Teams of the Decade #6: 2018 Foxboro Girls Basketball

Foxboro girls basketball

Team: Foxboro girls basketball
Year: 2017-2018
Record: 26-2
2018 Davenport Division Champions
2018 Division 2 State Champions


Over the course of the 2017-18 season, the Foxboro girls basketball team had its first-ever perfect run through Hockomock League play. The Warriors twice won by more than 50 points, seven times by more than 40, four times by more than 30, and three other games were decided by more than 20. Only six games all season were decided by single digits.

However, the season wouldn’t be remembered for the blowouts, but rather for the comebacks. Foxboro rallied from 20 points down in the second half of the state semifinal and from 14 down in the final to reach the team’s lofty preseason expectations and secure the program’s first state title since 1995.

“The scrutiny was on us every game,” said head coach Lisa Downs, who earned her 100th career win that season. “The Hockomock League doesn’t always have easy games and we were expected to win all of them. The expectations were so high that it felt like there was a magnifying glass on you at all times.”

Expectations were sky high because the team was coming off a Div. 2 South title and brought back a core of four talented seniors, who had played together long before they got to high school. Guards Lily Sykes and Ashley Sampson, forward Grace Tamulionis, and center Shannon Smally had helped the Warriors get to a South final as freshmen and their final season together was supposed to be the culmination of it all.

It was also a motivated group, as the 2017 season ended with a disappointing loss at the TD Garden. Sykes said, “My whole senior year I remembered that game and it was just a sour taste in my mouth and we needed to get past the Garden.”

An overtime loss to eventual Div. 4 state champion Coyle-Cassidy opened the season, followed by a win against Mansfield, which reached the D1 South semifinal. Wins over Hopkinton and Coyle around Christmas gave the Warriors a boost of confidence and started to confirm the preseason hype.

In addition to the seniors, the rotation started to take shape with sophomore forward Abby Hassman giving the team energy and rebounding and freshman Katelyn Mollica making an instant impact on the program as the first player off the bench. Mollica averaged more than 10 points per game as a rookie and gave the team a spark in some of its biggest games.

“It was pretty cool because as much as we were the fearless leaders, I guess, Katelyn and Abby came into every game and gave as much as they could and they never seemed scared,” Sykes explained.

Downs added, “We had a lot of different pieces. We didn’t have a deep bench but the five or six that we put out there could go against anyone.”

Foxboro suffered a one-point loss at Hopkinton at the end of January. It turned out to be the final loss of the season.

The playoffs started in comfortable fashion, as the Warriors beat Milton and Stoughton by a combined 71 points, but Smally suffered an injury in the second round that would cost her the rest of the season. It forced a change to the rotation, thrusting Mollica into the starting lineup, and also added a new dynamic to the bench, as Smally became a vocal presence on the sidelines.

“I feel like we didn’t have that leader on the bench,” said Sykes. “Katelyn came off the bench but there wasn’t always someone there yelling and giving support and I think Shannon definitely amped it up.”

Silver Lake was beaten by 26 in the South semifinal and then the Warriors clinched a second straight sectional title by holding Nauset to just 24 points (on six made field goals) in the final. Experience at that stage and experience playing together was proving too much for opponents to handle.

“We’ve been playing together since we were in what, third or fourth grade?” Sykes remarked.
“So, like me and Ashley, whether it was me or her bringing the ball down, we knew that if we gave it up that we were going to go backdoor. That was our play, just give each other the head nod and it was game over.”

Weather had played its part during the playoff run, as the state semifinal was forced from the TD Garden to Woburn High. Snow storms and power outages made for an interesting lead into the game against North champ Pentucket.

“We ended up practicing at King Philip one of the days because our school didn’t have power,” said Hassman. “Obviously Lisa was focused on getting the practice time and staying in the routine because we couldn’t afford to take a day off right before a huge game.”

The semifinal was the most memorable game of that season. Pentucket jumped out to an early lead and led 29-14 at halftime. The lead stretched to as many as 20 points in the second half, but the Warriors never panicked. Changing to a 2-3 zone took away some of Pentucket’s driving lanes and Foxboro started to chip away at the lead.

“As much as man is our bread-and-butter at the time, the 2-3 with me and Katelyn up top really rattled them and once we could see the panic in their eyes, it was like oh my god this is definitely our game,” Sykes recalled.

“At halftime, we had a real heart-to-heart, and maybe a little yelling, and then the seniors definitely took it upon themselves to rally the troops,” said Downs. Each timeout I was saying just two or three points at time, get a stop and turn around and get a basket, and then we’ll just chip away. Our confidence started to grow and maybe Pentucket got a little tight with their game and then everything started to go our way.”

Sykes knocked down a pair of huge threes in the fourth quarter and her diving scramble to force a jump ball saved a final possession for Foxboro. Meanwhile, Sampson was showing why she was league MVP as a junior and HockomockSports.com Player of the Year that season. She scored 20 points in the fourth quarter and overtime, including 19 of the team’s final 20 points and the tying layup in the final seconds to force OT.

“She was a coach’s dream,” Downs said of Sampson. “She’s a 5-foot-10 point guard who has the strength to post up. She was a really tough matchup for teams, so they wouldn’t know whether to put a guard on her that might be small or a forward on her that wouldn’t be quick enough.”

Sampson added 14 points in the extra frame and the Warriors walked away with an improbable 58-54 win. Downs said, “I’ll even watch every once in a while now and I still get goosebumps because it was just such an incredible game.”

Of course, getting to the final was only part of the goal. The Warriors needed to complete the job in their third meeting of the season with Hopkinton, this time at Springfield’s MassMutual Center. Like the semifinal, Foxboro needed to turn things around in the second half.

Hassman, who would go on to win a second state title as a senior this past winter, credited the seniors for providing the underclassmen with the confidence to perform even while trailing in a final. She explained, “ I was looking at them and seeing how they were going to deal with it and I just remember them not being affected by it all. In the locker room, they were just like, ‘We’ll change these things in the next half,’ and stayed focused and we weren’t flustered at all.

