Foxboro Falls Short In D2 State Semifinal

Foxboro girls basketball
Foxboro’s Ashley Sampson drives to the basket in the second half against Arlington Catholic. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
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BOSTON, Mass. – Things were looking good for Foxboro after pitching a shutout in the third quarter, seizing control of its D2 State Semifinal against Arlington Catholic.

Unfortunately, the offense couldn’t quite keep up with the outstanding defense.

The Warriors kept Arlington Catholic without a point for a near 12 minute stretch — the final 3:50 of there first half, the entire eight minutes of the third quarter and the first couple of seconds of the fourth quarter.

However, Foxboro went just 1/10 from the field in the final frame. Meanwhile, the Cougars’ offense finally came to life, scoring 18 points — eight from the charity stripe — and picked up a 37-30 win over the Warriors to advance to the D2 State Final on Saturday.

“Unfortunately, the shots just weren’t falling in the fourth quarter,” said Foxboro head coach Lisa Downs. “To hold a team like that scoreless in third quarter, it was looking pretty optimistic for us. But the shots just weren’t falling tonight.”

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Arlington Catholic surged to a 19-10 lead halfway through the second quarter but Foxboro’s defense — and offense — turned it up. The Warriors didn’t allow any points the rest of the half while rattling off a 7-0 run. To start that run, junior Ashley Sampson (13 points, 11 rebounds) drained a three to eclipse the 1,000 point mark for her career.

“Obviously it’s great for her to get her 1,000th point and we’re extremely proud of her,” Downs said. “But she could have cared less about that tonight. She just wanted to win. That attitude bodes well for everyone on the team. The team chemistry, that’s what I’m going to miss more than anything to tell you the truth.”

“I honestly really didn’t care about scoring the 1,000th point, we just wanted to get the win,” Sampson said. “It didn’t happen but we’re going to work just as hard as we did this year to try and get back here next year and hopefully get the ‘W.’”

Riley Collins (five points) added a basket and Grace Tamulionis (five points, six rebounds) converted a put back just before the buzzer to get the Warriors within two, 19-17, at the break.

“We definitely had our looks,” Downs said. “Especially in the first half, we had some bunnies and some short jumpers. Usually our shooting percentage is far better than it was tonight, which will happen, but usually our defense will make up for that and give us additional opportunities. And we had those tonight, but they were very aggressive on defense. Ashley was getting double teamed, sometimes triple teamed and we just weren’t reversing the ball quite enough.”

Foxboro kept the momentum up in the third quarter. Lily Sykes gave the Warriors the lead with a three 90 seconds into the third quarter. Sykes added a free throw, Sampson hit three free throws and Collins drained a three in the final minute to give the Warriors a 26-19 lead through three.

“Those kids from Foxboro, their heart was ridiculous,” said Arlington Catholic coach David Brady. “I thought they scratched and clawed within the rules of basketball to rebound the ball. You get to this point, nobody wants to lose, nobody wants to quit. Foxboro was an incredible team tonight.”

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Arlington’s offense came to life in the fourth quarter, mainly by attacking the basket and getting to the line. Erin Donlan (13 points) broke the scoreless streak with a free throw eight seconds into the final frame. Donlan then added two more free throws and then hit a layup to cut the deficit to 26-24. Monica Rayo (eight points, five points) then tied the game with just under six minutes to play and hit another basket a minute later to give the Cougars a 28-26 lead, capping a 9-0 run.

Foxboro’s offense finally broke into the scoring column in the fourth quarter, taking the lead back on a three from Tamulionis at 29-28. Lauren Flahive stretched the lead to two with a free throw with 2:31 to play, but that would be the last of Foxboro’s scoring.

AC’s Lena Perez 11 points, 15 rebounds) tied the game off an inbounds play with just under two minutes to go. Foxboro came up empty on its offensive possession, and the Cougars’ Alexandra Bell (eight rebounds) his a turn-around jumper with 1:20 to play to give AC the lead back.

Foxboro missed a shot and then had a turnover on the next possession, forcing the Warriors into foul mode. AC made five free throws in the final 44 seconds to seal the deal.

