers Michael and Max dawn the Hornet uniform against the rival Panthers.
Boen got a little closer to the action last season, watching all three meetings between the teams from the bench as a reserve.
Friday night was finally his turn to become part of the rivalry.
Boen came out on fire, scoring 11 of his career-high 19 points in the opening quarter, and then coming away with the game-sealing steal in the final seconds of the game to help the Hornets secure a 59-57 win over the Panthers.
“It’s crazy,” Boen said. “I kept saying to the guys in the locker room, ‘It’s so much better being out there and taking it all in.’ It’s great. I can’t be more happy than I am now.”
Boen (seven rebounds) sank a pair of free throws with 1:11 left to put the Hornets up 57-54, but Franklin junior Chris Edgehill (20 points, eight rebounds, four assists) answered with a strong take to cut the deficit to one.
Mansfield sophomore TJ Guy (15 points) went 2-for-2 at the line with 22.8 left to extend the Hornets’ advantage to 59-56. Franklin called timeout with 12 seconds to go but missed a three out of the break. Edgehill grabbed the offensive board but was immediately fouled with 6.7 to go.
Edgehill hit the first one but was just off on the second, but senior Jalen Samuels (eight points, night rebounds) soared in for the offensive rebound. The Panthers moved the ball and tried to it out to Edgehill at the three-point line, but Boen read the play and tipped the pass free to secure the victory.
“Talk about an all-star performance for a sophomore,” said Mansfield head coach Mike Vaughan. “He comes out in the first quarter, hits big shots, gets a couple of rebounds, blocks a shot…and then the steal at the end of the game capped off his performance of what he did tonight. When I saw the loose ball, and the reversal and I saw Edgehill standing out there, I thought ‘Oh boy, we could be in trouble.’ And sure enough, Matty comes out of nowhere and gets the deflection. I’m glad he’s on my team for another three years and hats off to him for his performance.”
If had it not been for Boen’s tip, the Panthers were looking at a possible three-pointer from Edgehill, one of the top shooters in the league.
“I thought it was a great offensive rebound by Jaylen,” said Franklin head coach CJ Neely. “We had a couple of timeouts in our pocket, but with two seconds left, if that pass goes through, it’s going to Edgehill for an open three, and we’ll take that. If we call the timeout, they can set up their defense. If that pass gets through, I’ll take that look.”
The Hornets were without the services leading scorer Damani Scott (20.4 points per game), but the offense came out on fire in the first quarter, spearheaded by Boen. Guy, Khristian Conner, and Boen hit consecutive triples to help Mansfield jump out to an early 9-4 lead. Boen had a traditional three-point play followed by a putback and then a three-pointer to push Mansfield’s advantage to 17-12 with 3:23 left in the first. Boen’s 11 points in the opening quarter matched his career-high from earlier this season against Sharon.
“In warmups, I was kind of feeling it, so I wanted to get more shots in the game,” Boen said. “I haven’t been shooting that much so far this year. With Damani out, I knew I needed to step up. We all usually feed off of Damani, so we all had to step up tonight.”
Franklin kept pace throughout the first quarter with Steve Karayan (nine points) coming off the bench to score five straight points, but a late bucket from Guy had the hosts up 25-22 at the end of one.
“I thought their offensive output in the first quarter is what really did us in,” Neely said. “We were matching them, we were playing some of our best offense of the season, but allowing 25 points in a quarter isn’t going to get it done against a team like that. We played really well defensively for three quarters, letting up 10, 14, and 10, I’ll take that here every time. It just seemed like we couldn’t hit those big shots we’ve made. We had a couple of looks that just didn’t drop. Obviously, our free throws down the stretch weren’t great. We shot well from the line overall, but we didn’t hit the key ones down the stretch. “
An early triple from Boen in the second quarter pushed Mansfield’s lead to 28-22, but both defenses seemed to settle down over the final seven minutes of the half. The Panthers limited the hosts to just seven points the rest of the way.
Jack Rudolph’s three off a nice feed from Edgehill got the Panthers on the board in the quarter at the halfway mark. Edgehill scored five straight himself to cut the deficit to one, 31-30. Mansfield responded with a 5-0 run to take a 35-30 lead into the locker room.
