Franklin Falls To Cambridge In State Championship

Franklin boys basketball
Franklin’s Chris Edgehill attempts to dribble past Cambridge’s Kareem Octavien in the first half. (Ryan Lanigan/
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.

Franklin Advances To Title Game Behind Wild Comeback

Franklin boys basketball
Franklin’s Josh Macchi attacks the basket against Springfield Center. (Peter Raider/ Student Photographer)

By Joe Clark, 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.

Franklin Claims First Sectional Title In Overtime

Franklin boys basketball
Franklin poses with its D1 Central Sectional title following an overtime win over St. John’s Shrewsbury. (Peter Raider/HockomockSports,com Student Photographer)
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.

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“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.

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“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.

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Franklin Title Defense Ends With Loss to Framingham

Franklin hockey
Joey Blasie (10) battles with a Framingham player in the corner during Sunday’s quarterfinal loss to Framingham. (Josh Perry/

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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.

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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.”

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Franklin Advances To Central Final With Win Over SPM

Franklin boys basketball
Franklin sophomore Jalen Samuels drives to the basket in the second half. (Ryan Lanigan/
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.

Samuels, Franklin Survive Scare From Acton-Boxboro

Franklin boys basketball
Franklin sophomore Jalen Samuels goes up for a layup against Acton-Boxboro in the first half. (Ryan Lanigan/
FRANKLIN, Mass. – For a brief moment, it felt like top-seeded Franklin was the underdog in Thursday night’s D1 Central Quarterfinal against #9 Acton-Boxboro.

The Colonials, who had trailed for the entire game, rattled off an 8-0 run over a three minute span in the final quarter to take their first lead, 49-48, with 3:31 to play and set their large traveling fan base into a frenzy.

But order was restored over the next three minutes, with Franklin regaining control on the back of sophomore Jalen Samuels, who finished with a career-high 18 points.

After A-B took the lead on a layup from sophomore Austin Zhou (12 points), the Panthers’ offense ran through Samuels. He had two free throws chances but missed them both, only to grab the offensive board himself and earn two more opportunities from the charity stripe. He sank both of them to put Franklin ahead by one.

“We were down, they had a nice run and it got a little tense,” Samuels said. “They switched to man, I didn’t think they guy they had on me could guard me so I drove to the hoop.

“I was focused on the next two [shots]. My teammates were just telling me to take my time, take a deep breath and follow through and everything will be fine. ”

Junior Paul Mahon (12 points, three assists, three steals) hustled back to get a block on a shot from A-B’s Didier Matheier, with the loose ball hitting off his foot to give the Panthers the ball back. Samuels went right back to work, getting around his defender and finishing strong with his left at the rim to make it 52-49 with just over two minutes to play.

A-B pulled within two on a free from Zhou with just over a minute to play, setting up the play of the game from Samuels. With time ticking away on the shot clock, Samuels’ defender was a couple of steps back, almost baiting the sophomore to take the shot. The sophomore – was 1/1 from downtown so far in the game – obliged, pulling up and draining the three to make it 55-50 with 55 seconds to play.

“I think the shot clock was going down,” Samuels said. “The guy guarding me was telling me to take the shoot so I took it, made it. I surprised myself that it went in.”

A-B made it a one possession game with 30 seconds to go but was whistled for an intentional foul – giving Franklin two free throws (Mahon made one to make it 56-52) and the ball. A-B had to foul again, and Mahon hit another free throw to make it 57-52. Matt Elias and Chris Edgehill (10 points) each added a free throw late for Franklin.

“We absolutely expected a tough game,” said Franklin head coach CJ Neely. “We hadn’t seen anything like that all season, size wise. Mansfield is exceptional but they aren’t that size, our league is tough but we don’t have anyone that had that much size.

“It was toughness and tenacity, we won a lot of loose balls at the end of the game. We knew they were big, we knew they had the size advantage on us which isn’t usually something we see. They do a great job of executing, they are like a machine. If you slip up for one second, they get a layup. We tried a bunch of difference defenses on them.”

Franklin built as much as a 10-point lead in the first quarter with the help of strong defense and successful shooting from three point. Edgehill drained one from deep and Mahon hit a pair to help the Panthers to a 17-8 lead after one quarter.

The Panthers kept that lead until A-B was able to cut it down down to five with just a minute to play in the second quarter. James Hanlon responded with a free throw and Mahon added two more to give Franklin a 31-23 lead heading into halftime.

The teams combined for 23 fouls in the first half and nearly 50 in the entire game. Franklin shot 14/26 from the free throw line while the Colonials were 15/27.

