NORTH ATTLEBORO, Mass. – Coming off a big loss to division rival Stoughton, North Attleboro boys basketball head coach Sean Mulkerrins was encouraged with how his young squad bounced back on the road at Oliver Ames.
But the Rocketeers, filled with a roster still getting its feet wet at the varsity level, let a double-digit lead and a win slip through their fingers on this past Friday night against the Tigers.
Fast forward to Monday night and the Rocketeers were deadlocked with visiting Framingham, tied at halftime and again after three quarters of action inside Kenneth Pickering Gymnasium.
The growth of the young Rocketeers, even just one game later, was on display as North Attleboro dominated the final eight minutes of the contest to earn a 51-38 win over the Flyers.
“We talked a lot after the last game about playing for 32 minutes,” Mulkerrins said. “I’m proud of the guys for coming out in those final eight minutes and lock it in mentally. We’re a young group, and that’s not an excuse, but experience does count for something.
“I thought our guys made a concerted effort on the defensive end and I thought we rebounded pretty well all night. In that fourth quarter, we got the ball inside to George [Ladd] a lot, and defensively I think we did just enough.”
Junior George Ladd poured in a career-high 26 points to go along with 14 rebounds and four assists while sophomore Casey Poirier chipped in with a career-high 15 points to pace the Rocketeers. Ladd (10) and Poirier (seven) combined to score all of North Attleboro’s fourth quarter points, a frame it won 17-4.
Poirier opened the fourth by taking a pass from senior Ethan Friberg and draining his third triple of the game, having hit two in the opening quarter. A steal from junior Edan Kelley led to another three attempt from Poirier, and even though it was off the mark, Ladd battled for one of his six offensive boards for an easy putback.
Poirier used a nice take to the basket for two and Ladd followed with a two of his own off a nice post move, turning to his left to finish. Framingham sophomore Dante Kikuba snapped the Rocketeers 9-0 run with a nice finish in traffic but Ladd came right back down and scored off a feed from Kelley for a 45-36 lead.
North’s defense got another stop, forcing a turnover and turned it into points on the other end. Poirier got around his man then used a nice behind-the-back dribble and hesitation move before sinking a floater. Kelley came up with another steal on the other end, senior Josh Porter hauled in an offensive rebound and then found Ladd in the post for another bucket and a 49-36 lead with two minutes to play.
“We made an effort to get [Ladd] the ball more [in the fourth],” Mulkerrins said. “Framingham does a good job of crowding the paint and I thought early on, guys were forcing it a little and they were almost surprised there were four guys there to defend. We ran a set that we had run against them last year, we did it a little in the first half and I knew I wanted to go back to it. I was expecting a counter in the third quarter so I waited until the fourth. And we ran a lot of our offense through him.”
The Rocketeers had a lead after eight minutes of play thanks in part to three-point shooting. Despite finishing 4-for-16 from downtown in the game, North Attleboro his three of those in the opening quarter. Poirier sank his first off a feed from Ladd with 4:37 left and then his second off another pass from Ladd with 1:06 to go.
“Casey is a sophomore but he has varsity speed,” Mulkerrins said. “What’s exciting tonight is that we played against a team that is extremely disciplined at being inside the paint and I thought he made a lot of good decisions in the second half. He made plays in tight windows and knocked down some shots.”
Friberg gave the hosts a little bit of a cushion, 13-9, at the end fo the first when he sank a triple with Ladd assisting once again.
Framingham came to life in the second quarter with senior Jack Murphy draining a corner three early, and senior James Allen hitting two from deep after coming off the bench for the Flyers. Senior Sam Whiting completed a traditional three-point play and scored four straight points to push Framingham’s lead to 25-17.
Kelley had a nice up-and-under finish to keep North close. Ladd then sparked an 8-0 run to close the quarter with a layup plus the harm, Poirier sank to free throws, and Friberg converted late to make it 25-25 at the break.
In the second half, the Rocketeers’ extended their defense to a three quarter press. While it only resulted in a pair of turnovers, North was able to slow Framingham down and limited the visitors to nine points in the third and four in the fourth.
