NORTH ATTLEBORO, Mass. – North Attleboro had its best offensive performance of the season on Wednesday night to beat Weston on the road and earn its first win of the season. The Rocketeers carried that momentum over to Friday night, when it hosted Davenport division rival Sharon in the Pickering Gym, and came through with their best defensive effort.
North limited the Eagles to no more than 10 points in any quarter, went on a 22-2 run between the first and second quarters, and pulled away late to win 57-34. It was the lowest point total that North had allowed this season.
“For us to be successful, on the defensive end I think is where we did a good job,” said North coach Derek Herber. “That allows us to get into the transition game and that’s where we want to be. We’re not going to pound it inside and beat you there, we’re trying to get out and run with you.”
Sharon got off to a good start, despite missing leading scorer Emma Eberhardt, who was injured in the loss to Holliston earlier this week. Kaitlyn Wallace (nine points and six rebounds) buried back-to-back threes to give the Eagles an early lead, but midway through the quarter the North offense finally clicked into gear.
Amanda Kaiser (game-high 18 points, including four three-pointers) nailed a triple to cut the lead to one and Julia Feid (14 points and six rebounds) got a layup in transition off a great pass by Lydia Santos to give North its first lead. Telishya Herbert (team-high 13 points and eight boards) got a layup off an Evanjuline Elisma assist to make it 8-7, but that was the last time Sharon would be in front.
“It hurts not having Emma play tonight,” Sharon coach Sandra Lombardi admitted. “You’re down one starter, who’s your leading scorer, then we’re going to struggle offensively. They did play well and put a lot of pressure on us and they hit some big threes that killed us.”
Siobhan Weir scored on a layup, Feid nailed a pull-up jumper, and then Weir added a second bucket to make it 13-8 at the end of the first quarter. The Rocketeers didn’t let up in the second, scoring the first 11 points, including five from Kaiser, four from Feid, and a score by Emma Noreck on an offensive rebound.
“We’re starting to understand how to box out and how to play good defense and then take control of the ball on the rebound,” Herber explained. “Hopefully, it’s a good game and we can keep on the roll.”
The Eagles tried to hang around with a 7-2 run to close the half down 26-15. Elisma scored all six of her points in that stretch, scoring a traditional three-point play off a Leah Fandel assist, and then knocking down a three off an Ally Brown feed.
Sharon were slow coming out of the locker room at halftime, walking out just as the buzzer sounded, but the Eagles managed their best offensive quarter of the game, scoring 10 points in the third. Herbert had four points in the quarter and Trinity Payne (eight rebounds) drove to the basket for a three-point play.
Every time it looked like Sharon might get back into the game, North answered. Olivia Forbes hit a three off a Feid assist to make it a 12-point lead and then Kaiser drilled a three off a Feid offensive rebound and kick out that extended the Rocketeers’ lead back to double digits (34-22). Kaiser hit her fourth three of the night to make it a 14-point game.
“Amanda will get her shots in,” Herber said, “but on defense she was a difference maker, getting in touch with everything, tipping the ball and setting the tone.”
Lombardi said, “They didn’t miss and in some cases we hesitated to shoot and struggled to get into a rhythm on offense. Give them credit, they played hard, were physical, and they were the better team tonight.”
North led by 12 heading into the final quarter and a Herbert layup cut it to 10 right away, but the Rocketeers went on a 9-0 run. Feid scored on the break, Forbes hit a jumper, and Weir (seven points) buried another shot from beyond the arc.
Herber praised Feid for her all-around game and leadership as a senior. He said, “She’s been great. She’s carrying us on the offensive end but we’ve been asking her to go inside and play on the post, something she’s never done before, and she’s really accepted that role of being a defensive stopper for us.”
Kaiser added a pair of layups when she leaked out in transition and Regan Fein scored all five of her points in the fourth to help the Rocketeers extend the lead.
North Attleboro (2-6) will try to keep things headed in the right direction when they travel to Attleboro on Wednesday. Herber said, “Get some confidence and a lot of bodies into the game. We’re trying to set a rotation and get some bodies into good positions and girls are starting to find their roles.”
Sharon (3-5) will try to end its two-game losing streak when it takes on Taunton on Tuesday, in a game that is already looking important for the Eagles to make the tournament.
2017-2018 Record: 9-13 2017-2018 Finish: Missed postseason. Coach: Martin Crowley
The Bombardiers were just two wins shy of a playoff spot last season under new head coach Marty Crowley and Attleboro brings back three starters and has added several new faces to the roster to try and make a postseason push this winter.
The graduation of leading scorer Sam Pierce (16 points per game) means that a number of players are going to need to step in and make up for production on offense and on the glass. Senior point guard Jordyn Lako will be back to run the Bombardiers offense and provide three-point shooting, while junior Nyah Thomas is a versatile weapon on the offensive side of the ball. Both are also aggressive defenders, who set the tone on that end of the floor. Senior forward Mackenzie Roberts can score in the post or from beyond the arc and junior Liv McCall is a dynamic guard who is capable of big scoring nights.
Defense has always been the focus of teams that Crowley coaches and the Bombardiers will be no different. To keep up that defensive intensity, the Bombardiers have added depth to the rotation. Seniors Abby Struminski and Dom Garnes (who was out last season with an injury) provide leadership, while sophomores Gabby Bosh and Sonny Stuger and freshmen Meghan Gordon and Lillian Froio are newcomers to keep an eye on.
“Hopefully we can generate scoring opportunities off our defense and use our athleticism to create baskets,” said Crowley. “We have a great mix of experience and youth. We are excited about what lies ahead. Practices have been spirited and the kids have been working hard.”
2017-2018 Record: 10-11 2017-2018 Finish: Reached Div. 2 South first round. Coach: Jim Choquette
Last winter, Canton got a taste of the postseason for the first time in seven seasons and now the program will try to build on that momentum while finding a way to replace the scoring and rebounding of Hannah Jerrier, who averaged a double-double for the Bulldogs last winter. An exciting crop of underclassmen has been added to the roster and now Canton will try to build experience with a schedule that puts them on the road for the majority of the first half of the year.
While Jerrier will obviously be missed, the Bulldogs bring back the other four starters and other players with plenty of experience to try and make it a much shorter wait to get back into the playoffs. Senior point guard Julia Hamilton is back to run the offense, senior Erin Devine gives Canton control on the glass and a rim protector on defense, senior Molly Ludwig gives balance to the offense, and senior Maggie Connolly is one of the league’s top defensive players on the perimeter. Senior Nicole Galvin will add depth to the backcourt.
Junior Lilah Milton came on strong at the tail of end of last season, including a huge game in the playoff-clinching win over Weymouth, and could take up some of Jerrier’s scoring from the power forward position. Sophomore Kayla Albert gained valuable experience last season as a freshman and current rookies Sydney and Fay Gallery, and Kiara Cerruti have the potential to step right into the rotation and contribute.
“Details are everything to us,” said Canton coach Jim Choquette. “If our group of young talent and veteran leadership/experience can continue to stay focused on the details during the good times and tough times of a season then we should continue to improve and have a very excited and successful season.”
2017-2018 Record: 26-2 2017-2018 Finish: Won Div. 2 state championship. Coach: Lisa Downs
Last season was one to remember for the Warriors, who rolled through the regular season in dominating fashion and lived up to the team’s immense potential by bringing home the Div. 2 state title. With the graduation of a very strong senior class, the expectations are much lower for the Warriors this season but there are several returning players and new faces that have Foxboro coach Lisa Downs confident that the program can continue its recent run of success in the Davenport division.
Losing players like Ashley Sampson, Lily Sykes, Grace Tamulionis, and Shannon Smally is a challenge for any team, but the Warriors will bring back a pair of starters from the playoff run in sophomore Katelyn Mollica and junior Abby Hassman. Mollica is the team’s top returning scorer and will be one of the top point guards in the Hock with her ability to shoot and score off the dribble. Hassman gives Foxboro a strong presence on the glass and showed increased confidence in her offensive game at the end of last season. Senior Chelsea Gibbons and junior Lizzy Davis should see increased minutes and bigger roles in the offense this year.
Juniors Shakirah Ketant and Yara Fawaz should give Foxboro more depth in the post and contribute on the glass and both saw limited minutes in the playoffs last winter. Sophomores Adrienne Dunn and Jordyn Collins will be newcomers to the backcourt and have impressed during the preseason, while junior forward Anita Busznyak is expected to see a lot more time this year and could be a player to watch.