“It was a consistent whistle, that’s all you can ask for,” Neely said. “You have to adjust. It’s hard to get a rhythm going.”

Samuels scored seven of his points in the final quarter.

“He hasn’t been a shooter most of the year, he’s been a little hesitant to shoot it,” Neely said of Samuels. “But at shooting drills in practice, he’s always making them. I told him one day you’ll have the confidence to let a big shot go in a game and tonight was the night. We were only up two, he hit some some big shots and he also had some great takes to the gym. When the game was on the line, he took it over. He put them under a lot of stress. It just seemed like one play after the other he was making.

“We knew Jalen had an advantage and he could get to the rim or find some shooters outside.”

Franklin boys basketball (19-4) advances to the D1 Central Semifinal for the fourth straight season. The Panthers will take on #4 St. Peter Marian on Sunday at WPI at 1:00. SPM has three common opponents with Franklin, having beat Acton-Boxboro in January, lost to Malden Catholic in February in an exclusion game and lost to Catholic Memorial in February. The Panthers had the same results against those opponents.

Franklin Starts, Finishes Strong On The Road At KP

Franklin boys basketball
Franklin freshman Chris Edgehill attacks the basket against King Philip. (Peter Raider/ Student Photographer)

By Joe Clark, Student Reporter

WRENTHAM, Mass. – Franklin got off to a strong start on Friday night and that momentum carried the Panthers to a 72-59 road win over King Philip.

The Warriors kept things close in the opening quarter, with Tom Madden cutting the deficit to four (11-7) but Franklin responded with a run to stretch its lead. The Panthers rattled off a 9-0 run that included a Connor Goldstein three pointer and for points from Paul Mahon, who had five of his 13 points in the first quarter. The run gave Franklin a 20-7 lead after eight minutes.

With Franklin big man Connor Peterson (18 points, five rebounds) on the bench to start the second quarter due to foul trouble, KP quickly put four points on the board, but Franklin quickly answered back with four of their own. A huge quarter from Josh Macchi, who scored 10 of his 13 points in the second period, had Franklin up 36-25 heading into the second half. The key in the first half for Franklin was the production from the bigs in Macchi and Peterson (seven first quarter points).

“They switched on a lot of screens…they switched on everything just like they did last time, [a 64-49 Franklin win] and we came in knowing that if they were going to continue to switch the little guys and the big guys, that we just had to continue to pound away at it and get in there,” Franklin coach CJ Neely said after the game on the performances from his bigs.

In the third quarter, both teams came alive from beyond the arc and seemed to trade threes on every possession. After a layup to open the frame, the teams combined for four straight threes, including two in a row from Franklin freshman Chris Edgehill, who added two more threes for 12 of his 18 points in the third quarter.

“Chris has really progressed throughout the year, he’s a freshman obviously, he’s been playing point guard a pretty high level, leading the team, he’s advanced and him hitting those shots and spacing the floor after they started collapsing on the big guys, he got some open stuff and was knocking it down,” Neely said.

King Philip junior Justin Vine (four rebounds) emerged as a problem for the Panthers in the third quarter. Vine scored all eight of his points in that frame, including two threes, to keep the Warriors within striking distance.

Franklin took a 55-42 lead into the fourth, but a 6-0 KP run — started by a three from Kyle Layman (13 points, six rebounds) — cut the Franklin lead to just seven at 55-48.

After Franklin looked to pull away again following two free throws from Edgehill and a layup from Peterson, but KP’s Seth Sullivan (12 points) hit one of his four threes on the night to bring the lead back down to eight.

After Peterson responded with another layup of his own, Pharoah Davis (12 points, three rebounds) finished on a fast break down the other end, but Franklin was clutch at the free throw line down the stretch, going 7-8 from the line in the fourth quarter to seal the 72-59 win.

Next week, both teams will participate in tournaments over February break. Franklin (16-4, 14-2) begins play Monday at noon at Franklin High School against Cardinal Spellman. King Philip (6-13, 5-11) will head to Somerset Berkley on Monday at 6:30 PM to take on the Raiders.

Hornets Sting Franklin, Take Control of Kelley-Rex

Mansfield boys basketball
Mansfield’s Max Boen pulls up for a shot in the second half against Franklin. (Ryan Lanigan/
FRANKLIN, Mass. – Another chapter in the storied rivalry between Mansfield and Franklin is complete.

And it looks a lot like last year.

For the second straight season, Mansfield won the second game of the series on the road in Franklin after the Panthers won the first contest. This time, the Hornets prevailed 60-43.

Last year’s two contests mirrored each other because of big comebacks from the visiting team.

This year’s two contests mirrored each other because of double digit victories.

