PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Coming into a game, Foxboro opponents know that they have to try and contain the Warriors leading scorer Ashley Sampson. The offense flows through the junior guard, who always seems to have the ball in her hands and can make plays in a number of different ways.
While stopping one player is hard enough, the challenge grows when the other players find the range as well. On Saturday morning at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, Milford struggled to contain a Foxboro attack that was spearheaded by junior forward Grace Tamulionis, who scored a game- (and career-) high 20 points to go along with eight rebounds and four steals.
Foxboro had three scorers reach double digits and eight players get on the board on Saturday to beat Milford 66-37 and pull into a first place tie with North Attleboro atop the Davenport division standings.
“We’ve been practicing a little bit more and been able to translate that into the games,” said Foxboro coach Lisa Downs. “It started on Thursday against Oliver Ames (a 51-35 win) and they’re shooting the ball with a lot more confidence. It’s not just one girl that is contributing and every day we’re getting someone new to step up.”
Foxboro came out firing in the first quarter and Sampson led the way with eight of her 16 points. Three times Sampson got to the baseline on drives to the hoop and she also knocked down a step-back jumper. Tamulionis also looked up for it from the start with four points in the first.
Milford stayed close largely thanks to Jill Burley. After Riley Collins drilled a three off a Lauren Flahive assist to push the Foxboro lead to nine, Burley, who scored seven of her 11 in the quarter, scored on a pair of drives to the hoop to cut the deficit to five despite leading scorer Kate Irwin being forced to the bench with foul trouble.
In the second, Emma Liskov came off the bench to score five of her team-high 13 points to keep Milford hanging around, but Foxboro was able to push the lead to nine by the break. Shannon Smally scored her lone basket to make it 22-15 and then Flahive and Kristen Bortolotti (from a Lily Sykes steal and assist) scored the final four points of the half.
When asked if playing in the arena setting could have impacted the way the Hawks started, Milford coach T.J. Dolliver responded, “It could’ve been, I can’t say for sure. I know for me, it’s a big environment and it’s a little intimidating, but after you get out there and run around you’re playing, you’re coaching.”
In the third quarter, Milford was held to only two made field goals (one for Liskov and the other for Christine Pye) and Foxboro’s defense continued to shut down Irwin, who was held to just one point for the game.
“Our focus was to block her out from touching the ball,” said Downs of guarding Irwin. “We kept rotating Lily and Riley, our two quickest girls, and that’s going to tire anyone out.”
Dolliver added, “It’s tough. In games like this, you need your stars, your leading scorer, to show up and unfortunately it wasn’t a good game for all of us. It’s hard for me to say the effort wasn’t there because I have a great group of girls…but we didn’t show up to play.”
On the other end, Tamulionis emerged as the go-to player for the Foxboro offense. She scored 10 points in the third, including a pair of threes, and looked confident every time she touched the ball. Sykes (12 points) extended the lead to 20 with a pair of high-arcing three-pointers of her own that closed out the third with Foxboro ahead 47-27.
“Grace has been doing some amazing things defensively and on the boards and now to have her being able to put the points on the board is just an extra bonus that’s going to get us far,” said Downs of Tamulionis’ contributions.
Sampson scored four in the fourth quarter, Sykes added six, Collins knocked down a three, and Tamulionis hit a jumper as well. Milford was struggling to slow down the Warriors, who were shooting the lights out.
“We didn’t have a game plan of trying to stop Ashley,” said Dolliver, “because they have so many; we had to stop so many. They made some really good, contested shots, pulled away, and we couldn’t do anything about it.”
Downs was asked what impact it has on the Warriors when different players provide scoring, as Tamulionis did on Saturday and Sykes did against OA (she had 19 against the Tigers). Downs replied, “It’s huge. When we have another girl that other teams aren’t really paying attention to…all the focus isn’t on Ashley. That opens up a lot more things that we can do offensively.”
Foxboro (9-2, 8-2) is now tied with North Attleboro for first in the division heading into a tough trip to Attleboro on Tuesday. Milford (8-5, 5-5) drops to .500 in the league this season and faces a trip to Kelley-Rex leader Mansfield.
Mansfield, 9 @ Foxboro, 1 – Final – Mansfield had 15 different players register a point in a big win over Foxboro. Cullin Anastasia had two goals and two assists to lead the Hornets while Patrick McCafferty and Matt Farragher each netted a pair of goals. Tim Arnold, Adam Anastos, James Bezeau and Dylan Tivnan each registered two points as well.
