Attleboro, 44 @ Franklin, 60 – Final – Franklin established a lead after a quarter, built on it by halftime, and pulled away with a dominant third quarter to avenge its loss to Attleboro. The Panthers were up 31-20 at the halftime break before winning the third quarter, 20-4, to put the game away. Declan Walmsley (13 points) hit a pair of threes in the third, Andrew Byfield (11 points) added five points and both Jake O’Brien and Zach Harvey added four as the Panthers took a 51-24 lead into the final frame.
Oliver Ames, 51 @ Stoughton, 47 – Final – Oliver Ames senior Drew Nickla beat the shot clock with a spinning shot in the lane with just over a minute to go and the Tigers hung on for a win over the Black Knights. Nickla scored eight of his career-high 20 points as the Tigers raced out to a 21-6 lead through eight minutes, and carrie a 29-17 advantage into halftime. OA led by 10 (42-32) going into the fourth but a late 7-0 run from the Knights made it a two-point game in the final minutes, setting up Nickla’s big basket. Amari Brown added 11 points for OA in the win. Brett Pendenza scored a team-high 18 points for Stoughton while KC Ugwuakazi chipped in with 10 points.
Mansfield, 74 @ Milford, 36 – Final – After a close first quarter, Mansfield extended its lead to double-digits by halftime and never looked back in a win over Milford. The Hornets held a slim 10-8 lead after a quarter, pushed the advantage to 30-16 at halftime, and went off for 22 third quarter points for a 52-30 edge going into the final frame. Senior Matt Boen led the way with a team-high 30 points, five rebounds, four assists, and two assists, junior Chris Hill added 15 points, five rebounds, and four steals, and senior Brendan Foley finished with 10 points.
King Philip, 55 @ Taunton, 84 – Final – Taunton’s offense was too much too handle for the visiting Warriors as the Tigers scored 40 first half points and exploded for 29 points in the third quarter to pull away. The Warriors kept pace with the hosts through the first eight minutes, trailing by just two, 21-19, after the first. Taunton’s offense kept rolling with 19 more points in the second for a 40-28 lead at halftime before its 29-point third made it 69-43. Junior Trent Santos scored 10 of his team-high 18 points in the third. Tyler Stewart added 16 points, Josh Lopes finished with 13 points, Nigel Choate chipped in with 11 points and Danny MacDougall scored 10 points for Taunton. Sophomore Will Laplante led KP with a game-high 20 points.
Franklin, 47 @ Attleboro, 28 – Final – Franklin closed out is second straight unbeaten regular season with a sweep of the Bombardiers. Olivia Quinn led the Panthers in all 10 games this season, including 16 points against Attleboro. Elizabeth Wilson, who recently committed to Endicott College, chipped in with nine points for the Panthers.
Sharon, 22 @ North Attleboro, 65 – Final – North celebrated senior night with a strong defensive performance and a big win. All four seniors hit double digits for the Rocketeers. Amanda Kaiser led the way with 19, including 12 in the opening quarter. Lydia Santos added a dozen, Siobhan Weir had 11 points, and Cailyn Maxcy scored a career-high 10. North led 40-16 at halftime, but allowed only six points after the break and North coach Nikki Correia praised her team’s pressure defense for creating easy baskets on the other end of the floor.
Stoughton @ Oliver Ames – Postponed to TBD.
Milford, 41 @ Mansfield, 61 – Final – All 10 Hornets scored for Mansfield on Thursday, as the Hornets pulled away for a big win. Olivia Salisbury scored nine point to pace Mansfield, while Abby Wager and Kayla Vine each scored eight points. Jillian Michelson was Milford’s top scorer with 10 points.
Stoughton, 1 @ Oliver Ames, 2 – Final – Oliver Ames avenged its loss to the Black Knights on Wednesday evening with a 2-1 win on Thursday afternoon. Freshman Jack Corey scored his first career goal while classmate Andy Livingstone scored the game-winner late in the third for the Tigers.
FRANKLIN, Mass. – Even with some of its regular starters on the bench cheering on, Franklin started Tuesday night’s game with Attleboro locked in defensively and crashing the glass. The Panthers held Attleboro scoreless in the first and to just six points in the second quarter, allowing their offense time to click into gear.
Once Franklin got going on that end of the floor, knocking down 10-of-12 threes as a team in the second half, there was no way back for the Bombardiers. Franklin rolled to a 64-27 win, extending its win streak to nine games this season and 34 games overall and clinching a third straight Kelley-Rex division title.
“We have something to win,” Franklin coach John Leighton said of his team’s focus. “Beyond Thursday, there’s nothing out there. It’s the abyss. So, this was one tangible thing that they could do and they’ve been very fired up about it.
He added, “It’s a great league. It’s a great league when we play 20 games and a great league when we play 10. There’s great balance in the league, so I’m very proud of the girls for closing that out.”
Celebrating senior night, some of the usual suspects weren’t in the starting lineup, but the Panthers came out intent on controlling the boards and giving Attleboro no good looks.Katelynn Taylor (five rebounds) and Elizabeth Wilson (eight rebounds) set the early tone.
“We tried to limit their first and second looks and make their third or fourth look beat us,” Leighton explained. “The seniors this is their final home game and there was a spark across all 14 kids. I was impressed how they played.”
When junior Olivia Quinn, the team’s leading scorer, came in off the bench, the offense started to get going as well. She scored six of her game-high 15 in the first and Emma Sousa added a bucket for an 11-0 lead after one.
“Defensively in the first quarter I thought we did a good job when the game was still on the line, but then you go eight minutes and don’t score,” said Attleboro coach Marty Crowley. “We haven’t played from behind like that this year, from that kind of deficit so it’s a lesson learned.”
Emma Reilly (eight points) got Attleboro on the board with a pair of jumpers and Narissa Smith (eight points) hit a pull-up for her first points of the night, but Franklin’s depth and its strength in the paint was able to extend the lead to 17 by halftime. Katie Peterson scored all six of her points in the second and Brigid Earley chipped in with four of her six points in the frame.
Leading 23-6, Franklin was in control at halftime, but things still seemed out of sorts on the offensive end. The Panthers were getting good looks, but were making very few of them. Something seemed to click in the three-minute break before the start of the third quarter.
Quinn drove and kicked out to Erin Quaile (six points, five rebounds, and five assists) for a three to start things off. After Earley and Gabby Bosh traded drives, Stefany Padula spotted up in the corner for a three. Then Earley grabbed an offensive rebound and kicked out to Quaile from beyond the arc.
Out of nowhere, the lead was now 24 and Franklin was just getting started. Quinn had a nice lefty finish and then got an easy bucket after Quaile’s rebound and long lead pass. Teagan Collins (10 points) got into the act, burying her first three of the night, followed by one from Quinn, then one from Kaleigh Houlihan (11 points, 10 rebounds, and four steals), then another from Collins.
When the dust had settled, Franklin had knocked down seven threes and scored 29 points in the third and had built a 52-14 advantage.
