By Joe Clark, HockomockSports.com Student Reporter
FRANKLIN, Mass. The Franklin High boys baseball team used a late two-out rally to force extra innings and eventually walked off with a 4-3 win over previously unbeaten Walpole.
Trailing 3-0 heading into the final at-bats, the Panthers were down to their last out. Senior Jake Lyons came through with a single into left, and Ryan Hodgkins followed that up with a single of his own. Tyler Gomes drew a walk, and with the bases loaded and two outs, Josh Macchi singled up the middle to score both Lyons and Hodgkins. With runners at the corners, Bryan Woelfel singled home Gomes to tie the game up at 3-3. After a passed ball, Franklin had runners at second and third, but Walpole managed to get a strikeout to send the game to extra innings.
“Our guys really fought to the end,” said Franklin head coach Zach Brown. “We’ve been kind of scuffling a bit offensively, and it just felt like there was going to be a time where we broke through, and thankfully today it was in the seventh.”
Woelfel came in to pitch in relief in the eighth and induced a 1-6-3 double play after inheriting a runner at first. Woelfel then struck out Sean McCarthy, but a dropped third strike allowed him to reach base safely. Given new life, Brett Lavanchy singled which advanced McCarthy to third, but Tyler Page grounded to Macchi who took it to first himself for the out. In the bottom of the eighth, Franklin had a runner reach second but was picked off.
Woelfel struck out McCelaney to start the top of the ninth, but Andrew Moore singled, and after Cam Martin grounded out Charlie Auditore singled to advance Moore to third. With runners on the corners and two outs, Woelfel struck out Bryan Kraus to end the inning.
Lyons singled to kick off the bottom of the ninth. Tyler Gomes drew a one-out walk, setting up Macchi with runners on first and second. Macchi delivered, singling up the middle to score Lyons and give Franklin the 4-3 win.
“Josh has been a contributor for us for the last couple of years and is a mainstay in the middle of our lineup, so whenever he’s up we feel really good about our chances,” Brown added about Macchi’s 2-5, three RBI performance.
Walpole got on the board first in the bottom of the second when Lavanchy drew a walk and then Tyler Page hit a comebacker right up the middle that hit Franklin pitcher Jake Noviello in the knee and allowed him to reach with a single.
Noviello would manage to stay in the game, much to the benefit of the Panthers. After Page’s hit, an error by Franklin allowed Lavanchy to score from second, but Noviello would get Andrew Moore to ground out to short to end the inning. In the top of the third, the Rebels threatened again after Cam Martin doubled, but Franklin third baseman James Leofanti made a magnificent leaping grab on a line drive by Charlie Auditore that would’ve driven in Martin. Kraus got hit by a pitch to put runners on first and second, but Noviello worked out of it, striking out Brian Gaughan and getting Sean McCarthy to line out to first.
Cam Schlitter completely shut down the Franklin bats early on, as he struck out five batters his first time through the order, only surrendering two hits. In the bottom of the fourth, Franklin threatened when with two outs, Alex Haba walked and then stole second, but in the process he took a shot to the face, and the collision forced both Haba and Walpole shortstop Jack Magane out of the game. A single by Noviello put runners at the corners, but Schlitter picked up his sixth strikeout to escape the jam.
The pitchers duel only continued from there, with Noviello only allowing one baserunner from the fourth through the sixth, while striking out three guys en route to seven total strikeouts in 6.1 innings pitched.
Schlitter would exit in the bottom of the fifth after walking Leofanti and Hodgkins to put runners on first and second, but Walpole’s Matt Danato would get a fly out to left field to end the inning. In the sixth, Danato would allow a two out single to Noviello, who finished the day 2-4 in addition to his stellar performance on the hill, but that would be all.
Tyler Page would lead off the seventh with a single, and then Teddy McCelaney, the injury replacement for Jack Magane, drew a walk. Andrew Moore then laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt to advance Dylan Hannafin, who pinch ran for Page, and McCelaney. With runners on second and third, Cam Martin laced a single into right field to score both Hannafin and McCelaney and put Walpole up 3-0. Leofanti came in to relieve Noviello, and he immediately picked off Martin and then got Charlie Auditore to fly out to right.
Franklin (3-2) gets back to action Thursday afternoon at 3:45 in Mansfield to take on the 3-2 Hornets.
2016 Record: 2-18 2016 Finish: Missed Postseason Coach: Mark Homer
Attleboro struggled through a difficult 2016, the first season under new head coach Mark Homer, winning only two games while giving up a league high 177 runs and scoring a league-low 46. Heading into this spring, the Bombardiers will be counting on a group of young players to try and turn things around and it seems to be working so far, as Attleboro has played two games and already matched last year’s win total.
One of the true bright spots from last season was freshman pitcher MacKenzie Bergdoll, who showed flashes of the potential to be an ace for Attleboro, and this season she will be counted on to keep the Bombardiers in games and to provide big hits from the three-spot. Julia Woyton will be behind the plate this year while senior Ilea Caverley and junior Casey Whelan (outfield) and Jordyn Lako (second base) are the few returning players on the roster.
The Bombardiers are going to turn to youth this spring with freshman MacKenzie Killough taking over at shortstop. Freshmen twins Emma and Jenna Gittle will add depth to the Attleboro pitching staff and classmate Ashley Macia will take over in centerfield. Homer also said that there were underclassmen who would provide speed off the bench.
“The expectations are to play hard, be committed and get excited with every game and practice that they take part in,” said Homer. “With the added depth in each position this year, the girls hope to gain advantages from the previous year and reach their set goals for the season.”
2016 Record: 3-17 2016 Finish: Missed Postseason Coach: Jennifer Robillard
Former King Philip and Sacred Heart University shortstop Jennifer Robillard takes over the Canton program this spring with the hope of bringing some of the success that she enjoyed playing for two state champions and a Division I college to the Bulldogs, who are coming off a three-win season.
The Bulldogs will be looking to their experienced players to help turn things around in 2017, including seniors Molly Loughran, Taylor Carrington, and Julia Ezepik and junior Hannah Jerrier, who are all captains this spring. Jerrier and Ezepik will start the season injured, but Robillard is hoping that other players can step up until they return. Canton will have depth in the circle, as both junior Caitlyn Cahill and freshman Caroline Hughes will see action at pitcher.
Lillian Carrington and Samantha Keefe are two other players that will be counted on to contribute and both provided home runs in a loss to Mansfield in the second game of the season. Robillard is excited about the opportunity to get back into the Hockomock League and she sees a team that “wants to learn.”
“This team has a lot of potential. If we can tap into this potential, I truly believe that we are going to take teams by surprise,” Robillard said. “I am here to share my passion for and knowledge of the game I love with these girls. It is important to me that these girls learn how to be strong, independent and respectful young women.”