Mansfield raced out to a 17-6 lead after the first quarter, with senior Sam Goldberg (12 points, eight rebounds, four assists) putting an exclamation mark on the frame with an off balance three at the buzzer.

In comparison, it was the Hornets who were held in check to just five points in the first matchup. It took until the 3:49 of the third quarter of the first game for Mansfield to reach 17 points the first time around.

“We got a much better start than the first game,” said Mansfield head coach Mike Vaughan. “It’s probably very similar to the first game. After the first game, CJ [Neely] said that at some point they got a little lucky that we missed shots. And to be honest, I have to say the same thing. We got a little lucky they missed some early shots and we were able to capitalize on and create a little separation. I thought our defense was really solid.

“The score doesn’t really represent the level of play and the level that Franklin’s at…that’s a dynamite program that’s going to do great in the state tournament. We’re fortunate we’re playing better, we’re more consistent. Our defensive energy has been fantastic. Now its just a matter of taking care of KP on Tuesday.”

As Mansfield was able to keep the Panthers from scoring the post — largely due to double teams and strong help defense on Franklin center Connor Peterson — the Panthers found life in outside shooting from the hand of Connor Goldstein (21 points).

The Panthers had their best offensive quarter in the second with Goldstein recording 12 of the team’s 18 points to cut the deficit to single digits, 31-24, at halftime.

“[Our post defense] was great,” Vaughan said. “I thought Evan [Christo] did a good job of coming in and that changed our matchups. It kind of eliminates Sam from early foul trouble and moves him off the ball to be a help defender. We were able to do some things with two forwards. Peterson’s a great player, one of the best in the league. For us to be able to neutralize him, we had to throw two bodies at him.”

It looked like that momentum of Franklin’s strong second quarter was going to carry into the third quarter when the Panthers got a steal and easy bucket to start the quarter and a three point play from Jalen Samuels (eight points, five rebounds) cut the lead to 33-29.

But in true Mansfield fashion, as they did time and time again throughout the game, the Hornets answered.

It was an 8-0 run that spanned nearly the rest of the quarter. First, Max Boen (14 points, six rebounds, three assists), scored off a feed from Phil Vigeant (12 points, three assists). Then it was Evan Christo from Boen, followed by two from Boen from Goldberg. Goldberg converted at the rim himself and Tyler Boulter added two free throws to make it 43-29. Goldstein added a three before the buzzer to cut into the lead for Franklin, ending a scoreless drought of over five minutes.

“We talked at halftime about getting one third quarter run,” Vaughan said. “We knew they’d make adjustments and come out and make a push at it, and they did. That’s just a sign of a good team. They cut into it. We had to weather the storm and go on our run ourselves.”

It looked like Franklin had some momentum to build off of when Goldstein drained another corner three.

But on Mansfield’s ensuing possession, Vigeant answered with a trifecta of his own to swing the momentum right back in the visitors’ favor.

“I think it’s a credit to Mansfield, they did a great job. They came in well prepared obviously, they always do,” Neely said. “It’s two good teams that are going to battle like they always do. It’s 3-3 over the past couple of years. We know it’s going to be a battle. Sometimes shots are going for one side and not for the other. And big runs happen and all of a sudden…you know. When things get tough, you have to get back to the basics of what makes your team great instead of panicking and forcing things. I thought we forced things too much tonight.”

Vigeant’s three was the start of what turned out to be a 12-0 game-sealing run from the Hornets. Goldberg added three free throws, Vigeant scored two straight field goals and Boen scored on a feed from Christian Weber (12 points) to put Mansfield up 58-37 with 2:25 to go.

“It’s huge because you can’t have guys take plays off, you can’t have guys lay an egg,” Vaughan said of the balanced scored. “I thought Max played well early, I thought Weber had some huge plays, I thought Goldberg stepped in and made some plays when he had to. Those are the things you have to do to beat good teams. You have to maximize as many possessions as you can.”

Similar to how Franklin was about to limit Mansfield’s offense to just 25% shooting from the floor in the first game, the Hornets held Franklin to just 30% from the floor and the Panthers attempted just seven free throws.

“These games never disappoint,” Vaughan said. “They’ve been great for a long time. The level of play and energy and passion from the kids is second to none. You can’t beat it. There’s no lack of coaching, there’s no lack of passion and effort from either team. We were fortunate to get this one, they got the first one.”

Mansfield boys basketball (16-2 overall, 13-1 league) takes over sole possession of first place in the Kelley-Rex division with the win. The Hornets can clinch a share of their fifth straight division title with a win on Tuesday at King Philip. Franklin (14-4, 12-2) will attempt to bounce back on Tuesday at Attleboro.