Downs is hoping this year’s team will learn from the graduating class. She said, “The time they spent practicing with and playing against these girls has really paid off – they know what is expected of them on the court and what is required to be a winning team. We have established a winning culture at Foxboro and the players know that I expect nothing more than what they should expect from themselves.”
2017-2018 Record: 15-9 2017-2018 Finish: Reached Div. 1 Central first round. Coach: John Leighton
The Panthers bring back 10 players from last year’s roster, which reached the state tournament but lost in the opening round to Natick, and there are high expectations on Oak St. as the new season gets underway. Franklin enters the season as the favorite in the Kelley-Rex division and its balanced lineup has the potential to make a run in the state tournament as well.
Much of the enthusiasm for Franklin’s chances this winter come from 6-foot-3 center Ali Brigham. The junior recently committed to George Washington (where her father once played) and is the lone returning player from last season HockomockSports.com First Team. While she (deservedly) garners much of the attention, the Panthers have a number of other weapons to give the opposition headaches. Senior guard Bea Bondhus, who committed to Springfield College, is one of the top three-point shooters in the Hock and sophomore guard Elizabeth Wilson is back from an injury that cut short the promising start to her varsity career.
The Panthers will also bring back versatile junior forwards Megan O’Connell and Breanna Atwood, who add size in the paint but can also take defenders off the dribble or knock down outside shots. Seniors Hailey Sanders and Calen Frongillo add depth to the frontcourt, while senior Shannon Gray and juniors Kelsey MacCallum and Sydney Garilli are capable of stepping in at either guard position.
“It is our goal to compete each night and to improve from last year,” said Franklin coach John Leighton. “With 10 returning players, we feel our experience will help us to better prepare for the season and compete against the best in our league.”
2017-2018 Record: 4-16 2017-2018 Finish: Missed postseason. Coach: Amy Siggens
King Philip had to battle injuries throughout head coach Amy Siggens’ first year in charge, including a late season injury to leading scorer Shannon O’Connor, but the Warriors are healthy coming into this season and with a year to get use to a new system, confidence is high that KP can make a push up the standings and fight for a postseason berth this winter.
O’Connor is the key piece returning for the Warriors. A four-year varsity player who has been recruited by Div. I college programs, O’Connor gives KP a consistent scorer and someone who will draw opposing defenses. Senior Julia Leroux will be back at the point and running the KP offense, while junior Faith Roy is the team’s best outside threat and has developed as a ball-handler who can score in a variety of ways. Sophomore Emma Glaser, who battled injuries throughout her freshman season, will add versatility to the lineup and can play multiple positions and her classmate Courtney Keswick is a newcomer to watch in the backcourt.
The Warriors will also have strength in the post with senior Catherine Cummings providing a solid presence on the glass and junior Faye Veilleux giving KP length and athleticism at the forward position. Newcomers like junior Taylor Butler and returning senior Kendall Mason will give added depth and strong play on the defensive end of the floor.
There is a lot of enthusiasm surrounding our team this year with our sights on continued growth and improvement upon our overall record from a year ago,” Siggens said. “Our practices have been very competitive and I’m encouraged by our team’s attitude and overall interest in getting better. I like this team a lot and I look forward to the challenge of helping each girl reach her maximum potential.”
2017-2018 Record: 20-6 2017-2018 Finish: Reached Div. 1 South final. Coach: Mike Redding
After three straight league titles and four trips to the Div. 1 South semifinal in the past four seasons (including back-to-back finals), Mansfield has been one of the most consistent teams in the Hockomock League, but the Hornets enter this season trying to replace Meg Hill, who scored more than 1,000 points and pulled down more than 1,000 points in her stellar career. With 10 seniors and loads of athleticism, this might be a very different looking Mansfield attack, but one that has the potential to keep the Hornets right back on top in the Kelley-Rex division and capable of making another deep tournament run.
The Hornets have been known for slowing the ball down and running intricate sets, but this team is suited for getting up and down the court as quickly as possible, highlighted by senior guard Mady Bendanillo, one of the quickest players in the Hock. Senior forward Maggie Danehy has emerged as a strong interior scorer and someone who can control the glass, but she is also someone who can run like a guard and get out on the break for easy baskets. Seniors Sydney Mulkern and Erin Daniel add wing scoring and are both solid shooters who can spread the floor and open lanes to the basket.
Athletic senior forwards Emily Vigeant and Steph Kemp can outrun many of the guards in the league and senior point guard Kara Bendanillo is another speedster who can push the ball off makes or misses. Sophomore Ashley Santos saw time last year as a rookie and adds to the frontcourt depth and versatility, while junior Becca Hottleman will be back to give Mansfield another option at guard.
It is a different feel to the lineup but one that Mansfield coach Mike Redding feels can be effective. He said, “We need to rebound as a team and must change our style to up-tempo with defensive pressure/fast breaks and play to our strengths (athleticism and depth).”
2017-2018 Record: 13-9 2017-2018 Finish: Reached Div. 2 Central quarterfinal. Coach: T.J. Dolliver
Milford coach T.J. Dolliver brings back six players from the team that not only reached the state tournament last season but also went on the road and beat Burncoat handily, the program’s first playoff win since 2001. The problem for the Hawks is that almost the entire rotation from last year’s team has graduated, including 1,000-point scorer Kate Irwin.
While this may be a rebuilding year for the Hawks, Dolliver sees it as an opportunity for players to step into new roles and establish themselves as starters and as regular contributors. The lone senior back from last year is forward Grace Risio, who Dolliver said made a difference when she was given the opportunity last year, and sophomore guard Jillian Michelson saw some time in the backcourt as a rookie.
The Hawks will have eight sophomores on the roster this season, so it is clear that Milford is going to try and build with youth, similar to several teams from last year. Among the players from last year’s roster, forwards Katie Maietta, guard Emma Lawrence, and forward Carly Ferreira all got time as freshmen and could see those minutes increase significantly this winter.
Dolliver said, “With our entire rotation graduating last year, there are a lot of opportunities waiting for everyone in the program. It will be exciting to watch who emerges within the group and elevates their game to compete at the varsity level.”
2017-2018 Record: 4-16 2017-2018 Finish: Missed postseason. Coach: Derek Herber
Last year was a tough transition season for the Rocketeers, as North Attleboro moved on from a number of players who were starters for several years and incorporated a number of new, young faces into the lineup. North had a better second half to the season and will try to build on that this winter with a more experienced group of players.
Senior Julia Feid is back on the wing and is North’s top returning scorer, coming off a season in which she averaged more than nine points per game. Fellow seniors Liz Smahi and Emma Noreck will add leadership in the backcourt and try to set the direction for the team this year. Junior point guard Olivia Forbes, who was on the HockomockSports.com All-Underclassman Team last season, will be back to get the offense going and provide strong defense on the perimeter. Junior Eliza Dion also returns to add rebounding and interior scoring for a team that can’t count on a lot of height in the paint.
The North offense improved over the course of last season with the addition of sophomore Amanda Kaiser (8.6 points per game) and junior Julia Kleczkowski (40 percent from three-point range), who can both fill it up from the outside and who are both willing to take any shot that presents itself. Several newcomers will fill out the roster with the potential of adding important minutes over the course of the season, including sophomore Lydia Santos and Siobhan Weir.
“We will rely on Julia Feid to be our first option on offense and the sooner we can develop a consistent second option will be a factor in the early part of the season,” said North Attleboro coach Derek Herber. “The inside scoring option will hopefully be Eliza Dion, while both Amanda Kaiser and Julia Kleczkowski showed an ability to stretch the defense with their outside shooting in limited time last year.”
2017-2018 Record: 16-6 2017-2018 Finish: Reached Div. 2 South quarterfinal. Coach: Laney Clement-Holbrook
Oliver Ames will be making a transition this year following the graduation of Kayla Raymond, who was a two-time HockomockSports.com First Team performer and last year’s league MVP (and is already a three-time Rookie of the Week at Stonehill College), but the Tigers have a number of returning players to try and make up for Raymond’s production on both ends of the floor and make another run at a league title.
Senior Alex Sheldon grew in confidence over the course of last season and became a double-double machine by the end of the year, dominating on the glass and improving her finishing around the rim. Junior Erin Holberg emerged last year as a strong scorer on the perimeter with her touch from the outside and ability to take defenders off the dribble. Junior Meg Holleran is in her third season on varsity and is a tough, physical defender who can knock down shots from the outside.
Sophomore Caroline Flynn had a strong freshman season, playing several positions (from point guard to small forward), crashing the boards, and showing off decent range. The return of senior Sadie Homer will add energy on both ends of the floor and give the Tigers another strong outside shooter to stretch the floor, while senior Ally Scolnick came off the bench last season to add another shooter to the OA offense.