2016 Record: 9-13 2016 Finish: Reached Div. 2 South First Round Coach: Mark Maguire
In 2016, Foxboro finished 6-10 in the Hockomock League but got its chance to play in the postseason and took advantage with a preliminary round win over Westwood and a near-upset of Abington in a nine-inning classic. The Warriors will hope to build on that experience this spring with a number of key players returning.
League all-star Hannah Davis is back behind the plate for the Warriors and will be one of the top hitters in the Hockomock. Davis will likely be in the three-spot in the lineup and right behind her will be senior Kelly Fisher, who head coach Mark Maguire called one of the best first basemen in the league. Kelly McCarthy will try to set the table for the power hitters in the lead-off spot.
Sophomore pitcher Emma Rohan is back in the circle and Maguire expects that she will compete every game and build on her rookie campaign. Behind Rohan, Cam Willis will moved from second base to short and Chelsea Gibbons will provide good ‘D’ and a solid bat at third. Lefty Lexi Buckner could grab the second base spot and senior Jamie Gorham could provide an unexpected boost as a first-year player in the outfield. Mandy Ryan and Kayla Wheatley are two of the players coming up from JV that Maguire is hoping will step in to provide depth.
“They’re all working hard and they’re ready to build together as a team,” said Maguire. “The expectations are really to compete every game.”
2016 Record: 12-11 2016 Finish: Reached Div. 1 South Preliminary Round Coach: Kate Fallon
Once the rains go away for a few days, Franklin will be able to open its new field and make official its move back to the high school after a couple seasons playing at Dean College. The Panthers are excited about the new facility and about the team’s potential for success this spring with seven returning starters from last year.
Leading the way is third baseman, and four-year starter, Olivia DiGiacomo, who has been a mainstay at the hot corner and provides leadership for the infield. To her left is shortstop Alyssa DaSilva, a three-year starter with two years of experience at short. Sophomore Allie Shea is back at first base and senior Clara DeCarvalho is back behind the plate and poised for a “breakout season,” according to head coach Kate Fallon. The outfield is also filled with veterans, including seniors Rachel Cousineau in left and Olivia Haba in center.
The seventh starter is senior Alex Niss, who started as a pinch hitter last season before taking over the DP role and turning into one of the top power hitters in the Hockomock League. The Panthers should be solid defensively and at the plate and Fallon is hoping that sophomore pitchers Jackie Cherry (who carried a shutout into the seventh in the season opening loss to North Attleboro) and Emily Valentino can make an instant impact in the circle.
“Win 11 games and make the tournament again,” said Fallon when asked about the expectations for the team this season. “I expect the seniors to provide leadership and be role models for the underclassmen. It’s always a dogfight in this league…but I think we are a good team.”
2016 Record: 24-4 2016 Finish: Won Div. 1 State Championship Coach: Norm Beauchemin
King Philip comes into 2017 on the back of its third state title in the past six years and, while expectations remain high for one of the region’s top programs, there are key pieces from last year’s team that need to be replaced in order for the Warriors to get back on top in the Kelley-Rex division and in the state.
The biggest absence this season is, of course, pitcher Kali Magane, who is now in the circle for Boston University and who was dominant during KP’s playoff run a year ago. Senior Jenn Hutnyan will step in to be the team’s starting pitcher after several starts and relief appearances in the past two seasons. Hutnyan will also be an important bat in the lineup. Junior Brie Lacy will be back behind the plate to help Hutnyan and head coach Norm Beauchemin noted that junior Jessica Bonner will be a solid defensive third baseman.
KP rarely rebuilds and almost always reloads for another title push. This year should be no different with a lineup that features several familiar names from last season’s title run, including sophomore Meghan Gorman and juniors Brooke Taute, Elise Pereira, and Hailey McCasland. Each of those players had important roles last season and will be ready to step up for the Warriors this spring as KP tries to regain the league title after Taunton ended its nine year run in 2016.
“Though it’s hard to replace last year’s seniors,” said Beauchemin, “we have a solid core of returning players ready to represent King Philip and its proud softball legacy.”
2016 Record: 13-9 2016 Finish: Reached Div. 1 South First Round Coach: Lori Letendre
Mansfield is coming off a 13-win season that included a tournament win against Notre Dame Academy, but after four years of being able to count on Maddie Letendre in the circle the Hornets will be handing the ball over to a new pitcher this spring, although as it turns out only the first name will be changing.
Megan Letendre, who played shortstop as a freshman, will take over in the circle for the Hornets and her development as the No. 1 pitcher will go a long way to determining if Mansfield can repeat last year’s success. Pitcher is not the only position that needs to be replaces, as the Hornets will have a new catcher and three new infielders. Still, with nine returning players, there is plenty of experience on the roster.
Kara Bendanillo will move from third base to second, according to head coach Lori Letendre, and Megan Letendre will sometimes see time at second when not pitching. Liz Mackin will take over at first base, while Marissa Staffier and Amanda Giambanco will take the corner outfield positions. Mady Bendanillo will be back in center after an impressive first season for the Hornets.
“This is one of the hardest working teams I have had at Mansfield and they have been putting in a lot of effort to get ready for the season,” said Coach Letendre.
2016 Record: 17-5 2016 Finish: Reached Div. 1 South Quarterfinal Coach: Steve DiVitto
Milford has been the class of the Davenport division for the past four seasons and the Hawks come into 2017 with the expectations of being heavy favorites for another league title, but, with three seniors and nine juniors on the roster and eight starters returning, head coach Steve DiVitto is hopeful that the talent will translate to a deep run in the state tournament.
The Hawks are one of the few contenders to return not just one but two starting pitchers from last season. Senior Ali Atherton is back to be the primary option in the circle and the Southern New Hampshire-commit has been dominant at times in her career. If Atherton gets into trouble or needs a rest, junior Kelley Reichert has demonstrated that she is more than just a fill-in but can also shut down opponents. They will be pitching to sophomore Emily Hartman, who will step into the starting lineup this season.
There are very few question marks in this year’s lineup with junior Emily Piergustavo moving from second to short to replace Jill Powers, which is Piergustavo’s natural position and one she has played several times in the past year. Junior Jess Tomaso is back at first base and in the heart of the lineup where she will be joined by senior outfielder Maggie Farrell and senior third baseman Kaitlyn DeCapua. Junior Kate Irwin will try to be the table-setter at the top of the order and juniors Maddy Bonvino (second base) and Shannon Cormier (outfield) will also be contributors.
“This has been a focused and driven group ever since the end of last season,” said DiVitto. “They have worked hard in the off-season and that was very apparent in the early stages of the season. We are excited to compete in the best league in the state, which will hopefully prepare us for a long run into June.”