“We got a lot of good looks, but missed a lot of wide open threes,” said Leighton. “When they started to connect in the second half, we just couldn’t miss. I said in the first half, they’re all good threes, no one is jacking up shots, but we don’t want to live by the three either, just keep playing. Then the roof came off the hoop and away they went.”
To Attleboro’s credit, the Bombardiers didn’t stop and had their best offensive quarter in the fourth. Meghan Gordon, who came into the night as the league’s leading scorer at more than 20 points per game, got a layup off a Smith steal and dish and then added a three. She finished with seven points and seven rebounds. Smith also knocked down a pair of threes in the fourth.
Franklin didn’t stop scoring either. Houlihan showed off her range, hitting a pair of threes including one from a few feet behind the line. Collins added her third three as well.
“In the third quarter, they probably could’ve been in the parking lot and not missed a shot the way things were going,” Crowley joked. “We held them 11 points in the quarter, so defensively you’re doing your job, but offensively we just couldn’t find a rhythm early on. We have great kids who work hard and tonight was just [Franklin’s] night.”
Franklin (9-0) will try to cap off an unbeaten season when it travels to Attleboro (5-2) on Thursday night.
Milford, 39 @ Taunton, 73 – Final – Click here for a photo gallery of this game. – Taunton opened with a 22-point first quarter and started the second quarter on a 15-0 run to create plenty of separation in a win over visiting Milford. Junior Trent Santos scored all nine of his points in the opening quarter as the Tigers staked a 22-14 lead after one. Both Josh Lopes (16 points, five rebounds, five assists) and Isiah Seldon (nine points, five rebounds) scored five points as Taunton pulled away with a 15-0 spurt over the first six minutes of the second. Nigel Choate added 12 points off the bench for the hosts while Tyler Stewart finished with 11 points and eight rebounds. Jordan Darling led the Hawks with nine points.
Mansfield, 51 @ Franklin, 44 – Final – Mansfield set the tone defensively in the first quarter and then held off a late surge from Franklin to earn a season sweep over the Panthers. The Hornets limited the hosts to four points in the first quarter and carried a 25-14 lead into halftime. Mansfield’s advantage grew to 37-25 going into the final frame before the Panthers got going and clawed back into it, cutting the lead down to 47-42 with under two minutes to go but Mansfield held on for the win. Senior Matt Boen had a team-high 16 points, seven rebounds, and four steals, Jack Colby added 11 points and nine rebounds, Matt Hyland had nine points and six boards, and Brendan Foley chipped in with eight points and 10 rebounds.
Foxboro, 42 @ North Attleboro, 31 – Final – After being held to just 25 points through three quarters, Foxboro exploded for 17 in the fourth to pull out the road win. Both teams played tough defense through three quarters, with the Warriors holding a slim 25-24 lead, but Foxboro found the range and secured the season sweep. Katelyn Mollica and Erin Foley both scored a dozen points for the Warriors. Lydia Santos topped North’s scorers with nine points, while Ava McKeon and Siobhan Weir each scored seven.
Franklin, 63 @ Mansfield, 47 – Final – Franklin jumped out to a 15-3 lead after one quarter and never allowed the Hornets to climb back into the game to stay perfect on the season. Olivia Quinn was the leading scorer for the Panthers for the eighth time in eight games, finishing with 20 points. Elizabeth Wilson had a season-high 16 in the win. Ashley Santos (14 points) and Kayla Vine (11) both hit double digits for the Hornets.
Taunton, 30 @ Milford, 38 – Final – The Hawks used a good defensive performance and strong third quarter to earn a second straight win against the Tigers. The game was tied at 8-8 after the first quarter, but Milford pulled ahead by three heading into halftime. Milford outscored the Tigers 12-5 in the third (with all 12 points coming from the three-point line) to stretch the lead to double digits. Taunton won the fourth, 11-9, but it wasn’t enough to make a comeback. Emma Lawrence knocked down four of Milford’s nine threes and finished with a game-high 12 points. Brooke Ferreira added 10 points and Jillian Michelson had nine. Sonya Fernandez paced the Tigers with nine points.
Mansfield, 1 @ Franklin, 7 – Final – Franklin exploded for six goals in the second half to skate away with a big win over Mansfield. The Hornets opened the scoring but Justin Abely leveled the scoring on a power play chance with Dylan Marchand and Declan Lovett recording assists. In the second half, Dom Lampasona scored a pair of goals while JT Dwyer, Ben Jarosz, Adam Quinn, and Marchand scored once. Lovett, Marchand, Ryan Sicchio, and Joe LeBlanc all finished with two assists in the win while Gary Mandia made 15 saves in net.
Taunton, 10 @ Franklin, 59 – Final – Click here for a Photo Gallery from this game. The Panthers continue to roll through the first three weeks of the season, completing the sweep of Taunton with a strong defensive performance and with 12 players getting on the scoresheet. Franklin jumped out to a 15-3 lead after one quarter, but things got tighter in the second as the Panthers were held to just eight points. Things picked up offensively for the hosts after the break, as they scored 20 points in the third and 36 for the second half. Taunton was held to just three made field goals for the game (one in the first, third, and fourth quarters). Olivia Quinn led the way with 13 points in the win, including eight in the second half and three made three-pointers. Franklin continues to showcase its depth. Elizabeth Wilson had eight points, Kaleigh Houlihan added seven, and Katie Peterson and Brigid Earley both had six. Jaelyn Fernandez paced the Tigers with four points (all from the line in the second quarter).
Canton, 56 @ Mansfield, 65 – Final – In a back-and-forth battle, Mansfield scored 24 points in the fourth quarter to pull out the non-league victory. The Hornets led 27-21 at halftime, but the Bulldogs came storming back with a 21-point third quarter to take a one-point lead into the final eight minutes. Kayla Vine scored 18 points, Ashley Santos had 15, and Abby Wager added 13 to hand Canton its first loss of the season. Ally Prentis also had a pair of big threes in the first half to put Mansfield in front. Sydney Gallery scored a game-high 22 points and Kiara Cerruti chipped in with 16 for the Bulldogs.
Franklin @ Taunton – Postponed to TBD.
Franklin, 7 vs. Boston Latin, 0 – Final – Franklin senior Amanda Lewandowski scored a hat trick as the Panthers skated to a win over BLA. Junior Maggie McCaffrey added a pair of goals while Molly Hurley and Libby Carter (two assists) each scored once in the win. Lyndsay Atkinson added three assists in the win while Gabby Colace had the shutout.
WRENTHAM, Mass. – After playing at King Philip’s pace for the opening eight minutes and heading into the first break down by a point, Franklin coach John Leighton implored his team to slow things down, move the ball around, and look for good shots not just the first shot.
Over the next two quarters, the Panthers did just that, scoring 40 points in the second and third quarters combined and turning that deficit into an 18-point lead. Franklin would lead by as many as 25 points in the fourth and earned a sweep of the Warriors with a 62-48 victory.