“I didn’t think we were tough enough in the first half,” Neely said. “I thought they were beating us to loose balls. I thought we did a much better job of that in the second half that led to transition baskets. They wanted it more, especially in the first quarter. Sometimes when you’re down a guy, other guys really step up their performance, and they did that.”
The Panthers needed just two minutes in the third quarter to orchestrate a 9-0 run to take the lead. Samuels (who was limited because of foul trouble), Edgehill, and Will Harvey (nine points) each scored two and Jake Macchi drained a corner three to put the visitors ahead 39-35. Mansfield hit back with an 8-0 run, a three from Boen and five straight from Tommy Dooling (10 points, six assists).
“Talk about a huge performance by other guys that stepped up. I don’t know how many points Tommy had but he probably logged 28-29 minutes,” Vaughan said. “He had to handle the ball, play defense, getting kids in the right position and being a good leader. Hats off to him for the way he played, he may not be the headline story stat wise but deserves mention.”
After the teams traded baskets twice, Guy and Makhi Baskin (eight points) scored in the final minute for the Hornets to give Mansfield a 49-45 edge after three.
“We try to practice at this level so some of this energy comes from that, we put our kids in tough situations in practice so this hopefully seems easy.” Vaughan said. “But you put 800 people in the stands, I can’t imagine that it’s easy. But we have guys come in, ready to perform, and they are excited for the game. They stuck to the game plan, weathered their first punch, weathered a second punch, and then maintained the lead in the fourth quarter.”
Franklin had opportunities in the final frame but the Hornets did not surrender the lead. A free throw from Harvey closed the deficit to two with 5:21 to go but Dooling answered on the other to push the lead back to five.
Defense and free throws from Karayan and Edgehill cut the Mansfield to just one, 55-54, with 1:28 to go. The Panthers got a key steal but couldn’t convert from the free throw line to take the lead. Seconds later, Boen hit his free throws to extend Mansfield’s advantage heading into the final minute.
“Win or lose, we were going to fight, they were going to fight,” Vaughan said. “The atmosphere was great, the gym was packed, it was 150 degrees in here, you can’t beat it. The emotion of how much goes into this game, starting when these kids are little, it’s such a high energy. All the practices, all the two-minute drills, you do it for nights like tonight. To get this energy from both teams this early in the season is tremendous. And we know good and well, we’re going to go over to Franklin and be in the same situation, and we might end up in the same boat or the opposite boat. But it’s such a fun atmosphere.
“Kids stepped up and made plays for both teams and we were fortunate to make one more [play].”
Mansfield boys basketball (3-1 Hockomock, 5-1 overall) is back in action Tuesday night when it hosts Milford. Franklin (2-2, 4-3) will try and bounce back when it hosts Stoughton on the same night.
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – Just when it looked like Mansfield would run away the state championship, Franklin stormed back with a big run and had a chance to make it a two-possession game.
And no one was surprised because that’s the never-give-up type of team that Franklin is.
But when Mansfield was able to weather the storm, keep its lead, and break the pressure to pull away in the final minutes, it didn’t come as a big surprise either, because that’s the team the Hornets have been this season.
And with that, Mansfield earned a hard-fought 67-54 win over Franklin to earn the D1 State Championship, the first in program history.
“We’d knew they would press and do whatever they needed to do to get back into the game, that’s who they are,” said Mansfield senior Sam Hyland (17 points, five rebounds, four assists). “We turned it over more than we should have and we didn’t take the best shots. But from there it was just about winning the final three minutes, then winning the final two minutes, and so on. It was just about focusing at the time at hand and outworking them. They hit some deep shots, I have to commend them for those, sometimes you have to live with it. But we did enough at the end.”
Mansfield led by as much as 18 points, up 59-41 with five minutes to play in the game after Ryan Otto (four points, four rebounds) hit a deep two just before the shot clock expired.
But true to form, Franklin turned things around. Jalen Samuels (seven points, seven rebounds, four assists) hit a free throw and then took a charge to get some momentum back. Sophomore Chris Edgehill (18 points) hit in the lane and Paul Mahon (14 points) splashed in a three to get the game back to ten, 59-49 with four minutes to play.
