Franklin Drops Overtime Heartbreaker In State Semis

Franklin girls basketball
Franklin’s Megan O’Connell drives to the basket against Springfield Central in the D1 State Semifinal. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
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WORCESTER, Mass. – Springfield Central is headed back to the MIAA D1 State Championship for the third straight year, but it wasn’t without a hell of a fight from the Franklin girls basketball team first.

The Panthers went toe-to-toe with the three-time West sectional champions, forcing overtime with a late bucket before bowing out of the tournament with a 64-57 loss at the hands of the Golden Eagles in the D1 State Semifinals.

“When you’re this close, you’re a game away, they are definitely disappointed,” said Franklin head coach John Leighton. “For the girls, I think in the next 24 hours, the sense of accomplishment will come back, but right now, it stinks. It’s raw because it just happened and was overtime. It’s one thing if you lose by 20, you know the season is done. But not here when you’re battling until the last 12 seconds. It’ll hurt tonight, but it’ll get better.”

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For the second straight game, junior Megan O’Connell scored in the final seconds, this time a layup with 6.1 seconds left to tie the game at 48-48 to force overtime.

“We have a lot of faith in her,” Leighton said of O’Connell. “Her confidence has grown so much. It was a similar play to what we ran the other night, just with Ali or Meg with an inside-out option, and the lane was there so I give her credit. The kids have really grown confidence-wise. We’ve been in a lot of close games and come out ahead and I think that gives them a lot of confidence. We celebrated last game and then buried it but I think that confidence at the end helped us.”

Franklin carried that momentum into the extra period as O’Connell (16 points, 17 rebounds) drove to the basket on the opening possession to give the Panthers the lead, and two trips later, senior Shannon Grey drained a corner three for a 53-48 lead with 2:49 left.

But the Golden Eagles refused to go away, answering right away with a triple from Selenya Gonzalez (21 points). Franklin’s Ali Brigham (26 points, 25 rebounds) converted an offensive rebound to give Franklin a four-point cushion and then blocked a shot to give the Panthers possession back with under two minutes to go.

But a missed three resulted in two free throws for Jaliena Sanchez (34 points, eight rebounds) and then a turnover resulted in two free throws for Rosheda Guthrie, knotting the score at 55-55.

Turnovers hurt the Panthers all night, and their 19th and final one of the game led to one of the biggest plays of the game. After two misses, Franklin came down with another offensive rebound but a pass to the paint was picked off by Sanchez and she raced the length of the court and converted while being fouled, hitting the free throw to put Springfield Central up 58-55 with under a minute to play.

“There’s going to be plenty of swings throughout the game,” Leighton said. “I thought they had a couple of good stops, got us to turn it over a couple of times. And Sanchez was just on fire at the end, she couldn’t miss from the foul line. She did a lot of stuff, she finished strong and I thought she was the biggest difference in the game, especially in the second half and in overtime.”

Brigham answered on the other end with a pair of free throws but Sanchez went back to the line, where she finished 17-for-21, and sank another two to push the lead back to three, 60-57. Franklin was unable to convert its chance and Sanchez added four more from the line in the final seconds to ice the game.

It was back-and-forth for the majority of regulation, with neither team grabbing a significant lead at any point. Springfield Central jumped out to a 6-0 lead to start the game but Franklin settled in and took a 13-11 lead by the end of the first quarter.

Buckets from O’Connell and Brigham midway through the second helped the Panthers build a brief five-point lead at 19-14 but a 7-1 swing from the Golden Eagles put Springfield Central ahead. The Panthers got points from Bea Bonhus and Erin Quaile, plus four straight from Brigham to take a 28-26 lead into halftime.

Sanchez worked her way to the line early and often in the third, hitting five free throws but Brigham answered with a three-point play, a rare shooting foul called against the Golden Eagles while defending Brigham.

A four-point play from Sanchez — a made three plus another foul — gave Springfield Central a 37-33 edge and the momentum but the Panthers stole it back with a 10-0 run to end the quarter. Brigham scored the first four then O’Connell scored three straight baskets for a 43-37 edge heading into the fourth.

Franklin was held to just one point — a free throw from freshman Olivia Quinn — for the first six minutes of the fourth. The Panthers finished the game just 2-for-18 from three-point range.

“We’d love to have a couple more of those [threes],” Leighton said. “And the thing is, I thought we took good shots, we weren’t forcing them, they just weren’t falling. Not that we’ve been living off the three all year, but they were urging us to shoot it and we had to take the open shots. “

Quaile sank two free throws with 1:40 left to get Franklin within one before O’Connell’s tying basket late.

“This team is historic,” Leighton said. “They went further than any other Franklin girls team has ever gone. This is a cohesive group, which is really special. I’d love to take credit for it but I have nothing to do with it. These girls love each other.”