OA coach Laney Clement-Holbrook said of the experienced returning players, “They will lead the youngest team OA has put on the court in quite a long time. We are looking towards gaining valuable game experience and coming into to our own as the season progresses.”
2017-2018 Record: 2-18 2017-2018 Finish: Missed postseason. Coach: Sanda Lombardi
It was a tough winter for new Sharon coach Sandra Lombardi, as the Eagles struggled to a two-win season, but five of their losses were by 10 points or fewer and they return all but one player from last season’s team. With a year to get acclimated to Lombardi’s system, an experienced roster of returning players, and several newcomers, Sharon has its sights set on getting into the postseason for the first time since its run to the Div. 2 South final in 2013.
Sharon returns its leading scorer and playmaker in senior Emma Eberhardt, who was on the HockomockSports.com Third Team last season, and she will once again be the focal point of the offense, as well as one of the team’s leading defenders. Eberhardt’s versatility as a wing player should open things up for junior guards Kaitlyn Wallace and Ally Brown, who will both fill in as ball-handlers after the graduation of Miranda Cheung. Wallace will extend defenses with her shooting from the outside and Brown adds energy to the backcourt defense.
Senior guard Bridget McManus will add depth and junior forward Telishya Herbert provides a strong presence in the paint. Junior Olivia Langol-Leonard added frontcourt depth and was active on the glass in her time on the court, while senior forward Evanjuline Elisma can score in transition and adds another solid wing defender.
“We only lost one player due to graduation,” said Lombardi. “We have the entire team back and we added some height. I’m excited to see what the season brings. The girls are working hard and our goal is to qualify for the postseason.”
2017-2018 Record: 13-9 2017-2018 Finish: Reached Div. 2 South quarterfinal. Coach: Charmaine Steele Jordan
Stoughton started last season with five straight defeats and only one win in the opening eight games, but the Black Knights turned things around with a vengeance, winning 11 of its final 12 games of the regular season and winning its opening game of the state tournament. Stoughton’s only two losses in its final 14 games of the season were to state champion Foxboro. That is a lot of momentum for the Black Knights to carry into this year.
It may be a little different look for Stoughton this winter after the graduation of Val Whalen and Jordan Motley. Instead of being a team that dominates the paint, there will be a host of guards and wing players who can still battle on the glass, but will bring energy and tenacity on the perimeter on both ends of the court. Junior Aliyah Wright is back as the team’s point guard and her length makes her a factor guarding multiple positions. Senior Lindsay McDonald adds versatility as a combo guard and sophomore Sydnee Hyacinthe is a dynamic guard and stretches defenses with her ability to shoot from the outside.
While there are a lot of familiar faces returning for the Black Knights, there are several players who will have more responsibility this year and the potential to make big contributions. Junior Lexi Baptista defends well at the forward position and gives a different look on the post, while seniors Hailey Egan and Heather Maddalena will add extra toughness to the backcourt. Junior Shyanne Trinh is still battling an injury at the beginning of the season, but she will give Stoughton a big scoring boost when she returns.
“This season will be all about our effort, energy and enthusiasm on defense,” said Stoughton coach Charmaine Steele Jordan. “The Black Knights will be most successful when we put in work on the defensive end and finish each play with a Black Knights rebound.”
2017-2018 Record: 7-15 2017-2018 Finish: Missed postseason. Coach: Walter Harrigan
Taunton started last winter well and had the potential for making a return to the state tournament, but injuries slowed things down for the Tigers and they missed out on the postseason. While the year didn’t end the way they would have hoped, a number of younger players were given valuable varsity experience and there are a number of returning players ready to make an impact.
Senior Lily Patneaude will be the player to watch for the Tigers, as the team’s leading scorer from last year. After battling an injury down the stretch, her return gives Taunton a consistent primary offensive weapon and takes some of the scoring pressure off her teammates. Senior point guard Alexa White is also back to provide leadership, energy, and tenacity on the defensive end of the floor. Sophomore Kelsey White showed flashes as a rookie of being the secondary scorer that Taunton needs, with her ability to knock down shots from the outside and take defenders off the dribble.
Even with a year of experience, Taunton is still a relatively young team. Sophomores Jaelyn and Sonya Fernandez will provide athleticism from the forward positions and give Taunton effort in the paint, while sophomore Tori DaRose, and freshmen Abby Souza (who saw brief minutes as an eighth-grader last season) and Braeley MacDonald give the Tigers depth off the bench.
“We have great group of enthusiast student athletes consisting of senior leadership, youth, athleticism, and talent,” said Taunton coach Walter Harrigan. “This team is looking forward to a fun and exciting season.”
NORTH ATTLEBORO, Mass. – It was senior night for North Attleboro on Tuesday night against Miflord, but the Rocketeers turned to a couple of underclassmen to lead the way. Freshman Amanda Kaiser scored a career-high 14 points (all in the first half) and junior Julia Feid scored a game-high 17 points, including nine in the fourth quarter, to pace North.
Senior Julia Santos also chipped in with 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Rocketeers to propel North to a 55-45 victory over the Hawks in the Kenneth Pickering Gym.
“I thought the underclassmen played really well,” said North Attleboro coach Derek Herber. “They wanted to do it for the seniors.”
He added, “I know they’re a little shorthanded and that’s the problem with this league. On any given night…You go on the road on a Tuesday night, unfortunately you’re going to get a game where you might not have your best stuff and then Feid hits those two runners and free throws down the stretch, we pull it out.”
Milford was missing players to injury and school trips and star point guard Kate Irwin was only just back from missing two games to an injury as well, but the Hawks were able to take a 12-11 lead after one quarter.
North picked it up in the second by turning to Kaiser. Feid (five assists) kicked it out to the freshman in the corner for a three and an 18-15 lead, she added a layup in transition (after a Feid pass over the top of the defense), and then she knocked down step-back three in the corner that put North up 26-19.
“We’ve been trying to tell her, she’s got the green light,” said Herber of Kaiser. “She doesn’t lack for confidence and she did very well tonight.”
Feid also knocked down a pair of threes in the second, as North caught fire from the outside. Milford kept it close by hitting from the outside as well. Julie Rabinowitz (12 points) buried a pair from beyond the arc and Irwin (team-high 15 points) hit one, but the Hawks went into the break down 29-22.
“We didn’t finish around the rim at all,” said Miflord coach T.J. Dolliver. “There were a lot of close shots right around the rim, contested here or there, but we just couldn’t finish. Defensively, we just had too many breakdowns.”
Things got worse for the Hawks in the second half, as North scored the first seven points in the third and extended the lead to as many as 14. Senior Emily Haskell hit a three and assisted on a bucket by classmate Santos.
Milford started to climb back in by going inside to Gillian Valanzola, who scored with a post move on the left block. The senior played almost every minute of the game and finished with, six points, 12 rebounds, and nine blocks trying to control the paint.
“We ask a lot of her to play that many minutes because it’s hard for a big to play that many minutes,” Dolliver explained, “but with the injury to Juliana [Tracy] we needed her to.” When it was mentioned that Valanzola stepped up when Milford needed it, Dolliver replied, “She definitely did. I knew that she would.”
Emily Piergustavo (11 points) knocked down a three and Rabinowitz added her third shot from beyond the arc and suddenly Milford was back in it, down just six heading to the fourth.
Irwin started the fourth quarter with a three to cut the lead in half. While it got the senior to 10 points on the night, Herber credited sophomore Olivia Forbes for making it difficult for Irwin and the interior defenders for holding their own in the paint.
“We said, she’s going to get her points, we’ve got to contain her,” he said. “The first time, we doubled down because we were afraid of the inside and they’ve got some kids who can shoot. Santos and [Eliza] Dion and everyone we mixed in there was able to take care of the inside and keep us in it.”
Sophomore Julia Kleczkowski answered Irwin with a three of her own (her only points on the night) and then Feid got going. She scored off the glass in transition off a Haskell assist and then drove the ball to the basket and finished to make it 48-40.
Irwin snagged a long rebound and banked in a three to keep it a five-point game with time running out but Feid went 4-for-4 from the line in the final minute to seal the win.
“It’s definitely been an adjustment,” said Dolliver about working with a short bench. “I knew they were an improved team and I told the girls that before the game and yesterday at practice as well. There were a lot of things that went wrong for us tonight.”
North Attleboro (4-13, 3-12) will try close out league play with a win on Friday against league champion Foxboro. Milford (11-8, 7-8) will close out the regular season against Sharon as it tries to build momentum for the playoffs.