2016 Record: 11-10 2016 Finish: Reached Div. 1 South Preliminary Round Coach: Bill Wallace
North Attleboro returned to the postseason in 2016 and for the Rocketeers to get back to the tournament this spring it will be the younger players that will lead the way. Head coach Bill Wallace knows that his team will be “green” (with only four seniors on the roster), but he is excited about North’s athleticism and versatility.
Pitching may be North’s biggest strength this season with five players in the rotation, led by freshman Bella Erti, who won her first career start, and last year’s starter Amelia Murphy. Juniors Olivia DesRoches, Jaclyn Buckley and Abby Warren could also step into the circle to help out. Senior Sam Courtemanche will be behind the plate to help the pitchers.
Senior Liz Morehouse returns at first base and Andrea Miceli will be at second. Meghan Barlow moves in from the outfield to take over at short (and provided the walk-off hit in North’s season opening win), while Murphy will see time at third when she’s not pitching. Olivia Capobianco will play center with Katherine Munley and Kristina Murphy in left and right with freshmen Ashley Cangiano and Abby Gallagher getting playing time.
“With only four seniors on the roster, I am hoping the learning curve will be brief!” said Wallace. “This may be the year we see a lot of pinch hitting and pinch running! For a young team, they are very focused between the lines!”
Oliver Ames finished in second in the league in 2016 and qualified for the postseason, but that will be an even tougher task now that the Tigers have made the move to the Kelley-Rex division. Even with facing the likes of defending state champion King Philip twice this spring, head coach Lindsey Allison is optimistic that the 10 returning players have the experience to get back into the playoffs.
Senior Victoria Ziner will be the spark on offense for the Tigers this season, but OA also has a number of juniors that Allison said can “do some damage at the plate.” Among those players is Caroline Mahoney, whose bat “is still as dangerous as ever,” according to Allison. Freshman Katie Abreu will be a newcomer to watch for the Tigers as her versatility will make her a valuable member of the lineup.
The Tigers will bring back sophomore Kayla Georgeu in the circle and will be hoping that she continues to develop and keep OA competitive against the league’s top teams. Junior Alexis Campbell will be a second pitcher and also help out at second base.
“We have a solid 10 players returning from last year’s roster,” said Allison, “and we are looking to fill holes behind the plate, in the outfield and at first base this year. Definitely hoping to use some of the speed we have on our team to our advantage this year.”
2016 Record: 4-16 2016 Finish: Missed Postseason Coach: Deb Parker
Sharon is coming off a four-win season in 2016 but head coach Deb Parker believes that the Eagles have the potential to be a contender in the Davenport division this spring as long as the players continue to develop over the course of the season.
Although the Eagles are a relatively young team, Parker is counting on senior captains Clara Cook and Sam Marglous to provide the leadership needed to keep the team on the right track. Cook will be back in the circle for Sharon, while Marglous will be back behind the plate. Parker said, “Both have been solid contributors for their entire high school careers.”
Sophomore centerfielder Rebecca Clayman and shortstop Ally Small, who Parker referred to as “standouts,” will be the anchors of the defense. Freshman Shoshanna Lowe will step in to play third base and should have a positive impact in the lineup as well.
“I believe we have the right combination of experience, talent and drive to be a contender in the Hock,” said Parker. “This is a team that works hard every day to be better than they were the day before. They have great chemistry and our captains have done an excellent job leading them into the season.”
2016 Record: 10-11 2016 Finish: Reached Div. 1 South First Round Coach: Tim Norton
The Black Knights made a return to the state tournament in head coach Tim Norton’s first season in charge, and nearly pulled out a win against Braintree, and Stoughton will be counting on last year’s freshmen to continue developing and keep the program heading in the right direction.
One of the sophomores that the team will be leaning on is third baseman Jordan Lyons, who brings a strong bat to the hot corner and her leadership skills had her named a captain for this spring. Brianna Ferrandiz will take over behind the plate for Sam Tullis and Karly Estremera will move into the infield and continue to be the table-setter as the leadoff hitter.
Norton is excited to have depth in the circle with Shannon Flaherty and Gina Carafa both capable of racking up innings and “setting great examples on and off the field.” Stoughton will also have depth in the outfield with first-year starters Krista Michienzi, Val Whalen and Alessandra Loffredo.
“We were extremely fortunate in Stoughton last year to have such a strong freshman class with great senior leadership,” Norton explained. “This year that sophomore class is going to have to come into their own. While this team is young they got a taste of the post season last year and are hungry for more.”
2016 Record: 22-2 2016 Finish: Reached Div. 1 South Quarterfinal Coach: Dave Lewry
Last season, Taunton won its first outright league title, ending King Philip’s nine-year reign atop the Hockomock. It was a fitting coda to the impressive careers of Taunton’s senior class, but this spring the Tigers will now have to move forward with six new faces in the starting lineup, including at pitcher and the middle infield positions. Taunton typically reloads quickly and head coach Dave Lewry believes this year’s team has a plenty of potential.
Senior Courtney Fisher will step into the circle hoping to make a seamless transition from 2016 Player of the Year Aimee Kistner. Fisher tossed three shutout innings and had three hits in the season opener and got several opportunities to pitch in the past two seasons. She will be pitching to junior captain Kya Enos, who is making the move back to catcher after two seasons in the outfield. Other starters coming back include first baseman Katie VanZandt, junior outfielder Liana Duarte, and sophomore Jaime Brown, who is in her third year at third base.
The Tigers have always found young players who can step right in an make an impact at the varsity level and this year could be a breakout season for eighth grader Hannah Aldrich, who will take over from Jordan Wade at short. Sophomore Alexa White looks ready to step in at second, while senior Rebekah Lajoie and junior Hailey Medeiros are in line to start in the corner outfield places. Taunton could also get contributions at pitcher from eighth grader Kelsey White and freshman Jaylin Couto.
“While we lost six starters from last season, I am excited about the potential of this year’s team,” said Lewry. “I expect there will be some growing pains with six new starters in the lineup, but with some seasoned veterans and good young talent we are optimistic that we’ll be competitive this season.”
2016 Record: 6-12 2016 Finish: Missed Postseason Coach: Kevin Patton
Attleboro is still a relatively young program but has taken strides to be competitive with the rest of the teams in the Hockomock and first-year head coach Kevin Patton is hopeful that the large number of players at tryouts is a sign that the Bombardiers are heading in the right direction.
One of the reasons for Attleboro’s confidence coming into the spring is the experienced players that will take the field, including senior Mish Logie, who is a four-year varsity midfielder. Joining Logie as a captain for this year’s team is goalie Hadley Porreca, who is in her second year in net.
