NORTH EASTON, Mass. – Oliver Ames was struggling to start the fourth quarter, having made only one shot from the field and scored three points in nearly four minutes. Defensively, the Tigers had held Needham to only one made field goal and just five points so trailed by only one when Kayla Raymond rose up and drained her second three of the game.
OA, which led 35-34 heading into the final eight minutes, grabbed hold of a 41-39 lead with Raymond’s three and seemingly had also grabbed the momentum in Wednesday afternoon’s opener of the annual Sue Rivard Tournament at the William F. Nixon Gym.
Unfortunately for the Tigers that would be their final made shot. Needham closed out the fourth quarter with an 11-1 run to turn things around and came away with a 50-42 victory that sends the Rockets to Thursday’s final against another Bay State Conference team, Walpole (which beat Brockton earlier in the day).
“In the fourth quarter we just disappeared, said OA coach Elaine Clement-Holbrook. “They’ve got to come of age and learn to play the whole game at the same level of intensity. They need to learn play within themselves and not try to do something not in their wheelhouse.”
Needham started the fourth with a three by sophomore Kiara McIntyre, who came off the bench to score a game-high 19 points, which put the Rockets up 37-35. Raymond (18 points and 14 rebounds) finished in transition off an Abby Reardon assist to tie the game. After a series of free throws, Raymond drilled a shot from the outside for OA’s final lead of the night.
McIntyre forced a turnover in the backcourt and fed freshman Caroline Klemm for a layup to tie it. McIntyre then drove to the basket to put Needham in front to stay and Marianna Jantzen (14 points) added a scooped finish before another Klemm layup and then two free throws pushed the lead to eight inside the final minute.
The Tigers would finish with only seven points in the fourth quarter.
“It came down to turnovers,” explained Clement-Holbrook, but the other thing that did not help us was that our defense was so inconsistent and gave them a lot of chances. From an offensive standpoint, our shooting percentage was abysmal.”
OA took the lead from the start of the game, ahead 12-8 after the first quarter. The Tigers added an 8-3 run to close out the first half with a four-point edge going into the break.
Tate Hadges hit a jumper off a Caroline Flynn assist, Raymond scored on an offensive rebound, and Alex Sheldon (eight points) scored at the rim to make it 22-21. OA got one last possession in the second quarter and Flynn banked home a 30-foot three-pointer to make it 25-21 at halftime.
The lead could have been much larger for the hosts. OA dominated on the glass with five players having at least five rebounds in the first half alone. Raymond led the way with 14 rebounds, but Sheldon (12 rebounds), Caroline Flynn (eight rebounds), and Katie Flynn (seven rebounds) also chipped in to keep possessions alive and keep the Rockets off the boards.
Unfortunately for OA, the good looks it was creating from its offensive sets and the extra looks it was getting from its advantage on the glass went to waste.
“I was looking at the shooting chart from the first half and you look at how many shots we missed…the bottom line is that if you get the ball under the basket then you have to finish and they did not finish,” said Clement-Holbrook, who estimated that the Tigers missed 50 shots in the game.
In the third quarter, Needham chipped into the lead with McIntyre and Jantzen combining for 11 points in the quarter. Raymond scored four points in the third and Meg Holleran drilled a three but the Tigers lead was down to one heading into the fourth.
As the lead got tighter, so did the Tigers. Clement-Holbrook noted, “I think they started to get into panic mode and they started to force things. We understood there were going to be double teams and we did not handle it well. We tried dribbling through things that were not there.”
It is OA’s first loss of the year and Clement-Holbrook hopes this will be an early season lesson for the Tigers. She said, “Hopefully we can recognize where we made our mistakes so we can come back better.”
Oliver Ames (3-1, 3-0) will play Brockton in the consolation game of the Rivard Tournament on Thursday evening.
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.
NORTH EASTON, Mass. – Beginning the season with a relatively young and inexperienced lineup, Franklin opened with six straight losses. Given time to figure out the varsity level, the kids have turned out to be alright after all.
All 11 of the players on the Franklin roster saw time on Friday night in the first game of a doubleheader at the William F. Nixon Gym and nine of those players got on the scoresheet, as the Panthers showed off their depth to beat Oliver Ames 59-48. It was the fifth straight win and sixth in the last eight games for Franklin, which is now .500 in the league and four wins from booking a playoff spot.