Franklin girls basketball finishes the season at 21-4.

O’Connell Beats Buzzer and Lifts Franklin to First Title

Franklin girls basketball
Franklin girls basketball celebrates on the court after beating Wachusett at Worcester State to earn the program’s first-ever sectional title. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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WORCESTER, Mass. – Franklin got the look it wanted to try and win the game.

Down by one with less than 10 seconds remaining, Erin Quaile swung the ball around the perimeter to her backcourt partner Shannon Gray, who looped the ball into Ali Brigham on the left block. The 6-foot-3 junior center, who had 28 points to that point, turned into her smaller defender, took a dribble, and got a look at the rim.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Unlike so many other chances that Brigham converted in Friday night’s Div. 1 Central final at Worcester State University, this one didn’t find the bottom of the net. Instead, it kicked off to the far side, but her classmate Megan O’Connell was there and pulled down the offensive rebound between three Wachusett defenders.

O’Connell instantly went back up with an off-balance shot. It bounced on the right side of the rim, took a touch on the backboard, and dropped through to put Franklin ahead 61-60 just as the final horn sounded on the program’s first-ever sectional title.

“I was thinking, ‘oh my god, it’s not going to go in,’ and then it somehow did,” said O’Connell after the game. “I was thrilled, this is all we’ve been working for. I’m just happy it all worked out.”

Gray added, “It’s amazing. I can’t believe that we’re the first team in Franklin girls basketball history to ever get a sectional and that’s just so amazing…I can’t believe it’s real.”

When the ball dropped through the basket, O’Connell seemed to hesitate for a second before the celebrations kicked in, as though she wasn’t sure if she had really just done that. That she had just won the game. “I was in shock. I didn’t really process that it went in,” she explained.

“It was like every bad Disney movie at the end where you’re just waiting and waiting,” Franklin coach John Leighton joked. “We drew up a play to get Ali the ball but we talked about at the end of the game, whoever has the ball just shoot it, not to make the extra pass. [Megan] got it, she didn’t blink, she didn’t think twice, and she shot it right away.”

There were points in the second half when it looked like Franklin may run away from the Mountaineers and cruise to the title. But, Wachusett came in undefeated for a reason and stormed back in the fourth. A 4-0 run to close the third was followed by four more to start the final quarter with junior Belle Lanpher (21 points) getting a steal and then a transition basket to cut the lead to 47-45.

Brigham answered back with a basket plus the foul and senior Bea Bondhus (10 points) knocked down a pull-up jumper from the right to push the lead back to seven. A jumper by Rachel Vinton (14 points) was matched by a Brigham layup, off a feed from O’Connell, to keep the Panthers up 54-47.

That was when things started to get very interesting.

Lanpher drilled a straightaway three to cut the lead to four points and Vinton halved that with a pair at the line. Again, Franklin turned to Brigham, who added 14 rebounds and seven blocks to her game-high point total, and she responded with a basket from a Gray assist. A layup for Jill Post made it a two-point game and then Courtney Lanpher (14 points) buried a three to put the Mountaineers up 57-56. It was their first lead of the second half.

Bondhus got fouled in the backcourt and, despite the cacophony of noise from the Wachusett student section, buried two clutch free throws with 1:19 left to give the Panthers back the lead. Courtney Lanpher was fouled and knocked down a pair at the line to make it 59-58 with 1:06 left. After another foul, Gray (seven points) hit 1-of-2 to tie it with 1:01 remaining.

“The whole time we were just like let’s do it,” said Gray. “We’ve got it and let’s just finish.”

The score stayed the same until Lanpher was fouled going to the basket with 15.1 on the clock. She missed the first and Leighton took a timeout. The senior guard made the second and instantly Wachusett went into its press. Quaile got free to get the inbound and pushed the ball up court, where the Panthers got the ball into Brigham’s hands and then O’Connell provided the heroics.

“A quarter-inch difference and Wachusett wins the game and we’re going home,” said Leighton, adding, “If that bounced the other way, I’d be just as proud of the kids because what they did tonight was give everything they had against a great team. This was as complete a game as they could play and if that ball bounced out I don’t think I would feel differently.”

O’Connell said, “We worked so hard and we had a good run in the first half and we thought we were going to win and it turned around and we had to stay put and keep playing defense and we pulled it out.”

Wachusett came out firing and took an early 10-4 lead in the first. The Mountaineers scored 19 points in the opening quarter, mostly using a high pick-and-roll in the center of the court. Franklin was aggressively jumping out to the shooters and the Mountaineers were able to turn the corner time and again and get to the rim, where Brigham was nowhere to be found because she was forced to extend out.

The Panthers changed things up defensively in the second and held Wachusett to just 10 points in the quarter.