“I think defensively we were scrappy as we always are. We created opportunities for ourselves but on the offensive end, when we didn’t set the offense exactly as we normally do, we weren’t getting the looks we normally do. The ones we were getting weren’t the ones we wanted, it just wasn’t our night unfortunately.”

Brady admitted the Cougars’ main defensive game plan focused on Sampson.

“They hit some big shots but we had to live with it a little bit,” Downs said. “To try and take Sampson away, are you kidding me? That girls fantastic. It takes a village to stop her, she’s something else.”

Foxboro girls basketball finishes the season at 22-3 and as Davenport division champions.

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Fourth Quarter Rally Lifts Warriors to South Title

Foxboro girls basketball
Foxboro relied on the experience of having played in the South final two years ago to stay calm and rally in the fourth quarter to win its first sectional title since 2003. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com

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BROCKTON, Mass. – Two years ago in the Div. 2 South final, freshmen Ashley Sampson and Grace Tamulionis combined for 20 points in a loss to eventual state champion Duxbury. On Saturday afternoon, Sampson, Tamulionis, and the Warriors returned to Brockton High and used that experience to good effect to rally Foxboro in the fourth quarter.

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Sampson scored eight of her game-high 19 points in the final quarter (and added 10 rebounds as well) and Tamulionis scored six of her 11 points in the fourth to bring Foxboro back from a point down to beat Westwood 47-38 and claim the program’s first sectional title since 2003 and book a trip to the TD Garden.

“I think having been in here before, even though it was two years ago, was a huge advantage,” said Foxboro coach Lisa Downs. “I’m sure that a lot of their team hadn’t been in this venue with this many people. Even though they’re juniors, they play like seniors and they weren’t cautious at the end.”

Tamulionis added, “Knowing the environment really helped with all the fans and I know freshmen year everyone was nervous but this year almost all of us had been here before so it really helped.”

The Wolverines did not look overwhelmed by the environment early and came out strong in the first quarter with senior forward Carly Sugrue knocking down a pair of threes and scoring eight of her 13 points. Haley Connaughton also hit one from deep and Allison Morin had three assists, as the Westwood offense was clicking at the start.

Sampson was keeping the Warriors afloat on the offensive end with eight points in the first, all coming off drives to the basket. Foxboro’s aggressiveness driving to the basket led to seven Westwood fouls in the opening quarter. Junior Shannon Smally (six rebounds) also provided a spark with three points and a couple boards in the first.

“She did a lot of the things today that we’ve been asking her to do all along,” said Downs of Smally. “Luckily, it’s gotten to the point that she’s doing things in March we asked her to do in December, but she timed it perfectly.”

Foxboro trailed 17-14 after one and would continue to struggle shooting from the outside for the better part of the next two quarters. The Warriors stayed in the game in large part due to a defensive effort that held the Wolverines to only 21 points over the final 24 minutes.

“We just had to focus on our defense,” said Sampson. “Our shots weren’t falling, but our defense is what got us back into it.”

With Westwood leading 24-19, Foxboro inbounded the ball to Lily Sykes for a half-court heave as the half expired. The horn sounded and the shot fell short, but an official’s whistle blew just before the clock read all zeroes and Sykes made 2-of-3 free throws to cut the lead to just three.

In the second half, Downs made a change and put Sampson on Sugrue, a switch that limited the Westwood forward to just two points after the break.

Downs explained, “Ashley’s got these long arms because Carly does a good job with these step back jumps and Ashley can just get a little more in her face.”

Foxboro finally found the range from three. Sykes (seven points) buried her only shot of the game to cut the lead to 26-24. After a Westwood basket, Sykes drove baseline and kicked it all the way out to the three-point line for Riley Collins to knock one down and tie the game. The Wolverines responded with four straight but then again Collins got a clean look and hit from three sending Foxboro into the fourth down just 32-31.

Tamulionis said, “No one got frustrated and I think that really helped. When coach called timeout, she just kind of settled us down a little and we knew that we had to step it up.”

Catherine Bonfiglio (team-high 14 points) started the fourth with a drive to the basket to extend the lead to three, but her six points accounted for all of Westwood’s points in the fourth. After a ragged start in which both teams missed a lot of open looks, Foxboro clamped down and contested every Westwood chance.