Out of a timeout he Panthers’ Matt Elias (eight points) picked off a pass at midcourt, leading to another three from Edgehill and suddenly the Panthers trailed 59-52 with three minutes to go.
Franklin had three chances to close the gap further but Mansfield’s defense wouldn’t allow it. Mansfield forced three straight empty trips, and then in transition, Mansfield junior Damani Scottt (19 points, four rebounds) drew the defense in and dropped a pass off right under the hoop for an easy two from Otto.
The Panthers came up short on the other end again, and Mansfield went on to sink six free throws over the final 90 seconds to secure the win the D1 State Championship.
“I can’t really put it into words,” said Mansfield head coach Mike Vaughan. “I know the last time we were [in the state championship], the stage might have been too big. From the moment we got on the bus on Thursday, the kids were locked in. They’ve been locked in all season long. It’s been a great ride. We did great things in D1 South, we did great things in the EMass game, and we did great things tonight.”
While it looked like it may turn into a blowout in the fourth quarter, Vaughan knew that Franklin would go down swinging to the very end.
“That’s a very good team we just played,” Vaughan said of the Panthers. “We made some shots, we did some things we had to do but [Franklin] wasn’t underprepared, this wasn’t a lack of effort by Franklin. If we play this game 10 times, five go one way and five go the other. It comes down to the fact at some point in the second and third quarters, we made a few extra baskets.
“They weren’t going to go away, they weren’t going to roll over. They play hard, they compete, they do all the little things well. They were going to give us every last breath they have. Paul Mahon is one of the best players our league has seen in terms of his ability to change the game on both ends of the floor, especially defensively. He held Tyler [Boulter] (four points, seven rebounds) in check tonight plus scored points of his own. Edgehill is a special player, we still have to deal with him for two more years as a top player in the league. And Samuels is great too, and then they have great role players who step in a do a lot of things for them.”
Franklin coach CJ Neely had a similar outlook, noting that in the end, the Panthers knew it would come down to the small things. The Panthers finished 10-for-22 from the free throw line compared to 23-for-30 from the Hornets.
“As much as the hype went on all week, we talked about how at the end of the day, it’s going to come down to a couple of loose balls, rebounding and taking care of the ball, and making our free throws,” Neely said. “At the end of the day, that’s what it comes down to and they [made their free throws]. When you play in this rivalry, if you’re not making your free throws and they are, and they can go from four to an eight-point lead instead of keeping it close.
“When it starts to expand, you have to come out of what you want to do a little bit. And both teams have had to do that in all three games, we’ve gotten out of what we wanted to do because the lead extended. Then you’re doing something that you practice but it’s not your go-to or your identity. You’re trying to get back into it and you’re taking a lot of risks. Mansfield did a good job of extending their lead making their free throws, and we didn’t. At the end of the day, we didn’t do what we needed to do.”
While Mansfield had the key runs throughout the second and third quarters, they needed another one in the first quarter just to keep pace with the red-hot Panthers.
Holding a 10-9 advantage late in the first quarter behind a free throw from Samuels, the Panthers got hot from deep. Mahon took a feed from Edgehill and made a deep three, and then repeated the same sequence two plays later for a 16-9 lead with just over a minute to play.
Mansfield was able to answer over the final minute though. Hyland drove hard for two, Scott completed a traditional three-point play on a possession the Hornets had because of a steal from Khristian Conner, and then Scott came up with a late steal and went in alone for a thunderous one-handed slam to tie the game after eight minutes.
Franklin’s offense picked up where it left off as Elias drained a three to open the second quarter and junior Will Harvey joined in on the three-party with a corner trifecta for a 22-16 lead just over a minute into the second.
Hyland hit a three but Edgehill answered with a traditional three-point play to keep the Panther advantage at four. A free throw from Scott cut it to three, and two more from Justin Vine (five points) made it one after he went to the line after hauling in a defensive rebound because Mansfield was in the bonus.