Franklin, 3 @ Taunton, 5 – Final – Taunton battled to take a 3-2 lead through two periods and then finished off the Panthers in the third period. The Tigers scored an early third period goal to go up 4-2 before Franklin cut the deficit to one with 2:11 to play. However, Taunton scored an empty netter from its defensive zone with 34 seconds to go to ice the game. Zack Albert had four points, registering three assists and scored the game-winning goal. Nick Terry scored twice and had one assist while Jordan Hoey and Mike Volkmann each scored once. Justin Chappell made 24 saves to earn the win.
King Philip, 2 @ North Attleboro, 4 – Final
Sharon, 29 @ Canton, 31 – Final
Foxboro, 54 @ Stoughton, 21 – Final
Oliver Ames, 12 @ Franklin, 44 – Final – Oliver Ames received wins from Liston Funai (138), Dean Pacini (195) and Jack Mills (285).
Taunton, 28 @ King Philip, 51 – Final – Taunton picked up wins from Josh Alves (106), Josh Grasso (126), Elijah Simmons (195), Woudanly Danger (220) and Mason Frank (285).
Milford, 6 @ North Attleboro, 51 – Final – North Attleboro’s Nick Gould earned his 100th career win in the Rocketeers’ victory.
King Philip @ Attleboro, 3:30
Milford @ Canton, 5:00
Franklin, 45 @ Taunton, 49 – Final
Mansfield, 88 @ Oliver Ames, 95 – Final
King Philip @ Attleboro, 3:30
Milford @ Canton, 5:00
Franklin @ Taunton, 4:00
Mansfield, 91.5 @ Oliver Ames, 87.5 – Final
Sharon @ King Philip, 7:30
Canton, 2 vs. Whitman-Hanson/Silver Lake, 2 – Final – Canton twice battled back from a one goal deficit, including scoring the tying goal inside the final two minutes to earn the tie. Sophomore Lauren Fitzpatrick and senior Rebecca Eckler each scored a goal for the Bulldogs.
2015-16 Record: 6-14 (3-13) 2015-16 Finish: Missed playoffs Head Coach: Jim Choquette
The Bulldogs continue to add to the program both on the court and on the bench with former Canton and UMass Boston star Olivia Murphy joining the coaching staff this season to help out with the freshman team. It is a sign of the continued growth of the program under head coach Jim Choquette, who is hoping that the momentum built at the end of last season will carry over to this year.
Senior forward Emma Murphy returns after a league all-star season and will be joined on the front line by returning starters senior Casey Shea and juniorHannah Jerrier, who was an honorable mention for all-star last winter. Adding depth on the front line will be sophomore forwards Molly Ludwig and Erin Devine, who lacks inexperience but adds significant height.
“Our strengths will be scrappy defense and rebounding on both ends,” said Choquette. “our goal is to improve each game and be playing our best headed into the last part of the season…the faster we find chemistry the faster we’ll find the win column.”
2015-16 Record: 15-7 (11-5) 2015-16 Finish: Reached Div. 2 South quarterfinal Head Coach: Lisa Downs
Despite a lot of youth in the lineup, Foxboro has been one of the top teams in the Davenport division for several seasons and this year should be no different, as the Warriors enter the winter with very high expectations and as one of the favorites for the league title.
A lot of the interest in the Warriors stems from the continued development of junior point guard Ashley Sampson, who has turned into one of the best all-around guards in the Hockomock and is the player that the Foxboro offense flows through. Sampson has plenty of help in the backcourt with classmate Lily Sykes, who offers scoring from the perimeter, and seniors Lauren Flahive, Riley Collins (back after an injury), and Hailey Maling, who are all strong on the ball defenders.
In the front court, Kristen Bortolotti is back after missing last year with an injury and will add speed and a strong mid-range game. Junior Grace Tamulionis is another matchup nightmare for the opposition with her size on the boards and on defense and her ability to step outside and shoot the three. Junior Shannon Smally continues to improve and gives the Warriors an inside presence, while newcomers Chelsea Gibbons and Abby Hassmancould make big contributions for the Warriors.
“The girls have been playing together throughout the summer and fall and this familiarity should work to our benefit this season,” said head coach Lisa Downs. “We will continue to focus on our running game and our defensive efforts and I am fortunate to have the players that not only buy into this system, but, also appreciate this pace.”