“Their focus and poise just really helped me not get flustered. Without them I would’ve crumbled a little bit.”

Behind a 32-14 second half run, sparked by the three seniors, the Warriors overcame a 10-point halftime deficit and secured the title with a 49-41 win.

“That was probably the most special moment I had in high school,” said Sykes. “Each year we just built more and more and more and it was finally our year and we finally got the job done. It was the most amazing experience ever.”

Downs added, “There’s pictures of me and I’m crying in every one because it’s just such an emotional thing. You’re holding your breath all season long, can we do it, can we do it, and then you can finally just breathe. That exhale as all of the emotions come through and you’re just so happy that these girls can remember this because they deserved it.”






Foxboro girls basketball
Foxboro girls basketball

Opponent
Result
Coyle & CassidyL, 50-40 (OT)
MansfieldW, 43-37
King PhilipW, 65-21
FranklinW, 64-33 (Recap)
HopkintonW, 52-38
Coyle & CassidyW, 42-41
SharonW, 69-28
StoughtonW, 74-46
MilfordW, 67-47
CantonW, 79-34
North AttleboroW, 75-26
HopkintonL, 55-54
TauntonW, 85-27 (Recap)
Oliver AmesW, 61-39 (Recap)
AttleboroW, 67-37
SharonW, 72-30
StoughtonW, 74-19
MilfordW, 80-26
CantonW, 81-32
North AttleboroW, 66-41
HanoverW, 66-59 (Recap)
NatickW, 58-45
MiltonW, 64-30
StoughtonW, 75-38
Silver LakeW, 63-37 (Recap)
NausetW, 40-23 (Recap)
PentucketW, 58-54 (OT) (Recap)
HopkintonW, 49-41 (Recap)






Foxboro girls basketball

Foxboro girls basketball

Foxboro girls basketball


Foxboro girls basketball

Foxboro girls basketball

Foxboro girls basketball

Foxboro girls basketball

Foxboro girls basketball

Foxboro girls basketball

Foxboro girls basketball

Foxboro girls basketball


Foxboro Senior Trio Cap Careers With State Title

Foxboro girls basketball
Foxboro’s Lily Sykes, Grace Tamulionis, and Ashley Sampson capped four year careers with a state championship. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
 
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – The calendar hadn’t yet turned to 2018 yet, but Foxboro head coach Lisa Downs something in her team that made her believe there was something special about this group.

The Warriors trailed by four with less than a minute to play in their second meeting against highly touted Coyle & Cassidy.

Senior Ashley Sampson had a steal and a bucket to get within two. After Coyle missed the front end of a one-and-one, senior Lily Sykes drained the go-ahead three with 10 seconds left in the game to give the Warriors a dramatic win.

That comeback told Downs everything she needed to know about her team, and how far her seniors could take the team.

“I had a good feeling we’d get to this point, but what really let me know we would was that second Coyle game, when we won at their gym,” Downs said. “I saw the exact same expression on the girls’ faces that I saw in the timeout. I just looked in their eyes…and I could relax, they calm me down.”

Downs saw the same look in her players eyes on Saturday morning as they rallied from a 10-point halftime deficit, winning the Division 2 State Championship with a 49-41 win over Hopkinton.

Sykes, Sampson and fellow senior Grace Tamulionis spearheaded the comeback. The trio have been making plays for the Warriors since their freshman year, so it’s only fitting they led the way in the state final.

Tamulionis got hot from three in the final quarter, hitting one early to cut the deficit to 31-29, and then draining another to cut Hopkinton’s six-point lead to three (35-32).

Sampson then kept the Warriors in it with some strong takes of her own, coming away with a steal for an easy layup to make it a one point game. When Hopkinton answered on the other end, Sampson drew a foul on a layup and sank both free throws to keep Foxboro within striking distance.

Then it was Sykes turn, sniffing out an inbounds pass to prevent Hopkinton from building its lead. And although Foxboro didn’t score off the steal, the defense continued its strong play and got a big stop. On the other end, Sykes beat her defender and took it strong for a scoop layup.

That bucket gave Foxboro a 38-37 lead with 3:44 to go, their first since leading 2-0 to start the game, and a lead they wouldn’t relinquish the rest of the way.

“It’s the best feeling ever,” Sykes said of winning alongside Sampson and Tamulionis. “They are my best friends even off of the court too. So to win this with them is awesome.”

“It’s the best thing that could ever happen,” Sampson said. “To end the season all together, it doesn’t feel real right now.”

“It means everything,” Tamulionis said. “We’ve been talking about it since freshman year, working towards it and I remember last year at the banquet she (Coach Downs) was like this is our goal this year just get here and to actually do it is…just awesome.”

It marked the second straight game the Warriors had to overcome a double digit deficit. Foxboro rallied from as much as 20-points down in the second half in the state semifinal against Pentucket.

Sampson finished with a team-high 15 points while both Sykes and Tamulionis had 11 points apiece.

“Even if I had a shred of doubt in my mind, it was completely removed when I saw their eyes,” Downs said. “It was a timeout, and I just looked at each of them, and they just knew. It was like ‘Coach, we got this.’ They knew what they needed to do, they knew what they were capable of doing, and we knew we just needed to kick it into high gear.”

After Sykes put the Warriors ahead, freshman Katelyn Mollica drove hard to the basket for a key layup to make it a three-point game.

Sykes came up with another steal, leading to two free throws from Sampson to make it 42-37. After another stop, Sampson returned to hit two more free throws and a 44-37 lead with a minute to go.

“This is incredible,” Sykes said. “I’m almost speechless. But I knew we could rely on the senior leadership. Freshman year we were all together playing on the court together. For us to come all the way here and step up together, it’s just amazing.”

Foxboro finishes the season 26-2.

“It’s bittersweet because I’ll never have another group like this one, they are one of a kind,” Downs said.