In addition. juniors Emily Patton and Ali Wall return in attack, while classmates Kim White and Graycen Cassidy will keep things tight on the defensive side of the ball. Midfield depth will be provided by sophomores Kyra Lyons and Alex Compton, who are both coming off strong rookie seasons on varsity. Freshman Sydney DiLiddo will also have the chance to step in and contribute in midfield this season and junior Ashlyn Salisbury and sophomore Shea Harrison will see time on defense.
“We had our largest player turnout in the program’s history,” said Patton, “and we have girls that want to work hard and succeed. With only two seniors on this year’s team, I will be looking to certain underclassmen to take on added leadership roles. This will help us not only this year but going forward.”
2016 Record: 8-9 2016 Finish: Reached Div. 1 South First Round Coach: Christine O’Connor
Canton won five of its final seven games last season to get back to .500 and qualify for the state tournament and the Bulldogs will be hoping to carry that momentum over to this spring with a roster that features nine seniors and eight juniors.
Some of the key returning players for Canton this season include senior attacker Mary Kent, senior defender Tessa Cudmore, and senior goalie Kathryn Doody, who form a solid spine for the Bulldogs to build on. Caroline Hagan, Rebecca Eckler, and Maria Mackie are among the other seniors that will be contributing for Canton.
One of the younger players to watch is sophomore attacker Leah McClellan, who is one of several players that helped the girls’ hockey team reach the state title game at the TD Garden. Another sophomore, Maggie Malloy, has already had strong seasons for the field hockey and ice hockey teams and will provide depth this spring.
“We look to gain strength as the season progresses,” said O’Connor. “We will look to the seniors for leadership and intensity in order to be competitive.”
Foxboro won its fifth straight Davenport division title last spring and returned to the Div. 2 South semifinal for the second straight season and expectations will be even higher this season for head coach Brittany Sherry, as the Warriors return 15 players to try and make it six league titles in a row.
Among the many experienced players coming back is an exciting core of sophomores that have made instant impacts, including the reigning HockomockSports.com Underclassman of the Year Sophia DiCenso, who scored 65 goals and had 31 assists last year. Joining DiCenso up front will be classmates Caroline McGeary and Meghan Curran and juniors Jackie Brion and Catherine Luciano.
Defensively, senior Hallie Canfield will be back to anchor things and provide leadership. Junior Christina Rogers and sophomores Jenna Stamatov and Molly Murphy will also be back to limit opposing offenses. Freshman Sara Addeche will take over in goal and is another in a line of talented underclassmen that Sherry is excited to see develop over the course of the season.
“Our goals stay about the same every year, most importantly getting another round further!” Sherry said. “The last two years our season has ended in the semi finals but I’m hoping with the scheduling and tourney experience last year we will have the edge we need to get to the finals.”
2016 Record: 19-5 2016 Finish: Reached the Div. 1 State Semifinal Coach: Kristin Igoe Guarino
Another spring and another league title for Franklin, which completed another perfect season in the Hockomock and then carried that success into the playoffs to win a second Div. 1 East title with a dramatic, one-goal victory over Acton-Boxboro. Even though they only return five players, the Panthers enter the season as the favorite in the Kelley-Rex division and with sights set on challenging for a state title.
There is experience coming back for the Panthers with seniors Grace McDermott and Dana Lewandowski coming back to control things on the defensive end, while former Underclassman of the Year Kendall Reardon and fellow senior Caroline Lounsbury will provide leadership in the attack.
Franklin always seems to have players ready to step in and, despite there being a youth movement on the varsity team, the Panthers have already started 2-0 with wins against Needham and Lincoln-Sudbury. Sophomore midfielder Annie Walsh and her freshman sister Erin have both gotten off to strong starts with sophomore Halle Atkinson helping out with a hat trick in the win over L-S as well.
“I am very excited for the 2017 season!” said Igoe Guarino. “Our freshmen and sophomores bring a lot of energy and competitiveness to practice and games, while our juniors and seniors bring the discipline and experience. The two combined could bring us very far again this year!”
King Philip surprised some last spring when the Warriors went on the road to beat Westford Academy in the first round of the Div. 1 East tournament and that experience could pay dividends as KP returns a number of key players with the intent making a run at earning a first league title since 2012.
Senior Angela Vellante is back and head coach Julie Boudreau called her the “quarterback” for the attacking unit. Vellante will be looking to feed junior Katie Crowther, who was the team’s and the league’s leading scorer as a sophomore with 111 points. Senior Meghan Wagner was a starter as a freshman and scored in every game but missed the last two years with an injury and is now back to make an impact on offense.
KP can also count on a strong sophomore class led by a core of midfielders: Caroline Klim, Alli Meehan, Victoria and Olivia Tormey, and Dana Truini. Also back is sophomore goalie Caroline Watson behind a defense of juniors Molly Mullins, Christina Hathaway and Izzy Agricola. Also making a return is assistant coach Mary Pasquantonio, Boudreau’s sister, who brings experience as a former KP player and will help the current crop of Warriors on draw controls.
“We have a deep bench with many sophomores and will be looking to run lines and sub regularly to keep everyone fresh,” said Boudreau. “Our theme for the season is ‘grit=hard work + passion’.”
Mansfield won its opening two games of the 2016 season, but the Hornets struggled during a difficult middle part of the spring and missed out on the state tournament. The Hornets showed flashes of potential during the year, including a close loss to perennial tournament team Hingham, and hopes are high that they can get back into the postseason this year.
Expectations are boosted by the return of a strong core of experience players. Senior Maire Foley will be a focal point of the Hornets attack this year, while classmate Maggie Dunn and junior Ann Maher will return in the midfield. Senior Jen McCabe will provide leadership in defense and sophomore Kaity Garvin will build off her rookie season in attack.
Among the new faces this spring are sophomore midfielders Maggie Danehy, who had a solid winter with the girls’ basketball team, and Lauren Whitman
“Our team really has been working together as a unit day one,” said head coach Alexis Kobey. “They came into the season ready to go and work on what they needed to work on to get better, from draw controls, ball movement, attack/defense they have been showing up everyday. They also really love playing with each other, working with each other, making each other better.”
2016 Record: 3-15 2016 Finish: Missed Postseason Coach: Tim Dowd
It has been a tough run for Milford since moving to the Hockomock League, but the Hawks bring back an experienced roster for first-year head coach Tim Dowd and he is hopeful that the program will continue to improve over the course of the season.
Dowd’s excitement for the new season is in part built on the leadership of his senior class, including captains Taylor Dube, Jill Burley, and Jordyn Lombardo, who Dowd said would all have “incredible seasons.” He praised all three for their competitive spirits and for pushing their teammates to improve.
Another senior, Brainna Croteau, will be in charge of the defensive unit and Dowd is counting on the development of a talented group of sophomores and juniors. Milford also has two freshmen, Hannah Bangert and Anne Flanagan, who will be on the varsity roster this season and who Dowd thinks will make an impact.