“It’s a tremendous difference,” said Franklin coach John Leighton about the team’s confidence over the past few weeks compared to the start of the season. “You start 0-6 with a young team then they’re going to doubt themselves. They’re going to question things. I’m so impressed by every member of the team picking each other up and that’s lifted the confidence.”
In the first meeting with the Tigers, Franklin allowed Oliver Ames to pull away late for a double digit win. On Friday, it was the Panthers that put together a strong final quarter to turn a five-point lead into an 11-point win.
Franklin scored 17 points in the fourth, 12 of those coming at the free throw line. The Panthers shot 12-of-16 from the charity stripe and all but three of its final 14 points came from the line.
Shannon Gray, who had only three points entering the final quarter, led the way by making 5-of-6 free throws, while freshman Ali Brigham (10 points, 10 rebounds) scored on a putback and senior Carli Koffinke (team-high 13 points) knocked down one of her four three-pointers to help seal the victory.
“In the fourth quarter, Shannon Gray, who had barely scored, was attacking the rim and drawing fouls and that’s what we needed,” said Leighton. “Early it was Ali dominating and Carli scoring…I love to have that balance.”
OA was shorthanded on Friday with sophomore guard Sadie Homer sidelined with a knee injury, but the Tigers came out strong and led 14-13 after one. Senior Hannah Carroll got off to a strong start with five of her 12 points in the quarter, both baskets off assists by Kayla Raymond, who added four of her team-high 15 in the first.
Koffinke kept the Panthers in it early, burying a pair of threes off assists from Bea Bondhus and Grace McDermott. Leighton said of Koffinke, “She’s worked so hard at her shot and her game. You can see that she’s worked and if she gets a couple inches then she’s going to take it and really it’s a weapon for us.”
The defense picked up in the second for Franklin, which held OA to just eight points and grabbed a six-point halftime edge. Gray (eight points) started the second with a three off the first of Izzy Faught’s three assists in the quarter. Grace Sameski knocked one down to extend the lead and then Kate Morse (10 points, five rebounds, four assists) hit another. Carroll hit a pair from beyond the arc to keep OA hanging around.
The Panthers extended the lead to as many as 10 points in the third with Morse again providing big plays. She buried an elbow jumper and then a big three that made it 40-30.
“Cool as a cucumber,” said Leighton about Morse. “Kate’s a great three-sport athlete, but she’s really come on as a basketball player this year and I’m thrilled to have her another season.”
Brigham chipped in with four in the quarter and Koffinke knocked down another three, but Franklin could not put away the Tigers. OA battled back behind senior point guard Abby Reardon, who scored seven of her nine points in the third and assisted on a Katie Flynn transition layup.
“We’ve lost several games in this scenario where we couldn’t close out,” said Leighton. “We talked about playing more of a full game. Good possessions, hold them to one shot, make your free throws, then you can play with the lead and it’s hard to beat.”
The Panthers followed that formula down the stretch and pulled out the win. It was a total team effort, which is what Leighton thinks defines this year’s team.
He explained, “One way we’ve improved over the course of the year is exactly that. We have 11 girls, they all play and the idea is to get the open girl to take the shot and really work to make sure it’s a good shot. We really worked to move the ball a lot better the last few games.”
Franklin (6-8, 6-6) will try to keep its win streak alive on Monday with a trip to Taunton. Oliver Ames (9-5, 8-4) will look to get back on track, and clinch a tournament spot, when the Tigers travel to King Philip.
The Tigers grabbed a rebound and had a chance to make it a one-possession game, but a turnover led to an and-one and on the next possession the ball swung from Lauren Flahive out to junior Lily Sykes, who drilled the fourth of her five threes on the night to push the lead back to 10 heading into the fourth.
Sykes finished with a game-high 19 points and hit half of Foxboro’s 10 three-pointers, as the Warriors pulled away in the fourth for a 51-35 victory over OA that moves the hosts within a game of division-leading North Attleboro.
“She’s another one who’s been stepping up for us pretty consistently,” said Foxboro coach Lisa Downs of Sykes. “When the pressure is on Ashley [Sampson], [Lily] is able to step up and take those shots. That’s huge for us and it opens up things for Ashley too.”
While OA did not struggle offensively to the same level as last week’s loss to Mansfield (the Tigers scored more in the first half on Thursday then they did in the entire game against the Hornets), the Foxboro full-court press and aggressive half-court defense had the Tigers off-balance.