With both Scott and Hockomock League MVP John McCoy (18 points, 11 rebounds) in foul trouble for the Hornets — and Samuels for the Panthers — Mansfield’s Hyland stepped up into the spotlight.
Hyland hit another trifecta, this one putting the Hornets up 27-25 with just under three minutes left in the half. Elias hit one free throw to make it a one-point game but Hyland got his layup to fall while fighting through a foul, completing the three-point play at the line. Two possessions later, Hyland once again attacked the basket, draw the foul, and got a kind bounce off the rim for another three-point play, plus a 33-26 lead.
Hyland finished with 12 of Mansfield’s 19 points in the second quarter and tied a career-high with 17 points overall on top of five rebounds and four assists.
“There wasn’t a specific game plan to get me going but we got into some foul trouble early so someone else had to step up and score points, it’s the Mansfield way,” Hyland said. “I had a couple open opportunities early that sometimes I’d pass up and wouldn’t take but fortunately I knocked them down. That gave me the confidence and then I started to get to the rim. I got a couple of bounces to go my way, a couple of calls and had a strong first half that kind of got the momentum back on our side. It ended up working out pretty nice.”
Franklin’s defense came out strong in the second half, holding Mansfield scoreless for nearly the first three minutes of the third. However, Mansfield’s defense was equal to the task and the Panthers only scored once, a layup from Mahon, during that stretch.
McCoy drained a three to give Franklin some life, pushing the lead to 38-28. Mansfield went up as much as 14 points in the frame (44-30) on a traditional three-point play from Scott. But Franklin closed with an 8-4 run with Samuels scoring the first four and Elias and Edgehill each contributing two.
Franklin nearly had a big stop to keep the deficit in single digits at the end of the quarter, but Hyland came flying in to steal an offensive board for an easy putback.
Mansfield opened the fourth with a set play to get two for McCoy, and then ran a set that resulted in a corner three for Vine. McCoy knocked down a pair of technical free throws to stretch it to 55-38.
Mahon answered for Franklin with a triple but two more from McCoy at the line, and a deep two from Otto gave Mansfield a commanding 59-41 lead, only for Franklin to charge back with its 11-0 run to make it a seven-point game.
“The resilience of this team….we’re never going to go away,” Neely said. “We’re not going to be the team that plays for the newspaper and loses by 10 or 11, we’re going to go out there and try and cut back into it as much and possible, and we’ll lose by 50 but we’ll do it trying to get back into it.
“We just couldn’t make a couple of those baskets there to get back into it. When Mansfield builds a lead like that, they do a great job of moving the ball and making you work, getting to the line and making their free throws.”
Vaughan agreed, stressing the importance of getting a big lead because he knew Franklin would continue to push back.
“This was a game we were fortunate to be up 18 so we could weather the storm and let the clock tick away,” Vaughan said. “But it comes down to what we’ve done all year. Otto steps up and has a huge basket, Vine hits the three in the corner. Different guys doing different things makes a huge difference for our team.”
While the Hornets secured their first state title win with a victory over rival Franklin, Vaughan noted his squad focused more on themselves and getting a win than about the rivalry.
“It wasn’t really about the opponent, it was just about winning this game,” Vaughan said. “If anything, there’s a part of me that knows how hard it is to get here, and I know what Franklin basketball is all about, and what CJ is all about and most of those kids I’ve coached at some point. They are great kids, great young men.
“There’s a part of me that has some sympathy. I wish there were times we weren’t in the same division and we didn’t face each other at some point. But we’ve also lost to Franklin back when they were in the South. It wasn’t about who we were playing, but it was about playing in this game and doing everything we can to win it.”
Franklin finishes the season 23-4 and had a second straight appearance in the D1 State Finals.
“The guys should be very proud of themselves,” Neely said of his team. “They are working hard year round, they are sacrificing a lot to put Franklin on the map and be one of the powers in the state. We’ve beaten a lot of good teams this season, we didn’t shy away from challenges. They should be very proud of themselves.
“These guys have brought Franklin to a place they had never been before and did it twice in a row. They have a lot to be proud of. Obviously, both teams wanted to win tonight, it’s two great teams that know a lot about each other. [Mansfield] was the better team tonight.”