“They shoot the lights out…so we came out trying to limit their three-point shots,” said Leighton. “We adjusted and we tried to switch a lot more and put a person in that gap so it wasn’t a straight shot to the rim. That got Ali a lot of those blocks because she had time to get back.”

Brigham was on fire early in the game, as the Panthers got the ball inside early and often. O’Connell (10 points and nine rebounds), fresh off a 19-point game in the semifinal, was also getting free and taking the ball to the rim. Gray nailed a three in the final seconds to tie the game at 19-19 after one.

In the second, Franklin’s outside shooting started to find the range. Bondhus and Quaile each hit threes and Brigham added another six points as Franklin pushed the lead to as many as 10, 35-25. A quick 4-0 run at the end of the half got the top seed back within single digits at the break.

A Belle Lanpher three cut the Panthers advantage to 40-37 in the third, but then Franklin went on a 7-0 run to again push the lead to 10. Brigham got an offensive board and put-back and Bondhus drilled a three in the run. But again, Wachusett was able to score four straight to get back within six at 47-41 and set up an exciting finish to this rematch of the 2015 Central final.

Franklin (20-4) now advances to the state semifinal for the first time and will face West champion Springfield Central.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Panthers Find the Range in Second Half to Reach Final

Franklin girls basketball
The Franklin bench celebrates one of the team’s five three-pointers in the second half that allowed the Panthers to pull away from Concord-Carlisle. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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WORCESTER, Mass. – When the ball swung around to Franklin guard Shannon Gray right in front of the Panthers bench, her teammates started to rise in anticipation of a shot. But Gray hesitated and passed it back up top. Franklin coach John Leighton urged the senior to let it fly when she gets the chance.

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Gray heeded that advice and she knocked down a pair of threes on back-to-back possessions to stretch the Franklin lead from just four points to double digits. She knocked down three of her team’s five shots from beyond the arc in the second half, helping the Panthers pull away for a convincing 59-43 victory over No. 2 seed Concord-Carlisle in the Div. 1 Central semifinal at WPI’s Harrington Auditorium.

“We talked at halftime, start like it’s 0-0 and play like we do and the key is to keep reversing the ball,” Franklin coach John Leighton explained. “In the second half, they were just packed in so when we reversed it the kids were just wide open to take the shot and once one goes in that confidence starts coming.”

At halftime, Franklin held a slim, two-point lead over the Patriots and that was entirely because of two players, junior center Ali Brigham and her classmate Megan O’Connell.

The Panthers opened the game with a 10-0 run, as O’Connell took advantage of the attention on Brigham in the paint to find driving lanes. Brigham added an and-one off an offensive rebound and had four points in the first, but O’Connell was the aggressor in the paint and on the glass (13 rebounds), scoring 10 of Franklin’s 14 in the first. She finished with 19 points in the game.

“I had a pretty bad game last time and I really just wanted to get back to where I know I can be,” said O’Connell about her aggressive start. Leighton added, “I’m so happy for her because she’s been so patient all year. They were so hyper-focused on Ali that the lane just kept opening up. Early on everyone was a little tentative and she was aggressive.”

The Patriots crept back into the game, trailing by just six after one and then getting as close as two at several points in the second quarter. Franklin was determined to get the ball into the paint and Brigham (game-high 22 points, 14 rebounds, and five blocks) scored all of her team’s nine points in the period, twice scoring on put-backs and twice getting baskets at the rim thanks to O’Connell assists.

While Franklin had the lead at the break, it was hard to envisage a trip to the final with only two players getting on the scoresheet, especially as the Patriots threw a variety of different defenses at Brigham in the post, almost daring the Panthers to shoot from the perimeter. That strategy worked for a half, but Franklin made the Patriots pay in the second half.

After an O’Connell drive for two, Bea Bondhus knocked down Franklin’s first three, and her only shot of the game, to make it 28-21. Concord-Carlisle, which came into the game with only one loss on the season, cut the lead back to just four points but then Gray stepped up and knocked down a pair to suddenly make it a 10-point edge.

“She’s our captain and she leads us in every way,” Leighton said of Gray. “She’s the most selfless kid. She makes us run, her composure…so for her to get a little bit tonight was really nice.”

Leighton added about the team’s outside shooting, “It broke what they were doing. They went into that triangle-and-two to look to pack the paint hoping we wouldn’t make any threes. I think it was vital to break their confidence in what they were doing.”

Again the Patriots rallied with back-to-back buckets, but Brigham answered with a rebound and score and then Teagan Collins finished a break with a scoop shot off the glass. As the clock wound down on the third, Erin Quaile put a punctuation mark on the quarter by drilling a three at the buzzer to give Franklin its largest lead at 43-31.

The Panthers scored nearly as many points in the third quarter as in the first two combined. That offensive barrage continued in the fourth. Brigham got a three-point play on a rebound and then finished off another rebound to make it 49-31.