NORTH ATTLEBORO, Mass. – North Attleboro came storming out of the gates to jump all over King Philip in Wednesday night’s game at the Kenneth Pickering Gym. The Rocketeers held KP to just four points in the first quarter and led by 19 heading into halftime.
Things got much closer in the second half, as the Warriors stormed back in the fourth quarter to cut the lead to as few as six points, but North held its nerve and held off the KP charge to pull out its first league win of the season, 57-48.
“Ultimately, we talked about the last couple days about being aggressive on both ends of the court,” said North Attleboro coach Derek Herber. “That first half, I think, was the best we’ve played all year. We were very aggressive.”
Utilizing a full-court press from the opening tip, North was able to keep the Warriors from getting into any rhythm on the offensive end. Four points from Julia Santos and four from Julia Feid put the Rocketeers ahead 8-0 to start and a three by Emma Noreck helped extend the lead to 12-4 after the first quarter.
In the second, North’s pressure continued to create offense. Despite four points apiece from Shannon O’Connor and Julia Leroux in the second, KP continued to fall further behind. Eliza Dion steal led to an easy basket for Feid (10 points, all in the first half) who followed it up with a steal and layup off the ensuing inbound pass.
“We played a little sloppy,” said KP coach Amy Siggens, “and it comes down to a lot of finishing for us, which we work on every day but we’ve just got to keep working on.”
North had no problem finishing in the second. Sophomore Julia Kleczkowski drilled a pair of threes in the quarter, freshman Amanda Kaiser hit one, and senior Emily Haskell scored eight of her team-high 14 points in the second, including a pair from beyond the arc. North went into the break leading 35-16.
Things looked drastically different in the second half. North made only one shot from the field, a layup by Santos (14 points and 10 rebounds) off one of Olivia Forbes’ six assists, and finished the third with six points.
“I said in the second half they’re going to come out aggressive and we have to match that aggressiveness and we didn’t right away,” said Herber. “We had to kind of find ourselves on offense. The third quarter was ugly and that’s kind of how we’ve been. We can’t score and then we can’t set our press, be aggressive, and do the things we want to do.”
KP crept closer behind eight points from O’Connor and a strong effort from the whole team on the glass (Christina Hathaway and Catherine Cummings each had seven rebounds). O’Connor, a Boston University-commit, got free for a pair of layups, both assisted by Faith Roy, scored on an offensive rebound, and a pair of free throws. O’Connor finished with a game-high 22 points and pulled down a game-high 15 boards.
The Warriors were within 13 heading to the fourth and Siggens credited better ball management against the press for being able to get into the offense easier.
She explained, “We just readjusted. We usually create our 1-3 cross and we just had to adjust and bring people back and I think we get caught up very fast and kind of panic. We kept our composure a little bit better in the second half.”
The tough shooting stretch continued into the fourth quarter for the Rocketeers and KP continued to close the gap. O’Connor knocked down a three that made it 47-41, the closest the Warriors had been since the opening quarter. Santos got a scoop in traffic to go to push the lead back to eight, but Leroux (seven points) scrambled in a rebound that made it a six-point game again.
“I called a timeout and said this is what we need to do, we’ve been practicing this, we’ve got to be smarter and we need to play through all this stuff,” Herber explained. “We fought through all that and I’m so proud of the way we played tonight.”
Kaiser made a back-cut and received a nice dish from Forbes for a layup and she and Santos each hit a pair of free throws to extend the lead back out to double digits. O’Connor hit her second three of the quarter, but it was not enough to get KP all the way back.
“They really stepped it up,” said Siggens of her team’s second half comeback attempt. “We just couldn’t convert on a couple of ones we should’ve to really cut into that lead, but I’m very proud of the way they played second half. I couldn’t ask for more.”
North Attleboro (2-11, 1-10) will try to build on its first league win when it travels to Canton on Friday. King Philip (3-9, 2-8) will look to bounce back when it hosts Attleboro.
NORTH ATTLEBORO, Mass. – Coming into Friday night’s game at the Pickering Gym, Stoughton had lost four games by seven or less points, struggling to find ways down the stretch to pull out wins. When North Attleboro climbed back to within five points in the fourth quarter, it looked like that may happen again for the Black Knights.
Instead of letting the game slip away, senior forward Val Whalen took over down the stretch. She scored 10 points, made 8-of-10 from the free throw line, and dominated the paint to help Stoughton close with a 17-6 run that sealed a 59-43 victory over North and ended the Black Knights’ winless start in the league.
“This is the best game of Val’s senior year so far and I know she’s going to continue to do great things,” said Stoughton coach Charmaine Steele Jordan. “It was clutch. She stepped up to the line and knocked them down. Obviously, her offensive rebounds were important, but it was nice to see her do well from the free throw line.”
Whalen finished the game with 19 points and 19 rebounds, while also adding four assists and two blocks. North struggled to find an answer for the senior on either end of the floor.
“She’s a nightmare and causes a lot of problems,” said North Attleboro coach Derek Herber. “She can shoot a little bit and it drags you out and then you’ve got [Jordan] Motley to grab all the backside rebounds. So, you’ve really got to have two posts and if you don’t have two posts you’re always playing a matchup game.”
Stoughton took over on the boards right from the opening tap. Whalen pulled down nine rebounds in the first quarter and scored seven points, with both of her baskets coming on putbacks at the rim. Sophomore guard Aliyah Wright (13 points, nine rebounds) also chipped in with six in the first.
North tried to stay close with its perimeter game. Julia Feid (team-high 12 points) and Emily Haskell (eight points) each knocked down threes to keep North within seven (17-10) after one quarter.
The Rocketeers made only one shot from the floor in the second, but were managing to stay close thanks to 9-of-12 shooting from the free throw line. Stoughton’s aggressive defense was giving North free points, but sophomores Shyanne Trinh (14 points) and Mariah Harris (seven points) each hit threes to keep the Black Knights ahead.
With North hanging around, down just eight inside the final few seconds of the half, Trinh took off on a coast-to-coast run that ended with a layup and a 30-20 halftime lead, which left North’s bench frustrated.
“We did okay with our game plan, but they’re a good team, they’re battle-tested, and they’ve got some kids who’ve been on varsity for two or three years now,” said Herber.
Fouls continued to rack up for Stoughton in the second half. North shot 12 free throws in the third and reached the bonus before the end of the quarter. Feid scored on an offensive rebound to cut the lead back to 10 and Julia Santos (eight points, 11 rebounds) added a putback as well.
Heading to the fourth quarter, Stoughton’s lead, which had been as many as 13 was down to just seven.
“We were in foul trouble and that really hurt us,” said Steele Jordan, “but we’ve had several close ones that we needed just a little bit more and I think those games helped us in this instance.”
North continued to battle early in the fourth. Sophomore Eliza Dion (seven points) drove through the Stoughton defense for a layup that made it 40-35 and, after a pair of Whalen free throws, Haskell drove on the other side for a bucket that again got the Rocketeers within five points. It was as close as North would get.
Herber said, “They fight, they fight and that’s why I feel so bad for them because they do fight. We’ve been in the last couple of games but we just couldn’t get that big shot.”
Wright scored on a runner in the lane and found Whalen leaking out in transition for an easy basket to push the lead back to nine. Whalen grabbed an offensive rebound and kicked it out to Trinh for an open three that put Stoughton up by double digits and then Whalen sealed the win with six free throws in the closing minutes.
“They can do some things in the post that we didn’t have any answers for,” Herber admitted. “Whalen and Motley (14 rebounds) down the stretch really gave us problems and we tried to get them in foul trouble but couldn’t at the end.”
Steele Jordan said, “It’s tough. You have a few tough losses back-to-back, but I have a fantastic team and they work hard for me every day. They dug down, played solid ‘D’, and took their time on offense and it showed today.”
After earning its first win in the league, Steele Jordan is hoping that the team can build off this performance. She said, “They’re young, but they’re coming into their own, which is nice because you always worry about peaking too soon. I’m glad my team is starting to turn the wheels now and really get going.”
Stoughton (2-7, 1-5) will travel to Sharon on Tuesday night trying to make it two in a row in the Hock. North Attleboro (1-7, 0-6) will try to get its first win in the league on Tuesday at Milford.
The Bombardiers enter the season with a new coaching staff and a very different starting lineup to the one that nearly knocked off Mansfield in the Div. 1 South playoffs last season. Former King Philip coach Marty Crowley has taken over after Rick Patch stepped down in the off-season and he will have only a few returning varsity players to call on this winter.