“Something you never want is a slow start and that’s exactly what we had,” said Leighton. “We had way too many turnovers, we went too fast, but what I was impressed by is that by the end of the quarter they had bought into the idea of slowing it down, seeing the next step, and when you start getting defensive stops they can’t press as much.”
KP had the Panthers on the run in the first, playing the frenetic style that the Warriors thrive on. After back-to-back threes by Emma Glaser and Courtney Keswick (10 points), the hosts held a 10—6 lead. Olivia Quinn (game-high 22 points, six rebounds, and four steals) answered back with a three of her own and a layup to put Franklin in front, but Caroline Aaron’s drive to the basket put the Warriors up 12-11 after one.
Franklin has plenty of experience on its roster and the players talked in the huddle about the need to settle down and play their game. The defending state champions started to look more like themselves in the second.
Brigid Earley scored six of her 10 points in the second, as Franklin made an effort to get the ball inside. Elizabeth Molla responded with a three that cut the lead back to three, at 25-22, but the Panthers scored the final seven points of the half to lead by double digits.
Elizabeth Wilson crashed the boards for a putback and then Earley (four assists, seven rebounds, and two blocks) picked out Quinn for a short jumper. Quinn was the focal point of the offense, scoring eight points in the second and 13 in the first half, as Franklin led 33-22.
“I said to them that we were down 11 at halftime, but it felt like it could’ve been tied,” said KP coach Dan Nagle, who was on the bench for the first time this season. “We had a couple of live-ball turnovers where we missed wide open layups and they go down and we get a steal and throw it to them right under the basket. You can’t even be mad because your kids are flying around and working hard.”
Things clicked into high gear for the visitors in the third. After Jackie Bonner (eight points) drilled a three to start the second half, Franklin went on a 16-0 run to break the game open.
KP scored seven straight to get some momentum, including threes by Cat Spellman and Keswick, but Peterson’s offensive rebound and layup put the Panthers ahead by 18 heading to the fourth.
Leighton said, “This year, we have three or four kids who can score every night. The pressure isn’t on Liv to carry us on her back, we have a lot of kids who can contribute. This is the deepest group we’ve had in a very long time.”
One of the features of Franklin’s play was its passing. Quaile finished with eight assists, while Earley had four and Padula had three. The Panthers were spreading the ball around and making it difficult for KP to trap.
“Unselfish ball is good, especially today,” Leighton explained. “When they’re going to double you, they’re trying to make you go faster, so if you can pass and find the open kid then everyone has more time. It buys time and space.”
That continued at the start of the fourth, as Quinn hit a short jumper after a good drive and kick out by Bridget Leo and then Quinn played provider on a corner three by Emma Sousa, who had missed the first three games of the season. Franklin stretched its lead to 60-35.
Although a comeback was unlikely at that point, the Warriors never stopped running and pressing and kept battling to the final whistle. Bonner had a steal and layup and Julia Marsden assisted on Keswick’s third three of the afternoon. Aaron (11 points) had another drive through the lane and stepped back to knock down a three of her own to help the Warriors cut the deficit to 14.
“Us just realizing that all those little plays matter is a good lesson,” Nagle said. “Franklin is where we want to be eventually and we competed with them at a high level. We had them playing faster than they want to, we turned them over a good amount. Today was progress, not perfection, but it was a good effort.”
Franklin (4-0) will have a few days off before it faces Taunton on Thursday, while King Philip (1-3) will look to get back in the win column when it faces Milford on Tuesday.
2019-2020 Record: 10-12 2019-2020 Finish: Reached D1 South First Round Coach: Martin Crowley
After a couple of rebuilding years, Attleboro made a jump last winter and clinched its return to the playoffs in the final game of the regular season. While the Bombardiers will miss the all-around game of Nyah Thomas, who is at Worcester State after a breakout senior season, Attleboro will count on six returners from last year’s roster and a couple of promising newcomers to make some noise in the Kelley-Rex.
Thomas’ scoring and ball-handling will be tough to replicate, but the Bombardiers have strength and athleticism in the post. Junior Meg Gordon developed into a double-double machine last year, using her quickness and length to cause problems in the paint. Senior Ryan Johnson is another forward with length that can impact the game on the glass and protecting the rim.
In the backcourt, senior Gabby Bosh is back to run the point as well as being a pesky defender. Juniors Hailey and Lindsey Perry will also add to the depth at the guard position and to the team’s overall speed and defensive effort. Freshmen guards Kayla Goldrick and Narissa Smith are newcomers that have the potential to make an instant impact and should immediately find themselves in the backcourt rotation.
Attleboro coach Marty Crowley said, “For us to be successful we must be able to play defense consistently and rebound. This is by far the most athletic team we have had and hopefully we can use that to our advantage. We are blessed to be in the gym everyday with such great kids and that is a win in itself.”
2019-2020 Record: 13-10 2019-2020 Finish: Reached D2 South First Round Coach: Jim Choquette
Canton has been a youthful team with potential for the past two seasons and the Bulldogs come into the winter with an opportunity to turn that potential into the program’s first league title since 1992. After graduating just one player from last year’s team and with many of its standout players now in year three as starters, Canton has the experience to match its talent.
Juniors Fay and Sydney Gallery and Kiara Cerruti have been standouts since their first games as freshmen and have the all-around games to cause match-up problems for the opposition. All three can score from the perimeter, but Sydney gives the Bulldogs a presence on the post while Fay can score off the dribble and be a playmaker on offense. Cerruti is a pure scorer, with good range and the ability to take defenders off the bounce.
Depth should be a strength for the Bulldogs this season, with players able to come off the bench and produce at every position. Carly Fitzgerald and Marissa Staffiere will return in the backcourt, giving Canton solid ball-handlers and a pair of strong defenders. Senior Kayla Albert adds length and rebounding in the paint and sophomore Samya DaSilva showed off great footwork last year and will be another scoring threat on the block.
“I’m very excited to take the floor with this group of girls,” said Canton coach Jim Choquette. “I love their desire to improve, win games and represent the town of Canton to the best of their abilities. We all want to improve on our past successes, and we’ve been working hard to do so. Very lucky to be coaching this team!”
2019-2020 Record: 24-2 2019-2020 Finish: D2 State Co-Champion Coach: Lisa Downs
Foxboro closed out the 2019-20 season by winning its final 16 games and securing a second state title in the past three seasons. The Warriors graduated four starters from last year’s team, so players will have to step into bigger roles this season and newcomers will have to produce right away to make it five straight Davenport titles.
Defense and tempo are the hallmarks of Foxboro’s success under head coach Lisa Downs and that should be the same this year. For scoring, the Warriors are going to count on senior Katelyn Mollica. One of the top players in the league for the past three seasons, the Stonehill College-commit is one of the league’s top shooters and strong help defender. Senior Jordyn Collins is another key component from last year’s team, as a tenacious defender and a slasher who can get to the rim.