Corcnord-Carlisle hit back with five straight points, but then the Panthers put the game out of reach. Gray snagged an offensive rebound and made a nice dish underneath to a wide open O’Connell for two. Gray then stepped back outside and nailed her third three-pointer of the afternoon and O’Connell added two more with yet another rebound.

“We just needed to slow down really,” said O’Connell. “We were getting ahead of ourselves and trying to make the perfect pass, but we just needed to make the easy pass and we’d get layups.”

Franklin (20-4) is making a second appearance in the D1 Central final, its first since 2015, and will face the top seed Wachusett.

“It’s definitely a big deal,” said O’Connell. “We’ve been working really hard every day in practice and we’re just trying to get as far as we can.”

Leighton praised his team for meeting its high expectations. “Two years ago, we started 0-6 and I brought the team that year to watch the finals at Worcester State,” he recalled. “We were like, this is where we want to be. This is what lays ahead, if we do what we need to do.”

He added, “For this team, hard work has been the key.”

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Brigham, Bondhus, Defense Lift Franklin in Comeback

Franklin girls basketball
Hockomock League MVP Ali Brigham scored 33 points, pulled down 15 rebounds, and blocked three shots to lift Franklin to a come from behind win against Westford Academy in the opening round of the playoffs. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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FRANKLIN, Mass. – Franklin head coach John Leighton was not pleased when he called timeout with his team trailing by 10 points in the third quarter of Wednesday night’s Div. 1 Central quarterfinal against Westford Academy. The Grey Ghosts had just knocked down their third triple of the quarter and eighth of the night and Leighton urged his team, which has allowed less than 40 points per game this season, to find another gear on the defensive end.

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The Panthers responded and then some. Franklin gave up only 10 more points the rest of the way, turning a 10-point deficit into a 10-point, 63-53 win that sends the Panthers into the quarterfinal. Franklin closed the game on a 30-10 run to earn its first playoff win since the team made a run to the Central final in 2015.

“We really communicated far better on defense, communicated the switches, communicated how we had to rotate far better at the end of the third quarter and especially the fourth quarter,” Leighton explained. :When we were in better position, then we rebounded better, which kept them to a lot of one-and-done’s.”

Out of that third quarter timeout, Franklin went on a 7-0 run that instantly got the hosts back into the game. Olivia Quinn set up Ali Brigham for a basket to get things started and then Quinn added her only basket of the night off a Shannon Gray dish. Westford got two back, but then Brigham snatched one of her 15 rebounds and scored to make it only a three-point game heading to the fourth.

Erin Quaile completed the comeback for the Panthers when she buried a three-pointer from the left wing, her only points of the night, to put Franklin ahead 46-45. It was Franklin’s first lead since the second quarter. Jennifer Martin answered for the Ghosts with a step-back three, her fourth of the night, but momentum was with the Panthers and they answered with a long inbounds pass to Brigham under the basket to tie it.

Brigham, who was recently voted the Hockomock League MVP, was dominant throughout and she grabbed another offensive rebound to put Franklin back in front. She finished with a game-high 33 points.

She also got some help from senior guard Bea Bondhus, who scored seven of her 15 points in the fourth quarter to secure her first win in the playoffs and make sure this was only her final home game, not the final game of her career. Bondhus drained a three on a kick out from Brigham that put the Panthers up 53-51 and then she followed it with a pump-fake and drive to the basket that extended the lead to four.

“In our timeout we were talking about reversing the ball side to side,” Bondhus said. “And so me and Ali were talking and I said, my girl is running in and doubling so look opposite and she said I’ve got you next possession and it happened exactly as we said it would happen.”

Leighton said of Bondhus, who is one of just three seniors on the roster, “Bea’s been a great three-point shooter forever, but she raised her game up. How many times did she ball-fake, drive, and create. She defended, boxed out, rebounded. She’s really expanded her game.”

A pair of free throws by Brigham was followed by a jumper from Megan O’Connell, who had a rough shooting night up until that point, and the Franklin bench and the home crowd sensed that the Panthers were moving on.

“It took a lot of mental toughness there,” Bondhus said. “We wanted to focus on our defense because we gave up five threes in the first half and we wren’t closing out. Once we started getting defensive stops that transitioned into offense for us.”

Three-point shooting had put Franklin in an early hole, as the Grey Ghosts knocked down four from beyond the arc in the first quarter alone. Despite Brigham scoring nine in the first, including a spinning pull-up jumper from the free throw line, and Bondhus adding five, Westford held a 16-14 edge.

The Panthers kept forcing the ball into the paint to Brigham, who added another eight points in the second quarter, but on the defensive side of the ball Franklin was allowing Westford to control the boards and get second chance opportunities. The Ghosts extended the lead to 10 at one point in the second, but a mini-run cut that lead in half by the break. Brigham in the paint and Bondhus from three giving Franklin a quick five points.