On the other end, Sampson, the Hockomock League MVP, started to assert herself. She drove baseline and finished with a reverse layup plus the foul and then knocked down a jumper off a Sykes assist to give Foxboro its first lead (36-34) since the first quarter.

When asked if she knew that it was time to be aggressive at that point, Sampson replied, “I don’t know. When I got the third foul, I kind of got into my own head. I just had to calm down and play.”

Tamulionis stepped up next, knocking down a long jumper off a Smally kick out to extend the lead to four and then stepped a couple feet further back to drain an open three that made it 41-36 with 1:05 remaining.

Foxboro went 6-of-8 at the line in the closing minute to complete its run as the top seed in the South by lifting the sectional championship trophy.

“I knew we had it in us,” Downs said, “and I never panicked too much because I could see it in their eyes that they had this game within their grasp and it was theirs to win or lose. Defense was going to win it for us.

“It’s so exciting. The girls knew that they could win today and never looked back.”

Tamulionis said, “It’s awesome. The whole year, the whole team has worked so hard and we deserve it. Everyone has done a great job all year.”

Foxboro (22-2) advances to the Eastern Mass. final at the TD Garden on Monday at 5:45 to play the winner of Arlington Catholic and Hamilton-Wenham.

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Warriors Win Rubber Match With North, Head to Final

Foxboro girls basketball
Foxboro junior Ashley Sampson (5) drives to the basket against North Attleboro in the Div. 2 South semifinal at Massasoit Community College. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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BROCKTON, Mass. – North Attleboro won the first meeting with Foxboro this season, thanks in part to a huge fourth quarter by senior Ashley Ahern. With Ahern out injured for the second meeting, Foxboro ran over the Rocketeers and clinched the Davenport title with a 26-point victory.

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On Monday night at Massasoit Community College, the teams met for the third time to not only decide the season series but also to see which team would represent the Hockomock in Saturday’s Div. 2 South final.

With Ahern in uniform for the introductions, but not able to play, North came in with the plan of slowing the game down, turning it into a half-court battle, playing physical defense, and trying to take advantage of its edge in size in the post. The game plan worked perfectly, but Foxboro showed that it had some grit to go along with its ability to put points on the board.

Behind a game-high 20 points from league MVP Ashley Sampson and 17 from fellow junior Lily Sykes, Foxboro defended, crashed the boards, and found just enough offense to pull out a 49-39 victory that earns the Warriors a second trip to the South final in three seasons.

“We did exactly what we needed to do to beat that team,” admitted North Attleboro coach Derek Herber from the first row of the bleachers following the game. “You can’t let them run, you can’t let them shoot all those shots…Through three quarters we did what we needed to do; we just needed a little more offense to get to that spot.”

Foxboro coach Lisa Downs recognized the difficulty of playing an opponent for the third time and credited her team for finding a way to win.

“At this point, jitters are normal and we’re in a different gym, some of these girls have been here and some have not, so we’ll take a ‘W’ any day,” she said. “It wasn’t the prettiest of wins but they played with heart.”

The first quarter was not pretty, but the Warriors had a lead and it felt like they were ready to pull away as they did on their home court three weeks ago. Sampson and Sykes split the scoring in the first, each with six points, but Foxboro lacked the typical frenetic pace that it usually plays at.

North was slowing things down and shots were not falling, which made it difficult to get into the full-court press the Warriors prefer. Sykes opened the second with a drive that extended the lead to eight, but it was the only made field goal by the Warriors in the quarter.

The Rocketeers climbed back into the game with Julia Feid (six points) scoring on a drive and Samantha Taggart drilling a three (her only basket of the game) to cut the lead to four. Emily Haskell gave North a big lift right before the break with a steal and a layup and then a runner on the baseline. The junior’s only four points of the game made it 20-17 at the break.

“I think we were beating ourselves to be honest with you,” said Downs. “We were overthinking our shots because we had some wide open looks and we were just thinking too much instead of releasing the ball. We were only up because of our defense.”

When asked about the sloppiness of the first half, Herber insisted, “Part of the sloppiness is that everything we do, they know, and everything they do, I know, so the sloppiness is playing a third game against a team you’ve seen in a high stakes game.”