Senior Hannah Blake will step into the starting lineup at center this winter and Downs thinks that she has the potential to be one of the best bigs in the league. Senior Morgan Sylvestre had some big moments last year (for instance, the D2 South final against Hingham) and will see more time at point guard this year. Freshmen guards Camryn Collins and Erin Foley will both be in the mix right away and sophomore Lauren Miley is back after missing all of last year with an injury.
“We graduated a large chunk of our roster from last season so we will have quite a few new faces on the court to accompany Katelyn,” Downs said. “We will continue to focus on our defensive efforts and will strive to pursue the fast pace that we have become familiar with. Safety of the girls is obviously my first concern, but it is also my hope to be able to provide the most fulfilling season possible in terms of overall improvement on both ends of the court.”
2019-2020 Record: 25-0 2019-2020 Finish: D1 State Co-Champion Coach: John Leighton
Last winter, Franklin went start-to-finish as the top team not only in the league but in the state and capped off an undefeated season with the program’s first state championship. The graduation of center Ali Brigham, who was arguably the program’s best-ever player, is a big change for the Panthers this year but there is plenty of talent and experience on the roster to make a push for a three-peat of Kelley-Rex titles.
Junior Olivia Quinn is one of the main reasons that the Panthers are considered the favorites in the Kelley-Rex again this year. Quinn scored nearly 400 points and was one of the top three or four players in the league last season. She continues to develop and improve and will be the focal point of the offense this year. Senior Erin Quaile is the two-time Defensive Player of the Year but is also a solid point guard who limits turnovers, calms things down, and gets Franklin into its sets.
The offense will obviously look a little different this year, without a 6-foot-3 center in the middle, but the Panthers have talent on the wings to cause problems. Seniors Elizabeth Wilson and Kaleigh Houlihan, and junior Stefany Padula can all stretch the defense with their ability to knock down perimeter shots. The forward position should also be strong with Emma Sousa, Brigid Early, and Katie Peterson giving Franklin length and athleticism on the block.
“We are excited to be back on the court and I have been very impressed by our depth,” said Franklin coach John Leighton. “Our girls have been committed to getting better and competing on every play.”
2019-2020 Record: 12-9 2019-2020 Finish: Reached D1 South First Round Coach: Dan Nagle
King Philip head coach Dan Nagle has implemented a unique system based on high pressure and constant running. The Warriors don’t have to worry about shot clock violations. With a roster of athletic players who will all be counted on at some point and have a year of experience in the system, Nagle hopes this year’s team can create even more chaos that last winter and push Franklin at the top of the Kelley-Rex.
Senior Emma Glaser is the team’s top returning scorer and the Springfield College-commit will be counted on to take a step up, as the Warriors lost their top three scorers to graduation and transfers. Glaser is an athletic wing with range out beyond the three-point line. Athleticism is a common theme for this roster. Senior Caroline Aaron is another versatile wing who can contribute on both ends of the floor.
Depth won’t be an issue for the Warriors, who regularly sub five players at once and everyone gets playing time. Junior guards Elizabeth Molla, Liv Lafond, Grace Clyde, and Julia Marsden will provide scoring punch. At 6-foot-3, sophomore center Emily Sawyer gives KP a unique weapon in the middle and looks more comfortable with the speed at varsity. Senior Courtney Keswick battled injuries last year but is back healthy and gives KP a consistent three-point threat. Sophomore Jackie Bonner is a scorer being moved up from JV who could be poised for a breakout year.
Nagle said, “It’s year two in the system, so the learning curve has been a lot smaller and kids are picking things up fast. What we do is no secret. It’s going to be pandemonium every game, win or lose. This year’s team might even be a better fit for it because generally we have better team speed and it being year two makes a huge difference.”
2019-2020 Record: 9-14 2019-2020 Finish: Missed postseason Coach: Heather McPherson
After more than two decades in charge, Mike Redding retired as head coach after last season. There will be some continuity for the program however, as former player and assistant coach Heather McPherson will move into the first seat this year. McPherson can count on continuity on the floor as well, with six seniors among the returning players for the Hornets.
While the Hornets missed the playoffs last year, they also had some impressive wins against playoff teams along the way, beating Attleboro, King Philip, and Bishop Feehan. Senior Kayla Vine was one of the league’s top perimeter shooters and also a solid playmaker with her ability to get into the paint. Senior Ashley Santos extended her range as a shooter last year was a strong all-around player that was a tough matchup on both ends of the court. Sophomore Abby Wager showed flashes of her potential as a scorer during a strong rookie season and her development could be a big boost this year.
Mansfield will have plenty of depth to call on. Senior Ally Prentis adds another shooter, senior Sarah Dooling is another versatile forward, and seniors Brooke Berube and Kacey Veiking give the Hornets a lot of height in the paint. Junior Anna Darlington and sophomore Olivia Salisbury should see more time in the backcourt.
McPherson said, “I couldn’t ask for a better senior group to begin my varsity coaching career, they have set an exciting tone to the season with their energy, effort, enthusiasm. With all of the uncertainty that this year has brought we are excited for the opportunity to be playing basketball. For us to compete each night we will need to play good fundamental basketball.”
2019-2020 Record: 3-17 2019-2020 Finish: Missed postseason Coach: TJ Dolliver
While Milford went winless in league play last year, the Hawks lost no one to graduation and will have seven seniors on this season’s roster. Experience will be a key for Milford, which for the first time will be playing in the Kelley-Rex division. Although the Hawks have struggled at times offensively, no one can argue with the team’s effort and athleticism, especially on defense (ask state champion Foxboro, which was held to just 44 points last year) and that should once again be the team’s strength.
Senior Emma Lawrence will be the team’s focal point this year after an all-star junior season. Lawrence has long arms, endless energy, and the ability to get to the basket. Fellow senior Jillian Michelson is another player who will shadow the opposing team’s top offensive player and use her speed and length to cause problems. Sophomore Brooke Ferreira stepped in at point guard last year and had an impressive rookie campaign. Her ball-handling and ability to get into the lane was critical to the team’s offense, which could at times struggle from the perimeter.
Milford is not a tall team, but the Hawks have several versatile forwards that crash the boards and will make it tough for teams to score in the paint. Seniors Carly Ferreira, Katie Maietta, and Elise Fauerbach add physicality on the block for a team that likes to get up and pressure the ball.
“Having a senior-heavy roster and a team of hard working girls, this season will be a lot of fun,” said Milford coach TJ Dolliver.
2019-2020 Record: 9-11 2019-2020 Finish: Missed postseason Coach: Nikki Correia
Under first-year head coach Nikki Correia, North Attleboro bounced back last year and went into the final game of the regular season with a chance of clinching a return to the postseason. Although Big Red missed out on the tournament, the Rocketeers come into this season with optimism. A year of experience in Correia’s system and a strong corps of returning players gives North hopes of springing a surprise in the Davenport division.