2015-16 Record: 9-11 (5-11) 2015-16 Finish: Missed playoffs Head Coach: T.J. Dolliver
After missing out on a playoff spot by one game a season ago under first-year head coach T.J. Dolliver, Milford enters this winter with high hopes of making the leap into the postseason with a deep and versatile roster that has gained a lot of experience together over the past few seasons.
The enthusiasm for the Hawks begins with dynamic junior point guard Kate Irwin, who has shown the ability to get to the basket at will, draw defenses to get open looks for her teammates and also be a pesky on the ball defender. With Irwin creating open shots, junior Emily Piergustavo’s return after missing last year with an injury will be a big boost on the perimeter along with senior guard Jill Burley.
“These girls have been playing together for a while and their team chemistry is amazing,” said Dolliver. “We are starting to learn the minor details of offense and defense in order to give our team a better chance of success.”
2015-16 Record: 11-10 (9-7) 2015-16 Finish: Reached Div. 2 South tournament Head Coach: Derek Herber
The Rocketeers head into their first season in the Davenport division with eight returning players from last year’s team that was two points away from a first round victory in the Div. 2 South tournament against Hock rival Oliver Ames.
Senior Ashley Ahern is a three-year starter at guard and was the team’s leading scorer last winter. Ahern will be the player that gets the offense going, but she will get plenty of help from her classmates, Emily Schromm and Samantha Taggart. Schromm was one of the top defenders in the league and can stretch a defense with her outside shooting and Taggart can play all three guard positions and led North in assists last year. In the paint, senior Caroline Collard is the team’s leading rebounder and showed a soft touch around the basket.
North can also look for improvements from sophomore Julia Feid, who got valuable minutes as a rookie last year, senior Liz Morehouse, who adds depth in the post, and juniors Julia Santos, who both brought athleticism off the bench at the wing positions. Sophomore forward Mackenzie Roberts is a newcomer who adds size and outside shooting and junior Emily Pastore can step in at all three guard positions.
The Rocketeers have plenty of experience on the roster and will be one of the favorites for the league title at the beginning of the season. While head coach Derek Herber can count on a number of returning players, he hopes to “mix in a few new faces into the lineup to help with depth.”
Sharon is another team that has been building with youth and has created a lot of depth on its roster and, despite losing three of its top four scorers from last winter, has garnered preseason hype as a potential sleeper to make a return to the postseason for the first time since the Eagles made a run to the Div. 2 South final in 2013.
The Eagles will be hoping for an improvement on the offensive side of the ball, which was a challenge at times last winter. Junior point guard Shira Stoller, a three-year starter, is continuing to improve at limiting turnovers and looking for her own shot as well as setting up teammates. One of the players that benefits from Stoller’s ability to get into the lane is sophomore Emma Eberhardt, who was third on the team in points as a rookie and continues to develop into a consistent wing scorer.
Sophomore Veronica Wallace has emerged as one of the top backcourt defenders during the preseason and is one of the fastest players on the Sharon roster. Senior Ana Crosby, who is also a standout on the soccer and lacrosse fields, is another player that is continuing to improve and will have an increased role this season. Freshman Kaitlyn Wallace is a newcomer to watch and could have a bigger role to play over the course of the year.
“Our defense is going to have to be our key in order to compete, and our girls know that,” said third-year coach Cliff Tomassian. “We get our best looks on offense off of great defensive stands. Our girls are going to have to be patient and vigilant on both ends and be ready to take chances.”
2015-16 Record: 7-11 (7-9) 2015-16 Finish: Missed playoffs Head Coach: Charmaine Steele Jordan
The Black Knights lost six seniors to graduation but this offers plenty of opportunities for a new crop of younger players to get playing time and learn the system of second-year head coach, and former Stoughton star, Charmaine Steele Jordan.
Two of the players that will be counted on most this season are junior forwards Val Whalen and Jordan Motley, who are two of the best rebounders in the league and can also get out on the break and score in transition. Their development in the half-court offense will be a key for Stoughton making a playoff push in the Davenport division this season. Senior Lili Njiem is another player that could make a big impact, as one of the team’s three captains.
The Black Knights will have as many senior as freshmen on this year’s roster (three) along with four sophomores and three juniors, so the foundation for the future is in place. Shyanne Trinh, Lexi Baptista, and Aliyah Wright are the three newcomers to the program who will be hoping to make an instant impact.