Warriors Rally Again, This Time to Win State Title

Foxboro Girls Basketball
Foxboro seniors Ashley Sampson, Lily Sykes and Shannon Smally hold up the Div. 2 state championship trophy after beating Hopkinton at the MassMutual Center. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com

Josh PerryFollowJoshPerry


SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – Foxboro just couldn’t make it easy. After storming back from 20 points down in the second half to win a dramatic state semifinal in overtime against Pentucket, the Warriors found themselves down by 14 points to Hopkinton in the first half, having scored just nine points, in Saturday morning’s Div. 2 state championship at the MassMutual Center in Springfield.

“I think they were feeling a little confident, more than they should’ve coming into the game and then they recognized the fact and were reminded of the fact that that’s a very good team,” said Foxboro coach Lisa Downs.

Just as it did in the semifinal, the Foxboro defense turned the game around in the second half. After allowing Hopkinton seniors Ivy Gogolin (13 points) and Regan Keavany (six points) to score 19 combined in the first half, the Warriors held the pair to only five after the break.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Behind a lockdown defense, Foxboro (26-2) used a 32-14 second half run to pull out a 49-41 victory and seal the program’s second state championship, and first since 1995.

“That just shows that we never give up,” said senior guard Ashley Sampson, who scored nine of her team-high 15 points in the fourth quarter. “We were down 10 to a good team but our defense, especially Lily pestering the guards, it got us back into it.”

Lily Sykes, who finished with 11 points, five steals, and two charges taken, added, “We knew that we played that 2-3 really well against Pentucket, so we were like okay we can work on it for Hopkinton too but obviously it didn’t turn out the way we wanted it to, clearly, because they hit every single outside shot. Man is our bread-and-butter so we just stuck to that and we know that defense creates offense.”

For Sampson, Sykes, and fellow seniors Grace Tamulionis and Shannon Smally, the state title was the culmination of their four years together at Foxboro. From playing together as freshmen in a South final to winning back-to-back Davenport division and Div. 2 South titles to getting redemption for last year’s loss at the TD Garden and reaching the title game, going on the journey together made the result that much sweeter.

“It’s the best thing that could ever happen,” said Sampson. “To end the season all together, it doesn’t feel real right now.”

Tamulionis added, “It means everything. We’ve been talking about it since freshman year, working towards it and I remember last year at the banquet she (Coach Downs) was like this is our goal this year just get here and to actually do it is…just awesome.”

The ultimate happy ending did not look promising in the first quarter. Foxboro managed just four points, on an Abby Hassman jumper to start the game and a Sampson jumper that cut the lead to 8-4. Hopkinton was hardly lighting up the scoreboard, but all four made field goals were threes (two by Keavany) for an early 12-4 lead after one.

In the second, the Hillers got the ball into the hands of Gogolin and the UNH-bound senior provided Hopkinton’s first 13 points in the quarter. The Hillers pushed the lead to 23-9 as Foxboro continued to struggle to find the range. Sykes (11 points) buried a three and Sampson followed with a pull-up jumper before Katelyn Mollica (eight points) got her first points on a tough finish at the rim.

With an 8-4 run, Foxboro got the lead down to 10 at the half and, just as they had done three days before, the Warriors refused to panic.

“I think it was nerves at first but it was the same as any place we’ve ever played,” Tamulionis said. “The game made us a little nervous and it took us a little while to warm up.”

Downs remarked, “Even if I had a shred of doubt in my mind, I was completely moved when I saw their eyes. There was a timeout and I just looked at each of them and they were just like, coach we’ve got this.

“They knew what they needed to do, they knew what their capabilities were compared to what they had already done out there and we knew it was just a matter of time and we needed to kick it into gear.”

The Warriors got going at the start of the second half. Sykes nailed her second three to start the third, Sampson hit a pair at the line, and Tamulionis finished a fast break off a Sykes assist. Sykes grabbed a steal and a layup to cut the lead to just one.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

“Defense is always our thing because you can have an off-night shooting but the only time you’re going to have an off-night on defense if your effort isn’t there and my girls are always giving 100 percent,” said Downs.

Hopkinton scored the final four points of the quarter to extend the lead to five heading to the fourth, but the Warriors had stolen the momentum.

Tamulionis hit a pair of threes early in the fourth that kept Foxboro within three points. Sampson twice got the Warriors within one, once on a steal and layup and then on a pair of free throws. Sykes got another steal in the backcourt and went in for a layup that gave Foxboro a 38-37 lead, its first since the opening basket.

“It was a little bit of redemption because coach would’ve killed me,” said Sykes of the go-ahead basket. In the Pentucket game she had missed a layup that would have tied it late in the fourth quarter. She joked, “I hit it and was like, finally I hit a layup.”

Mollica scored with a drive to the rim and Sampson became more aggressive taking the ball to the basket and getting to the line. She went 7-of-9 down the stretch and Mollica added four from the charity stripe as well.

“I just wanted to win that game,” said Sampson of her mentality in the final quarter. “I was going up weak when I had the opportunity to go inside but I had to go up strong and, if not make it, then draw the foul and take the free throws.”

The seniors have played 99 games together during their high school careers. It has been a long journey to this moment and it was one that each of them wanted to savor.

“It’s wicked exciting. I don’t even know, it doesn’t feel real at all. It’s just awesome,” said Sampson. When asked what it meant to be a state champion, Tamulionis simply added, “I don’t believe it. It’s crazy.”

Sykes said, “It’s the best feeling ever. They’re my best friends off the court and to win this with them is huge.

“I’m speechless. I just knew that it was the senior leadership. Freshman year we were all on the court playing, all three of us, and to just come back and step up in this huge game is just amazing.”

Downs, who was an assistant coach in 1995, the last time that the Warriors won the state title, praised her seniors for their contributions to the program and admitted that along with the excitement of winning is the sadness of not having another practice or game with this group.