Senior guard Amanda Kaiser will remain the focal point for opposing defenses and will force them to extend beyond the three-point line to prevent her from getting going. Kaiser is also a strong defender, who can kickstart the North break by forcing turnovers. Sophomore Summer Doherty is another wing player whose quickness and length causes problems on defense and her strength allows her to get into the lane on offense.
Senior Siobhan Weir keeps things calm even as North tries to get out and run as often as possible, while also adding a strong mid-range game. Senior Lydia Santos missed last season with injury and will be another strong ball-handler and leader in the backcourt. Sophomore Ava McKeon had an impressive rookie season on the wing and uses her strength and athleticism to get into the lane and her energy to get on the boards. Fellow sophomore Taylor McMath got called up last season and made an instant impact as a post player. North isn’t the tallest team, but McMath gives the Rocketeers extra length in the paint on both ends of the floor.
“I know with my team they have been so excited just to be on the basketball court again with their teammates and ready to compete,” said Correia. “Overall we have a strong unit and I can not wait to start the basketball season and see what these girls will do as a team. They all bring different strengths to the game so once they can mesh it all together on the court it will be great to see.”
2019-2020 Record: 14-7 2019-2020 Finish: Reached D1 South First Round Coach: Laney Clement-Holbrook
Oliver Ames is back in the Davenport division for the first time since 2016, when the Tigers won their last league title. OA returns with the goal of ending Foxboro’s four-year run as the top team in the division and has a talented, experienced roster to try and win the program’s Hock-best 23rd league title.
The Tigers pushed Franklin for the Kelley-Rex crown all the way to the final week of league play last year and that experience has given them added confidence heading into the new season. Injuries took their toll down the stretch, but when fully healthy OA boasts one of the deepest rosters in the league. Caroline Flynn is more of a point forward than a point guard but she has developed into one of the league’s top playmakers, while also being one of its top rebounding guards. Caroline Peper battled a back injury all of last season, but when healthy is one of the top shooters in the Hock.
Junior Hailey Bourne has emerged as one of the top defensive players in the league, capable of guarding players on the perimeter or in the post. Senior Jess Erlich adds shooting from her forward position. OA has six returning players who will be bolstered by an exciting crop of newcomers, including freshman guard Jasmyn Cooper.
OA coach Laney Clement-Holbrook, who passed the 700-win mark last season, said, “OA’s strengths will come from the depth of their lineup and a cast of young and upcoming players with great intensity and love for the game. Despite the challenges associated with pandemic, OA is excited to have the chance to play this season and value every second they get to compete for the top spot.”
2019-2020 Record: 4-16 2019-2020 Finish: Missed postseason Coach: Sandy Lombardi
Sharon finished with only four wins last season, but the Eagles also lost seven games by 10 points or less, including five games by five points or fewer and twice lost by a single basket. With a good core of versatile players returning, the Eagles are hoping to make a move up the standings in what continues to be a competitive Davenport division.
The graduations of Ally Brown and Kaitlyn Wallace take away two of the team’s top ball-handlers and perimeter scorers, but the Eagles can make up for that with strength in the paint. Senior Leah Fandel and junior Trinity Payne are difference makers on both ends of the court, capable of crashing the boards, protecting the rim, and offering interior scoring. Both players are capable of stepping back and knocking down short jumpers too, adding a different dimension to the offense.
Sophomore guards Tess Letendre and Emily Freeman will be counted on to pick up some of the slack on the perimeter and get the Eagles into their offensive sets. Seniors Gaby Cabral and Julia Early will also be counted on to take bigger roles this season. The Eagles will also have a pair of freshmen, Rachel Hager and Eva Poulton, who will be expected to contribute right away.
“I’m excited for the girls to have an opportunity to play this season,” said Sharon coach Sandy Lombardi. “Looking back a few months ago I would not have imagined us having a season at all.”
2019-2020 Record: 9-11 2019-2020 Finish: Missed postseason Coach: Charmaine Steele Jordan
Stoughton narrowly missed out on a playoff spot last year, falling just one win short of qualifying for the tournament (that included a one-point loss to North Attleboro midway through the season). The Black Knights will have to try and make up for the graduation of their two leading scorers, Aliyah Wright and Shyanne Trinh, but head coach Charmaine Steele Jordan expects that this year’s roster will live up to the program’s standard of hustle, hard work, and aggressiveness.
Mackenzie Manning is the team’s top returning scorer and Steele Jordan is counting on the senior guard to provide leadership and passion for the younger players. Fellow seniors Cate Downey and Jess Maddalena (who is out for the season with an injury) are also going to be counted on to set the tone for the team.
Junior guard Makaiyah Singleton Rivera saw plenty of time last year and gives the Black Knights a boost of speed and energy on the perimeter. There are also several underclassmen who will be jumping up to varsity and could add important minutes this season. Sophomore guards Kiara Scardina and Shayla Ford and freshman forward Alyssa Edwards are newcomers to keep an eye on this season.
Steele Jordan said, “I’m really thankful for all the players that came out for our program this year in the middle of pandemic. Looking forward to kicking off the season in 2021. Our goals have not changed, the Black Knights will play hard, play together and represent the Stoughton community with pride this season.”
2019-2020 Record: 5-15 2019-2020 Finish: Missed postseason Coach: Amy Siggens
Taunton has struggled to get going this winter, as practices were halted after just three days and the teams won’t resume basketball activities until next week, which has forced the opening games with Attleboro to be postponed. The Tigers will also be without last year’s leading scorer, sophomore Kameron St. Pierre, who has opted out. With all of that, second-year head coach Amy Siggens is still excited that the team this season and building on the fundamentals of her system.
The Tigers will be an experienced, if still young, team this season. Seniors Jaelyn and Sonya Fernandez will be the focal points on the offensive end. They are both versatile players capable of stepping back and knocking down shots and also taking their defenders off the dribble. Their athleticism on both ends of the court makes them a tough matchup. They also provide leadership for a team that is building consistency. The Tigers won five games last year, but also lost seven times by single digits, including once in overtime.
A strength of the team will be its depth in the backcourt. Senior Tori DaRosa is a tough defender and gets the Tigers into their sets. Juniors Abby Souza and Braeley McDonald are also strong options to provide shooting off the bench. Sophomore Maddie Michenzie can be a force on the boards and adds a different dimension in the post on both ends of the court.
“We’re rolling with the punches here,” said Siggens about having to postpone practices until the New Year. “Everyday is something new and you just have to adjust. We’re focusing on the leadership of our seniors but also the development of our young kids. This is a year to really pull it back and go after the fundamentals and the basics.”
Team: Franklin girls basketball
2020 Kelley-Rex Division Champions
2020 Division 1 State Champions
It may still have been the regular season and there was a lot of basketball standing between the teams and a trophy, but there was a distinct sense of anticipation when Franklin and Bridgewater-Raynham met up in the first round of the Comcast Classic at Woburn High. A lot of people in the stands were wondering if the Panthers, who had been widely-considered the top team in the state since preseason, were as good as advertised.