Mansfield boys basketball picks up its 27th win of the season, finishing with just two losses.
“This win means a lot, I know a lot of players on [Franklin] and I’m pretty close friends with some of them,” McCoy said. “It’s definitely just amazing to beat Franklin in my last high school game.”
By Joe Clark, HockomockSports.com Student Reporter
WORCESTER, Mass. – When Franklin took on Springfield Central at the DCU Center in Worcester a year ago, Chris Edgehill scored eight points in 20 seconds to tie the game and lead the Panthers to an overtime win to clinch a berth in the state championship.
This year, when the two teams met again on Thursday night, no such heroics were needed.
Franklin played a near-perfect game en route to a 62-43 win over the Golden Eagles, handing Central its first loss of the season.
“This game was a little bit more comfortable than last year, we were watching guys cry as we put ourselves together to come back and win last year, so this game I thought we had a much more complete performance from start to finish, I was pretty confident in what we were doing out there,” said Franklin coach CJ Neely.
Franklin started out the game on a 15-4 run and finished the first quarter up 21-10 behind two threes from Matt Elias (14 points) and a strong start from senior Paul Mahon, who had eight of his ten points in the first frame. Elias hit another just under a minute into the third quarter, putting the Franklin crowd into a frenzy.
“The threes early were great, he’s been big for us all year, and he kind of hit a slump for a couple games and wasn’t spacing the floor the way he has been, and I think that’s what opens things up for Chris [Edgehill], and hitting those early gave him a lot of confidence,” Neely said on the early threes from Elias.
Springfield Central chipped away at the Franklin lead in the second quarter, behind Levi Grady-White (12 points, three rebounds), who came off the bench to give the Golden Eagles a spark with eight points in the second quarter.
With just over three minutes left in the second quarter, Elias, who had already hit three trifectas for Franklin, looked to take an elbow to the head and was removed from the game. He would miss the rest of the quarter, but returned to start the second half. Springfield Central would go on a 7-1 run with Elias out of the game, cutting Franklin’s lead to six at 29-23 heading into the locker room at halftime.
To start the third quarter, Grady-White and Jalen Samuels (13 points, eight rebounds) traded baskets, but after Grady-White cut the lead to four with 5:38 left in the third quarter, Edgehill buried a three from the corner to put Franklin up 34-27.
“The shot looked off honestly, shooter’s bounce is what they call that, but definitely whenever I’m hitting shots I’m always gaining confidence, and my team gains confidence in me,” Edgehill said.
That confidence was on full display, as after being called for a charge, Edgehill (18 points, four rebounds, six assists) had a beautiful spin in the lane and finished with a layup for two points that extended Franklin’s lead to 36-27. A putback by Samuels with just under a minute left in the third quarter put Franklin up 42-30, a lead they held until the fourth quarter.
Springfield Central opened the fourth with a 6-0 run that included a three from Josiah Green (nine points), and a bucket from Anthony Kelley (nine points), who spent most of the game battling foul trouble. With Franklin holding onto a six-point lead, Elias struck again from beyond the arc to put Franklin up 45-36.
The Panthers didn’t look back from there, closing the game on a 17-7 run to finish off a 62-43 win and to clinch a berth to the MIAA Division 1 State Final for the second year in a row.
When they arrive at the MassMutual Center on Saturday night for the state final, it will be a familiar face on the opposite bench, as the Panthers will take on the Mansfield Hornets for the third time this season to renew their rivalry on the biggest stage yet.
“It speaks to the strength of our league, both of us have gone back and forth over the past how many years, splitting games in the regular season, both guys kind of getting things done on some nights and looking much better than the other team, and then going back and having the same thing happen on the other side, so it speaks to the Hockomock and the strength of what we’re bringing to the table every night,” Neely said about playing the Hornets. “It’s kind of like Duke-North Carolina in the National Championship game, you see what you can do, and obviously, we both know each other like the back of our hands, so it will be interesting.”