“It’s kind of surreal,” she explained. “It was 111 days ago, I counted on the calendar, that we started the season and we knew we had to put some tough games on our schedule because no one else would play us this year.

“I always kind of knew we’d get to this point, not that I’d let them know, but the Coyle game at their gym we won by one, I saw the exact same faces that I saw in that timeout [today]. Obviously, it’s bittersweet because I’ll never have a group like this one.”

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Podcast: Previewing Foxboro vs. Hopkinton

Podcast

Following a thrilling comeback win in the state semifinal, Foxboro is headed to Springfield for the MIAA Division 2 State Championship. The Warriors will take on a familiar foe in Hopkinton. Foxboro played the Hillers twice this season and split the season series.

HockomockSports.com’s Josh Perry and Ryan Lanigan discuss Foxboro’s season and the upcoming game against Hopkinton. Guests on the podcast include Foxboro head coach Lisa Downs, Boston Herald correspondent Greg Dudek, and Canton head coach Jimmy Choquette.

Seniors Carry Foxboro to Thrilling Semifinal Comeback

Foxboro girls basketball
Foxboro senior Ashley Sampson scored 19 of the Warriors final 20 points, to lift Foxboro to a dramatic come from behind victory and a spot in Saturday’s state title game. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

Josh PerryFollowJoshPerry


WOBURN, Mass. -As the clock was winding down in overtime, Foxboro coach Lisa Downs stood with her hands behind her head at the end of the Warriors bench. Her face filled with happy disbelief, as though she couldn’t believe what she was seeing from her team. She was not alone.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Foxboro had fallen behind by as many as 20 points in the second half, struggling to stop North champion Pentucket from getting to the basket on one end and struggling to get anything to go down on the other end of the floor. It looked as though, for the second straight year, the Warriors would end their season in the state semifinal.

But something changed in the third quarter. Foxboro switched to an aggressive 2-3 zone that took away the driving lanes and seemed to lift the team’s energy level and a couple of shots started to fall. The lead was cut down to 10 at the end of three and momentum was with the South champs heading to the final eight minutes at Woburn High.

That was when the senior leadership took over. Lily Sykes buried three shots from beyond the arc and Ashley Sampson put together the type of run that made her a Hockomock League MVP as a junior. After being held to just two points in the first three quarters, she scored 20 in the fourth quarter and overtime, including 19 of her team’s final 20 points, and made a driving layup on the left baseline to tie the game with 2.6 remaining in regulation.

Sampson would go on to score 14 points in overtime, shooting 6-for-6 at the line in the final minute, leading the Warriors to an improbable, thrilling, 58-54 come from behind victory and a spot in the state championship game on Saturday morning.

“We had three captains on the floor the whole game, so we just had to keep telling everyone to keep going no matter how much we were down by,” said Sampson after the game. “I don’t really know what I was thinking, I just didn’t want that to be the last game.”

Downs said of Sampson, “She played like the MVP that she is. When the pressure is on, she’s the one we want to have the ball in her hands and with those seniors on the court we knew we’d be in good shape if we could just chip away a couple baskets at a time.”

She added, “I knew once we got it close that it was going to be anybody’s ballgame. It just came down to who was going to finish when the clock started ticking down to the end and we did.”

Coming off an atypical South final in which the Warriors were held to a season-low 40 points by Nauset, the scoring slump continued in the first half on Wednesday. Abby Hassman started the game with a three and had five in the first quarter, but Foxboro only managed seven as a team. The Warriors were outscored by Pentucket sophomore Casey Hunt, who had 10 by herself.

The second quarter was little better, as the Sachems continued to find holes in the heart of the Warriors defense, driving to the basket and using that penetration to open space for shooters at that the three-point line. Sophomore Angelica Hurley scored eight of Pentucket’s 17 in the quarter, while Sykes (16 points and seven rebounds) scored all seven for the Warriors.

Trailing 29-14 going into the break, Downs implored her team to not let this season, which included a perfect 16-0 record in the league and only two losses overall, be ended in this fashion.

“She just pretty much said, in the nicest way, we’ve never played like that so we really couldn’t do any worse,” said Grace Tamulionis of the halftime team talk. “We just came out and played like it’s a new game and just started over.”

Downs said, “I begged them at halftime not go out this way and none of the seniors wanted to end their entire Foxboro High School [careers] playing the way that they did the first half. They just dug their heels in and did what they did all season, which is win it with defense.”

Pentucket did not back down to start the second half, scoring the first five points to build its largest lead, but there were signs of life from the Warriors. Freshman Katelyn Mollica (eight points) drilled a three to cut the lead to 17. After Hunt scored on a put-back, Tamulionis (five points) knocked down a pair of jumpers.

Hunt responded with a drive to the basket for a 38-21 lead. Foxboro would outscore the Sachems 22-5 from that point on.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Much of the change in momentum could be traced back to a defensive switch in the second half from man-to-man to a 2-3 zone that allowed Sykes and Mollica to be aggressive on the Pentucket perimeter players.

“It starts with defense, it always has,” Tamulionis explained. “So, when we started playing hard defense I think it really helped on our offense.”

Hassman kicked it out to Mollica for a three to get the run started and Sampson finally got on the board with a jumper. Hassman (seven points and seven rebounds) took the ball to the hole and scored off glass to make it a 10-point game heading to the fourth quarter. The energy seemed to be with the Foxboro bench and fans, as though they could sense there was more to come.

Tamulionis fought for a tough offensive rebound and swung a pass out to Sykes for her third three-pointer of the game to cut the lead to single digits. After a Pentucket basket and a Sampson free throw, Sykes knocked down a step-back three and then buried another, after a Sampson offensive rebound, to get Foxboro within just two points.

“That was not us the first half,” said Sampson about the difference after the break. “We’ve never played like that and we just knew that we had to step it up in the second half and get back to our game.”