“I think one of our strengths is going to be teamwork and work ethic,” said Dowd. “We want to be a team that goes the extra mile for each other and constantly works to win battles on the field. We’re going to try to outwork other teams. We’re going to try to focus on the little things to hopefully make big improvements.”
2016 Record: 13-7 2016 Finish: Reached Div. 2 East Quarterfinal Coach: Mike Vitelli
Under first-year head coach Mike Vitelli (who had previously led King Philip to a Hockomock League title and a South final), North Attleboro made a jump into second place in the Kelley-Rex division and won 13 games, while reaching the playoffs for the first time. After a loss to eventual state champ Walpole, Vitelli has built up North’s schedule with perennial powers Notre Dame Academy, Natick, and Walpole to get the Rocketeers prepared for a tournament run.
North will clearly miss last year’s Player of the Year Hana Caster (who is now at UMass Lowell), the Rocketeers return a number of important players, including six of the team’s seven defenders. Seniors Samantha Taggart, Emily Schromm, Emma Cromidas, and Alaina Mello will provide an experienced defensive unit in front of junior goalie Kayla Moulin, who Vitelli believes will have a great season.
Up front, North will turn to junior Kenzie Rosenberg and senior Erin Holley, who had breakout seasons for the Rocketeers in 2016. Chloe Olsen, Julia Dakin, and Julia Tolfa will also be counted on to provide offense for North Attleboro, while Camille Pizzaro and freshman Katie Lindstrom will be newcomers to watch this spring.
“I really like the depth of our bench as well,” said Vitelli. “Lots of hybrid players who can play in many roles…Biggest question I’ve gotten this offseason has been ‘how can you replace Hana Caster?’ My response is we can’t. But that being said, I don’t think any player is replaceable…It just becomes an opportunity for other players to step in and make their mark.”
2016 Record: 8-11 2016 Finish: Reached Div. 1 East First Round Coach: Abby Tepper
Oliver Ames reached the postseason last year by finishing second in the Davenport division and will look to build on that in 2017 in the Tigers first season in the Kelley-Rex and first season under new head coach Abby Tepper, who is only one year removed from the end of a very successful college playing career at Salve Regina and a solid first season as coach of the OA field hockey program this fall.
Tepper inherits a roster with several key returning players that provide a foundation for the Tigers, who won the opening two games of the spring. Junior captain Sofia Masciarelli will be the main attacking cog for OA this season with senior Katie Davenport back in the heart of the defense and junior goalie Ari Waldorf will be back between the pipes.
Also back for OA and expected to make a step up into the starting lineup are senior captain Kendall Clifford in the midfield, junior Chloe Kilkelly in the attack, and sophomore midfielder Olivia Piazza.
“The girls have been working hard each day at practice to prepare for the tough schedule they will face,” said Tepper. They continually improve their skills and lacrosse IQ each day. I have been impressed with how the girls have pushed one another to get better and have committed themselves to the program.”
2016 Record: 10-9 2016 Finish: Reached Div. 1 East First Round Coach: Colleen Carchedi
In her second season in charge, Sharon head coach Colleen Carchedi (née Manning) led the Eagles to their first ever playoff appearance. On their home grass, the Eagles put in a great performance to battle perennial playoff competitor Bishop Feehan and the experience has generated a lot of excitement in the program as the new season begins.
Sharon has five key players returning from last season, including leading scorer Alex Rabb and twin sister Sam, who is one of the team’s top defensive players. Senior Anna Crosby will be the motor in the midfield and junior midfielder Sabrina Robbins has verbally committed to the University of Colorado. Carchedi said of Robbins, “She is someone who always gets the job done and deserves more credit than she gets. She is reliable and hard working, never afraid to take a risk.”
Sophomore Emma Eberhardt is another player coming back that Carchedi believes will be able to take on a much larger role this spring. Eberhardt will add size in the midfield and, particularly, on draw controls. Carchedi said, “She is an all around stud athlete and is for sure a player to watch.” Sophomore Rose Wald is a newcomer that takes over in goal.
“I know we are going to be a really well balanced team,” Carchedi added, noting that the Eagles had six different goal scorers in the season opener against Milford. “I am so excited for the season and ready to hit the ground running after a big game against my old high school, KP.”
With a win against Norton on Monday, Taunton avenged a pair of losses to the Lancers from 2016 and is halfway to last year’s win total. The Tigers are still a young program at the varsity level and, as such, head coach Kerry Northup knows there will be a learning curve against Hockomock opponents, but she is also excited about the team’s potential.
The Tigers will turn to seniors Delaney Powell, Annie Tate, and Abbey Kingman to provide consistent offense this spring and all three had big games in the opener against Norton, combining for 12 of the team’s 17 goals. Powell led the way with six goals in the win and junior Lorna Li had 12 saves in another strong performance for the Tigers’ “confident” goalie.
Taunton also has plenty of youth that will be gaining valuable experience this spring, including three sophomores, a pair of freshmen, and three eighth graders. One of the eighth graders, Alana Tavares, made the most of her varsity debut on Monday, potting five goals against Norton and will be one of the newcomers to watch in the Hock this season.
“We have a solid group of girls this season,” said Northup. “Our strength players have a nice balance throughout the field from offense, mid, to defense. We are not a powerhouse team, but a team with passion, drive, and grit. These girls play to the end and don’t give up until that last whistle sounds.”
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – There’s a reason that Cambridge Rindge & Latin came into Saturday’s Division 1 State Final riding a 44 game winning streak.
The Falcons’ talent was on full display, and they got the most out of their size advantage to pick up their 45th straight win and second consecutive state championship with a 70-43 win over Franklin.
While the Panthers kept close for the first quarter, Cambridge built a double-digit lead going into the halftime break and never looked back.
“It wasn’t our best game, but [Cambridge] does a lot to make that happen,” said Franklin head coach CJ Neely. “This wasn’t like the teams we had played during the year, when you drive to the lane, you get some space, all of a sudden there’s a 6’9 guy there cleaning everything up. It’s hard, he’s a good player and a difference maker for those guys in the interior.
“I thought we got to spots we usually get to in games and we tried to find his man when he came to block shots, but we couldn’t do that. And he’s tough on the boards and it’s not just him either, there’s a bunch of them out there. It’s a tough matchup.”
The 6’9 player that Neely referenced is Cambridge senior Dimon Carrigan, who proved to be the biggest difference maker. Beyond his game-high 21 points and 11 rebounds, Carrigan notched an impressive nine blocks and altering plenty of other shots, making it difficult for the Panthers to get anything inside.
“We had seen Franklin,” said Cambridge head coach Lance Dottin. “For us, we’re just going to compete every single possession – I said to them ‘when you get can to that level, you’re going to become a champion.’ I think you saw that, especially in the second half, we competed for every single possession and we were fortunate to come out on top.”