Kayla Raymond (11 points, six rebounds) started the game with a three and Hannah Carroll knocked one down for a 6-3 lead, but the Warriors went on an 8-0 run to a lead they would never relinquish. Kristen Bortolotti (nine points) buried one of her three shots from beyond the arc to tie it, Sampson fed Sykes for her second from outside, and then Sampson (13 points, 10 rebounds) scored off a steal.
Niyera Mitchell hit a jumper and Raymond scored on a rebound putback to cut the lead to four after one, but again Foxboro put together a 10-0 run to break the game open. Sykes knocked down another three, scored on a reverse, and Bortolotti buried a three off a feed from Grace Tamulionis.
Meanwhile, the OA offense was stagnating. Sadie Homer (seven points) hit a three and Raymond got out on the break for a layup to get back into the game but the Tigers struggled to find consistent looks. Riley Collins closed out the half with a corner three to put the Warriors ahead 27-18 at halftime.
“We just couldn’t score,” said Laney Clement-Holbrook. “We made bad decisions and we just couldn’t score. We need to figure this out because we didn’t rebound…Our bread and butter is getting out to run and if you’re not willing to rebound then it’s hard to run.”
The Warriors are regularly out-rebounded and the Tigers had a significant edge in size, but Foxboro was holding its own on the boards and at times dominating the glass. Flahive came off the bench and grabbed eight boards, Tamulionis and Sykes each snagged six, and Sampson grabbed 10.
“Because we don’t have the height,” Downs explained, “we need to work our butts off inside the paint. Once we start facing the taller teams, the stronger teams, that’s going to be huge for us because we can run the ball, we play great defense but if we don’t rebound then we can’t get our offensive game going.”
Bortolotti started the second half with another three and Collins answered an Abby Reardon jumper with an offensive rebound basket. Trailing by 11 the Tigers finally started to click. Mitchell kicked out a pass to Carroll (six points) for a three and then fed Brenna Burkett for a layup before snatching an offensive rebound and going up strong for a basket.
Just when it seemed like the game might be turning towards OA, a turnover handed the ball to Sampson for a layup plus the foul. Foxboro then broke quickly off a rebound and the ball was kicked out to Sykes, who stole any momentum that the Tigers may have built with another long-range shot.
“We got it close, down to four, and then we fell asleep,” said Clement-Holbrook. “It’s been this problem all season long in terms of playing four consistent quarters and it’s just….[shrugs].”
Downs was proud of her team for withstanding the run and turning it back around. She said, “They righted the ship without me having to call a timeout. They were able to settle themselves down on the court, which is something we didn’t do against North Attleboro (in a 53-47 loss).
“Tonight, they settled themselves down and it wasn’t crazy Coach Downs over here. They were able to just relax a little bit and keep their composure.”
Foxboro extended the run to 13-0 with the first seven points of the fourth quarter to effectively put the game away. Sykes scored five more in the run, picking up the scoring for Sampson who was being pressured by Homer.
“That’s going to happen because you’re helping off of someone and they have the game of the century,” said Clement-Holbrook of Sykes. She added, “Sadie did a great job on [Ashley]. If we could have everyone playing with that kind of heart and soul then things would be different.”
Foxboro (8-2, 7-2) will play at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence on Sunday against Milford, while Oliver Ames (8-4, 7-3), which is now 1-1/2 games behind Mansfield in the Kelley-Rex, will be off until Tuesday against Canton.
MANSFIELD, Mass. – When Oliver Ames head coach Laney Clement-Holbrook walked out of the locker room after delivering her postgame message to the team, she did not even wait until the question had been asked before answering, “Never…never…never.”
After more than 40 years at the helm of the Tigers, a career that has encompassed more than 650 wins, Clement-Holbrook admitted that she had never had a team go without a made field goal for an entire half. That was, at least, until Friday night at the Albertini Gym against division leading Mansfield.
Despite coming into the game having scored 60 points in three of its last four games, OA came out ice cold against the Hornets, was held scoreless in the first quarter, shot 0-19 from the field in the first half, and managed only 17 points for the game (34 below its season average). Clement-Holbrook said, “Everything was tentative. We didn’t go to our strengths.”