“It’s a dream come true,” Edgehill said about the state final matchup. “There’s nothing better than in the regular season going then going to that Mansfield gym, and it’s going to be a different atmosphere obviously in that big facility we’re playing in, but it’s the rivalry between Franklin and Mansfield that as a kid you’re just like, ‘I want to be apart of that,’ and it shows how good the Hock is compared to other leagues.”
“That’s going to be a great game, knowing our fans are huge and their fans are huge, it’s going to be a great environment,” Samuels said about facing Mansfield for the third time this season.
Mansfield’s (26-2) road to the state final this year included wins over Newton South, BC High, Newton North, Brockton, and Everett.
Franklin boys basketball (23-3) beat Lincoln-Sudbury, Natick, Algonquin, and Springfield Central on their way to their second straight state final appearance.
WORCESTER, Mass. – The 2018 Franklin boys basketball team has relied on its defense all season long to win game after game.
So it’s only fitting the Panthers came up with a pair of big stops to secure a 58-53 win over Algonquin to clinch the program’s second straight D1 Central Sectional Championship.
Holding a 55-50 lead with 4:21 to go, the Panthers relied on the defensive end to clinch the title. The Tomahawks had the momentum, sandwiching a bucket from Nick Redden (25 points, 11 rebounds) around two defensive stops to get within two.
The Panthers got a turnover but gave the ball back on an offensive foul that negated an and-one opportunity. Once again, Franklin got the stop it needed but the rebound bounced around and out of bounds. Algonquin called a timeout with an inbounds chance under the Franklin basket with 39.3 to go.
The Tomahawks tried to inbound the ball but Franklin senior Paul Mahon (18 points, five steals) read the play, launching into the air to tip the ball free while diving into the opposing bench. Senior Jack Rodgers tracked it down for an open layup and a 57-53 lead.
“If we were going to go out it, we were going to do it playing our style of basketball,” said Franklin head coach CJ Neely about being aggressive on the final possessions. “We weren’t going to hope to not lose, we went out there to win the game. I thought our rotations were very aggressive, we got we trap when we wanted to trap them and we got some of the deflections out of it. We said at halftime this game is going to come down to deflections, loose balls, rebounds, and a couple of stops.”
Back down the other end of the court, Redden missed a jumped but Algonquin grabbed the offensive board. But an errant pass bounced around in the paint before Franklin junior Jalen Samuels (six points, 12 rebounds) grabbed hold, tossing a pass ahead for Mahon who was followed. He hit one of two free throws with 15.2 to ice it.
“It was a risk-reward play but I saw the ball in the air and I thought to myself “that’s mine“ so I went up and try to make a play on it and Jack made a nice play to track it down and score,” Mahon said.
Franklin held a 49-42 lead heading into the final quarter but the Tomahawks needed just 1:34 for a 7-0 run to tie the game.
Panthers sophomore Chris Edgehill (23 points) snapped the run with a nice take to the rim to go up 51-49. Algonquin answered with a free throw to get within one. The teams traded turnovers and then Mahon poked away another ball, leading to a break from the Panthers.
Edgehill drove to the basket to drive the defense before kicking to the corner to Rodgers. But as the defense scrambled to him, he alertly used one extra pass to get it to Mahon, who stepped up and calmly buried the triple to make it 54-50 with 4:51 to play. It was just Franklin’s third made three of the game (finishing 3-for-23 from beyond the arc).
“That felt good,” Mahon said. “I kind of get a little streaky with my shooting. We wanted Chris to attack the basket tonight and get into the lane and dish it out. He kicked it to Jack and he found me and I just let it fly, it felt awesome.”
Mahon missed last year’s sectional final with an injury and was limited his sophomore year against St. John’s because of early foul trouble.
The senior captain scored 10 of his points in the opening quarter to help the Panthers get off to a strong start (22-17 lead after one quarter). He also took on the task of guarding Algonquin’s leading scorer, Kyle Henderson (over 20 points per game).
Mahon limited Henderson to just 13 points on 3-for-11 shooting and had a big hand in Henderson committing nine turnovers.
“What up player, what a person,” Neely said of Mahon. “He wanted the challenge the second we won our last game…he told me I want Henderson. He couldn’t wait for the opportunity he’s been talking about it all week. Obviously, Henderson is a great player, you’re not going to shut him down, but Paul did about as good as you probably can against him. He was averaging over 20 points per game and now that’s another person Paul holds under their average.