Franklin freshman Chris Edgehill scored seven of his team-high 12 points in the opening frame to help the Panthers keep pace with the Falcons. Edgehill’s step back three gave Franklin a 5-4 lead three minutes in and a three point play from sophomore Jalen Samuels (eight points, eight rebounds, three blocks) put the Panthers up 8-6.
But Cambridge’s Malik Brandao-Correia drained a three with a minute to play and Carrigan scored inside for a 17-12 lead after one.
Although Franklin kept it close in the first, its offense stalled in the second quarter, managing just six points on 2/11 shooting from the field.
Cambridge rattled off a 10-3 run over the first six and a half minutes of the second quarter. Samuels hit one free throw with 5:44 to play in the first half, but didn’t score again until Matt Elias drained a three with 1:15 to go. In that stretch the Panthers had an uncharacteristic seven turnovers.
“We’ve some teams like that but not to that caliber,” said junior captain Paul Mahon “They’re a great team, they play well together. They have a lot of height, a lot of talent. I think we’re capable of beating that team but not tonight. They’re a very talented team.”
Also in that time span, Franklin big man Connor Peterson — the Panthers’ counterpart for Carrigan — came back in after picking up two fouls in the first two minutes of the game. But his second stint was cut short because of his third foul.
“It kills you, to be honest,” Neely said of how the fouls change the game plan. “Those two quick ones — he’s our big guy, he’s going to go out there and battle. He’s usually allowed to be pretty physical, we kind of expected it not to be a high whistle game since it was the state final. We knew it’d be physical. They were both legit fouls but losing him, we had to put him back in because it’s the state final and he picked one up right away. It changes his game, he played a lot more hesitant.”
Cambridge extended its lead to 20 points just three minutes into the third quarter but the Panthers were able to claw back into the game.
Edgehill hit back to back buckets, the latter turning into a conventional three point play. Samuels then added two free throws to cut it to 13. Cambridge committed an offensive foul, Franklin broke the press and had a transition three attempt to cut it to 10, but the shot was short.
Cambridge then finished the third quarter with a 6-0 run to go up 49-30. The Falcons started the fourth with four straight points to go up 53-30. Franklin was unable to shrink the deficit the rest of the way.
“The kids have nothing to hang their heads about, they’ve gone further than any other team has in Franklin school history,” Neely said. “I told them ‘you’re going to put a banner up in the gym for being a sectional champion and you got to play in a state final. You’re probably the best Franklin team that;’s ever played. So there’s a lot to be proud of. We couldn’t get it done tonight but I think the true state champion won tonight, I think the best team in the state won. We were up for the challenge but I don’t think we were ready to play at this level.
Peterson finished with six points, Mahon added five points and senior Josh Macchi hauled in five boards.
While the Panthers will have to find a replacement for Macchi and sharpshooter Connor Goldstein, two of four graduating seniors along with James Hanlon and Michael Doherty, the future does look bright with four starters set to return for the 2017-2018 season.
“Great group of guys coming back,” Neely said. “We’ll certainly miss our seniors, they brought a lot to the table. One thing that made this team unique, and hopefully we can recreate it, is the unselfishness, the team first mentality…that’s something we try to pride ourselves on. This is the first team that really 100% bought in. There wasn’t a jealous moment, there was never an ‘I want mine’ moment, it was always about Franklin. It’s the best I’ve ever seen team chemistry come together in a season, that’s why I think we were able to make a run.”
“It’s been a crazy run,” Mahon said. “We always focus on the day to day stuff and we didn’t think we could get to this point. But we did, and it was really fun to be apart of this team. We’ll be back here.”
Franklin boys basketball finishes the season 22-5.
By Joe Clark, HockomockSports.com Student Reporter
WORCESTER, Mass. – You had to see it to believe it.
After Springfield Central’s Maickel DeJesus made two free throws to put the Eagles up 51-43 with just 20 seconds left in the game, fans started filing out of the DCU Center in Worcester. It’s a move they’ll likely regret.
On the ensuing Franklin possession, freshman Chris Edgehill (12 points) hit a an off balance three from the corner to cut the lead to 51-46, and then DeJesus immediately stepped out of bounds receiving the inbounds pass. Edgehill got fouled before Franklin even inbounded the ball, and hit both shots and then Springfield Central tipped their inbounds pass out of bounds after initially being deflected by Franklin’s Paul Mahon.
Down three with eight seconds left, Franklin went right back to Edgehill, who buried a three from almost the exact same spot as his first one to tie the game at 51 all.
With no timeout called from either side, Springfield Central hurried down the court to try to win it, and after the initial attempt by De Jesus missed, Jashidi Pressley was there for the follow and hit a floater to give Springfield Catholic what appeared to be a 53-51 win, but while the Eagles stormed the court and pig piled on top of Pressley, the referees conferred and waved off the basket, sending the game to overtime.
“We had to hustle the guys in and be like, look we got a game to play, they can be excited but we have to focus the next four minutes if we want to get it done,” Franklin coach CJ Neely said about the crazy finish.
In overtime, Jashidi Pressley (nine points) started out the scoring by hitting two free throws, but from that point on it was pretty much all Franklin, as Jalen Samuels answered back with a three and after a stop on the other end, Connor Peterson’s putback put the Panthers up 56-53 with a minute left to play.
Ahmad Conner then missed two free throws for Springfield, and Hason Ward went one for two at the line to cut the lead to 56-54 with 24 seconds left, but Franklin captain Paul Mahon — in his first game back from a concussion (12 points, seven rebounds off the bench) — iced the game with two free throws and a defensive rebound down the other end.
Peterson hit two free throws with just six seconds left, and those two would be the final points of the game as Franklin went on to win 60-54 to clinch their place in the D1 State Championship game Saturday against Cambridge Rindge and Latin.
“I actually channelled my inner Julian Edelman [at the end of regulation], I said it’s gonna be a hell of a story, and we just kept saying that at every time out, that it’s gonna be a hell of a story,” Neely said.
Heading into the 4th quarter, with both teams tied at 34, Springfield raced out to a 40-35 lead, but Franklin senior Josh Macchi (eight points, seven rebounds) had back to back conventional three point plays, putting Franklin up 41-40.
Springfield Central responded with a 9-0 run to grab 49-41 behind strong play from Maikel DeJesus (18 points, including eight in the fourth quarter) and Justin Feleciano (16 points, five in the fourth). It was a strong defensive effort from both sides as well, as Hason Ward had six blocks for Springfield Central and Franklin held a high scoring Central team (they put up 100 points in a game twice this year) to just 54 points, their season low, an even more impressive feat considering the game went into overtime.
As if Edgehill’s heroics at the end of regulation could get even more impressive, he wasn’t playing at 100%.