Although the Tigers had historic struggles on the offensive end, Mansfield was hardly firing on all cylinders. The Hornets reached double-digits in a quarter just once, scored only four points in the fourth quarter and shot 4-16 from the free throw line (all in the first half). However, it was enough for Mansfield to pull out a 32-17 victory and take control of its own destiny in the race for the league title.
“It’s hard to describe,” said Mansfield coach Mike Redding with a shake of his head. “We had our moments where we executed and scored but never on a continuous basis. As inconsistent as we were, they just had a nightmare time shooting the ball.”
He added, “This was one of the weirdest ‘big games’ I’ve ever been a part of. It felt like two teams battling for last place instead of battling for first. But, if you told me at the beginning of the season that we’d be in first place after the first eight [games] I would’ve taken it and run.”
Mansfield started the game by going inside to 6-foot-3 junior center Meg Hill (18 points, 17 rebounds). Jen Peel (five points, five assists) flipped a pass to Hill for a layup and sophomore Maggie Danehy got Hill a good look with a pass to the left block. Hill added a couple of free throws, but the Hornets had a long stretch without scoring until Ann Maher knocked down a three off a Steph Kemp assist.
That bucket gave Mansfield a 9-0 lead heading to the second. Mady Bendanillo set up Hill for a fast break basket to start the quarter and OA finally got on the board with a pair of free throws by Abby Reardon (team-high six points, all from the line) with 5:39 left in the half.
The Tigers would get only one more point before the break, while the Hornets shot 2-14 from the line in the second and needed a scoring burst at the end of the second, including three points from Erin Daniel and a drive from Peel to get separation.
“I think they got apprehensive when their shots weren’t falling and because of that we did not defend,” said Clement-Holbrook. “I mean, Hill got everything and anything that she wanted and that was certainly not part of the game plan.”
Redding noted, “Both teams are really athletic, we both know what we want to do, so I think defense wins the day. We’re fortunate we had just enough offense to win it.”
The Hornets talked about the free throws at halftime and how OA was one good run from getting back into the game. Mansfield started the third quarter strongly and again it was Hill that the offense ran through. Hill scored six of the first eight points of the third and Peel buried a three to extend the lead to 19.
“At times we did a good job getting it in and at times we were a little low,” said Redding of running the Mansfield offense through Hill. “The other thing is when all the attention’s on her, it does open other people for drives and shots.”
Niyera Mitchell knocked down a jumper for the Tigers’ first made field goal and she assisted on a basket for Kayla Raymond (five points, 10 rebounds). Hannah Carroll knocked down a three for her only points of the night that cut the lead to as little as 13 at 30-17 in the fourth quarter.
“I think if we had played the first half like we played the second half, I think we probably would have been a lot closer,” admitted Clement-Holbrook.
Redding called timeout knowing that his team needed a basket and Peel was able to flick a no-look pass over the defense to Hill for another layup. It was the final point for either team.
Mansfield has now beaten title rivals Attleboro and OA in the past two weeks and has a one-game lead over both. Defense has been the calling card for the Hornets, who have held four of the top six scorers in the league (Ashley Sampson, Sarah Deyo, Julia Strachan, and Raymond) well below their season averages and are allowing a league-best 37.0 points per game.
“We’re doing what it takes to win tough games and we’ll take it at this point,” said Redding.
Clement-Holbrook is hoping for a response from the Tigers in their next game. She said, “They’ve got to be able to rise above this now and come back on Tuesday and be ready to roll.
She added, “It wasn’t the team that I was hoping would show up today and I hope they learn their lesson from this…We have to hold each other accountable.”
Over the weekend, the organizers of the 40th annual McDonald’s All-American Game, an annual basketball all-star game that features some of the best high school and prep stars from across the country, announced the rosters for the 2017 contest that will take place on March 29 at the United Center in Chicago.
While there were no players from New England selected for either the boys’ or girls’ rosters, Massachusetts will be represented on the bench, as Oliver Ames head coach Laney Clement-Holbrook was chosen to lead the East team.
OA athletic director Bill Matthews was notified early last week that Clement-Holbrook had been nominated and, according to the coach, the selection committee officially invited her to coach the team on Thursday.
Clement-Holbrook said that at the time she was too busy preparing for the Tigers’ important Hockomock game with division rival Attleboro on Friday, which OA won, to focus on the McDonald’s All-American Game selection, but she is appreciative of the recognition
“It is truly an honor but one that I am still surprised at because the work we do with our players is always our most important work,” said Clement-Holbrook by email on Monday.