In the third quarter, senior forward Caroline Collard started to get going for North, scoring six of her team-high 10 points. Liz Morehouse added three of her five points, including a turn around jumper from the left block. After Feid pulled up for a jumper and Collard scored off an Emily Schromm inbound pass, North was within one at 29-28.

Foxboro was still struggling to find the range and in desperate need of a spark. Sykes stepped up and drilled a three off a Sampson assist to extend the lead to four and then Sampson was able to beat Feid in the post for a layup to give Foxboro a six-point edge heading to the fourth.

“When the shots weren’t falling, we were getting into our own heads, so we just had to settle down,” said Sampson of the Warriors struggles on the offensive end of the floor. “In the third quarter, Lily hit some huge shots and I think once she did that it made everyone more confident.”

Things started to get going for Foxboro in the fourth quarter. Grace Tamulionis opened the quarter with a jumper that Feid answered with a drive, but then Sampson drove and kicked it out to Riley Collins for a straightaway three (her only point of the night) and Foxboro finally had some separation.

“At this point in the season, 22 games in, we’re still telling them to shoot with confidence,” said Downs. “Grace finally warmed up a little bit in the second half, which was huge, and Ashley, so we stepped up when we had to step up and played with grit.”

Tamulionis had six of her seven points in the fourth and Sampson added six as well. North did not give up with Schromm knocking down a jumper and driving the length of the floor for a layup plus the foul. She missed the free throw but grabbed her own rebound with North down 44-38.

The Rocketeers had only more chance to get closer but a long three by Feid was halfway down and popped out and Tamulionis clinched it with an offensive rebound and score on a missed free throw on the other end.

“I’m so proud of the way the girls played,” said Herber. “We held them down as best we could to get to that point. We tried to muck it up as best we could and slow it down and take advantage of our post players.”

When asked about his senior class and what they have brought to the program, Herber could not hide his emotions. He said, “Every year we try to focus on our seniors, but these kids have been with our program as long as I’ve been here, for three years, and they’re just great kids. I just wish better for them today.”

For Sampson and the Warriors the win means a return to Brockton High where the Warriors played eventual state champion Duxbury in 2015. Sampson said, “It’s really exciting. We have an opportunity to win the South final, so it’s just really cool.

“It’s definitely tough. They beat us the first time and we beat them last time by 20-something, so they were out for blood. They wanted it and so did we. It was tough but we had to be mentally prepared for it.”

Foxboro (21-2) will face No. 7 Westwood in the Div. 2 South final on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Brockton High.

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Foxboro Starts Strong, Knocks Out Hingham

Foxboro girls basketball
Foxboro junior Ashley Sampson (5) scored 19 of her game-high 24 points in the final 11 minutes of the game to seal a 62-39 victory over Hingham. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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FOXBORO, Mass. – Coming off a difficult opening round game against No. 16 seed Scituate, top seeded Foxboro wanted to send a message right from the start in Saturday afternoon’s Div. 2 South quarterfinal against 2016 sectional runner-up Hingham.

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The Warriors came out firing on all cylinders, started 7-for-9 from the field, with six assists on those seven baskets, and scored 21 points in the opening quarter against the Harborwomen, nearly half of what they scored in the entire first round game.

Thanks to the strong start, Foxboro never trailed at any point against Hingham. In fact, the Harborwomen never got closer than nine points (midway through the second quarter) and Foxboro eased into the semifinal with a 62-39 victory.

“That first game jitters,” said Foxboro coach Lisa Downs about the Warriors’ struggles in the tournament opener. “Even though they seem like a confident team, in that we’ve been here, until you step on the court in the state tournament…they freeze up a little bit, the shots get a little bit tighter, but they came right into the game tonight ready to take care of business.”

Senior guard Kristen Bortolotti was injured prior to the beginning of the playoffs and in her absence, junior forward Shannon Smally was given a spot in the starting lineup. She made it count scoring six of her 10 points in the first and providing a spark in the post on both ends of the floor.

“That was huge,” said Downs of Smally’s contribution, “and it’s been right below the surface for the entire season and I’ve been begging her to unleash it and she did tonight. She was just confident out there; she was strong with the ball; she was doing the things that she shows in practice all along. She was huge for us tonight.”