Franklin made a statement, leading from the opening tip and pulling out a comfortable 58-41 victory over the eventual Div. 1 South champion. It was a turning point, where the 2020 Franklin girls basketball team recognized that it could play at another level, one that even the top teams in the state would struggle against. It was a confidence boost that carried the Panthers to a second straight D1 Central crown, a perfect season, and the program’s first state championship.
“That’s when we started to realize, and that was in February, that maybe it’s even beyond what we originally thought,” said Franklin coach John Leighton. “Some of the kids said they wanted to go undefeated from day one, and that’s a great goal, but seeing it become a reality is a different thing.”
Senior center Ali Brigham, who was named league MVP and HockomockSports.com Player of the Year for the second season in a row, added, “We didn’t want the rankings to do the talking. We actually wanted to go out and do it ourselves. I think every single person, when we stepped on that court, and even days before when we knew we were playing B-R, it was time to lock in and play how Franklin basketball played. We did the talking in our play.”
While there was plenty of attention on Franklin coming into the season, after reaching the state semifinal the year before and with Brigham, a George Washington-commit, returning in the middle, the Panthers had some questions. Two starters from 2018-19, Shannon Gray and Bea Bondhus, graduated and it wasn’t obvious who would emerge as an offensive threat to take the pressure off Brigham.
Those questions were answered in the first week of play. Juniors Kaleigh Houlihan and Elizabeth Wilson added outside shooting, senior Megan O’Connell and sophomore Emma Sousa added athleticism and versatility at forward, and junior point guard Erin Quaile continued to be a rock on both ends of the court. Meanwhile sophomore Olivia Quinn scored 20-plus points in two of the first three games and became one of the league’s top players this season.
“It made me and Ali’s lives super easy,” said O’Connell. “Instead of trying to find people to step up and take those roles, people were gunning for them. Olivia Quinn is tremendous. No one worked harder than her in the offseason and that was clearly visible by all of her accomplishments.”
The Panthers dominated from game one. The only team that managed to keep it close against Franklin was Holy Name, which lost by four and by nine in the two regular season meetings. It seemed that Franklin could flip a switch and take over games on both ends of the court.
Against King Philip, the Panthers jumped out to a 17-0 lead in the first quarter. On the road at title rival Oliver Ames, Brigham and Quinn combined for 37 points in the second half and they won by 30. Davenport (and D2) champion Foxboro was down by single digits in the fourth quarter until a 17-0 run broke the game wide open.
“To go undefeated, and any team that gets to do it will say the same thing, you just need that consistency that the players are able to bring,” Leighton explained. “You need to bring that every day and if you have kids who aren’t feeling well or working on an injury, it doesn’t matter. You need to bring that same level day.”
O’Connell said the team was aware of the rankings and the hype surrounding the team but added, “The coaches did a great job of keeping us level-headed and not letting that go to our heads. They said that means absolutely nothing unless you go out and show everyone that is true.”
The Comcast Tournament, which also included a 17-point win against D4 state champion Cathedral, came at the perfect time. Along with a one-point win against New Hampshire power Bishop Guertin, the Panthers closed out the regular season by overcoming tough challenges, a good warm-up for the state tournament and additional confidence for a team that was already riding high.
“There is a fake confidence, fake bravado,” said Leighton, “but then you have that real confidence when you look at each other in the huddle and you just know that we can come back and do what we need to do. You know you can get that look, you know you can make that stop, and you can count on the kid next to you to make that play.”
In the playoff opener, Brigham achieved an important personal milestone, solidifying her place in program history. With a free throw late in a big win against Framingham, she passed Kelly Meredith to become the school’s all-time leading scorer (male or female). She finished her career with 1,692 points (and also with a school record 1,276 rebounds).
“I wrote a letter to myself when I was in eighth grade to my 2020 self,” Brigham recalled. “My main goal was to make the varsity basketball team.”
“I’m just really glad that I was able to do it,” she continued. “I put in a lot of work, and especially having it be my last home game, which was pretty cool. It was almost like I wasn’t even the most excited in that video.”
Leighton said, “At no point was Ali worried about Ali this year and that tells you so much about her. She’s a program-changing player. The young kids at Franklin playing at halftime to high-five Ali Brigham, those kids are going to remember that. Her legacy will last a very long time here.”
King Philip coach Dan Nagle said, “Ali is a real issue (obviously) because she not only is bigger than any kid in our league, but she is incredibly skilled and unselfish. If you double her, she finds a wide open shooter. If you don’t double her, she scores easily with a wide variety of moves/finishes. She even hit a three against us this year and I know we weren’t alone. She is a ridiculous talent.”
In the Central semifinal, Franklin faced Holy Name for the third time and the first quarter did not go as planned. The Panthers were held to just six points in the first and looked out of sorts. “They knew everything you wanted to do,” said O’Connell. “They knew I was going to pump fake and go to the left and whatever. It was super frustrating for all of us and we just had to turn it around.”
Franklin closed the gap to one at halftime and then dominated the second half to win by 17. That momentum carried into the Central final, as the Panthers jumped out to a 9-0 lead and never looked back. Even when the offense was struggling, as it did in the third quarter against Natick, the defense locked opponents down and different players stepped up each night with key plays to get the win.
“I honestly think they were far and away the best team in the state this year,” Nagle said. “Even the very best teams could hang with them for a quarter or two, but eventually their size/talent, coupled with extremely organized and effective coaching, really separated them from the rest of the pack. It was a group of kids that from an opposing coach/onlooker’s perspective really understood and embraced their roles, and simply executed them to perfection night-in and night-out all season long.”
When the final horn sounded in the state semifinal win against Minnechaug, the celebrations were muted. It was clear from the players and coaches that reaching the final wasn’t the ultimate goal and there was still work to be done. Unfortunately, the following night it was announced that the final would be canceled because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’m so sad that it ended that way,” said O’Connell. “I was in my driveway and I was tagged in a Twitter post. I was like, holy crap, I would’ve stayed [at practice] all night if I had known they were going to cancel it.”
Brigham said, “The last practice we had we all got into a circle and were just talking about it. It was like an, ‘okay, we’ll see you tomorrow,’ thing. Driving home, I pulled into my garage and got the text that we’re not playing. We weren’t able to have that final goodbye together as a team, we still haven’t. It’s definitely unfortunate because we didn’t get to end it the way a team should.”
Weeks after that final practice, both players were able to reflect on the achievements of the season and the history that the team made this winter even if there is still disappointment about not having that moment in the spotlight. Brigham joked, “I’m really competitive so the fact that another team thinks they’re state champions too, that doesn’t go over very well with me.”
Leighton also took time to reflect on the perfect season and the first title in program history.
He said, “That banner will always be there and that’s a piece of history and they really bought into that. I don’t think it diminishes anything in the kids’ eyes. In the moment it did, it stunk, but now that you have a moment to step back and reflect and look at everything that happened, I’m so proud of them.