She continued, “Certainly it is a chance of a lifetime to be around the very best in the sport that has been my life’s work.”
Last season, Clement-Holbrook broke the state record for career wins that was held by Vi Goodnow (Frontier Regional). The Tigers would go on to win the Davenport division title, the 18th league title under Clement-Holbrook, and the Div. 2 South title before losing in the state semifinal at the TD Garden.
As of Monday, Clement-Holbrook had 651 career victories, all of them with Oliver Ames.
The East roster contains six players from Texas, the most represented state in the game, and features talents such as University of Connecticut-commits Megan Walker (Monacan High – North Chesterfield, Va.) and Mikayla Coombs (Wesleyan School – Peachtree Corners, Ga.). This is the 16th edition of the girls’ game, which began in 2002, and the West has won 10 of the previous 15, including last year.
FRANKLIN, Mass. – Much of the attention on Oliver Ames this season will be centered on junior forward Kayla Raymond, and rightfully so, but the Tigers are going to need other players to step up if they want to repeat last season’s run to the Div. 2 South title.
On Friday night, in the opener of a Coaches vs. Cancer doubleheader, those other players made the plays that the Tigers needed to pull out a divisional road win against Franklin. While Raymond was once again the star with a game-high 22 points and 14 rebounds, OA had five other players score at least six points.
“That’s ultimately what we have to do,” said OA coach Laney Clement-Holbrook. “Everyone is going to be keying on Kayla and that’s what they’re going to be focused on doing and we need other people who can step up and contribute and take some of the pressure off.”
In the opening quarter OA needed only one player, as Raymond scored eight of the Tigers’ nine points in the first and the Panthers were held scoreless for the opening 6:40 of the game.
“She didn’t force anything, but the second you go one-on-one…she’s into the offense immediately,” said Franklin coach John Leighton about Raymond. “She’s a junior, she’s only going to get better. She’s a great kid and makes her team better.”
Franklin scored the final four points of the first and despite the rough start trailed by only five at the first break. In the second, both teams exploded offensively, splitting 52 points between them in a back-and-forth quarter.
The Panthers were given a lift by sophomore Bea Bondhus off the bench, scoring 11 of her team-high 14 points in the quarter. Her driving layup gave Franklin its first lead at 25-23. Freshman Ali Brigham chipped in with eight of her 12 points in the second as well, giving the Panthers an inside-out combination that was tough to guard.
“She’s got her length and she’s athletic and you can just tell she’s going to get better every time she plays,” said Clement-Holbrook of Brigham, who also pulled in 10 rebounds. “Her awareness as to where the ball is, where the defense is, how to time the ball over the top, she’s going to be a serious issue to deal with.”
Raymond continued her strong performance burying a three from the corner and scoring off an assist by Meg Holleran (six points). Senior Hannah Carroll also heated up in the second, scoring seven of her nine points, including a transition three. Katie Flynn added six of her eight points and Sadie Homer (eight points, 10 rebounds, six steals) chipped in with a three to close the half and put OA back up five.
“I thought we came out in the first quarter too high energy and not enough execution,” said Leighton. “When that second shift came through for everybody, you saw marked improvement. I thought Ali and Bea really sparked us there and I thought Shannon [Gray] really stepped up at point guard and move the ball well for us.”
The Panthers cut into the lead in the third. Katie Morse scored the first five points of the quarter, including a corner three to tie it only to have Homer answer it on the other end. Carli Koffinke scored on a drive, but again OA matched it with a layup from Abby Reardon (six points). Koffinke (eight points) hit a floater to close out the quarter with Franklin down just two, 44-42.
Needing to close out the game, OA went back to its star. Raymond hit a turnaround jumper on the right block, assisted on a basket for Flynn, then snatched an offensive rebound for a basket. Homer added a steal and an assist on a Reardon layup and then Raymond drilled her second three to put the Tigers ahead by 12.
Franklin continued to hang around but had turnovers on consecutive possessions and OA closed it out with free throws. “That’s been our Achille’s heel,” said Leighton. “Big game, big crowd, and things got a little tighter.”
He added, “In the end you have to play better ‘D’. You can’t give up 60 points in high school girls’ basketball regularly and win. I thought we made some steps forward but Kayla Raymond is a special kid and when we packed it in they had other kids step up and make shots.”