The threes kept raining down from the visitors in the third quarter until Leighton’s timeout and his insistence that the Panthers lock down the perimeter.

Bondhus said, “I was really happy we pulled it out. This team means so much and we’re all best friends off the court, so it was so nice to have the team win there… It really shows our toughness.”

Franklin (19-4) will take on No. 2 seed Concord-Carlisle on Sunday at WPI at 5:00.

Leighton remarked, “It was big to get back to WPI. These kids have never played there. Now they want to get to the final. They’re not done; hungry for more.”

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Sunday’s Schedule & Scoreboard – 02/17/19

Today’s games are listed below.

Boys Basketball
Franklin, 60 vs. New Bedford, 49 – FinalFranklin jumped out to a 15-9 lead after the first quarter but struggled over the next two periods, trailing 38-37 going into the fourth quarter. Panther senior Jalen Samuels scored 10 of his team-high 18 points in the fourth to help . Franklin pull away. Samuels also had 13 rebounds, four assists, and three blocks while junior Chris Edgehill added 13 points and five rebounds. The Panthers will take on North Andover on Monday at 2:00 in the final of the Harvey Nasuti Classic.

Girls Basketball
Attleboro, 42 vs. Bishop Feehan, 50 – FinalClick here for a Photo Gallery from this game. Attleboro trailed by just three at halftime but Feehan broke the game open in the third quarter, outscoring the Bombardiers by 11. Liv McCall scored 15 to help Attleboro stay close on senior night.

Franklin, 46 vs. Belmont, 41 – Final (OT)Franklin scored the only five points of the overtime period to pick up a big win against highly-ranked Belmont in the D1 consolation game of the IAABO Board 27 tournament. Ali Brigham scored 15 points to pace the Panthers (and was named to the all-tournament team), while Megan O’Connell scored 10 and Bea Bondhus added nine. As usual, defense was the key for Franklin, with Erin Quaile and Shannon Gray holding Belmont’s star players to just 15 points combined.

King Philip, 50 vs. Wellesley, 60 – FinalClick here for a Photo Gallery from this game. The game was tied at 24-24 going into halftime thanks a strong defensive second quarter in which the Warriors held Wellesley to only seven points. Wellesley was able to hold off the Warriors with a strong second half. Brianna James led the Warriors with 14 points, Faith Roy added 11, and Shannon O’Connor scored 10 points.

Milford, 31 @ Hopedale, 50 – Final

Boys Hockey
Attleboro, 3 vs. Plymouth North, 5 – Final

Saturday’s Schedule & Scoreboard – 02/16/19

Today’s games are listed below.

Girls Basketball
Franklin, 50 vs. Braintree, 53 – FinalThe Panthers battled back in the final two minutes to close the gap after the Wamps had opened a 10-point lead but couldn’t get any closer than three points. Ali Brigham scored 22 points and grabbed 11 rebounds and Erin Quaile added 11 points, including a three-pointer with 0.6 on the clock.

Boys Hockey
Attleboro, 4 @ Martha’s Vineyard, 5 – Final (3OT)Ryan Morry scored twice but the Bombardiers fell in triple overtime to Martha’s Vineyard. For MIAA purposes, the game will go down as a tie. Sam Larkin and Cam Littig each scored once for Attleboro.

Canton, 3 @ Natick, 0 – Final

King Philip, 3 @ Walpole, 4 – FinalWalpole cashed in for three power play goals on its way to a close win over King Philip. The Rebels and Warriors were knotted at 1-1 after one period of play but Walpole scored three straight goals in the second period to seize a 4-1 lead going into the third. KP scored twice in the third and outshot Walpole 32-23 in the game but couldn’t find the equalize to keep its playoff hopes alive. Brendan Shandley (from Conor Cooke), Joe Boselli (from Ryan Fitzpatrick and Jack Coulter), and Fitzpatrick (from Rocco Bianculli) scored for KP.

Mansfield, 2 @ Winthrop, 2 – FinalMansfield scored twice in the second period to seize the lead but Winthrop scored a late equalizer to finish level. After trailing 1-0 through 15 minutes, freshman Cam Paige and junior Kevin Belanger scored second period goals to put the Hornets ahead. Mansfield killed a five minute major in the third and came within inches of an empty net goal but Winthrop scored with the goalie pulled with 40 seconds left to tie the game.

North Attleboro, 1 @ Bishop Feehan, 2 – Final

Oliver Ames, 1 vs. Quincy, 2 – FinalOliver Ames junior Duncan Pereira put the Tigers ahead 1:34 into the game but Quincy scored once in each the second and third periods to get the win. Owen Connor had a strong game in net for OA.