“Fairly quickly, the team attitude was obvious, how we were getting at it in practice, the maturity, our work approach. We saw that early, but seeing that you could be really good is different from winning every game or winning a state championship. It’s a whole different level.”
WORCESTER, Mass. – When asked if the loss to Springfield Central in last year’s state semifinal game, three days short of a year before Tuesday night’s semifinal at Worcester State, was being used as motivation by his team, Franklin coach John Leighton dismissed that idea, saying that his team had already moved on.
“None, not at all,” Leighton explained. “We moved on and buried that. We celebrated winning the sectional championship with the three seniors from last year. Otherwise, you kind of live in past glory and it doesn’t motivate you forward.”
The Panthers can continue to look forward, as they pulled out a 55-43 victory against a feisty Minnechaug, which upset Springfield Central in the West final, to advance to the first state title game in program history. At the final horn, there were smiles and some cheers, but Franklin players reacted like it was business as usual.
“It’s the farthest that Franklin has ever been,” said senior Ali Brigham. “We make it this far, we’re not going to stop now. We wanted to make it to the championship game, which we did. It feels good to be there but that was an ugly game so hopefully we’ll be a lot better in that game.”
It was far from a perfect game for the Panthers, who struggled from the perimeter, making only two threes in the game and being forced to get almost every point at the rim.
“It was just one of those shooting nights,” said Leighton. The only good thing, I think our offensive rebound rate on those was really high, so that kind of helps give the shooters confidence that even if it’s not going we’re still creating offense. They’re good threes, I didn’t think we were chucking up the first shot, they just didn’t fall.”
Of course, having Brigham in the middle means that the Panthers cane find plenty of success going into the paint. The senior center finished with a game-high 25 points, 16 rebound, and three blocks. She got considerable help from second-leading scorer Olivia Quinn, as the sophomore added 16 points and five rebounds, including 10 points in the third quarter alone.
“It feels a lot better too when you have someone else to take the load off,” Brigham said of Quinn’s performance. “I thought Liv played great and without her we probably couldn’t have come out like this.”
Brigham was the focus of the Franklin offense right from the start. She scored 10 points in the first quarter, grabbed four boards, and drew five fouls as the undersized Falcons (who were without their star player Lauren Barry) had to surround Brigham with defenders. She got a basket off a Quinn pass to the post, on a drive from the top of the key, and on an offensive rebound.
With the Panthers leading 14-5 and time running out in the first, Emily Howard knocked down a deep three, beating the buzzer and keeping the Falcons close. That would become a theme on Tuesday, as Minnechaug knocked down seven threes as a team and never allowed Franklin to pull away.
In the second, Franklin continued to go inside to Brigham, who scored five points in the quarter. Stefany Padula also got free on the break for two, off a good pass by Megan O’Connell. The Panthers were held to only three made field goals in the quarter, but they only allowed four on the other end to keep the six-point lead at half.
After being saddled with two early fouls and having to sit more than usual in the first half, Quinn dominated the third quarter. She opened it with a three, which was the first outside shot that Franklin made in the game. After Autumn Strange banked in a three to get the Falcons within four, Brigham scored in the paint and had a nice pass over the top to Quinn for a layup.
Quinn took a feed from Emma Sousa and finished at the rim plus the foul, pushing Franklin’s lead to 10. Elizabeth Wilson got her first points of the night off a Quinn assist to make sure it stayed 10, 38-28, heading into the fourth quarter.
“She’s such a spark to our team,” Leighton said about Quinn. “She just naturally finds gaps, especially in the press. When they tried to cover us full-court it opened space for her and she can create.”
In the fourth, Franklin showed off its experience to never let Minnechaug get back into the game. Lillian Grono hit a three to cut the lead down to nine, 46-37, but Erin Quaile answered with one of her own at the other end to go back up by 12. Brigham scored eight in the fourth, including 6-for-6 at the line, and Wilson went 4-for-4 at the charity stripe to help the Panthers seal the win and a place in the final.
Leighton said, “It’s a tremendous feeling. I’m happy for the kids. They’ve just bought all in. They’re all in to be the best they can. They weren’t satisfied just now. There wasn’t a big celebration, they said if we want to keep going then we’re going to have to play better than that. They want to compete at the highest level.”
Franklin (25-0) will try to win the program’s first state championship and complete the perfect season when it takes on North champion Andover on Saturday at a time and location to be determined.
WORCESTER, Mass. – After overcoming a rough first quarter against Holy Name in the Div. 1 Central semifinal, Franklin wanted to make sure that it got off to a better start in Friday night’s final at Worcester State.
The Panthers dominated on both ends of the floor, scoring the first nine points of the game and building a 16-5 lead after one. Natick never got closer than eight points for the remainder of the game. Franklin showed off its experience on the big stage, and its defensive prowess, to pull out a 53-38 victory and win its second straight Div. 1 Central crown.
“That was super hard,” Franklin senior Megan O’Connell said of the tough start to the semifinal. “My stomach was in my throat that game. This was a lot better. We got up by a lot, but in the third quarter it fell apart and then we got it back. We want to keep moving on and it’s survive and advance right now.”
Franklin coach John Leighton admitted that there was a focus on starting better than the Panthers did at WPI and he brought in some reinforcements to talk to the team. Kristen McDonell, the current Norwood boys and former Braintree girls coach (who twice coached the Wamps to wins over Franklin in sectional finals), spoke to the Panthers about staying the course even if things don’t go well in the opening few minutes.
“We talked a lot about the fist five possessions, try to get everyone a touch, defense force them into a quick thing,” Franklin coach John Leighton explained. “I thought we did that tonight, got off to a good start and built confidence.”
“Having played in this gym and feeling the pressure,” he added, “when it’s new, the lights are brighter, the crowd is bigger, you feel the difference.”
It turned out, there was no reason for concern. O’Connell got the game started directly from the opening tip, as she drove to the basket for the game’s first points. Olivia Quinn (16 points and seven rebounds) drilled a three and then Ali Brigham (17 points, 12 rebounds, and five blocks) stepped beyond the arc to bury one as well.
The Panthers had gotten off to the ideal start. Natick’s Yale-bound forward Brenna McDonald scored four points in the first, but Quinn got free on a kick-out by Erin Quaile for a jumper and Franklin went 6-for-8 at the line to build an 11-point advantage.
Quinn continued her strong play in the second, leaking out for a layup on an Emma Sousa look-ahead and then making a nice backdoor cut to get a perfect pass from Quaile for a layup. She also lined up against McDonald and did her best to contain Natick’s star.
“She’s tremendous,” O’Connell said about her teammate. “She worked so hard in the off-season, so she deserves this more than anything and I love to see her confidence.”
Natick was hanging around in the second quarter, but the Panthers continued to find ways to score. Brigham knocked down a short jumper and then got a layup after a nice post entry from O’Connell. Elizabeth Wilson came off the bench and closed out the first half by burying a three after a nice Brigham skip pass and the Panthers raced into the locker room up 28-13.