“So excited for the upcoming season,” said Steele Jordan. “We lost six seniors so there is lots of opportunity for our players to step up. Our returnees from last year will contribute for us despite being pretty young.”
MILFORD, Mass. – For the first two or three minutes of the game, it was Milford that looked like the team that had driven more than two hours from Pittsfield for Saturday’s non-league matinee. The Hawks fell behind 6-0 and look a little out of sorts in the season opener.
Then senior guard Jill Burley buried a three to cut the Taconic lead in half and the hosts kicked into gear. Milford went on an 18-2 run in the opening quarter to take a lead that it would never relinquish.
Sparked by junior Kate Irwin’s 21-point, four-assist, five-rebound performance and double-digit rebounds from senior Christine Pye (10) and junior Jess Tomaso (14), Milford held off Taconic 52-45 in a game that the visitors managed to keep close right to the end.
“The reason for it was we’re putting them at the line too many times,” said second-year Milford coach T.J. Dolliver of the Hawks inability to put the game out of reach in the second half. Taconic went to the line 19 times in the second half (30 times in the game) and made 10.
Dolliver added, “We fouled way too often and they were fouls that could be avoided. I said at halftime that if we’re going to keep them in the game then it’s going to be at the line and we need to stop fouling.”
The fouls started in the first quarter with Milford putting Taconic in the bonus before the end of the opening eight minutes and both Burley and fellow captain Nicole Dahlgren (seven rebounds) were forced to the bench for a long stretch due to foul trouble.
Milford showed its depth by finding other players to step up. Emily Piergustavo, who missed last season with a shoulder injury, had one of her three first half steals to get Irwin a transition basket and then the combo repeated it to tie the game at 8-8. Piergustavo (six points) buried a three off an Irwin assist to give Milford its first lead and Irwin added another basket off an offensive rebound.
Pye scored off a rebound and Gillian Valanzola scored off an inbound pass by Emma Liskov to give Milford an 18-8 lead. Taconic turned momentum around and went on a 10-2 run that cut the lead back to just two points, but Irwin scored with a drive to the left and a Dahlgren offensive rebound and kick-out gave Tomaso (six points) an open look from three to extend the lead back to eight.
Milford went into the break ahead 30-19 and rebounding played a big role in the Hawks lead. Dolliver said, “The nice part about our team is that we rebound from top to bottom. Our bigs rebound the ball very well and our guards rebound the ball very well. They’re very fundamental in their box outs and that’s huge.”
The third quarter was a struggle for both teams. Irwin buried a three to give Milford its largest lead of the game at 14 points, but the Hawks only managed one more made field goal for the rest of the quarter when Tomaso followed her own shot twice before finishing.
Luckily for the Hawks, Taconic was also finding it tough to score. The Braves had only two made field goals and three free throws in the third and could only cut two points off the halftime lead, trailing 35-26 into the fourth.
Milford started the fourth like it wanted to finally put Taconic away. Irwin hit a runner and then Dahlgren buried a long jumper. After being forced to the bench because of foul trouble, Burley finally got her chance and buried a pair of three-pointers that put the Hawks up 45-31.
“I was happy to see her hit those,” said Dolliver of Burley, “because I know she was frustrated because she got into early foul trouble and honestly didn’t play a lot until the end and then knocks down a couple shots and in her mind it’s forgotten.”
If Milford thought the game was done, Taconic had other ideas. After a two-hour drive, the Braves were going to keep it interesting for the full 32 minutes of game time. Taconic was 7-14 from the line and closed the gap to as little as six points with a few minutes remaining, but Dolliver called timeout to settle his team down.
When asked if in those pressure moments it helps having Irwin to give the ball to, Dolliver replied, “Of course…and now that we get Emily back as well it’s another ball-handler, which is huge when we’re getting pressured.”
Milford (1-0) will try to keep the momentum going at the start of the season in its league opener on Tuesday against King Philip.
TAUNTON, Mass. – The Tigers have a young roster, one that has suffered through injuries and missing players during a difficult first half of the season, but on Tuesday night Taunton set aside the early season disappointments and found a way to get its first win of the season.
Senior forward Alyssa Gibson led the Tigers with 13 points and nine rebounds, including five points in the fourth quarter as Taunton rallied from from five points down to pull out a 44-40 victory over Milford.
“We needed to pick it up,” said Taunton coach Walter Harrigan. “We needed a win. These girls have worked hard, we’ve been decimated with injuries and all the stuff going on this year, so they deserved it.”