“He woke up yesterday with a 102 degree fever, told me, ‘don’t worry, i’ll be good’ and he always seems to make big plays in big moments, he’s a big time player,” Neely said on Edgehill.
The third quarter were a back and forth affair, as Springfield Central’s 6-0 lead to start the game would be the largest either team would hold throughout the first three frames.
DeJesus scored the first bucket of the game on a fast break immediately after SC won the tip, and Jashidi Pressley (nine points) would score on the next Springfield possession, followed up by another DeJesus bucket. Connor Peterson (15 points) then hit two free throws as part of a nine point first quarter for him which kept the Panthers in the game, as they trailed 14-13 after one.
In the second quarter, backup guard Justin Feleciano would be the only source of offense for Springfield Central, as he had eight of his 16 points in the frame, and with Peterson battling foul trouble, other guys had to step up and they did, as four points from Mahon, three from Samuels (ten points), and two from Macchi would bring both teams to a 22-22 deadlock at the half.
The third quarter too would end at a 34-34 stalemate, as Mahon paced Franklin with six in the quarter off of two threes, and DeJesus would drop in six of his own in the 3rd as the two guards battled back and forth for much of the quarter.
For Franklin boys basketball, they now have to look ahead to Cambridge, the defending D1 State Champs. Cambridge went 22-0 in the regular season and beat Lawrence, Lowell, Central Catholic, and Needham to advance to the state finals this year.
WORCESTER, Mass. – For the past three seasons, the Franklin Panthers have had their season come to an end at the hands of St. John’s Shrewsbury.
Not this year.
The Panthers clawed back from an early deficit, took their first lead in the fourth quarter and came up with a big defensive stop in overtime to get the 67-64 win to claim the program’s first ever D1 Central Sectional title.
“It feels great,” said Franklin head coach CJ Neely. “A lot of people were saying we can’t beat St. John’s, we hear it everywhere. I down play it as much as possible, we didn’t want to focus on one team too much. We waited until we had them on the schedule then we focused on them. I think every year it’s been a pretty good battle, I don’t think we were ever dominated but it’s nice to be on the right side of things for once.”
Franklin will play Springfield Central (West sectional champion) on Tuesday, March 14th at the DCU Center at 7:30.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” said senior Josh Macchi, who was apart of the team’s last two losses to the Pioneers. “Coming off those two losses, they stung a lot. We felt like in both games we didn’t play our best and we thought they were both games we could have won. Tonight, to have to come in and grind it out and get it done, even having to go into overtime and play to the last second. It was unbelievable.”
After missing on a chance at the end of regulation, the Panthers headed to overtime with the Pioneers tied at 60-60.
SJS took the early 62-60 lead before Macchi (18 points, 11 rebounds) hauled in an offensive rebound and converted the put back halfway through the overtime period.
Franklin grabbed a defensive rebound after a missed three from the Pioneers, setting up Panther freshman Chris Edgehill (16 points) for a big moment. The rookie took a pass from Macchi, pulled up and drained a three late in the shot clock, giving Franklin 65-62 edge with just over a minute to play.
Sophomore Jalen Samuels (15 points, eight rebounds, three blocks) came away with a steal but Edgehill’s transition three came up empty with 40 seconds to play.
SJS answered with a pair of free throws to get within one and then fouled the Panthers. However, Franklin missed the front end of a one-and-one to give the Pioneers possession, down 65-64, with 13.8 left.
“I told them this game is about stops and defensive rebounding,” Neely said of the timeout before the next play. “I told them I was wicked excited that we’re in a one point game and all we needed to do was get a stop and a rebound and this game was ours. We talked about it all week, we talked about that being the game plan so let’s see if we can do it. The kids got it done.”
Samuels came up with a big block at the rim when St. John’s drove to the basket to try to take the lead. On the ensuing play, with 5.9 seconds to play, the inbounds pass went over the head of its intended target, with Edgehill tracking down the loose ball. He was fouled with 1.4 to play.
The freshman then hit both free throws and SJS’s last second chance – a heave to just over half court and a turnaround three – came up short, giving the Panthers the win.
“The moment just came to me,” Edgehill said. “On the three, teammates found me the ball. I think I got lucky on the turnover. I was in the right spot, someone just tipped it and read it and went and grabbed it. Those are the moments I like to be in. I like to be at the free throw line, up one, with just over a second to play.”
While the finish was want Franklin wanted, the start of the game was far from ideal for the Panthers.
St. John’s Shrewsbury raced out to a 9-0 lead just over two and a half minutes into the contest. Franklin was able to cut the deficit to five — 16-11 — by the end of the first quarter.
“We knew it was obviously a letdown to go down 9-0 but we just stuck with it,” Macchi said. “We knew that both teams would have their runs, that was theirs. We just had to play together, get tougher on the defensive end and we just came out and grinded. This team’s unity is unlike any other teams and that’s not a jab at the past teams, it’s just this year is on another level.”
The Pioneers quickly stretched the lead back to nine early in the second quarter (20-11) but a 10-3 run from Franklin brought Franklin right back into the contest (23-21) midway through the second quarter.
However, SJS rattled off a 7-0 run to get back up 30-21. Franklin hit back with a 6-0 run to make it a one possession game but an errant pass was picked off and SJS converted a layup at the halftime buzzer to take a 32-27 lead.
“Our team motto focuses a lot on hard work,” Neely said. “I think the resiliency of the guys showed, going down 9-0 early. But the kids don’t go away. They care about each other deeply, beyond the basketball court. It’s more than just coming in and playing basketball for a couple of hours, they’re friends with each other, they care about each other. When they went down, they talked to each other and they figured it out. We knew it’d be loud and I wouldn’t be able to call plays every time so the five guys on the court had to figure it out. They stayed true to each other and I’m proud of them.”
The Panthers trailed by either three or five points for the majority of the third quarter. Finally, with two minutes to play a drive from Samuels tied the game at 40. Hunter Gorgas put SJS back ahead but Connor Peterson (eight points) responded with a basket of his own. Robert Duquette drained a three to put the Pioneers back ahead but Franklin senior James Hanlon came off the bench to score off a nice post move, cutting the deficit to one (45-44) heading into the fourth.
Gorgas hit two free throws but Edgehill responded with a triple to tie the game early in the final period. The Panthers’ first lead came with 6:35 to play in regulation on a three point play from Macchi, who went up and under and converted while being fouled. He hit the free throw to make it 50-47.
SJS’s Alex Bradley cut it to one but Peterson got one right back. After a miss from Franklin, Steven Bucciaglia drained a three to tie the game with four minutes to play.
Two free throws from Edgehill preceded a missed three from SJS and then two points from Peterson to make it 56-52.
Tyler Mola (22 points) responded with traditional three point play for the Pioneers, who got the ball back after taking a charge. Mola then drained a three with just over two minutes to play to put SJS back up 58-56.