Senior forward Sam Pierce will be the key piece on offense, as Attleboro tries to replace the more than 30 points per game that was lost with the graduation of Sarah Deyo and Julia Strachan. Pierce has been a consistent scorer and rebounder for the past few seasons, but this will be the first time that she is the primary offensive weapon and could be poised for a breakout year. Junior Jordyn Lako and senior Grace Mayer are strong on-the-ball defenders and should help Crowley implement his high-pressure defensive scheme. Senior Kim White will also be one of Attleboro’s ball-handlers in the backcourt.
One of the players who saw a little time on varsity last season that is expected to make a big jump is sophomore Nyah Thomas, who has the length to be a tough defender and showed in her few appearances last year that she can rebound and take the ball to the basket. Sophomore Liv McCall is a fearless shooter that will stretch the floor and transfer Mackenzie Roberts will give the Bombardiers added size in the paint.
Crowley said, “For us to be successful we must be able to play defense consistently and rebound. Sam, I am sure, is going to draw a lot of attention from other teams, so we must make sure that we are smart offensively and get touches for everyone.”
2016-2017 Record: 6-14 2016-2017 Finish: Missed postseason. Coach: Jim Choquette
There has been excitement around the Canton program for the past few seasons and that continues this winter, as the Bulldogs look to secure a place in the state tournament behind an experienced lineup that has been developing together for several years.
Senior Hannah Jerrier is the key for the Bulldogs, as the forward is coming off a league all-star season in which she emerged as a potential double-double night after night. Jerrier is a solid rebounder and scorer in the paint, reaching the 20-point mark nine times last season and averaging more than 16 points and nine rebounds per game. Junior Julia Hamilton will be back at point guard for the Bulldogs to help get the Canton into its offensive sets and provide pressure, on-the-ball defense. Senior Jess Powers is also back after missing a season to a knee injury and will add a boost to the team’s outside shooting and take pressure off Jerrier on offense.
Junior Maggie Connolly returns for her second year in the backcourt and seniors Lindsey Barrett, Nikki Gefteas, and Leya Conard will all add depth to the Canton roster this season, while junior Erin Devine adds another important post presence on both ends of the floor. The versatility of the roster will allow head coach Jim Choquette to change his game plans every game, slowing it down to play half-court or ratcheting up the pressure to go up tempo.
“Canton remains focused on playing together and staying positive for the best season possible,” Choquette said. “Leading up to our first game there’s been an extreme amount of effort and energy by a large group of unselfish girls and our seniors have all been great examples of staying positive throughout all situations!”
2016-2017 Record: 22-3 2016-2017 Finish: Reached Div. 2 State Semifinal Coach: Lisa Downs
After winning the Div. 2 South title and reaching the TD Garden last winter, this year’s Foxboro team will have high expectations, but with four starters returning, including reigning Hockomock League MVP Ashley Sampson, the Warriors will once again be the favorites to take home the Davenport division crown.
Having already passed the 1,000-point mark for her career, Sampson enters her senior season as the focal point of the Foxboro offense. Her ability to get into the lane and finish, as well as step back and knock down shots, makes her a tough cover and opens space for her teammates. Fellow senior Lily Sykes is one of the beneficiaries of that space and she can take advantage of open looks on the perimeter. Senior Grace Tamulionis is another player who can stretch the floor for the Warriors and can be an ‘X’ factor for Foxboro in big games. Senior Shannon Smally adds rebounding and post presence to keep defenses honest.
The Warriors are now the veteran team in the division, but there are also several younger players that have developed into critical pieces off the bench, including sophomore Abby Hassman, who has grown in the off-season into a strong rebounder. Freshman Katelyn Mollica will add backcourt depth with her tenacity on defense and already impressive court awareness. Junior Chelsea Gibbons is another player that is expected to step into a bigger role this season.
Foxboro coach Lisa Downs said, “This group of seniors have been part of our Varsity team since their freshmen year and with each year, they have learned and developed more – all of the girls on this year’s team put in the necessary work; now its time to execute.”
2016-2017 Record: 9-11 2016-2017 Finish: Missed postseason. Coach: John Leighton
Franklin got off to a rough start last season, beginning 0-6 with an inexperienced roster, but then closed the year with nine wins in the last 14 games, just missing out on a return to the postseason. This year, the Panthers will try to build on that year of experience and book a return to the playoffs.
The Panthers will have strength in the middle to try and get off to a much better start this season. Sophomore Ali Brigham, last year’s HockomockSports.com Underclassman of the Year, has received several Div. I NCAA offers, including one from the University of Minnesota, and at 6-foot-3 can dominate the paint on both ends of the floor. Franklin will also have outside scoring with junior guard Bea Bondhus, who is a consistent three-point shooter and will stretch defenses to open up the post for Brigham.
Franklin has plenty of size this season. Sophomore forwards Breanna Atwood (5-foot-9) and Megan O’Connell (5-foot-10) and senior forward Kate Morse (5-foot-11) will provide plenty of depth on the inside. Junior Shannon Gray will be back to run the point and senior Grace Sameski will add backcourt depth. Freshman guard Elizabeth Wilson is poised to make an instant impact for the Panthers, as she did in the season opener by knocking down three free throws in the final seconds to force overtime against Holy Name.
“We are a young team with only two seniors, but I am very pleased with the effort and progress of the team,” said Franklin coach John Leighton, who is excited about the return of the majority of the team’s scoring and the potential of the youth on the roster.
King Philip has a new coach this season, with former Wellesley assistant Amy Siggens taking over for Marty Crowley, and there could be a period of adjustment for a still relatively young Warriors roster to adapt to the new system, but there is excitement about the progress being made by the seven returning varsity players.
Boston University-commit Shannon O’Connor will once again be a player to watch for the Warriors this winter. The junior’s ability to shoot off the dribble, defend multiple positions, and take the ball to the basket has made her one of the league’s elite perimeter players. As O’Connor continues to develop as a playmaker that will create open looks for her teammates, including junior Julia Leroux and sophomore Faith Roy. Senior Christina Hathaway (one of only two seniors on the roster) will add strength in the paint on both ends of the floor.
The Warriors will not lack for size this season. O’Connor is listed at 5-foot-11, junior Catherine Cummings and sophomore Faye Veilleux are listed at 5-foot-10, and Roy is listed at 5-foot-9. The versatility of those players will give Siggens room to switch up lineups when needed. KP is still pretty young and Siggens has added two freshmen, Emma Glaser and Brianna James, to this year’s roster.
Siggens said, “Early on we will stress the importance of being unselfish on offense and being tough and aggressive on defense. Knowing mistakes will be made, there will be no small emphasis on the importance of playing hard all the time… I am encouraged by our team’s enthusiasm and attitude.”
2016-2017 Record: 20-4 2016-2017 Finish: Reached Div. 1 South final. Coach: Mike Redding
Replacing the production of last season’s HockomockSports.com Player of the Year Jen Peel is a difficult task, but Mansfield has the talent, depth, and experience in the roster to make it work. The Hornets return four starters from last year’s squad and will lean on a loaded and versatile junior class to try and make it a three-peat of league titles.
The key returner for Mansfield is 6-foot-3 center Meg Hill. The Stonehill College-commit is already the program’s best in blocked shots and is soon to be the career leader in rebounds, while improving her offensive game every season. With Peel gone, junior Mady Bendanillo will be tasked with getting the ball into the post to Hill and to fellow junior Maggie Danehy, who had an impressive start with a double-double against Medfield in the Endowment Game. Reigning HockomockSports.com Defensive Player of the Year Ann Maher will also be back at shooting guard and is one of the team’s most consistent three-point threats.
Juniors Erin Daniel, Emily Vigeant, Sydney Mulkern and Kara Bendanillo will likely compete for the fifth starting spot and all should see plenty of playing time this year. With 5-foot-11 senior Maeve Carney and 5-foot-10 freshman Ashley Santos, the Hornets should be able to dominate the paint and sophomore Becca Hottleman will add depth at the point guard position.
Mansfield coach Mike Redding said, “We have a chance to be very good again with our junior group getting a ton of experience last year and we hope to compete for league title again.” He added that the Hornets bolstered the schedule this season as well. Redding said, “Our record may not be as good as last year when we earned the No. 1 seed, but we will be more battle tested for the state tourney in March.”
2016-2017 Record: 10-11 2016-2017 Finish: Reached Div. 2 Central first round. Coach: T.J. Dolliver
A year after returning to the postseason for the first time since 2012 (and nearly pulling off an upset of Marlboro on the road), Milford brings back seven seniors to try and make a push for a Davenport division title and another state tournament appearance.