Lily Sykes drilled a pair of threes in the first and Grace Tamulionis knocked down a baseline jumper and a three to help Foxboro extend the lead out to 10 points, 21-11, by the end of the quarter. Defensively, the Warriors also made a switch from their typical man-to-man to a 2-3 zone to try and limit Hingham’s ability to get into the paint.

“I’m mixing it up,” said Downs. “Their game is primarily driving, so we were just trying to take away the middle and force them to shoot from the perimeter. They were starting to hit some and we weren’t boxing out well enough, so I was more comfortable settling back into what we know best, which is man.”

The second quarter was very different for Foxboro, which only scored six points and made two shots from the floor, but the defense, whether in man or zone, clamped down and held Hingham to only one basket and three points. Senior Lauren Flahive was an important cog in that defense with four first half steals, as well as six rebounds and two assists.

“She does so much out there that even someone four inches taller than her couldn’t be doing,” said Downs of Flahive. “She does all those intangible things that, unless you break her game down, you’re not going to recognize she does. She’s so effective at her craft.”

The Warriors led by 13 at the break and never allowed Hingham to get any closer, although there was still some trepidation that the Harborwomen could go on a run.

Ashley Sampson, who was named Hockomock MVP by the league coaches, had picked up a third foul (in what appeared to be a case of mistaken identity) and sat for a few minutes but Downs decided to bring her back with about three minutes left in the third and a 13-point lead.

“She’s smart enough that she’s not going to pick up that next foul,” Downs explained, “and I changed her defensive assignment too to someone who wasn’t as involved in the offense, but I needed her on the court.”

The move paid off. Sampson, who had only scored six points up to that point, buried a step-back three and then drove to the basket to close out the third quarter with Foxboro ahead by 17, 38-21.

In the fourth, Sampson took over. She scored 13 of her game-high 24 points, shooting 9-of-10 from the free throw line, as Hingham tried to extend the game with fouls. Tamulionis also came through in the fourth with five of her 12 points and Riley Collins nailed a corner three to add some separation in the final minute.

Although Hingham was never really that close in the second half, Downs admitted that it was only in the final couple of minutes that she started to feel like the game was in control.

She said, “I think it was only with four or five minutes left in the fourth that I said, okay I can breathe now. They’re a very good team and they came back against Oliver Ames. I never felt real comfortable until about four minutes left.”

As the Warriors move forward in the tournament, they will miss not having Bortolotti in the lineup but Downs is confident that the other players can pick up the slack on both ends of the floor.

“Of course it’s devastating not to have Kristen out there,” she said, “but if we all do just one or two more things that we don’t normally do…everybody pick up the slack a little bit, then everything will take care of itself.”

Foxboro (20-2) will face No. 4 North Attleboro in the Div. 2 South semifinal at Massasoit Community College on Monday night at 5:30. The teams split two meetings in the regular season.

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Hockomock Girls Basketball State Tournament Preview

State Tournament Preview
Attleboro’s Sarah Deyo (32) and Mansfield’s Meg Hill (31) could meet for a third time in the second round of the state tournament. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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Six girls’ basketball teams will begin their quests for a state championship when the state tournament begins this week. League champions Mansfield (Div. 1 South) and Foxboro (Div. 2 South) both earned the top seed in their respective brackets, but neither will have an easy road with league rivals like Attleboro, Oliver Ames, and North Attleboro posing major threats to bringing home a trophy. Milford will also represent the league as the lone Hock team in Div. 2 Central.

As usual, Div. 1 South is a loaded bracket with some of the top programs in the state, including defending state champion Bishop Feehan and perennial powers Braintree and Newton North. Mansfield (18-2) earned the top seed in a coin flip with the Shamrocks, who beat the Hornets in an exclusion game during the regular season. More important than the seed, Mansfield will now avoid the Shamrocks, the Wamps, and the Tigers until the South final.

Led by senior guard Jen Peel and junior center Meg Hill, the Hornets like to slow the pace down and focus on strong defense, which held teams to a league-best 38.0 points per game. Mansfield is young this season, but deep and versatile and head coach Mike Redding’s squad should match up well against the teams on its side of the bracket, including potential semifinal opponents Wellesley or Marshfield (which Mansfield beat 52-47 in December).