Now the Warriors were firing on all cylinders and the crowd was roaring them on. Tamulionis had two chances to give Foxboro the lead and both shots were halfway down but kicked out and Sykes had a steal and fast break for the tie, only to have the layup roll off the rim. Hurley (15 points) made them pay with a three that restored a five-point lead and a momentary respite.

Sampson answered, scoring on a drive plus the foul with a minute remaining on the clock. Again Foxboro had chances to tie or take the lead but couldn’t get that crucial bucket. After two missed shots with 11 seconds to play, Sykes saved a Foxboro possession by diving on the floor to force a jump ball.

There was no surprise who would get the ball in the final seconds. “I did because I don’t think I had really scored until then,” said Sampson when asked if she expected to get the ball at the end of the game. “I was frustrated with myself but there were other people stepping up. That’s all you can ask for.”

The ball swung around to Hassman in the corner who took a dribble towards the top and then flipped it back to Sampson on the baseline. She took one dribble to the rim and scored to make it 43-43. The officials put 2.6 on the clock and Pentucket got a shot off but it hit the backboard and bounced away.

In overtime, Sampson took over. She hit a three from the right wing to give Foxboro the lead and then made it 49-45 with another three on the left. She responded to a Sachems basket with one of her own and then was perfect at the line in the final minute. In the process, she became just the third Foxboro player to pass the 1,500-point mark for her career (Jennifer Brown was the last in 1998).

Sampson said, “I’m pumped. This is what we were working for all season, so now we’ve got our chance to get it.”

“I don’t even know. I don’t know how we did it, but I’m so excited,” added Tamulionis. When asked about how far these seniors have come, from playing as freshmen against Duxbury in a South final to now having the chance to play for a state title, she said, “We’ve played together since we were in fifth grade, so I think to get this chance is just such a good opportunity and we’re all wicked excited.”

Foxboro (25-2) will face Central champion Hopkinton for the third time this season on Saturday at 11 a.m. at the MassMutual Center in Springfield. The teams split two games in the regular season.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Foxboro Rides Defense To Earn to Back-to-Back Titles

Foxboro girls basketball
Foxboro’s Ashley Sampson (17 points) drives to the basket against Nauset. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)

Josh PerryFollowJoshPerry


TAUNTON, Mass. – Foxboro came into Saturday evening’s Div. 2 South final against Nauset at Taunton High averaging more than 65 points per game this season, but what turned out to be even more important for the Warriors as they aimed for a second straight sectional title was that their defense was allowing fewer than 37 points per game.

It was not a pretty game. Neither team shot well and the game was played more at the pace that Nauset preferred, which was in the half-court, running down the shot clock and not allowing Foxboro to get into transition. Yet, at the end, Foxboro was once again heading to the TD Garden with another trophy in the case following a 40-23 victory, in which it allowed Nauset only six made field goals in the entire game.

“From day one, first day of practice, we wanted to make sure that defense was the best aspect of our game, so we came out here and we just played the best defense we possibly could,” said senior Lily Sykes. When asked if there was a point that she was concerned about winning the game, especially as the offense struggled, Sykes replied, “Honestly, I personally no. We just have too many weapons for teams.”

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Nauset had only two seniors on its roster coming in, while Foxboro, even with senior center Shannon Smally sidelined with a shoulder injury, started three seniors and four players with experience on this stage. Foxboro used that experience to not panic even as its shots were not falling.

“That’s a young team and it’s intimidating to play in this type of venue and with this many people and all that pressure,” said Foxboro coach Lisa Downs. “The seniors could just settle themselves down better than the younger kids.”

Sykes added, “We played in the sectional finals freshman year. I don’t think any of us were nervous, so we just came out and knew we were going to win.”

Things started well for the Warriors, who jumped out to a fairly typical 13-1 lead in the opening quarter. Ashley Sampson (game-high 17 points and six steals) knocked down a pair of threes to get things going and then completed a three-point play to give Foxboro the early advantage. Freshman Katelyn Mollica, the lone starter who is experiencing the playoffs for the first time, also drilled a three.

Nauset’s lone basket of the first was a three by 6-foot sophomore center Skyeler Sandison that made it 13-4. Abby Hassman hit a jumper off one of Sykes’ five assists to give Foxboro a 15-5 edge after one quarter.

Sandison was the primary threat for Nauset coming in and Foxboro relied on Grace Tamulionis to front the center and deny passes into the post. The strategy worked perfectly. Even when Tamulionis was not able to deflect the pass, a Foxboro player was lying in wait on the backside to get the steal. Sandison finished with only five points and even though Tamulionis only scored four herself, after leading the Warriors with 19 in the semifinal, she was a key to the win.

“She did amazing,” said Downs of Tamulionis. “We only had one day to practice for that and Sandison was our main focus. We were kind of leaving Ashley’s man unattended to double team on her because once she gets the ball in the paint she’s pretty deadly in there.”

The offense started to sputter in the second. After Chelsea Gibbons hit a pair at the line, she picked up a steal and fed Sampson for a rare fast break bucket. Mollica (13 points) added a steal and layup to push the lead to 13, but Nauset would answer with five straight to give the fans who made the trip up from the Cape a little hope.

Sampson took the momentum back with a floater and a transition basket off a Gibbons assist. It was 25-13 at the break even with Foxboro admittedly not playing at the top of its game.

“I give them credit, they were getting back much quicker than I thought they would,” Downs explained. “They were also pressuring our rebounders so we couldn’t get the outlet as quick as usually do…but when we had the open court we were able to attack the basket.”

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

The third quarter was even worse, as the two teams combined for 11 points. Nauset got four, including a three-pointer, from Reagan Meehan, but Mollica drained a three as well, Tamulionis hit a free throw line jumper, and Sampson scored with an offensive rebound. That was all the scoring for the third.

“We know what we’re capable of but we were a little bit tense and our shots were a little bit flat,” said Downs, “so we just need to really exaggerate that follow through.”