The Hawks have a versatile lineup led by four-year starter Kate Irwin. The lefty point guard is one of the most dynamic perimeter scorers and playmakers in the league and she continues to improve each season. Her ability to get into the paint opens up room for her teammates and she can also step back and knock down threes. Irwin will be helped by fellow seniors Gillian Valanzola and Juliana Tracy, who add size on the post.
Senior Emily Piergustavo is a knock-down shooter from beyond the arc and her classmate Jess Tomaso has proven to be a solid rebounder from the guard position. There are also two sophomores and four freshmen on the roster this season to add depth and build for the future under third-year head coach T.J. Dolliver.
Dolliver said, “I am very excited for our team this year. This is my 3rd year with a lot of these girls and seeing how they have progressed over the years have really set this team up for a fun season.”
Last season, North Attleboro boasted one of the most experienced lineups in the league with five of its top six players being seniors, but this year the Rocketeers will be incorporating a number of new faces, as only six players (only starter) return from last winter.
The lone returning starter is junior guard Julia Feid, who had a breakout season on the wing and will be counted on to lead the offensive attack this year. Feid’s classmate Emily Haskell will also be on the wing for North this season and will also have a large chunk of the offense run through her. Senior Emily Pastore, junior Liz Smahi, and sophomore Michelle Pothier will also contribute scoring from the wing, while junior Lauren Pezzi and sophomore Olivia Forbes will run the point and distribute the ball in the half court.
The graduation of Caroline Collard and Liz Morehouse leaves an opening on the post, but North has several players that will step in to provide a presence in the paint. Senior Julia Santos and juniors Emma Noreck and Kaley Sullivan will each get opportunities to contribute. North faces a tough early season schedule with the likes of Franklin, Oliver Ames, Archbishop Williams, and Hingham, so it will be critical for the new players to find their feet quickly.
North Attleboro coach Derek Herber said, “The team has quickly began to gel and I am hopeful that we if we can survive the early part of the season, we can qualify for the tournament.”
2016-2017 Record: 13-8 2016-2017 Finish: Reached Div. 2 South First Round. Coach: Elaine Clement-Holbrook
Oliver Ames struggled to find consistent offense last season and it kept the Tigers from being able to challenge Mansfield for the league title or make another run in Div. 2 South, but a healthy lineup with several key returning players has OA optimistic for improvements this winter.
The main focus will be on senior forward Kayla Raymond. The Stonehill College-commit is one of the most versatile players in the league, with the length and leaping ability to dominate in the paint and the range to step out and knock down jumpers. Raymond is listed as a forward/center but could potentially be used at multiple positions. Senior guard Abby Reardon is back to get the Tigers into their offensive sets and as one of the league’s top on-the-ball defenders. Classmate Katie Flynn also returns to give Raymond help in the post.
In addition to the seniors, junior Alex Sheldon will provide depth at the forward position and junior Sadie Homer was a dynamic scorer on the perimeter before an injury cut her season short last year. Homer was a solid three-point shooter last year and will be expected to stretch defenses again this season. Sophomore guard Meg Holleran emerged as a playmaker during her freshman campaign and could see a bigger role this year.
“OA is looking to blend some younger talent and are working hard to provide some depth in the backcourt,” said OA coach Laney Clement-Holbrook. “Looking forward to the fight for the Kelly Rex Division.”
In addition to a new coaching staff, Sharon will see a number of new faces on the roster, as several of last year’s players are focusing on other sports this winter. Former Rockland and East Bridgewater assistant Sandra Lombardi takes over for Cliff Tomassian and will have a young group to work with in her first head coaching position.
Junior small forward Emma Eberhardt is one of the returning players that will be expected to provide leadership and scoring for the Eagles. Eberhardt, a HockomockSports.com All-Underclassman Team performer last year, was Sharon’s top scorer last winter and also has the size to be a problem for opponents on the glass. She scored 16 points in Sharon’s win over Nipmuc in the season opener. Senior guard Miranda Cheung will also be back for Sharon to provide ball-handling and perimeter shooting.
Sophomore Telishya Herbert made the jump from JV to varsity midway through last season and had an instant impact on the Eagles with her athleticism and her ability to score in the paint. She had 10 points against Nipmuc and could be ready for a breakout year as Sharon’s second scorer to take some pressure off Eberhardt. Also back from last year’s roster are junior Evanjuline Elisma and sophomore Ally Brown.
Lombardi said of her new team, “We are going to be quick and aggressive. I’m excited to see what the season will bring.”
The Black Knights narrowly missed out on the postseason last year, despite having a number of underclassmen in the roster, and expectations for this season include a return to the playoffs under third-year head coach Charmaine Steele-Jordan.
Senior Val Whalen was the team’s MVP last season after leading the Black Knights with more than 13 points and nine rebounds per game. Whalen has improved every season and her intensity on defense and on the glass boosts is contagious. Stoughton is a physical team that likes to put pressure on the ball defensively and Whalen sets the tone. Senior Jordan Motley is also a tenacious rebounder and gives the Black Knights another strong presence in the paint.
Sophomore guard Shyanne Trinh had a breakout freshman campaign, scoring more than 10 points per game, and her ball-handling and long-range shooting opens things up for the post players. Fellow sophomore Aliyah Wright also had a strong rookie campaign and her size is a difficult matchup for many of the point guards in the Hock. Stoughton will also count on junior guards Lindsey McDonald and Hailey Egan and sophomore Lexi Baptista. Freshman Sydnee Hyacinthe has also been called up to add depth in the backcourt.
Steele-Jordan said of her senior forwards, “I’m looking forward to their leadership, hustle on the court and their defensive presence this year. Whalen and Motley’s veteran play along with our returning sophomores will be great for the Black Knights this season.”
2016-2017 Record: 1-21 2016-2017 Finish: Missed Postseason. Coach: Walter Harrigan
Taunton is coming off a difficult season in which the Tigers finished with just one victory, but one game into the new year and Taunton has already matched that total. The season opening win over Cumberland (R.I.) fits with the optimism around the program, as the Tigers blend youth with experience in the hopes of making a run at a playoff spot.
The Tigers will be led by senior forwards Hannah Moniz and Mackenzie Handrahan, who combined for 26 points in the win at Cumberland and provide a mix of rebounding, scoring at the rim, and outside shooting to balance the Taunton offense. Junior Lily Patneaude also returns from an all-star season and is Taunton’s most dynamic scorer with range from well beyond the arc. Junior Alexa White is another guard that will provide solid contributions on both ends of the floor.
Junior Shantel Andrew, a 5-foot-7 forward, is expected to be a significant contributor this season, after missing two years with knee injuries. As usual, Taunton has plenty of youth on the roster with four freshmen making varsity, a couple of whom got playing experience last year as eighth graders. Forwards Jaelyn and Sonya Fernandez and guards Kelsey White and Tori DaRosa are going to be counted on to play big roles this year for the Tigers.
Taunton coach Walter Harrigan said, “Our goal for this year is to continue to work hard while focusing on the development of good habits which will hopefully lead to team improvement and a trip to the state tournament.”
BROCKTON, Mass. – North Attleboro won the first meeting with Foxboro this season, thanks in part to a huge fourth quarter by senior Ashley Ahern. With Ahern out injured for the second meeting, Foxboro ran over the Rocketeers and clinched the Davenport title with a 26-point victory.
On Monday night at Massasoit Community College, the teams met for the third time to not only decide the season series but also to see which team would represent the Hockomock in Saturday’s Div. 2 South final.
With Ahern in uniform for the introductions, but not able to play, North came in with the plan of slowing the game down, turning it into a half-court battle, playing physical defense, and trying to take advantage of its edge in size in the post. The game plan worked perfectly, but Foxboro showed that it had some grit to go along with its ability to put points on the board.
Behind a game-high 20 points from league MVP Ashley Sampson and 17 from fellow junior Lily Sykes, Foxboro defended, crashed the boards, and found just enough offense to pull out a 49-39 victory that earns the Warriors a second trip to the South final in three seasons.
“We did exactly what we needed to do to beat that team,” admitted North Attleboro coach Derek Herber from the first row of the bleachers following the game. “You can’t let them run, you can’t let them shoot all those shots…Through three quarters we did what we needed to do; we just needed a little more offense to get to that spot.”
Foxboro coach Lisa Downs recognized the difficulty of playing an opponent for the third time and credited her team for finding a way to win.
“At this point, jitters are normal and we’re in a different gym, some of these girls have been here and some have not, so we’ll take a ‘W’ any day,” she said. “It wasn’t the prettiest of wins but they played with heart.”