“I thought our press did a pretty good job of just taking them out of their rhythm, giving them less time,” Mulkerrins said. “[Dante Kikuba] is a sophomore, I really like his game but I thought we were able to slow him down with that press. But it was really about triggering us defensively, trying to get us more involved.”
North Attleboro boys basketball (1-2 Hockomock, 2-2 overall) is back in action on Monday when it travels to Lincoln-Sudbury for a 6:30 tip.
The Black Knights flipped the game with a late first half stop and a key sequence of plays at the end of the third quarter to score a 35-16 win over the Flyers at Braintree High, the one-night home field for Stoughton.
Stoughton had 10 players combine for 372 yards on the ground with five or more accumulating 20 yards or more.
“[Framingham] is a great team, they are a pretty good club, they will do better,” said longtime Stoughton head coach Greg Burke. “We struggled to slow down their running back but we hung in there and luckily we were able to move the ball ourselves. Had a couple of penalties that hurt us, but it’s the first game and there’s going to be a lot of mistakes across the entire state.
“I’m glad we won, and I think every week we’ll get a little better. Knock on wood, I don’t think anyone got hurt. The kids are in great shape, and I’m just real happy with this first win.”
Stoughton built a 14-0 lead in the first quarter but Framingham cut that lead in half midway through the second quarter and was threatening to take the lead just before halftime. After getting the ball in Stoughton territory on a fourth down stop, the Flyers moved all the way into the red zone with just a couple of minutes left in the half.
The Black Knights’ defense got its third big red zone stop of the half when Flyers’ quarterback Jack Beverly (11/24, 96 yards) hit Sam Stubbs on the right side but Stoughton’s Kamari Grant made the stick and the tackle short of the first down marker at the six yard line to prevent a score.
Stoughton made sure to capitalize on the stop, manufacturing its most methodical drive of the game (9 plays, 82 yards) capped with a fourth down conversion for a touchdown. Junior quarterback John Burke rolled out to his right and found Christopher Ais for an 8 yard touchdown. Anthony Girlamo’s extra point gave the Knights a 21-8 lead.
The defense got a stop right at midfield, turning Framingham over on downs. After a healthy dose of Christian Ais (9 carries, 80 yards) and Christopher Ais (20 carries, 108 yards), the Knights moved into the red zone. On a broken play, senior quarterback Clayton Rahaman scrambled up the left side for a 19-yard touchdown, putting Stoughton up 28-8.
With just seconds left in the third quarter, Stoughton put the proverbial nail in the coffin. After the special teams unit made a nice play to pin the Flyers deep, Burke — who also plays at safety — came through and knocked the ball free on Framingham’s first play. Savion Scott (five carries, 46 yards) wrestled for the loose ball to give the Knights possession back.
Three plays into the fourth quarter, Burke followed the push of his offensive line into the end zone for a 2-yard keeper and a 35-8 lead.
Framingham added a second touchdown against Stoughton’s second defensive unit late in the game.
While it was smooth sailing in the second half, the beginning of the game was a bit of a rocky start for Stoughton. Framingham’s offense was moving before Stoughton brought some pressure and Grant came away with an interception on a jump ball at the six yard line.
Stoughton’s offense stalled and a bad snap on the punt gave Framingham the ball at the Black Knights’ 12-yard line. The bend-don’t-break Stoughton defense came through, limiting the Flyers to two yards through three downs and then blocked a 27-yard field goal to keep Framingham off the board.
The offense looked much better on its second series as Christopher Ais made a great cut on the right side and darted for a 92-yard touchdown but the Knights were whistled for holding. Despite the penalty, Stoughton struck with another home run type play as Christian Georges (four carries, 99 yards) broke free for an 84-yard touchdown two plays later, putting Stoughton up 6-0.
The Black Knights’ defense forced a quick three and out, taking over at their own 40-yard line after a punt. Christopher Ais broke off a 43-yard rush for a touchdown but the refs flagged Stoughton for an illegal block downfield. But once again, two plays later the Knights were in the end zone as Georges took his second carry for 11 yards and a score. Christopher Ais punched in the two-point conversion.