Tamulionis scored with a layup off a Sampson assist to get the fourth quarter started and push the lead to 17 at 34-17. Meehan (eight points) completed a three-point play to give Nauset some life, but Mollica knocked down a corner three and added two more with a steal and layup to seal the victory.

It does not matter if the win was pretty or not, Foxboro still gets to take home the trophy for the second straight year and gets another shot at playing at the TD Garden. It is something that the Warriors have been thinking about for a full year.

“With this group of seniors, I would’ve been upset to have left too early,” said Downs. “They have unfinished business and they got a taste of it last year and they haven’t forgotten it.”

Sampson said, “It’s really exciting. Last year obviously didn’t end how we wanted but now we have the experience of playing there so it won’t be totally new to us. I think that will really help us.”

Sykes added, “I thought coming into the season we had a chance but with every single person contributing it’s the best season ever.”

Foxboro (24-2) advances to face North champion Pentucket at the TD Garden on Tuesday at 5:45.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Tamulionis, Mollica Keep Warriors Afloat Against Lakers

Foxboro girls basketball
Foxboro senior Grace Tamulionis shoots a three-pointer against Silver Lake in the second half. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
 
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
BRIDGEWATER, Mass. — For the first time all season, the Foxboro High girls basketball team had to deal with a change to its lineup.

After senior Shannon Smally suffered an injury in the Warriors’ win over Stoughton in the quarterfinals, the Warriors had to make an adjustment in the semifinal matchup against #5 Silver Lake.

Head coach Lisa Downs inserted freshman Katelyn Mollica into the lineup, and after a close first quarter, the Warriors pulled away from the Lakers over the final three quarters to pick up a 63-37 win.

With the win, Foxboro returns to the D2 South Sectional Final for the second straight year.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

“We knew going into it not having Shannon for the first time, there would be an adjustment. For a freshman to start in the in the sectional semis, it’s intimidating so I wasn’t sure how [Katelyn] would react, and she was a little tight in the first quarter, as we all were. Once the second quarter came, we started to hit more shots and I think that gave us confidence.”

“Defensively we made a few mistakes that I wasn’t psyched about but they picked up the intensity when we needed to on the offensive end. And defensively we did a better job on the boards in the second half, still not as good as we need to be. On offense we started making the extra pass, making some open shots and shooting a little bit more confidently.”

It was a rapid start to the games the Warriors, who are known for their ability to get out in transition and score in bunches, found themselves squaring off with a team that played at the same pace.

“Honestly all season long we’ve been the fastest ones out there,” Downs said. “They were getting back quicker than we were accustomed too, hats off to them they had a nice job. And they were getting back on our fast breaks and we usually can get a couple three on ones and we didn’t have the numbers we usually have.”

Silver Lake’s Annabella Boudreau hit her first two threes of the game to give the Lakers their lone lead (6-3) but Foxboro received trifectas from senior Grace Tamulionis (19 points, seven rebounds) and Mollica (16 points, four assists) to keep pace.

The Warriors finished the first with an 11-4 run over the final 4:33 to play, getting buckets from Ashley Sampson (eight points, six rebounds, three assists), a jumper from Chelsea Gibbons and another three from each Tamulionis and Mollica.

The confidence from the successful shooting over the final four minutes carried into the second quarter, and the offense continued to roll.

The Lakers cut the deficit to five but Tamulionis answered with her third triple of the game off a pass from Mollica, then Abby Hassman matched a jumper from Silver Lake’s Holly Reeder-Morning. Mollica found Tamulionis once again behind the line and she drained her fourth three to make it 25-14 with under four minutes to go in the first half.

Silver Lake kept it close with a 5-1 run only for Lily Sykes (seven points, five rebounds, four assists) to answer with a triple.

Foxboro amped up its defensive pressure to end the half with a steal from Sampson leading to two from Tamulionis, and then a steal from Hassman resulting in a triple from Mollica, giving Foxboro a 36-22 edge at the break.

The Warriors pesky defense came alive in the third quarter, holding the Lakers to just 4-for-17 shooting from the floor in the third quarter while forcing four turnovers. Foxboro used a 12-2 surge to start the quarter, pulling away from the Lakers for good.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Tamulionis drained another three to start the second half followed by two each from Mollica, Tamulionis, and Hassman. Mollica connected for a three on a feed from Hassman to cap the run.

“I told Grace before the game that we needed a big night from her on the scoreboard and she delivered,” Downs said. “Usually once she hits that first shot she’s more relaxed and all of a sudden the floodgates open. She did what we needed her to do. Her and Katelyn Mollica, very happy with what they contributed tonight.”

Foxboro finished with 11 three-pointers on 27 attempts. Tamulionis led the way with five threes made while Mollica had four.

“Grace loves that [three-point] shot,” Downs said. “We’re so lucky this year with Abby [Hassman] doing as well as she does that I can put Grace out on the wing. When she has the shot on, she’s deadly with it. She’s a tough matchup because you kind of need a guard to defend her. So when they put a big on her, she’s able to up fake and go a little bit. She’s doing a great job.”

The Warriors held the Lakers to just seven points in the final quarter, limiting Silver Lake to just 15 point total in the second half.

Foxboro girls basketball (23-2) returns to the D2 South Final and will take on #3 Nauset on Saturday at 5:30 at Taunton High. Nauset has averaged 50.6 points per game so far in the tournament while allowing 37 points with wins over NDA, Duxbury, and Pembroke.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Foxboro Passes Test Behind Sampson Season-High

Foxboro girls basketball
Katelyn Mollica drives to the basket in the first half against Hanover in the opener of the Warrior Classic at Foxboro High. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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FOXBORO, Mass. – Coming into Monday night’s opener of the annual Warrior Classic, Foxboro had won twice by more than 50 points, seven times this year by 40 or more points, twice by 30-plus, and four times by 20 or more. All but five games this season had been decided at least double digits (including a 10-point overtime loss to Coyle & Cassidy in the season opener).