At the start of the fourth, Milford had built a 34-28 lead behind nine of Kate Irwin’s team-high 12 points, but good ball movement against the Hawks’ zone got the ball to Jordan Wade (nine points) and the senior guard knocked down her third three of the game to cut the lead to just three.
After MacKenzie Handrahan scored her only basket of the game on a rebound putback, Emma Liskov answered with a layup that made it 36-33. Raquia Pate (eight points, 10 rebounds) scored on another offensive rebound to once again bring Taunton back within one.
“I thought we did a good job right from the beginning,” said Harrigan. “I thought we boxed out really well; offensively we’re just a little stagnant and we really weren’t getting the ball movement.”
After an Irwin free throw, Gibson twice was fouled taking the ball to the basket and each time made three of four free throws to tie the game at 38-38 with 2:15 remaining. It was the first time the game had been tied since the opening quarter. On Taunton’s next possession, freshman Lily Patneaude scored on a runner to give Taunton the leadand then Gibson scored on a layup to extend it to four points.
Harrigan said, “We were hoping to get one run. We were hoping it would come early, but luckily we were able to get it late in the game.”
Irwin raced up the floor to score on a layup and cut it back to two and the Hawks managed to create a turnover on the sideline, but Jill Burley missed both free throws after the steal and Taunton claimed the rebound. Milford was only 3-10 from the line in the fourth and also missed several chances close to the rim.
“We couldn’t put the ball in the hoop and we couldn’t rebound,” said Milford coach T.J. Dolliver, “so it was kind of a combination of all of it. If you can’t make easy ones, can’t make free throws, then you have to rely on tough shots and that’s not the way you want to go.”
Patneaude made a free throw for the Tigers to make it 43-40, but missed the second. The ball bounced free and Hanrahan again chased down the rebound to save the possession. Maggie Sullivan was fouled and made a free throw to essentially ice the game up four in the final seconds.
“It’s just tough to watch because sometimes we just don’t have any fight,” Dolliver remarked. “We need to get angry sometimes and actually battle, but it’s something we need to work on as a team and I need to work on as a coach and try to figure out a solution.”
Milford took a 20-17 lead into halftime. Irwin and Gill Valanzola each scored five points in the opening half, while Pate led the Tigers with six and Gibson had four.
In the third quarter, the Hawks went on a run and jumped out to their largest lead of the game at 26-17. Irwin was proving difficult to stop for the Tigers, especially when she got into transition. Junior forward Nicole Dahlgren also provided an offensive spark with six of her 10 points coming in the third. Senior Jill Powers also chipped in with three.
The Tigers battled back to stay in the game heading to the fourth. Abby Kingman hit a jumper just as it looked like Milford may pull away. Gibson scored four points in the quarter, Hannah Moniz (five points) hit a perimeter shot and Wade knocked down a big three that cut the lead back down to two points.
Powers answered with a bucket on the other end and the Hawks went into the fourth with a five-point lead. It could have been another game in which the Tigers came close but Taunton showed resiliency to close it out and get its first win of the season.
Harrigan commented, “We’ve been close in a couple, but they’ve got to continue to work hard. We know what we have. We’ve got some senior leadership and then we’re very young and we’re going to continue to improve as the season wears on.”
Taunton (1-9, 1-7) will try to start a winning streak on Friday when it hosts North Attleboro. Milford (4-7, 1-7) will look to bounce back when it travels to Davenport leader Oliver Ames.
Josh Perry can be contacted at JoshPerry@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @Josh_Perry10.
By Allie Piergustavo, HockomockSports.com Contributor
HOPEDALE, Mass. – Milford came into Wednesday’s night contest against Hopdale with one main goal in mind: start strong. That goal was clearly accomplished against Hopedale when the Scarlet Hawks got off to a great first quarter and won by a score of 54-41.
The victory marked Milford’s third straight win. Sophomore Kate Irwin, who led the Scarlet Hawks in points, got the game started strong by scoring the first points for Milford within the first ten seconds of play.
“Last time we played them, we started off slow,” Milford head coach TJ Dolliver said. “And so, that was one of the main points during the speech…we have to start off strong, we have to get going.”
After the first quarter, Milford held a 19-9 lead with sophomore Juliana Tracy leading the team with seven points. Hopedale also committed four fouls in the first quarter, displaying some impatience from the Blue Raiders. However, there was a quick turn of events in the second quarter. By the half, Hopedale cut the lead to just three, with a score of 26-23.