Clement-Holbrook is still looking for consistency from her relatively young team and hoping to see a four-quarter performance.
She explained, “We didn’t play our best and the fact that they were able to get things together in the final three minutes was really the difference.
“In no game this season have we played four consistently good quarters. I told the seniors, a quarter of the season is already over and we need to play with urgency.
Oliver Ames (4-2) will try to keep momentum high against King Philip on Tuesday before its showdown with league-leading Attleboro next Friday. Franklin (0-6) is young and struggling through a rare tough start to the season, but will hope to get the season jumpstarted next week against Taunton.
2015-16 Record: 21-3 (14-2) 2015-16 Finish: Reached the Div. 1 South quarterfinal Head Coach: Rick Patch
The Bombardiers came within one game of winning their first Hockomock League title last year and despite the loss of 2015-16 Player of the Year Emily Houle to graduation, Attleboro comes into this season as one of the favorites in the Kelley-Rex again this winter.
One reason for the high expectations for the Bombardiers is senior forward Sarah Deyo. The Southern New Hampshire-commit comes into the season just 68 points shy of 1,000 for her career and is a matchup nightmare for the opposition with her ability to score in the paint and from the outside. Fellow senior Julia Strachan returns from a knee injury that cost her all of last season and the Adelphi-commit adds another strong shooter and rebounder to the front line. The Bombardiers are loaded at the forward position with junior Sam Pierce coming back after a breakout sophomore campaign that saw her average nearly a double-double.
While the strength of the Bombardiers is in the post, Attleboro has experience in the backcourt with senior Mish Logie and sophomore Jordyn Lako returning as the primary ball-handlers and strong on-the-ball defenders. Juniors Grace Mayer and Kim White will add depth in the backcourt off the bench. Guard Liv McCall is another who could contribute this season, among a group of six freshmen that will be on the varsity roster.
“We are very excited about our program and how its progressed over the last three seasons,” said head coach Rick Patch, “and the positive, entitled-to-nothing culture we have established that best represents ‘Blue Pride’ and the Attleboro community.”
2015-16 Record: 13-8 (10-6) 2015-16 Finish: Reached Div. 1 Central quarterfinal Head Coach: John Leighton
Franklin has been consistently one of the top programs in the league and despite losing a strong group of seniors, the Panthers are once again in the mix for a league title and a return to the Div. 1 Central tournament.
Leading the way this season is a core of five experienced seniors that offer Franklin a good balance of interior and perimeter scoring. Carli Koffinke is in her third year on varsity and is a threat from the outside, taking advantage of the Panthers’ drive and kick style of offense. Point guard Margaux Welsh will take over the primary ball-handling role and will be expected to get the offense going. Izzy Faught and Grace McDermott will add depth in the backcourt and forward Erin Skidmore adds athleticism and quickness in the paint.
In order to stay consistently competitive, the Panthers have always been able to count on new players coming in to refresh the roster. This winter will be no different with junior forward Kate Morse in her first year on the team as well as sophomore point guard Shannon Gray and three-point threat Bea Bondhus, who had a team-high 11 points in the season opener. Freshmen Ali Brigham and Megan O’Connell will add to Franklin’s front-court depth.
“With so many younger and newer players, we are hoping to build team chemistry and improve each and every day,” said Franklin coach John Leighton. “We are very encouraged with our depth and will lean on our seniors for leadership.”
2015-16 Record: 6-14 (4-12) 2015-16 Finish: Missed playoffs Head Coach: Martin Crowley
Under head coach Martin Crowley, King Philip has been a very tough team to play against, focused on high-pressure defensive effort and not letting up from the opening tip to the final whistle. This year, the Warriors are hoping to get a little more consistency on the offensive end to match that defensive intensity.
KP will not lack for athletes this winter beginning with returning starter Shannon O’Connor, who emerged as a potential scoring threat on the wing as a freshman last season. Classmate Julia Leroux also impressed in her rookie season and they are already go-to players on the offensive end. Junior forwards Hadley Zolak and Christina Hathaway and senior Courtney Kelleher will give additional scoring and rebounding as athletic forwards that can battle in the paint and get out and run the break.
There is also a youth movement at KP this year with a strong, athletic freshman class that has already put in a standout soccer season this past fall and is ready to contribute to the basketball team as well. Chloe Layne has stepped right in and will be an instant contributor at the point guard position and will be joined by classmate Faith Roy on the varsity roster.