Stoughton, 3 vs. Apponequet, 3 – FinalStoughton senior Sean Doherty scored with 30 seconds left in the game, his second strike of the game, to help the Black Knights earn a tie with Apponequet. Luke Bainton also scored for Stoughton.

Taunton, 2 @ Brookline, 6 – Final

Girls Hockey
Canton, 0 vs. Hingham, 2 – Final

Franklin, 5 @ Leominster, 3 – FinalCassi Ronan recorded three points while Amanda Lewandowski and Regan Paterson each had a pair of points in Franklin’s win on the road over Leominster. Ronan scored twice and had one assists, Lewandowski added two goals, Paterson had two helpers and Tina Pisano scored once for the Panthers. Katelyn Brown and Gianna Cameron each added an assist while Gianna Cornetta made 12 stops in the win.

Mansfield/Oliver Ames, 4 @ Milton, 1 – FinalKylie O’Keefe, Ella Waryas, and Sam Ledin each scored as MOA skated to a win over Milton. O’Keefe and Waryas each scored in the first period while Waryas and Ledin found the back of the net in the second period for the Warriors.

Stoughton, 1 vs. Whitman-Hanson, 6 – Final

Panthers Net Kelley-Rex Title With Win at Mansfield

Franklin girls basketball
Erin Quaile (20) and Shannon Gray (10) were all smiles after beating Mansfield on the road to clinch at least a share of Franklin’s first league title since 2013. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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MANSFIELD, Mass. – The cliche is that defense wins championships and, if the cliche is true, then it is no wonder that Franklin had the chance to clinch a Kelley-Rex division title on Tuesday night. The Panthers came into the game against Mansfield in the Albertini Gym allowing a little more than 35 points per game, which was a league best.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

With a potential title on the line against the three-time defending champions, the Panthers turned to their defense once again, and added some clutch shooting to go with it.

Franklin held Mansfield to just 14 points in the first half and took control with an 11-0 run just before the break and sealed the win with a 11-4 run down the stretch when the Hornets had gotten back within single digits. With the 47-32 victory, Franklin secured at least a share of its first league title since 2013.

“It’s really what we’ve been working towards all season,” said Franklin senior Bea Bondhus. “Yesterday, at the end of practice we sat in front of the banner in the gym and coach was like, ‘2013 was the last time we won it and you guys have the chance to win it this year.’ Before the game, we were really nervous but he made it clear that this was an opportunity and that we can beat this team.”

The game was a defensive struggle from the opening tip. It took nearly three minutes for either team to get on the scoreboard and the teams were tied at just 7-7 after one.

Mansfield coach Mike Redding said, “They’re aggressive defensively, [Ali] Brigham’s back there if they do get beat off backdoors and off the dribble and it’s hard to make field goals against them and if you’re not getting to the free throw line good luck trying to beat them.”

Mady Bendanillo buried a three off an assist from her sister Kara to open the scoring, but Franklin was able to get the ball into the paint to star center Ali Brigham. The 6-foot-3 junior scored all seven of the Panthers’ points in the first and finished with a game-high 17, along with 10 rebounds and four blocks.

The Hornets continued to hang right with the league leaders late into the second quarter, thanks to its own defensive effort. Mansfield is allowing fewer than 40 points per game this season as well. Emily Vigeant (nine points) scored on a drive and then drilled a three to put the hosts up 14-13 with only a couple of minutes left until halftime.

“The tight start? Mike’s team plays great ‘D’. Bea was never open, Ali was hugged, and they just said beat us with someone else,” Franklin coach John Leighton explained.

Franklin took control in the span of about 90 seconds. Freshman Olivia Quinn scored on an offensive rebound to get the lead back. Shannon Gray knocked down a three to extend the lead to four and then Brigham stepped into a transition three. Gray capped the half with a corner three off a Brigham kick out to open up a 10-point lead.

“That’s exactly how I drew it up with my center hitting a pull-up three,” Leighton joked. “It was huge, especially Shannon hitting a couple because we’ve been working with her. In practice, she nails them but in games she’s the last kid to look for her shot and tonight, when it was there, she took them.”

Redding added, “It was a great defensive battle and then a one-point game became a 10-point game. We played them pretty even in the second half but that run really was the killer.”

Maggie Danehy (10 points and 13 rebounds) opened the second half with a jumper, but each time Mansfield got the lead back to single digits Franklin had a response. Megan O’Connell got a layup off one of Erin Quaile’s five assists and then Quaile drove to the rim for a basket.

Sydney Mulkern hit a three to cut the lead back down to nine points, but Brigham scored at the rim and Quaile hustled to snag an offensive rebound and fed Bondhus (eight points) for an easy finish. The Panthers led 36-23 after three quarters.