Franklin missed on the other end but Macchi was there for the offensive rebound and hit the put back to tie the game at 58.
Mola once again came up big for the Pioneers, hitting a tough layup to make it 60-58. Franklin had a turnover but forced a double dribble by the Pioneers to get the ball back.
Samuels used a strong take to the left to tie the game with just under a minute to play.
“If you didn’t see it in the book before the game, you probably wouldn’t think Chris is a freshman and Jalen is a sophomore,” Macchi said. “They’re playing at an upperclassman level right now and they’re helping us a lot right now. We trust them with the ball at any time and that’s how this team is, we have a lot of trust in each other.”
The duo of Edgehill and Samuels combined for 28 points in Franklin’s playoff opening win over Acton-Boxboro, 20 points against St. Peter Marian and then 31 points in the section final against the Pioneers.
“Those two guys have been huge all playoffs,” Neely said. “All three games that we’ve played, it’s really been those two guys taking the lead. Both games before this they hit the big shots. You can see Chris isn’t afraid of the big shot, which is what we talked about in the locker room. We told them if they wanted to win the game, they had to take it…no one is going to give it to you. You can’t wait for missed shots, you have to go find it.”
Edgehill, who started the season on the bench, was quick to credit a teammate for how far he’s come this season.
“The team definitely helped me through the season, going from the bench to the lineup,” Edgehill said. “I want to thank Jack Rodgers, he works me every day in practice and makes me a better player. Props all to him, he makes me better every single day and that’s what teammates do.”
Franklin boys basketball (21-4 overall, 21-2 tournament record) will tip off against Springfield Central on Tuesday at 7:30 at the DCU Center.
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.”
WORCESTER, Mass. – There are a lot of teams in the state that preach the mantra of “next man up.” And then there are the teams that actually follow through.
The Franklin Panthers are one of them.
With junior captain Paul Mahon sidelined with an injury, senior Connor Goldstein stepped into the starting lineup and delivered, dropping a career-high 23 points to pace the Panthers to a 54-44 win over #6 St. Peter Marian in the D1 Central Semifinals.
Top-seeded Franklin will take on #2 St. John’s Shrewsbury on Friday, at Worcester State at 5:45.
“It’s just the next man up for us,” Goldstein said. “Everyone on the team can do it, I was just the one chosen so I had to do my part. First quarter I happened to have the hot hand so I was thankful I could help out.”
Goldstein was Franklin’s offense in the first quarter, scoring all 14 of the team’s points as the Panthers held a 14-13 lead after eight minutes.
The senior drained his first shot of the game – a three – to put Franklin up 3-2 and then drove to the basket to make it 5-4 in favor of the Panthers. After SPM went up with a three, Goldstein hit back-to-back triples to give the Panthers an 11-7 lead. Goldstein hit his fourth three pointer with 20 seconds to left to help the Panthers lead by one.
Goldstein then added seven more points in the fourth quarter to help the Panthers ice the game.
“Goldstein’s started some games for us this season so we know he’s capable,” said Franklin head coach CJ Neely. “I’ve said it before, all of these guys are pretty good players, we trust all of these guys but losing your captain, a guy who’s one of our top scorers and one of our top performers, that hurts the team. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t. But I’m proud of the way everyone kind of rallied around it. Goldstein started it but then guys like [Matt] Elias came in and played well, Jalen [Samuels] had another nice game, Chris [Edgehill] picked his game up. And that’s kind of how it’s been for us, being one team instead of one guy.”
The Panthers had their worst quarter in terms of scoring and defense in the second frame, allowing SPM to score 14 points while the Panthers put up just nine.
A 6-0 run to start the quarter from the Guardians gave SPM a five point lead early in the second quarter before Franklin got on the board. A free throw from Jalen Samuels (five points, 11 rebounds) got the Panthers within one, Connor Peterson (eight points) scored in low and Goldstein converted an offensive rebound to put the Panthers back ahead 23-20.
But the Guardians had their best spurt of the game over the final 90 seconds of the half. Quion Sneed Jr. and Juan Zorilla (10 points) each hit three free throws before Jeffrey Sullivan drained a three to give SPM a 27-23 lead at halftime.
SPM took its largest lead early in the third quarter (29-23) but the Panthers turned it on – on both ends of the court – to turn things around.
Peterson’s bucket inside started a 12-0 game-changing run for the Panthers. After a missed three, Josh Macchi grabbed the offensive rebound and earned two free throws to get the Panthers within two and Samuels drove to the basket to tie the game with just under five minutes to play.
Franklin got a stop on its next possession. Freshman Chris Edgehill (15 points, four assists) delivered the big shot, stepping back and hitting a three to make it 32-29, forcing a timeout from the Guardians.
The run continued for Franklin out of the timeout as Samuels forced a turnover on the ensuing inbounds and found Edgehill for another triple, capping the run and putting Franklin up 35-29.
“I thought in the first half we didn’t really come out,” Neely said. “Goldstein was ready to play but outside of him, we were a little soft. We weren’t taking it to the rim aggressively. I felt like rebounding wise they were getting the better of us, they were getting on the offensive glass, we weren’t putting bodies on people. We challenged them at halftime. We told them that [SPM] wanted it more in the first half. I thought we did a really nice job rebounding in the second half, we kept them out of the paint more and limited the inside touches. We challenged [SPM] to shoot a bit more and they weren’t able to convert as much as that helps. As a whole, I was proud of the way they battled through the adversity.”
Franklin led 39-35 through three quarters.
Goldstein got going again in the fourth quarter, draining a three to spark the offense early. The teams traded free throws for the next three minutes. SPM pulled within seven on an offensive put back from Shamar Simms but any momentum that the Guardians had was short lived as De Marr Langford was hit with a technical foul for a shove after the shot.
Edgehill hit both technical free throws to put Franklin up 48-39 with 2:57 to play.
“It’s nice to have a team where you can go into a game and the other team can’t say ‘If we can shut this one guy down we’ll be alright.’ If you do that, you’re at a disadvantage,” Neely said. “We move the ball well enough, we get good looks for different guys and they’re capable of knocking them down.”
SPM got within six with under two minutes to play but the Panthers quickly broke the press and got an easy layup from Goldstein. SPM didn’t cut the deficit to under eight the rest of the way.
“I just thought offensively [in the second half] we did a better job of curling screens,” Neely said. “They were switching a little bit so we curled a bit more. We got some looks off that. With the denials and the way they were defending us, it opened a lot of driving lanes we weren’t taking advantage of in the first half. We were able to get downhill in the second half and then get some looks.”
Franklin boys basketball will take on St. John’s Shrewsbury for the fourth straight year. The Panthers lost in the sectional final in 2014 and 2016 and in the semifinal in 2015.