Both Rahaman and Burke saw time at quarterback for the Knights, and head coach Greg Burke says that will be what you see all season from Stoughton. Rahaman rushed for a touchdown and had two completions (one to Burke) while Burke tossed one touchdown and rushed for another.
“That’s how it’s going to be all year, we’re going to play both of them,” Greg Burke said. “They push each other, they are working hard. They both have their strengths. Johnny plays on defense too and Clayton did a nice job tonight. The same with the running backs, they all have to play defense too.”
Stoughton football (1-0) is back in action next week when it hits the road to play at Medford.
Fresh off a near upset of one of the state’s best in Mansfield, the Tigers had plenty of energy in a 70-59 win over Framingham in the first round of the Walpole Hoop Classic.
Oliver Ames built a 10-point advantage at halftime, extended it to over 20 points at the end of the third quarter and then held on in the fourth as the Flyers made a ferocious comeback attempt.
“The kids have been great,” said OA head coach Don Byron. “This truly is a group that wants to continue to play and I don’t think they want to go home. Things being what they are, we’ve had a couple of losses that could have gone either way…we’re compartmentalizing this into our championship. The kids are all in.”
Four Tigers scored in the first quarter to build a 15-9 lead after eight minutes. Oliver Ames was able to create its separation over the middle two quarters.
In the second, senior Jack Spillane (11 rebounds, three steals) scored 12 of his game-high 31 points. Spillane hit five of his seven shots from the field, including a pair of triples.
Holding a one-point lead at 25-24 after Framingham’s Victor Carrillo hit a three-pointer, Oliver Ames finished the final three minutes with a 13-4 run.
Spillane started it with his second three of the frame, junior Sean O’Brien (seven points, three rebounds, three assists) danced through the defense for two and Brandon Peterson converted down low on a feed from O’Brien.
O’Brien then scored after a steal from senior Matt Muir (seven assists) and then the junior found Spillane in transition for two. A pair of free throws from Peterson gave the Tigers a 38-28 lead at the break.
Oliver Ames carried the momentum into the second half, rattling off an 11-3 run over the first four minutes to extend the lead. Spillane had the first five points, a layup and then a conventional three-point play off an offensive rebound.
Spillane finished 13-for-23 from the field but more impressively shot 67% from two-point range.
“That tends to be better for us [when we’re not relying on the three],” Byron said. “Three or four is one thing, if you’re trying to seek out of seven or more, it’s a bit much. But Jack today, that’s a good way to play for him.”
Noah Fitzgerald (nine points, three steals) came up with a steal and layup, Spillane hit two more, and then Fitzgerald found junior Ethan Eckstrom (eight points, five rebounds) off an inbounds play to complete the run.
Framingham scored but Oliver Ames closed the quarter with six straight points: two free throws from Fitzgerald and Jake Erlich and then an easy layup from Spillane.
Despite leading 55-33 through three quarters, Framingham made the game a little more interesting with some hot shooting. After going 5-for-18 from three-point over the first 24 points, the Flyers went 6-for-9 from deep in the final eight minutes.
“They do it, they’ve been going that all year,” Byron said of the Flyers. “They tend to play good teams tough…Newton North, Braintree, Brookline.
“What you have to fight out is you get the lead too early. You have to continue to play through it. It was technical mistakes out of our own stuff that got us in a little bit of trouble.”
Five of the Flyers’ first six makes were from deep, including a four-point play, bringing Framingham within 11 at the midway point.
OA kept its lead in the double digits behind two free throws from Chris Pearsons and a bucket from Eckstrom at the top of the paint on a feed from Muir.
The Flyers got it back down to 11 once more (68-57) but with just over a minute remaining, Oliver Ames was able to put the game away.
The Tigers will now take on Walpole, who punched its ticket to the state tournament via the Sullivan Rule with a win over Reading, in the Rebel Hoop Classic championship game.