“Our help defense wasn’t there,” Dolliver said, referring to the second quarter. “Our defense was with our hands and not our feet, and that really hurt us.”
In fact, Hopedale scored the majority of their points in the second quarter, scoring 16 points, ten of which came from senior captain Lea Hyland.
“In the second quarter especially, she wasn’t afraid to catch and shoot,” Hopedale head coach Stephanie Caffrey said. “She’s our best shooter and that’s who we want to have the ball.”
Milford’s top scorer was sophomore Kate Irwin, leading the Scarlet Hawks with 17 points. Irwin’s explosive offense was one of the main aspects that drove Milford past Hopedale, a consistency for the young player.
“All it takes is one basket and you’re on a roll,” Dolliver said about the sophomore point guard. “She went to the foul line numerous times and got on a roll.” Irwin shot 80% from the foul line on the night.
It was the fouls that proved to be a game-changer on both sides of the court. Milford committed 14 fouls in the game, while Hopedale committed 17 fouls. Of the 14 fouls Milford committed, ten points resulted from free throws. Of the 17 fouls Hopedale committed, 17 points resulted from free throws.
Through halftime, Hopedale aimed to stay up and try to advance to a lead. In fact, at one point, Hopedale lead by a score of 28-27 as a result of foul shots. It was the only time in the entire game Hopedale had a lead over Milford.
Another standout player for the Scarlet Hawks was junior Emma Liskov. Liskov had 11 points and was a key part of the Hawk’s offense early in the game.
“Press and rebounds, she’s very good at that. One of her specialties is defense…being active with her hands and finishing plays,” Dolliver said.
With the win, Milford improved to a 4-2 overall. Milford takes the court Monday night at home against the Sharon Eagles.
2014-15 Record: 4-16 (2-14) 2014-15 Finish: Missed playoffs Head Coach: Jim Choquette
There has been significant progress made in the three years that Jim Choquette has been in charge of the program and he is hoping that this year “will be another step forward” for the Bulldogs. Canton comes into this winter with momentum after winning four games down the stretch of last season and, as Choquette explained, narrowly missing out on a handful of other wins.
Senior captains Meaghan Hunter (who did not play high school basketball until her sophomore year) and Shannon Foley will be the leaders of the team and counted on to get the team into its offense. Junior Emma Murphy is back for her third season on varsity and she continues to develop as a post player. As Choquette noted, Murphy has already started 40 games in her Bulldogs career, so experience is not an issue.
Junior Casey Shea will join Murphy in the post and she is another player that continues to develop. Sophomore Hannah Jerrier had a big season with her AAU team at Mass Premier and Choquette thinks that she is primed for a breakout season along with classmate Jess Powers, who emerged at the tail end of last season.
The Bulldogs will also look to incorporate a pair of freshmen into the system with Erin Devine, who Choquette said has already grown to 6-foot-3, and incoming point guard Julia Hamilton, who may be a star in the making.
“There’s a lot of buzz about this team,” he said. “The girls have really bought into the system. Now we just have to learn how to win those close games.”
2014-15 Record: 21-3 (14-2) 2014-15 Finish: Reached the Div. 2 South final Head Coach: Lisa Downs
Experienced is not generally an adjective used when describing a team that is going to start four sophomores at the beginning of the season, but all four of the underclassmen in Foxboro’s starting lineup saw significant playing time during the Warriors’ run to the sectional final last year. With HockomockSports.com Player of the Year and Hock MVP Kat Tamulionis graduated, the ball is now going to be in the hands of these young players and they will be given every opportunity to produce.
The primary ball-handler will be sophomore Ashley Sampson. Sampson had a breakout rookie season in which she became one of Foxboro’s best weapons off the bench and showed no fear against even the best teams in the league and the state. Classmate Lily Sykes will join her in the backcourt and adds another good shooter and defender at the guard position. Cassidy Harrison will be the lone senior in the starting five and will provide shooting on the wing.
Sophomore Grace Tamulionis showed tons of potential last season and is a versatile forward that can step back and shoot and has the size to crash the boards. She will be joined in the post by classmate Shannon Smalley, who head coach Lisa Downs said had a great summer. Downs also noted that junior Lauren Flahive could come off the bench as a defensive option and senior Carolynn Will is another option as a shooter at the forward position.