“A lot of people, when they talk about our team, they say that Ali carries us but it’s huge for everyone on this team to step up and make shots,” said Bondhus. “Megan, Erin, Shannon, everyone made shots.”

Neither offense clicked in the fourth but Mansfield was able to get as close as eight points (36-28) off a Mulkern drive. With Brigham in foul trouble, the Panthers were starting to rush against the Mansfield press and it looked like the Hornets might just have a chance to get back into the game.

“This is such a game of momentum,” said Leighton, who called a timeout in the fourth quarter to try and rally his team. “I’d love to tell you I drew something new up, but I just wanted to settle them down because they’re good enough. Once we settled, I think the guards handled the pressure better and we ran good offense.”

Following the timeout, the Panthers responded. Quaile scored, extending the lead to 11, and then Bondhus got free for the first time at the three-point lead to break the game open again. She buried a second three, the team’s sixth of the night, to put the game away.

“Bea stayed patient and stayed loose until the fourth quarter and those were some killer shots when we needed them,” said Leighton. He added, “Nothing changes after this. Win or loss, we still have to play the remaining games. Nothing is done.”

Franklin (15-1, 13-0) can clinch the outright title on Friday night when it hosts Taunton. Mansfield (11-4, 10-3) will try to keep up its push for a top-four seed in the Div. 1 South sectional when it travels to Oliver Ames.

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Brigham Dominates as Franklin Ends Foxboro Streak

Franklin junior center Ali Brigham put up monster numbers (27 points, 15 rebounds, and six blocks) to end Foxboro’s 26-game unbeaten run and keep the Panthers unbeaten in league play this season. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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FOXBORO, Mass. – Coming into Tuesday night’s showdown, Foxboro and Franklin were both unbeaten (8-0) in Hockomock play and were the league’s top two scoring teams, its top two defensive teams, its two division leaders, and boasted the league’s top two scorers.

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It was clearly a battle of the top two teams in the Hock and it was a battle that was dominated by the Hock’s top scorer, Ali Brigham. The 6-foot-3 junior center scored 27 points, pulled down 15 rebounds, and blocked six shots, controlling the paint on both ends of the court to help Franklin remain unbeaten with a 52-40 victory.

“She’s frustrated because she thought that she could’ve played better,” Franklin coach John Leighton joked when asked about Brigham’s performance night-in, night-out. “It’s great coaching a kid that wants to become better. She’s not complacent. She’s not close to the player that she wants to be, yet. She keeps expanding her game.”

Franklin’s win ended Foxboro’s 26-game win streak and 33-game league win streak.

While Brigham rightfully stole the headlines for her all-around game, Franklin also won because of its defensive performance on Foxboro sophomore Katelyn Mollica. The league’s second leading scorer was held to just nine points (four in the fourth quarter) thanks to the very close attention of sophomore Erin Quaile.

With Mollica contained, Foxboro was held more than 20 points below its season average.

“It gets tough for Mollica having all that pressure, especially when you have someone who can stick with you the way Quaile did tonight,” said Foxboro coach Lisa Downs. “She completely blocked her out and denied her the ball, but I don’t know if we have any answer for Ali Brigham but our goal was to keep her below her average and we didn’t do that.”

The Panthers jumped out to an early lead, as Brigham scored eight points in the first, matching Foxboro’s total in the quarter. She twice got baskets on offensive rebounds, drove to the basket and was set up by a Bea Bondhus drive. Bondhus (nine points) also scored twice herself and Megan O’Connell (10 points) added four points.

Chelsea Gibbons hit a three, Mollica hit a pull-up three and Lizzy Davis scored on a jumper, but that was all the Warriors could manage against Franklin’s pressure defense.

Leighton said, “Erin Quaile and Shannon Gray have been doing this all year. We unleash them on the other team’s best guards and they’re very good athletes and tough as nails but it helps having Ali behind them. They ran a lot of screens for Mollica tonight and I thought we hedged well; no one was alone on an island.”

That pattern held in the second, as the Warriors were held to eight points as a team again. A quick 6-0 run extended the Panthers’ advantage to 14 points, but Foxboro hung around thanks to four points from Yara Fawaz (team-high 12 points and six rebounds). But, whenever Foxboro seemed to be climbing back into the game, Franklin responded and Brigham scored off assists by Quaile and Elizabeth Wilson to push the lead back to 12 at halftime.

“Foxboro doesn’t win as many games in a row as they have without that,” said Leighton about Foxboro continually pushing back. “There is zero quit, but I thought we answered defensively every time they made a run. We got patient on offense, worked the ball around and instead of taking that first open look, work it around and either get an inside touch or kick it out to the open kid.”

The third quarter was back-and-forth. Brigham was again the focal point for the Panthers, who found different ways to get her the ball on the block and moved the ball well from side-to-side and kept the Foxboro defense moving. With Brigham and O’Connell (seven rebounds) controlling the glass, Franklin also prevented the Warriors from getting out in transition.