The first quarter was not pretty, but the Warriors had a lead and it felt like they were ready to pull away as they did on their home court three weeks ago. Sampson and Sykes split the scoring in the first, each with six points, but Foxboro lacked the typical frenetic pace that it usually plays at.
North was slowing things down and shots were not falling, which made it difficult to get into the full-court press the Warriors prefer. Sykes opened the second with a drive that extended the lead to eight, but it was the only made field goal by the Warriors in the quarter.
The Rocketeers climbed back into the game with Julia Feid (six points) scoring on a drive and Samantha Taggart drilling a three (her only basket of the game) to cut the lead to four. Emily Haskell gave North a big lift right before the break with a steal and a layup and then a runner on the baseline. The junior’s only four points of the game made it 20-17 at the break.
“I think we were beating ourselves to be honest with you,” said Downs. “We were overthinking our shots because we had some wide open looks and we were just thinking too much instead of releasing the ball. We were only up because of our defense.”
When asked about the sloppiness of the first half, Herber insisted, “Part of the sloppiness is that everything we do, they know, and everything they do, I know, so the sloppiness is playing a third game against a team you’ve seen in a high stakes game.”
In the third quarter, senior forward Caroline Collard started to get going for North, scoring six of her team-high 10 points. Liz Morehouse added three of her five points, including a turn around jumper from the left block. After Feid pulled up for a jumper and Collard scored off an Emily Schromm inbound pass, North was within one at 29-28.
Foxboro was still struggling to find the range and in desperate need of a spark. Sykes stepped up and drilled a three off a Sampson assist to extend the lead to four and then Sampson was able to beat Feid in the post for a layup to give Foxboro a six-point edge heading to the fourth.
“When the shots weren’t falling, we were getting into our own heads, so we just had to settle down,” said Sampson of the Warriors struggles on the offensive end of the floor. “In the third quarter, Lily hit some huge shots and I think once she did that it made everyone more confident.”
Things started to get going for Foxboro in the fourth quarter. Grace Tamulionis opened the quarter with a jumper that Feid answered with a drive, but then Sampson drove and kicked it out to Riley Collins for a straightaway three (her only point of the night) and Foxboro finally had some separation.
“At this point in the season, 22 games in, we’re still telling them to shoot with confidence,” said Downs. “Grace finally warmed up a little bit in the second half, which was huge, and Ashley, so we stepped up when we had to step up and played with grit.”
Tamulionis had six of her seven points in the fourth and Sampson added six as well. North did not give up with Schromm knocking down a jumper and driving the length of the floor for a layup plus the foul. She missed the free throw but grabbed her own rebound with North down 44-38.
The Rocketeers had only more chance to get closer but a long three by Feid was halfway down and popped out and Tamulionis clinched it with an offensive rebound and score on a missed free throw on the other end.
“I’m so proud of the way the girls played,” said Herber. “We held them down as best we could to get to that point. We tried to muck it up as best we could and slow it down and take advantage of our post players.”
When asked about his senior class and what they have brought to the program, Herber could not hide his emotions. He said, “Every year we try to focus on our seniors, but these kids have been with our program as long as I’ve been here, for three years, and they’re just great kids. I just wish better for them today.”
For Sampson and the Warriors the win means a return to Brockton High where the Warriors played eventual state champion Duxbury in 2015. Sampson said, “It’s really exciting. We have an opportunity to win the South final, so it’s just really cool.
“It’s definitely tough. They beat us the first time and we beat them last time by 20-something, so they were out for blood. They wanted it and so did we. It was tough but we had to be mentally prepared for it.”
Foxboro (21-2) will face No. 7 Westwood in the Div. 2 South final on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Brockton High.
NORTH ATTLEBORO, Mass. – Trailing by 11 points with eight minutes remaining is a difficult hole to dig out of, particularly when you have only managed 22 points in the first 24 minutes of the game, including just five points in the third.
Even facing tough odds, the experienced Rocketeers started the fourth quarter of Saturday night’s Div. 2 South quarterfinal against Duxbury in the Ken Pickering Gym believing they could win.
“We came in really confident and we all knew in the back of our minds that we were going to get this game,” said senior guard Samantha Taggart, who scored a team-high 16 points. “We played them two years ago, and got destroyed, and it was really important to avenge a loss like that and to get back to the semifinals.”
Not only did North have its best offensive output of the night in the fourth quarter with 14 points, the Rocketeers also held Duxbury scoreless, tossing a shutout in the fourth to pull off an epic comeback and earn a 36-33 victory.
“I didn’t know it was a shutout until the end of the game,” said North Attleboro coach Derek Herber. “That just talks about our senior leadership. They’ve been a great group of kids who knew from the beginning who they were. They were going to have to outwork teams and today they did that.”
The quarter started with North trailing 33-22. Caroline Collard (10 points, 11 rebounds) knocked down a jumper off a Taggart assist to get things started. North put the ball in the hands of sophomore guard Julia Feid to create and she drew a foul and made one of two at the line to cut the lead to eight points.
The second free throw bounced away and was chased down by Liz Morehouse, who could not get her shot to fall. Collard snagged another offensive board and swung the ball back to Feid for a straightaway three that got the crowd starting to believe a comeback was possible with 6:07 left to play.
Emily Haskell brought North within three points with a long jumper on the far side and suddenly the whole atmosphere in the building was changed. North fans were fired up and it only got louder when Taggart took the ball the length of the court for a layup that made it 33-32 inside the final two minutes. Collard grabbed her own miss, got fouled and knocked down a pair of free throws for North’s first lead since it was 10-8 in the first quarter.
On the other end, Collard blocked a pair of shots, her third and fourth of the night, and grabbed the defensive board to get North back the ball. Taggart was fouled and hit both her shots from the line to make it 36-33.
On Duxbury’s final possession, the Dragons continued to struggle finding a shot. Lill Foote was forced to throw up a fall away that was rebounded by Morehouse and set off raucous celebrations on the North bench.
“They played some great defense, we just had to play better offense for one quarter and that’s what we did,” said Herber.
Taggart added, “Our morale was really down in the third quarter because they went on a run. We talked about how we had to step it up on defense and we did exactly that. Everything just clicked together.
“I don’t think we’ve held anyone scoreless, but we’ve come close. I think this was the best defensive stand of the season and in such a big game too.”
North got off to a decent start offensively against the tall, physical Duxbury defense. Taggart scored eight of North’s 10 points in the first and the Rocketeers trailed by just two. Collard scored four points in the second and North continued to hang around, trailing by just four heading into halftime, 21-17.
“That whole first half, Sam kept us in it and gave us opportunities to be in this game,” said Herber. “We’re not a bunch of superstars. We’re going to fight through as best we can.”
Things changed in the third, as Duxbury started to get into a rhythm by getting the ball inside to senior forward Nicole Callander, who scored eight of her team-high 11 points in the quarter. Meanwhile, North got a three from Feid (seven points) and a drive by Taggart.
The Rocketeers were down but not out. North showed the tenacity that has allowed it to go 8-4 since an injury ended the season for senior Ashley Ahern, who was the team’s leading scorer.
“With Ashley, we’re a smaller team but a much faster team,” said Taggart. “Now that Ashley is out and Liz Morehouse is starting, we’re a taller team so it changes that whole aspect of the game, but we still work together. It’s a new style but we’re coming together and making it work.”
Taggart reflected on her final game at the Pickering Gym. She said, “It would have been heartbreaking if we had lost, but to come back from being down makes it that much better.”
Herber could not contain his excitement after the game. He said, “These kids are always fighting. We’re the smallest team then we’re the team that can’t shoot then we lose Ashley and we’re down 11 to Duxbury…I’m so happy that I’m just babbling on.
“Now we get another shot at the semifinal; not many kids can say they’ve been to the semifinal twice in a career.”
North Attleboro (18-6) will face top seed Foxboro in the Div. 2 South semifinal on Monday at 5:30 at Massasoit Community College. The teams split two meetings during the regular season.
Six girls’ basketball teams will begin their quests for a state championship when the state tournament begins this week. League champions Mansfield (Div. 1 South) and Foxboro (Div. 2 South) both earned the top seed in their respective brackets, but neither will have an easy road with league rivals like Attleboro, Oliver Ames, and North Attleboro posing major threats to bringing home a trophy. Milford will also represent the league as the lone Hock team in Div. 2 Central.