Foxboro could see a big boost a couple of weeks into the season if junior small forward Kristen Bortolotti returns from a concussion suffered during soccer. In the meantime, Downs has no concerns about turning to her underclassmen. She said, “It’s so important that they had a year of experience. Kat [Tamulionis] was good for them because she had confidence in them and they played like it.”
2014-15 Record: 7-13 (5-11) 2014-15 Finish: Missed playoffs Head Coach: T.J. Dolliver
Milford enters a new season with a new coach. T.J. Dolliver moves into his first head coaching position at the high school level, after being an assistant for boys’ coach Paul Seaver, and he is “excited” by the potential that the Hawks have shown in the opening weeks of practice and during the opening game of the season (a 44-21 win over Hopedale).
There is only one senior on the roster, but the Hawks gained a lot of experience last year. The focal point for the Hawks offense (and for opposing defenses) will be sophomore guard Kate Irwin. The dynamic lefty has quickness, vision, and shooting touch and she provides Milford with a spark on both ends of the floor. She will get plenty of help from junior forwards Nicole Dahlgren, Christine Pye and Brianna Croteau.
The lone senior on the roster is Jill Powers, who knocked down a couple of threes in the season opener. Sophomore forward Gill Valanzola will add depth at the forward position and junior guards Emma Liskov and Jill Burley will give Irwin help in the backcourt. Dolliver is also hoping to get sophomore Emily Piergustavo back at some point this season to help the Hawks spread the floor with her shooting.
Dolliver appreciates the depth and versatility in the Hawks roster this season and is already worried about making sure he spreads the minutes around to get everyone a chance on the court. “It’s exciting being at the head of the program,” said Dolliver. “We’re having a lot of fun. It’s about defense first and we make sure to keep them working hard.”
2014-15 Record: 12-9 (10-6) 2014-15 Finish: Reached the Div. 2 South first round Head Coach: Elaine Clement-Holbrook
The Tigers finished second behind Foxboro in the Davenport last year and expectations are high that this Oliver Ames team will challenge the Warriors again this winter. Team chemistry seems to be as high as ever in the Tigers group with a smaller roster of just nine players that have battled illnesses and other obstacles during the two weeks of preseason practice. Head coach Laney Clement-Holbrook is hoping that her team will rally around each other and can make a good start to the season.
Although she has missed a few days of practice with illness, junior Francesca Calabraro is going to be the player that OA counts on the most this season. Calabraro was the team’s leading scorer last season and also one of the league’s best in picking up steals. Calabraro is lethal on the break and that is a key to how the Tigers like to play. Sophomore Kayla Raymond, who saw plenty of time as a rookie, has shown the potential of being a top scorer and a force on both ends of the court.
Senior captain Kaitlyn McCarthy was credited with holding things together for the Tigers during the tumultuous opening weeks of practice and she is joined in the leadership role by fellow captain Sam Bamford who is a tenacious defender at the point guard position. Junior forward Niyera Mitchell gives the Tigers size and athleticism in the middle. Hannah Carroll and Abby Reardon will add depth at the guard position.
There may not be a lot of players on the varsity roster this season for OA, but Clement-Holbrookbelieves this may be the closest her team has been. She said, “There is a lot of energy in the gym and a level of enthusiasm that shows they want to be out there. I hope the players can come together and find support from each other on the court.”
In his first season in charge, Cliff Tomassian took over a program that had reached the sectional final at UMass Boston for the first time in decades but one that lost its three best players including HockomockSports.com Player of the Year Karlie O’Driscoll. The Eagles were competitive throughout the season, particularly on defense, but struggled on the offensive end and missed the tournament, something Tomassian believes can change this winter.
If Sharon is going to improve on offense and make a charge at the postseason then the Eagles will need a full season out of senior forward Alyssa Piazza. The team’s leading scorer last year has missed portions of each of the last two seasons, but when she is on the court is a strong post scorer and dominant rebounder. Tomassian said, “When she’s on the court, she’s one of our most productive players.”
Sophomore guard Shira Stoller will also be back this year and Tomassian has urged the point guard to look for her own shot more and take some of the pressure off Piazza. With a point guard that can get to the basket and a forward that can score in the post, the perimeter should open up for Sharon and that is where seniors Ashley Mukasa and Charlotte Ransom can excel as spot up shooters.
The Eagles will once again be counting on young players to acclimate to the varsity level quickly, including sophomore Jessica Allan and freshmen Emma Eberhardt and Veronica Wallace. “Once the girls get used to the physicality of the varsity level we’ll be fine,” explained Tomassian. “Our expectation is making the tournament.”