In order for the Hornets to get to the semifinals, they may have to go through Kelley-Rex rival Attleboro (15-7), which claimed the No. 8 seed and will host Brockton (Attleboro beat the Boxers 63-55 in December). The Bombardiers have scuffled down the stretch, losing seven of its final 14 games of the regular season, but closed it out by putting 94 points up on Durfee in the season finale.

With seniors Sarah Deyo and Julia Strachan, Attleboro has a potent inside-out combo and has been one of the top offensive teams in the league this year, averaging a league-best 61.4 points per game. The issue for the Bombardiers will be trying to slow down Jen Peel and Mansfield in the quarterfinal, if they can get past a dangerous Brockton team in Tuesday’s playoff opener. Attleboro struggled in two losses to Mansfield in the regular season, but will be hoping third time is the charm to set up a potential rematch with Wellesley, which knocked the Bombardiers out of last year’s tournament.

Foxboro (18-2) has been on fire to close out the season, winning 12 in a row entering the playoffs, including a 20-point win over North Attleboro to claim the league title and an impressive overtime win over Lincoln-Sudbury in the end-of-season tournament. The Warriors will be led by league MVP Ashley Sampson, who scored 31 in that win over L-S and nailed a three-pointer that forced OT, but a strong supporting cast includes Lily Sykes and Grace Tamulionis. The scary part is that all three are juniors and will be back next winter as well.

The Warriors will not have an easy path in Div. 2 South, which is another loaded bracket, and will have to face one of the two finalists from 2016, either Hingham or Oliver Ames, in the quarterfinal and could potentially face the Rocketeers for a third time in the semifinal. Westwood, Nauset, and Falmouth, which knocked Foxboro out of the tournament last year, could wait in the sectional final.

Oliver Ames (13-7), the defending Div. 2 South champ, has had an up and down first season in the Kelley-Rex but managed to claim second in the division and is a sleeper to retain its South title. The Tigers will have a very difficult road to try and repeat with a trip to last year’s South finalist Hingham waiting in the first round and a potential meeting with Foxboro looming in the quarterfinal (the Warriors won the league meeting between the teams 51-35).

Kayla Raymond will be the focus of all of OA’s opponents, but trying to slow down the junior forward is easier said than done. If the Tigers can get support for Raymond from senior Niyera Mitchell and find consistent outside shooting, then OA will be a tough matchup. Losing sophomore guard Sadie Homer during the season and senior Francesca Calabraro prior to it has made things tougher but no one will take head coach Laney Clement-Holbrook’s team lightly.

North Attleboro (16-6) is another sleeper in Div. 2 South. Last year, the Rocketeers were knocked out in the first round by OA on a last second Raymond basket and could have made a similar run to the Tigers if they had made it through. This year, North comes in with six losses, but only one to a team in Div. 2 and that was the league final against Foxboro. Despite missing senior guard Ashley Ahern to injury, North earned an impressive come from behind win against Attleboro in the final week and has the potential to make a deep run this year.

The Rocketeers are loaded with experienced seniors, including forward Caroline Collard and guards Samantha Taggart and Emily Schromm, who have shown the ability to win close games against good teams this season. North beat Foxboro in the first meeting, beat Oliver Ames by one, and has also beaten potential tourney opponents Hingham and Westwood this year. North faces Madison Park to start and likely will face Duxbury in the quarterfinal to try and get a rubber match with Foxboro in the semifinal.

Milford (10-10) qualified for the tournament for the first time since 2012 and has shown immense progress in head coach T.J. Dolliver’s second season in charge. But, the Hawks have also struggled down the stretch, albeit against a tough stretch of league opponents including North Attleboro and Foxboro twice, OA, and Attleboro. The Hawks will be in Div. 2 Central and will likely face Marlboro in the playoff opener, which is a team similar to the Hawks that shoots a lot of threes and does not have a true post presence.

The Hawks will be counting on a big game from junior guard Kate Irwin, who has been among the league’s top scorers this season, but Milford has a lot of versatile players that can cause teams problems on the perimeter and in the paint, including senior Nicole Dahlgren. If the Hawks do get through the first round, then they will travel to No. 3 seed Groton-Dunstable and could face a couple of Eastern Mass. transplants in Hopkinton and Medfield.