Fawaz scored four more points in the third, combining well with fellow forward Abby Hassman (five assists) to try and step away from the basket and, of course, Brigham. Davis also drilled a three and Anita Busznyak took a lead pass from Mollica for a rare basket on the break.

Despite Foxboro feeling like it was on the brink of a comeback, the Warriors fell a further point behind heading to the fourth quarter. Still, the hosts kept battling back, with six straight points to start the fourth cutting the lead to 43-36 after Mollica’s steal and layup.

O’Connell answered with a basket and then assisted on a Brigham basket. Fawaz got into the lane to score and make it a nine-point game again, but Bondhus came right back down and drilled a three from the left wing to push the lead into double digits and seal the win.

Brigham remarked, “I think we were just so focused and so ready to win that we just handled what we needed to do. If they went on a run, we came back with another one.”

Downs was philosophical about the end of the win streak. She said, “It’s one of those teams that’s going to help us for down the road to prepare for the postseason because they are so talented. We never really could get past that hump, but they didn’t stop fighting and I give them credit for that.”

Franklin (11-1, 9-0) will be back home on Friday night to host Attleboro, while Foxboro (10-1, 8-1) will host North Attleboro, which comes in with five wins in its last six games.

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Panthers Clamp Down on Naps to Stay Unbeaten

Franklin girls basketball
Franklin sophomore Erin Quaile (20) helped lock down the Holy Name guards to earn a non-league win against a potential playoff opponent. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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FRANKLIN, Mass. – Defense has been the story for Franklin through the opening few games of the season with the Panthers holding its first three opponents to only 30 points per game. Much of the attention is on junior center Ali Brigham (two blocks) and her ability (at 6-foot-3) to dominate the paint, but on Monday night against Holy Name (Worcester) it was the perimeter players who stood out.

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Using a combination of players, including sophomore Erin Quaile, senior Shannon Gray, and junior Breanna Atwood, Franklin held Holy Name’s standout guards Jaini Edmonds and Grace O’Gara to just 15 points combined and the Naps to just 13 points as a team in the opening half of a 56-36 victory.

“That’s been a real focus for us to become a better defensive team,” said Franklin coach John Leighton. “Shooting comes and goes but defense translates every night. They brought a good challenge for us…both lefty guards, which makes it trickier too. We talked a lot about limiting their touches and really make them work for it. They didn’t get a lot of clean looks, which was our goal.”

Brigham was the star for the Panthers on offense, scoring a game-high 24 points, pulling down 15 rebounds, and dishing out four assists from the center of the press break and combining with junior Megan O’Connell (nine points) in the high post. She scored 17 of the team’s 26 points in the first half.

O’Gara scored her only basket of the night to tie the game at 5-5 in the first quarter but then Franklin rolled off eight of the next nine points to finish the quarter with a lead it would never relinquish. Bea Bondhus (eight points) knocked down three free throws to get the lead then Brigham knocked down a free throw line jumper and scored on a rebound.

The Naps scored to start the second but again Franklin put enough stops together to break the game open. O’Connell answered with a layup off a Brigham pass and, after four free throws, the duo switched roles for another easy basket. Brigham scored Franklin’s final nine points of the half, twice getting layups from offensive rebounds.

“She’s expanded her sphere of influence because in the middle of the press break we can use her and then on offense from the three-point line to the hoop and she does different things at different times in the games,” said Leighton about Brigham, who recently committed to George Washington.

In particular, Brigham’s success came from combining and switching positions with O’Connell from the free throw line to the post. Leighton said, “Megan has improved as much as anyone and using her with Ali in the post, you can’t double both of them and it’s really opened things up for her.”

Holy Name tried to put together a run in the third quarter with Edmonds finally getting a few shots to fall and Lilly Krysinski knocking down three jumpers to get the Naps as close as nine points (26-19). Quaile and Atwood knocked down back-to-back threes and then Brigham answered a Holy Name bucket by hitting the glass for a three-point play.

Leighton said, “We’ve been getting layups but we were able go further through the offense and get open looks and knocked down some threes.”

Franklin went into the fourth quarter leading by 11 and proceeded to bust the game wide open. Six different Panthers scored in the fourth, including four each for Brigham and O’Connell. Bondhus drilled a three followed by sophomore Elizabeth Wilson, who scored all five of her points in the fourth.

“I think our practices have really picked up,” Leighton said when asked about the team’s strength in depth. “They get after it and it’s made everyone better. Bre (Atwood) is a lockdown defender and she’s going against Bea in practice and that makes her better, Megan going against Ali, and I think it’s raised everybody’s games.”

It was a dominating performance from the Panthers (3-0), who will try to carry that over on Wednesday when they host Canton.

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