The Warriors had lost only twice this season, only once in the last 19 games, and completed the program’s first perfect run in the Hockomock League. Foxboro was hoping for a challenge to get them ready for the postseason, although it would be fair to say no one was expecting five-win Hanover to be the team that would provide it.

Instead of being another comfortable victory, Foxboro was given all it could handle by the Indians on Monday and needed a season-high 29 points from senior Ashley Sampson, including 13 in the fourth quarter, to pull out a 66-59 victory.

“We just haven’t been challenged and I think this was good for them,” said Foxboro coach Lisa Downs. “It lets them get a taste of teams that are better than what they’ve been facing recently. This tournament is always a great dress rehearsal for the state tournament.”

From the start, Hanover played like a team that was heading to the playoffs, breaking the Foxboro press and creating easy scoring opportunities at the rim. After a layup by Kathryn Fallon (11 points), Foxboro trailed 11-8 and there were some stunned faces in the stands.

Katelyn Mollica (12 points) came off the bench and provided a spark to close out the first quarter, as Foxboro was forced to go small in order to matchup with the Indians. She drove baseline for a layup and then scored in transition after one of Sampson’s four steals. Lily Sykes (six points) drilled a three to put the Warriors up four but a three-point play by Clare Connolly cut the lead to 15-14 after one.

“We like to play man-to-man defense and with a smaller team that was pretty much four guards, it wasn’t a great matchup for us,” Downs explained. “We did have to go to more zone than we typically ever would have to, but we did it decently. That’s something we have to work on to have it ready to go.”

The Indians continued to play well into the second, taking a 20-16 lead, before Foxboro finally put together one of its trademark runs. The Warriors scored the next 14 points to lead by double digits for the first time.

Half of those points came from the line, including five free throws from Sampson, who scored seven of Foxboro’s 14 points during the run. Mollica also knocked down a three after a Grace Tamulionis offensive rebound and kick-out pass. Tamulionis finished with seven points, eight boards and six assists.

Leading 32-24 at the break, Foxboro came out for the third quarter trying to get the ball into the paint, where the Warriors had a distinct size advantage. Sampson posted up first and drew a foul and then Shannon Smally (eight points) got the ball several times in the post, scoring six points in the third.

Downs said, “We knew that we had a height advantage tonight, so we wanted to make sure we were jamming it in there. Ashley’s tough under the basket, so that’s something we want to have in our back pocket.”

Hanover never caved and continued to cut into the Foxboro lead. Erin Flynn (10 points) scored five straight and Janey Devlin scored seven of her 19 points in the third. The Indians were controlling the glass, getting two and sometimes three looks at the basket.

“We had some breakdowns, especially the rebounding,” Downs admitted. “Sometimes we’d have Abby [Hassman] in there alone representing us in the rebounding department. We have to do a little less spectating once a shot goes up.”

The came continued to be tight throughout the fourth quarter, a rarity for the Warriors this season. A Flynn three pulled the Indians within one at 52-51 and after Sampson got to the basket with a baseline drive, Devlin answered with a put-back.

Sampson started to take over down the stretch, as the Warriors got the ball into the Adelphi University-commit’s hands on every possession. She got a finish at the rim off a Tamulionis assist and then knocked down a step-back jumper on the baseline. Mollica added an almost identical jumper and Sampson made 4-of-5 from the line to close things out.

It was a scare, but maybe it was a scare that the Warriors needed at this point in the season.

“We find out how they’re going to do with a little more pressure, a little more chaos on the floor than they’re used to and then we see how they react and what we have to work on in the next week,” Downs remarked.

Foxboro (19-2, 16-0) will face Natick in the final of the Warrior Classic on Tuesday. Natick rolled past Hoosac Valley by 30 points on Monday.

Tuesday’s Schedule & Scoreboard – 02/06/18

Today’s games are listed below.

Boys Basketball
Attleboro, 46 @ Mansfield, 64 – Final

Canton, 44 @ Milford, 45 – FinalMilford junior Brendan White hit a three with 0.4 seconds left while being fouled, elevating the Hawks to a win after a wild final minute. Milford had a 42-40 lead with under 30 seconds to play and even got a stop but a jump ball gave Canton the ball back. Devin Foster (17 points) hit three free throws after being fouled to take a 43-42 lead, and after a Milford turnover, Foster hit another free throw to give the Dogs a 44-42 lead. But White took a pass from Kayden Kelley (10 points, 10 rebounds) and hit the winning shot while being fouled. Andrew Fraioli added 11 points and 12 rebounds for Milford while Tony Harris had 16 points for Canton.

Foxboro, 59 @ Stoughton, 53 – FinalFoxboro hit six three-pointers in a 30-point third quarter, turning a 32-16 deficit at halftime into a 46-46 tie heading into the fourth quarter. Bobby Harrison scored five of his team-high 15 points in the fourth quarter while Joe Morrison added 12 points and Matt Rongione had 11 points, including three triples in the third. Anthony Mollica added five of his eight points in the fourth quarter for Foxboro. Stoughton senior Cam Andrews had a team-high 18 points while senior Steevens Phelimond had a career-high 16 points for the Knights.

Franklin, 63 @ Taunton, 51 – FinalClick here for a recap of this game.

Oliver Ames, 60 @ King Philip, 68 – Final

Sharon, 45 @ North Attleboro, 58 – FinalNorth Attleboro senior Chad Peterson returned from injury and scored a career-high 23 points, draining seven three-pointers to lead the Rocketeers to a win over Sharon. Peterson hit four triples in the opening quarter, two more in the second and another in the fourth. North led 34-27 at halftime and 43-38 at the end of three. The Rocketeers clinched the game with a 15-7 fourth quarter. Josh Montague added 11 points for Big Red while Jacob Petersen finished with eight points. Sharon’s Malik Lorquet had 19 points, 10 rebounds, and nine blocks while Alex Kaufmann added 14 points.