After three decades in charge, Janet Sullivan stepped down as the head coach at Stoughton and the program turned to someone who knows all about the program to step in this winter. Former Stoughton player and 1,000 point scorer Charmaine Steele-Jordan, who played at Quinnipiac and was an assistant coach at Boston University, takes over and had already brought a buzz to the Black Knights heading into the season. “There couldn’t have been a better place to fall,” said Jordan about the chance to take over at her alma mater.
Senior Alecia Quinones gives Steele-Jordan a weapon to work around. The forward has the size to match up with opposing post players and the athleticism to match up with wings. On offense she also adds versatility with an improving jump shot and good moves on the block. Fellow senior Jess Greer is the primary ball-handler and can also knock down the three.
Senior forward Ava Seigel is the third captain this season and is another important cog on both ends of the floor. Senior Bridgette Whalen and sophomore Valerie Whalen will add more size and strength in the paint for the Black Knights. Defense was always a strength of Stoughton and that will certainly continue under the new coach.
Last season, the Black Knights struggled in the half-court offense and Steele-Jordan has already introduced a much higher pace to the team during the first couple weeks of practice and is hoping that Stoughton can get up and down the court to get points in transition. She explained, “We want to get up and down the floor and only set up when we have to. We want to be able to press and try different things this year.”
For a list of 10 Players to Watch in Hockomock League girls’ basketball this season, click here.
By Ryan Lanigan, Editor-in-Chief
MILFORD, Mass. – After a slow start to the game, Milford scored nearly three quarters of its points in the middle two quarters to pull away from rival Hopedale for a 44-21 win.
Between turnovers, nerves and a clock issue that required a stoppage, there was little to no flow in the first quarter of the first game for both squads.
After the teams combined for just 13 points in the first frame (an 8-5 edge to the Scarlet Hawks), Milford was about to create some separation.
“We started off very slow,” Milford first year head coach TJ Dolliver said. “It didn’t help with all the technical difficulties we were having, we just didn’t start off well. But I keep preaching it — all the little fouls, we have to get rid of them.”
First it was a combined five points from juniors Jill Burley and Brianna Croteau. Once Hopedale pulled close again, senior Jill Powers drained a pair of three pointers and junior Christina Capone added three more to give Milford a 22-11 advantage at the break.
“I told them at halftime we needed to get rid of those little fouls,” Dolliver said. “We were only up 11 at halftime. I told them if we get rid of the little fouls and keep the intensity up, we’ll be in a good position. And they listened for the most part.”
The speech seemed to work and once the second half started, it was all Scarlet Hawks.
Milford sophomore Kate Irwin, who missed a good chunk of the first half after picking up two fouls, started the second half with a steal and a pair of converted free throws and just the next series, repeated the same sequence. On the next possession Irwin drained a three to complete a quick 7-0 run for the Scarlet Hawks.
“That’s the type of player she is, she’s very skilled,” Dolliver said. “I think she learned a lesson early on with the fouls and one of those two first fouls could have been avoided, one of those small fouls. She did pretty well with it too in the second half and I think she only ended with two fouls so she definitely listened and took direction which is great, all of these girls have been very coachable which is all you can ask for.”
The home side went on to outscore their neighbors 18-2 in the third quarter with five points from junior Emma Liskov, two each from Juliana Tracy and Croteau and two more from Irwin.
While Hopedale tried to get their offense in gear, they struggled to keep possession. By the end of the third quarter, the Blue Raiders had turned the ball over 25 times. One big reason that the offense couldn’t get into gear was the press from Milford, which used it from the get go.
“We have a lot of athletes and they’ve been pressing for years,” Dolliver said. “And they’re very good at it from what I’ve seen so far. It’s not even made to steal the ball but they do a good job at matching up to whoever’s closest to them and they do a good job at forcing turnovers.
Irwin finished with a team-high 13 points, Powers and Croteau each added six and Liskov and Gill Valanzola (seven rebounds) each had five points. Tracy and Jess Tomaso combined for nine boards as well as the Scarlet Hawks won the rebounding battle.
The Scarlet Hawks only allowed Hopedale to convert five field goals while the Blue Raiders went 11/19 from the line.
Milford (1-0) will begin its league schedule on Tuesday when they host North Attleboro, the defender Kelley-Rex division champs, at 6:45. Ryan Lanigan can be contacted at RyanLanigan@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @R_Lanigan.