“Youth will be served,” said Crowley, “however our goal is the same it is every season whether you have a veteran team or not and that is to qualify for the tournament in what I believe is the most competitive league in the state.”
2015-16 Record: 21-4 (15-1) 2015-16 Finish: Reached Div. 1 South semifinal Head Coach: Mike Redding
The Hornets are coming off the program’s first ever Hockomock League title, edging Attleboro in the final game of a dramatic league campaign, in front of arguably the biggest crowd to watch a game (male or female) in the league last season. This year, Mansfield has the challenge of trying to defend its title despite losing eight seniors from last season.
Mansfield’s title defense begins with senior guard Jen Peel, who has been limited by an injury in the preseason and will be moving from the point to the off-guard position this year. She is one of the best playmakers in the league and will have junior center Meg Hill to find in the half-court. Hill is a dominant force on both ends of the floor and should expect to get even more touches this year and needs to be aggressive looking for her shot.
The Hornets will have plenty of size beyond the 6-foot-3 Hill. Senior Olivia Broyles and junior Maeve Carney are both over six feet tall and sophomores Maggie Danehy and Emily Vigeant are just under six feet. Sophomore twins Mady and Kara Bendanillo will add speed to the roster with Mady having the experience of playing time as a freshmen, including a start in the South semifinal against Bishop Feehan. Junior Ann Maher is another player that can be expected to take on a bigger role this year at the shooting guard position.
“We may be more athletic than a year ago and we’ll run as much as we can and press more than we did a year ago,” said head coach Mike Redding. “It should be fun and with seven sophomores in our top 11 we should get better and better as they get experience and confidence.”
2015-16 Record: 21-4 (13-3) 2015-16 Finish: Won Div. 2 South title Head Coach: Elaine Clement-Holbrook
Oliver Ames is coming off a remarkable 2015-16 season that saw the Tigers reach the 20-win mark, claim the Davenport division title, make a run to the Div. 2 South title and a chance to play at the TD Garden, and celebrate the career of head coach Elaine Clement-Holbrook, who became the state’s all-time career leader in wins (finishing the season with 645). This year, OA will face the challenge of trying to match that level of success while taking on a new division after being moved into the Kelley-Rex.
The key to the Tigers putting in league title fight is junior forward Kayla Raymond, who is one of the most talented players in the Hock and one of the toughest match-ups with her combination of size, speed, shooting touch, and handle. Raymond will get help from senior guard Hannah Carroll, who became one of the team’s top shooters from the perimeter and can stretch opposing defense. Senior Niyera Mitchell is coming back from an off-season injury and has the size and touch to be a strong performer on both ends of the court.
OA lost only two seniors to graduation but then also lost shooting guard Francesca Calabraro to a knee injury during the soccer season. Senior Abby Reardon will be one of the backcourt players that will be counted on to pick up the scoring slack, while Clement-Holbrook will be hoping for senior Brenna Burkett and junior Sadie Homer to provide a scoring touch at the forward position.
“Moving to the Kelley Rex will be a tremendous challenge for us,” said Clement-Holbrook. “Our goals are the same as before: Compete to qualify for the tournament, challenge for the Hock title and go as deep as possible in the tournament.”
2015-16 Record: 4-16 (2-14) 2015-16 Finish: Missed playoffs Head Coach: Walter Harrigan
Taunton is coming off a tough year in which the Tigers only managed four wins, but it was also a chance for a number of young players to get valuable varsity experience and Taunton will be hoping to have it pay off with seven returning players on this season’s roster.
One of the exciting younger players that emerged last year was Lily Patneaude, who showed off athleticism and a range of offensive skills as a freshman. Junior Hannah Moniz is another wing player that can provide scoring off the dribble or from the perimeter. Junior MacKenzie Handrahan will add rebounding and defense on the post and eighth grader Sonya Fernandes could be a newcomer to watch on the Taunton front line.
The back court has a mix of experience and youth led by senior guard Abby Kingman, whose ball-handling and speed will be vital. Kingman’s classmate Jess Regan is returning after missing her entire junior year to an injury and will offer a steady hand at the point guard position. Junior Dominique Bradley and sophomore Alexa White will add depth to the guard positions.
“Taunton has a combination of experience and youth,” said head coach Walter Harrigan, “along with some skill and athleticism that has the makings for a fun and interesting year.”