“This is a chance to play for a championship. You don’t get many chances to do that, and that’s how we’re looking at it and more importantly, that’s how the kids are looking at it.”
Oliver Ames boys basketball (7-13) and Rebels will tip off from Walpole High on Monday night at 6:00 PM.
BUZZARDS BAY, Mass. – There will be a new Division 1 state champion this winter, as Franklin hockey saw its title defense come to a close on Sunday afternoon at Gallo Ice Arena with a 3-0 quarterfinal loss to Framingham.
All season long, the Panthers (14-9-1) have played with a target on their backs following last year’s historic run to the state title. Franklin battled through that adversity to win 14 games and claim another Kelley-Rex division crown, Saturday’s defeat means there will be no repeat for the program, which has made quite a bit of noise in its short time in Div. 1.
“At the beginning of the season, we talked about we need to come with our best every night or we’re not going to win hockey games because we’re going to get everyone’s best,” said Franklin coach Chris Spillane, who finishes the season 10 wins shy of 300 for his career.
He continued, “We’ve had a bullseye on our back for sure. We’ve handled it really well at times and at other times we didn’t handle it so well.”
The Panthers handled it pretty well against the Flyers, outshooting Framingham 26-23 for the game and dominating play in the second period. Franklin just could not find the final touch to get a puck past Framingham goalie Alex Moore.
“I thought we played pretty well tonight,” said Spillane. “The hockey gods were not on our side tonight. We had a lot of looks, we had a couple of open nets that we didn’t bury. At the end of the day you need to score those goals.”
Adam Assad had the first opportunity for Franklin five minutes into the first period. He got his stick onto a pass by Luke Downie, but Moore blocked it with his pads. Matt Holmes had a chance three minutes later when he got to a rebound from a deflected shot but it was saved. Joe McInnis had the Flyers best chance on the break but Franklin goalie Cam Benham stood tall to block.
Franklin stormed out of the intermission and outshot the Flyers 13-6 in the second period but found itself down by a pair of goals.
Freshman Connor Opelt had a blast from the point saved by Moore early in the period and Jack McGrath had a couple chances to put the puck on net. On the Panthers first power play, Downie sent a rebound shot just wide of an open net. Then Holmes and Assad had a two-on-one rush that ended with Holmes’ shot from the left circle being saved by Moore.
After all that pressure, Framingham caught the Panthers pushing up ice and stunned them with the opening goal. Ben Stefanini broke down the right wing, crossed the blue line, and then cut across the zone before firing a low shot past Benham into the bottom corner.
“Our defense sort of gave up the blue line,” said Spillane. “He took it, came across and he had a nice low shot in the corner and caught Cam a little deep in his net. I would’ve like our guys to step up more and maybe not give him that time but we were pressing and we were all over them and then that happened.”
Franklin continued to pressure and had another great chance when Assad received a pass from James Kilroe but again could not beat Moore. With 3:29 left in the second, Framingham got a power play and needed only 10 seconds to make it count. Stefanini found space in the slot and cut a pass against the grain to Mike Tersoni, who roofed his shot for a 2-0 lead.
The Panthers had a minute of power play to start the third period and Spillane said that he talked in the locker room about not panicking and using their experience to battle back.
“We talked about having a solid power play, whether we scored or not,” he said. “We talked about scoring one in the first five minutes. We had some good opportunities in the first five minutes but we didn’t get it and I think giving up that third goal was the backbreaker.”
Brendan O’Rielly had a snap shot that caromed off Moore’s shoulder, but Franklin could not create clear scoring chances. Benham kept the Panthers in it with a blocker save on a blast arrowing to the corner and then robbed Tersoni on a breakaway.
With 2:08 left, the Flyers put it away. McInnis scored off an assist by Tersoni to make it 3-0 and seal the win.
Spillane reflected on the season and the difficulty of being the defending champs.
He said, “We started the season with our best start in a long time…we just hit some roadblocks in the Hockomock League. Obviously, we’d like to be playing still but bottom line it’s so hard to repeat at any level in any sport. I think our program is heading in the right direction.”