“I thought we came out ready to play tonight,” said Leighton. “I thought our defense was really, really good. Brenna is a special player but we tried to make her work for every look she got.”
It looked like Franklin forgot its game in the locker room at halftime, as the Panthers managed only six points in the third quarter. Thankfully for the Panthers, they continued to play tough defense and allowed only nine on the other end.
McDonald scored six of her 19 in the third, including a defensive rebound that she turned into a coast-to-coast layup and that cut the lead down to nine. Wilson (nine points) again came up with a crucial basket to close out the quarter, as she nailed a big three that extended the lead back up to 12. She also added the first three points of the fourth to make it 37-22.
“She’s been a spark,” Leighton said of Wilson’s play in recent games. “Elizabeth’s always been a good shooter, but it’s her defense. She came in and got two stops and then knocked down that three. When you have kid who can come in and do both, we really have six starters at this point. She’s been clutch.”
The Redhawks would not go quietly. They knocked down three shots from deep in the fourth and got the lead to as little as eight points, 42-34, but the Panthers closed on an 11-4 run and knocked down 11-of-13 free throws over the final eight minutes to secure the victory and the title.
After Wilson scored the first three points, McDonald and Jenna Forman knocked down back-to-back threes to get the lead down to single digits. Brigham answered on the other end, scoring in the paint plus the foul. Point guard Delaney Ross hit a deep, straightaway three but Quinn got two off an O’Connell feed to put Franklin up 11.
Three straight, all at the line, got Natick within eight but Quinn returned the favor to set up O’Connell for a finish at the rim. Franklin scored its next nine points at the line, including four from Brigham and four from Quaile.
Leighton said, “I’m proud of kids. Before a year and a day ago, we had won zero sectional championships and to win two back-to-back is incredible.”
O’Connell added, “It feels great, but I want a state championship though. We are so focused. We’re still competing every time that we step on the floor and we want this.”
Franklin (24-0) will face West champion Minnechaug, which upset Springfield Central, in the state semifinal. The game’s date, time, and location are to be determined.
WORCESTER, Mass. – At the end of the first quarter in Tuesday night’s Div. 1 Central semifinal at WPI’s Harrington Auditorium, Franklin coach John Leighton brought his undefeated team together and explained that even though the Panthers had just played one of their worst quarters of the season they only trailed by six and had plenty of time to rebound.
“Holy Name is a tremendous team,” Leighton said after the game. “They came to play. I thought they got the jump on us in the first quarter, but at the end of the quarter we said okay that’s probably the worst quarter we’ve played in a very long time and we’re in the game.”
Things improved markedly in the second quarter to pull Franklin within one of Holy Name at the half and then the Panthers found their stride in the third quarter. After scoring 21 points in 16 minutes in the first half, Franklin poured in 21 points in the third quarter alone to turn a one-point deficit into a 13-point lead.
Thanks to that big third quarter, Franklin pulled out a 59-42 win over the Naps. It was the third win of the season for the Panthers against Holy Name and sends them back to the Central final for the second year in a row, this time to face Natick.
“I thought our kids calmed down and got over it and that says a lot about who they are, not panicking,” Leighton explained. “We got better looks, we moved the ball way better and got wide open shots.”
Everything started fine for the Panthers, as Erin Quaile (10 points and three steals) set up Olivia Quinn (nine points, six rebounds, and three blocks) for a jumper in the corner for the game’s first points. But, the 1-3-1 trapping zone that Holy Name threw at Franklin was causing problems. The ball almost never got into Ali Brigham in the post and the Panthers were turning it over on the perimeter.
The Naps scored six straight before Megan O’Connell (eight points and five rebounds) got Franklin’s second basket on a drive. Quinn added a basket off an Emma Sousa feed to make it 10-6, but Grace O’Gara got two more after a Tamia Nunes steal to put the Naps up six after one.
Franklin trailed by as many as eight and needed a spark on offense. Brigham got her first basket 50 seconds into the second quarter and then Quaile buried a three off a Kaleigh Houlihan inbounds pass to make it 14-11.
Nunes answered with a three on the other end but then Franklin went on an 8-0 run to grab the lead. Quinn found Brigham for a jumper, O’Connell hit two at the line, and Brigham grabbed an offensive rebound to tie it before Quinn hit a baseline jumper to make it 19-17. She answered a Holy Name basket with a put-back but the Naps scored three straight and went into halftime up 22-21.
In the second half, Franklin made sure that Brigham got touches on almost every possession. She scored plus a foul on an offensive rebound, posted up her defender on an inbound, and then added another three-point play on the glass. Brigham (nine rebounds and four blocks) scored eight of her game-high 20 points in the third.
Leighton said, “We actually tried to move the ball more and start skipping it. Once you skip it the zone has to widen out. In the first quarter they had 10 shoes inside the red paint on every possession. Once we knocked down a couple threes, at least moved the ball, they spread out and Ali was able to dive to the rim and it’s hard to stop her when she gets the ball there.”
The Panthers also used Brigham as a passer. As the Holy Name defense sank in to protect the paint, she was able to look over the top and her skip passes led to several open looks. Quaile drilled one and then on the next possession, so did Elizabeth Wilson (10 points).
“Ali did a really good job of reversing it to the open girl because they were collapsing in on her,” said Quaile. “If we can all score they can’t really just stop Ali. If they double in on Ali, everyone else around her can score too.”
Even when things broke down, Franklin found a way to score. Quaile was able to beat the shot clock buzzer with a jumper after getting stuck in possession on the wing with no open players around her. Quaile’s impact was felt even more acutely on the other end of the floor, where she showed off her tenacity, quick hands, and reading of the game to hold Holy Name star Jaini Edmonds to nine points.
“Shutting her down stops their whole offense,” Quaile explained. When asked about her strategy for trying to stop Edmonds, Quaile replied, “Just stay in front of her. If she can’t get the ball then obviously she can’t do anything but if she does get it just stay as close as I can and if she does blow by me then it helps having Ali, Liv, and Meg behind me to block it.”
Leighton was full of praise for his point guard. He said, “She’s such a unique kid. Jaini Edmonds is a legit DI stud and she ran her all over this gym. She made her work for everything and then she ran our offense. She’s not just a defensive stopper. She drove tonight, knocked down shots when we needed it, I thought she was the star of the game.”
The Naps only scored seven in the third, as Franklin dominated on both ends to build a 42-29 lead heading into the fourth. The teams traded baskets at the start of the quarter, with Brigham showing off her ability to score off the dribble and with a drop step move on the block and O’Connell finding a seam to the rim. Edmonds scored six of her nine in the fourth to try and keep it close.
As Franklin tried to use the clock and work the ball for good looks, Quinn set up Wilson for a jumper and Quaile continued to call her own number as she drove to the rim for two and a 16-point edge to sealed the win.
Franklin (23-0) will be back in the Central final on Friday night at Worcester State to face No. 8 seed Natick, which upset No. 2 seed Wachusett in overtime