Girls Basketball
Mansfield, 58 @ Attleboro, 40 – FinalMeg Hill had her 12th double-double of the season with 21 points and 12 rebounds and she also added four blocks. Hill is now seven points shy of 1,000 for her career. Ann Maher and Sydney Mulkern each added nine points for the Hornets. Sam Pierce paced Attleboro with 11 points and Liv McCall added eight.

Milford, 42 @ Canton, 38 – Final

Stoughton, 19 @ Foxboro, 74 – FinalFoxboro went on a 17-0 run after the opening basket by Stoughton to take control and added a 10-0 run to close out the first half. Ashley Sampson was the game’s top scorer with 18 points, while Grace Tamulionis added 16 points and 10 rebounds for the Warriors. Foxboro also got 12 points from Lily Sykes and nine points from Abby Hassman. Val Whalen led the Black Knights with six.

Taunton, 42 @ Franklin, 69 – Final

King Philip, 45 @ Oliver Ames, 61 – FinalOliver Ames senior Kayla Raymond continued her stellar play this season, scoring 31 points and hauling in 10 rebounds to led the Tigers to a win at home. Alex Sheldon added nine points and 14 rebounds while Erin Holmberg chipped in with eight points.

North Attleboro, 47 @ Sharon, 24 – Final

Gymnastics
Mansfield, 146.8 @ Oliver Ames, 142.1 – Final

Downs Nets 100th Win as Foxboro Beats Taunton

Foxboro girls basketball
Foxboro senior Ashley Sampson (23) watches one of her first half three against Taunton. Sampson finished with a game-high 26 points. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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FOXBORO, Mass. – Foxboro’s loss on Monday to fellow Div. 2 state title hopeful Hopkinton, which ended a 10-game win streak, delayed the Warriors booking a place in the state tournament, but the wait only lasted about 24 hours.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

The Warriors seemed to have a renewed energy coming off the loss and rolled to an 85-27 victory over visiting Taunton on Tuesday to book a spot in the postseason earlier than in any other of head coach Lisa Downs’ seven seasons in charge. The win also marked a milestone for Downs, who earned her 100th victory as coach of the Warriors.

“I haven’t really had much time to think about it because all I’ve been thinking about is that loss last night to tell you the truth,” she said with a laugh. “I’m very lucky. There’s no way I would have 100 wins without the talent I’ve had coming through the ranks.”

After a trip to the TD Garden last winter, Downs believes that this year’s team has the potential to be the best in her time as coach thanks to the talent and the togetherness in the squad.

She explained, “This year I have the unique situation of having all those talented kids on the floor. The team chemistry we have, and it’s definitely obvious on the court, and there’s nothing like that. They all want to see each other do well.”

Senior Ashley Sampson, the Adelphi University-commit and reigning Hockomock MVP, was the star again on Tuesday with 26 points, six steals, and five rebounds, but the Warriors also got 19 points and nine rebounds from freshman guard Katelyn Mollica, eight points and five boards from Chelsea Gibbons, and six points and 10 assists from senior Lily Sykes.

“We’re a little shorthanded, but they play so well together,” said Taunton coach Walter Harrigan, who was missing his two leading scorers, junior Lily Patneaude and senior MacKenzie Handrahan.

He added, “They’re so talented, they’re long, they play good defense, they trap well, they make basketball plays and they’re going to do well in the state tournament.”

Hannah Moniz (10 points) drilled a three off an assist by Jaelyn Fernandez early in the first quarter that cut the Foxboro lead to 5-3, but, as they have so many times this season, the Warriors turned it one and broke the game wide open. Foxboro went on a 12-2 run to close the quarter and then added the first 10 points of the second.

Sykes knocked down both of her threes during that run and then assisted on a Sampson three. Sampson picked up a steal and raced down for a layup and Mollica knocked down a shot off another Sykes assist.

Moniz hit a three and scored all five of Taunton’s points in the second but Shannon Smally added four points in the post, Lizzy Davis scored on an offensive rebound, and Mollica drilled a three to push the Foxboro lead to 41-10 at the half.

The third quarter was even more prolific for the Warriors. Sampson scored plus a foul to kickstart a 10-point third, while Mollica buried a pair of threes in the quarter. Grace Tamulionis drilled a three and Abby Hassman scored four points, as Foxboro got points from nine different players.

Sykes continued to be the catalyst for the Foxboro offense, which has been highlighted by the extra pass to find open shooters. Downs said of Sykes, “She loves it. She would rather pass it to someone that’s open than take her threes. She’s just such a smart, heads up player, but she finds the girls that most other guards would not.”

Taunton continued to play hard into the fourth quarter, despite trailing by more than 50. The Tigers were starting three freshman and brought a freshman and eighth grader off the bench. Sonya Fernandez scored and got fouled on a drive, Tori DaRosa knocked down a pull-up jumper in the lane and eighth grader Abigail Souza (who also played in the freshman and JV games on Tuesday) buried a straightaway three for her first varsity points.

“You’ve got to take the positive from it over the last couple days, between injuries and everything going on,” said Harrigan about facing two of the top 10 teams in the state in a span of three days (the Tigers faced Coyle & Cassidy on Sunday).

He continued, “Hopefully this will help us become a little deeper and we still have a good shot at the state tournament and we’re going to work to get there. We had to get through some of these games and it’s unfortunate that we had to get through with a couple of injuries.”

Nine of the 11 wins for the Warriors this season have been by at least double digits and six wins have been by more than 30 points. Monday against Hopkinton was the second loss of the season (and first to count in the MIAA standings) and Downs saw it as motivation for the second half.

“We are going to have games like we had tonight and that’s honestly not going to prepare us for the Hopkinton game, but they realize they’re human, they’re beatable, and if we don’t show up any given night then that could happen,” she said.

“The sky’s the limit with this team and they hold their own destiny.”

Foxboro (11-2, 9-0) will put its unbeaten league record on the line against Oliver Ames on Friday, while Taunton (6-8, 4-5) will try to get back to .500 in the MIAA standings when it hosts Canton on Thursday.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.