“He’s relentless on the defense of end of the floor so most guys wouldn’t be able to come down the other end and hit that big shot when you need them to but he seems to be everywhere. He’s been our true captain for two years by himself and there’s a really good reason for that with the effort he gives night in and night out.”
Franklin limited Algonquin to just three points over the final 5:30 of the game and forced six turnovers.
The Panthers had a rough start to the game, committing four of their 16 turnovers on their first four possessions, facing a 6-0 deficit before even getting a shot off. But Franklin settled down and used a 13-0 run to take the lead. Leading 18-8 in the frame, the Tomahawks got back into the game with a 9-4 run.
Franklin held a five-point lead three times but each time the Tomahawks had an answer to get within three. The Tomahawks tied the game 32-32 with a minute to go in the half but Edgehill fought through contact to make back to back baskets to give the Panthers a 36-32 lead at the break.
Redden was a big reason why the Tomahawks were in the game, scoring 18 points in the first half. Both Henderson and Brian Duffy did a nice job of forcing the Panthers to bring help and Redden cleaned up with some easy buckets down low.
Franklin remedied that in the second half, holding the Tomahawks’ big man to just seven points in the second.
“We were trapping ball screens off of him and they did a nice adjustment of picking and popping with him to get him some open looks,” Neely said. “We weren’t great on our rotation against him and he got some good looks. And then he had some nice post moves and got some buckets that way. He’s long and we don’t have many long guys will start the game.
“We had some tough matchups out there but we adjusted by rotating a bit better. And then sometimes we would switch and sometimes we wouldn’t, just a couple different combinations to mix it up. But for the most part, we wanted to make him put it on the ground and then play defense against him.”
In the third, the Tomahawks cut the deficit to three with a layup with three minutes to play, but a big three-point play from Samuels, two from Edgehill, another free throw from Samuels and a pair of free throws from Edgehill with two seconds left put Franklin ahead 49-42 at the end of three.
Franklin boys basketball (22-3) will take on D1 West Champion Springfield Central (22-0) in a rematch of last year’s state semifinal. The game is scheduled to tipoff on Monday at Worcester State University at 7:30.
By Joe Clark, HockomockSports.com Student Reporter
WORCESTER, Mass. – All season long, the Franklin boys basketball team has relied on their defense and a balanced scoring attack on their way to the top seed in the D1 Central tournament. On Sunday afternoon at WPI, Franklin stuck to that formula in a 68-54 win over #5 Natick in the D1 Central Semifinals.
The Panther’s defensive effort was in full force throughout the first quarter, as they limited the Red Hawks to just ten points to take an 18-10 lead. Franklin sophomore Chris Edgehill score seven of his team-high 19 points for Franklin, including a three that beat the buzzer to give Franklin an eight-point advantage heading into the second quarter.
After Natick’s Will Bodnitzki (nine points, three rebounds) scored with just over four minutes to go in the first half to cut the Franklin lead to 26-17, the Panthers went on a 10-2 run and didn’t give up a field goal to close out the half. Threes from Paul Mahon (13 points, two steals) and Matt Elias (eleven points) highlighted the run that also included two free throws from Jack Rodgers (six points, eight rebounds, three assists) and a basket from Will Harvey (two steals).
Jalen Samuels (13 points, ten rebounds, four assists), who sat most of the second quarter with foul trouble, scored Franklin’s first five points of the second half as he converted a layup before hitting a three on a nice assist from Rodgers.
“Jalen’s a special player when he’s going,” said Franklin coach CJ Neely about Samuels. “Not having him in the first half, luckily we were able to keep our lead for a while there, and then getting him back obviously, being a guy that can get off you on the dribble and having big guys guarding him, I think it’s hard for them to deal with a guy like Jalen.”
Late in the third quarter after two free throws from Mahon put Franklin up 51-30, Natick came storming back, going on a 9-2 run to close the quarter behind seven points from Jahden Erold (22 points, ten rebounds).