As usual, Div. 1 South is a loaded bracket with some of the top programs in the state, including defending state champion Bishop Feehan and perennial powers Braintree and Newton North. Mansfield (18-2) earned the top seed in a coin flip with the Shamrocks, who beat the Hornets in an exclusion game during the regular season. More important than the seed, Mansfield will now avoid the Shamrocks, the Wamps, and the Tigers until the South final.
Led by senior guard Jen Peel and junior center Meg Hill, the Hornets like to slow the pace down and focus on strong defense, which held teams to a league-best 38.0 points per game. Mansfield is young this season, but deep and versatile and head coach Mike Redding’s squad should match up well against the teams on its side of the bracket, including potential semifinal opponents Wellesley or Marshfield (which Mansfield beat 52-47 in December).
In order for the Hornets to get to the semifinals, they may have to go through Kelley-Rex rival Attleboro (15-7), which claimed the No. 8 seed and will host Brockton (Attleboro beat the Boxers 63-55 in December). The Bombardiers have scuffled down the stretch, losing seven of its final 14 games of the regular season, but closed it out by putting 94 points up on Durfee in the season finale.
With seniors Sarah Deyo and Julia Strachan, Attleboro has a potent inside-out combo and has been one of the top offensive teams in the league this year, averaging a league-best 61.4 points per game. The issue for the Bombardiers will be trying to slow down Jen Peel and Mansfield in the quarterfinal, if they can get past a dangerous Brockton team in Tuesday’s playoff opener. Attleboro struggled in two losses to Mansfield in the regular season, but will be hoping third time is the charm to set up a potential rematch with Wellesley, which knocked the Bombardiers out of last year’s tournament.
Foxboro (18-2) has been on fire to close out the season, winning 12 in a row entering the playoffs, including a 20-point win over North Attleboro to claim the league title and an impressive overtime win over Lincoln-Sudbury in the end-of-season tournament. The Warriors will be led by league MVP Ashley Sampson, who scored 31 in that win over L-S and nailed a three-pointer that forced OT, but a strong supporting cast includes Lily Sykes and Grace Tamulionis. The scary part is that all three are juniors and will be back next winter as well.
The Warriors will not have an easy path in Div. 2 South, which is another loaded bracket, and will have to face one of the two finalists from 2016, either Hingham or Oliver Ames, in the quarterfinal and could potentially face the Rocketeers for a third time in the semifinal. Westwood, Nauset, and Falmouth, which knocked Foxboro out of the tournament last year, could wait in the sectional final.
Oliver Ames (13-7), the defending Div. 2 South champ, has had an up and down first season in the Kelley-Rex but managed to claim second in the division and is a sleeper to retain its South title. The Tigers will have a very difficult road to try and repeat with a trip to last year’s South finalist Hingham waiting in the first round and a potential meeting with Foxboro looming in the quarterfinal (the Warriors won the league meeting between the teams 51-35).
Kayla Raymond will be the focus of all of OA’s opponents, but trying to slow down the junior forward is easier said than done. If the Tigers can get support for Raymond from senior Niyera Mitchell and find consistent outside shooting, then OA will be a tough matchup. Losing sophomore guard Sadie Homer during the season and senior Francesca Calabraro prior to it has made things tougher but no one will take head coach Laney Clement-Holbrook’s team lightly.
North Attleboro (16-6) is another sleeper in Div. 2 South. Last year, the Rocketeers were knocked out in the first round by OA on a last second Raymond basket and could have made a similar run to the Tigers if they had made it through. This year, North comes in with six losses, but only one to a team in Div. 2 and that was the league final against Foxboro. Despite missing senior guard Ashley Ahern to injury, North earned an impressive come from behind win against Attleboro in the final week and has the potential to make a deep run this year.
The Rocketeers are loaded with experienced seniors, including forward Caroline Collard and guards Samantha Taggart and Emily Schromm, who have shown the ability to win close games against good teams this season. North beat Foxboro in the first meeting, beat Oliver Ames by one, and has also beaten potential tourney opponents Hingham and Westwood this year. North faces Madison Park to start and likely will face Duxbury in the quarterfinal to try and get a rubber match with Foxboro in the semifinal.
Milford (10-10) qualified for the tournament for the first time since 2012 and has shown immense progress in head coach T.J. Dolliver’s second season in charge. But, the Hawks have also struggled down the stretch, albeit against a tough stretch of league opponents including North Attleboro and Foxboro twice, OA, and Attleboro. The Hawks will be in Div. 2 Central and will likely face Marlboro in the playoff opener, which is a team similar to the Hawks that shoots a lot of threes and does not have a true post presence.
The Hawks will be counting on a big game from junior guard Kate Irwin, who has been among the league’s top scorers this season, but Milford has a lot of versatile players that can cause teams problems on the perimeter and in the paint, including senior Nicole Dahlgren. If the Hawks do get through the first round, then they will travel to No. 3 seed Groton-Dunstable and could face a couple of Eastern Mass. transplants in Hopkinton and Medfield.
FOXBORO, Mass. – For the past month, Foxboro and North Attleboro have been taking care of business on the court with half an eye on each other’s results. Since the two teams last met on Jan. 20, North went 5-2 (despite missing senior guard Ashley Ahern for all seven games) including a five-game win streak entering Friday night. Meanwhile, Foxboro rattled off nine straight wins, eight off those coming in the league.
Grace Tamulionis scored 11 points, knocking down a trio of three-pointers, and all four of her shots were assisted by Lily Sykes (seven assists). Kristen Bortolotti also got off to a strong start with six of her 12 points in the first.
“It’s what they’ve been doing,” said North Attleboro coach Derek Herber. “They’ve been hot for a while. Once they got that consistent third shooter then they present a matchup problem for anyone. I was hoping we could mix and match and keep them uncomfortable but unfortunately they came out and shot the ball very well.”
The lead stretched to as many as 18 in the second quarter, after a Lauren Flahive (six points) jumper, but North started to find the range on offense and slow down the Warriors. Samantha Taggart scored seven of her team-high 12 in the second and assisted on a Caroline Collard (seven points, seven rebounds) jumper that cut the lead to 28-21.
It was as close as the Rocketeers would get for the rest of the night. Hailey Maling drove and kicked out to Riley Collins for a three that regained a double digit lead for the hosts at the break.
“Obviously, we had a great first quarter and we were bound to have a little bit of an offensive letdown in the second, but to be up by 10 going into halftime I was pleased with that,” said Downs. “Just the way the came out and the amount of energy they showed, I knew we were in for a good game.”
Foxboro came out of halftime intent on putting the game away and that is what the Warriors did, using an 11-0 run to extend the lead to 21 points (46-25). Ashley Sampson (game-high 19 points) was the aggressor for the Warriors, scoring seven in the third including a corner three off a Sykes assist and then going coast-to-coast for a layup off a steal. Bortolotti and Tamulionis (18 points) each added four in the quarter.
“In the second quarter we were able to score and defend a little better and keep them disrupted. In the third quarter, we just couldn’t sustain it offensively,” said Herber, whose team trailed 50-32 entering the fourth.
On Monday night against Bridgewater-Raynham, Foxboro had only four players get on the score sheet, but on Friday eight Warriors scored at least two points. That balance made it difficult for North to send help for Emily Schromm on Sampson and the senior got into foul trouble in the third quarter. In the end, Schromm and Collard would both foul out.
“The problem is the third player,” Herber explained. “We can cover two, but the third player is a tough matchup for us. We need to keep our bigs in the game to score on offense but it puts them in a bind on defense.”
Foxboro also had a decisive edge on the glass, despite North’s advantage in height. The Warriors were plus-10 on the boards, which Downs credited to a total team effort.
She said, “That hasn’t been our story all season long…especially against a team that has some height on us…They were all contributing to keeping that ball and getting second and third opportunities.”
Julia Feid scored a traditional three-point play to cut the lead to 19 in the fourth, but Foxboro responded to seal the win and the title. Sampson hit a pair of free throws (two of her six points in the fourth and 13 in the second half) and then assisted on a Maling jumper. Maling then provided her second assist of the game on a kick-out to Tamulionis for a dagger three.
“You can’t win games with two or three girls scoring,” Downs said, “and we have scorers, so we have to make sure that we keep them in the offense and we’re rotating the ball to get different looks from different people so that we’re a hard matchup.”
After clinching its eighth league title and second in the past three seasons, Foxboro (16-2, 14-2) will try to sew up the top seed in Div. 2 South in its end-of-season Warrior Classic beginning with Whitman-Hanson on Monday. North Attleboro (15-5, 13-3) will also try to work on its seeding for Div. 2 South and get revenge for an earlier loss when it travels to Attleboro.