“Not our best performance in the second half, I thought our first half was Franklin basketball, the ball was moving, defense was there, rebounding was there for us, but in the second half we started to get a little careless with the ball and started getting a little whiny about the calls and soft on the glass and on defensive end of the floor,” Neely said about his team’s second half performance. “Fortunately enough for us, we were able to make enough shots to kind of survive there in the second half and get out here with a ‘W.’”
After Alexander Cohen (three points, two rebounds) made a three with 2:15 to play to cut Franklin’s lead to just eight at 60-52, Edgehill erupted for the Panthers, scoring eight points in the last two minutes of the game, including a game-clinching three with 28 seconds to play in what would be the last basket of the game.
“I think he’s certainly never been afraid of a big moment, he’s someone that wants the ball in his hands in crunch time,” Neely said about Edgehill. “He’s a great player, and I think we’re relying on him as a team a lot to get our points.”
Franklin (21-3) will face Algonquin (17-7) Friday night at 6:00 PM at WPI for the D1 Central title. The Tomahawks beat St. John’s Shrewsbury 82-70 on Sunday for the chance to play for their first sectional title since 2001.
By Joe Clark, HockomockSports.com Student Reporter
FRANKLIN, Mass. – In last year’s D1 Central Quarterfinals, Franklin survived a major scare from Acton-Boxboro en route to a 59-52 win. This year, Franklin made sure that scare never came, as the top-seeded Panthers played a near-perfect game from start to finish in a 79-49 win over #8 Lincoln-Sudbury.
“This year, we talked about that [the Acton-Boxboro game] at practice and said how you can’t walk in and look at your number one seed and think that’s going to do the job and get you to win games, you have to go out and show why you earned that seed, be the team you have been all season that’s put you in the great position you’re in now, and I thought we did that tonight,” said Franklin coach CJ Neely about his team’s performance.
Franklin started the game out on a 10-2 run that included five points from Matt Elias (seven points), but L-S went on a 5-0 run behind threes from Kahmari Williams (11 points) and Jack Sorbo to cut the Franklin lead to 10-8 midway through the first quarter.
But Franklin dominated the rest of the half, using a 30-9 run, highlighted by 11 points and three steals from Paul Mahon (19 points, four steals) and seven points off the bench from Will Harvey. The run gave the Panthers a 40-17 halftime lead.
Franklin stifled the Warriors defensively throughout the first half, holding them to just 24% shooting in the half and not allowing them to grab an offensive rebound.
“We had a good scout on them, we knew what was going on and the guys did a great job of executing the game plan right from the beginning, we didn’t give them anything easy at all,” Neely added. “I thought every shot they took was difficult, and then Jalen [Samuels] was an animal on the boards, and as a team, I thought the box outs were tremendous.”
In the third quarter, Franklin outscored L-S 20-12 with Paul Rudolph (seven points) scoring five points and Jalen Samuels (eleven points, 13 rebounds) chipping in with six points. A three by Rudolph with just under a minute to go in the quarter gave the Panthers a 30 point lead at 58-28, and a layup by Alex Klowan (four points) with 29 seconds left in the quarter extended the lead to 60-28 heading into the fourth quarter.
Franklin turned to their bench for much of the fourth quarter, with Gavin Farnan chipping in six points and Jack Rudolph going 4-for-4 at the free throw line. Lincoln Sudbury pulled their starters with just over a minute to go where they got a nice ovation from the visiting crowd.
Franklin boys basketball (20-4) advances to the D1 Central Semifinal for the fifth straight season. They will take on #5 Natick at WPI on Sunday at 3:00. The only common opponent Franklin has with the Redhawks is Stoughton. Natick beat the Black Knights, 74-54, in a tournament game on December 30th. Franklin beat Stoughton, 93-58, in a Hockomock League game on January 26th.
“We gotta prepare for Natick the same way we prepared for these guys, we got to stay with the one game at a time mentality, we can’t look any further than Natick, they’re a really good team,” Neely said about Franklin’s upcoming opponent. “I’ve watched them play a couple times and they beat Newton North this year, they’re definitely a high powered team that we’re going to have to be ready for, so I’m not looking any further than Natick.”