Franklin Beats Algonquin To Repeat As D1C Champs

Franklin boys basketball
Franklin’s Paul Mahon drives to the basket in the first half against Algonquin. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
WORCESTER, Mass. – The 2018 Franklin boys basketball team has relied on its defense all season long to win game after game.

So it’s only fitting the Panthers came up with a pair of big stops to secure a 58-53 win over Algonquin to clinch the program’s second straight D1 Central Sectional Championship.

Holding a 55-50 lead with 4:21 to go, the Panthers relied on the defensive end to clinch the title. The Tomahawks had the momentum, sandwiching a bucket from Nick Redden (25 points, 11 rebounds) around two defensive stops to get within two.

The Panthers got a turnover but gave the ball back on an offensive foul that negated an and-one opportunity. Once again, Franklin got the stop it needed but the rebound bounced around and out of bounds. Algonquin called a timeout with an inbounds chance under the Franklin basket with 39.3 to go.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

The Tomahawks tried to inbound the ball but Franklin senior Paul Mahon (18 points, five steals) read the play, launching into the air to tip the ball free while diving into the opposing bench. Senior Jack Rodgers tracked it down for an open layup and a 57-53 lead.

“If we were going to go out it, we were going to do it playing our style of basketball,” said Franklin head coach CJ Neely about being aggressive on the final possessions. “We weren’t going to hope to not lose, we went out there to win the game. I thought our rotations were very aggressive, we got we trap when we wanted to trap them and we got some of the deflections out of it. We said at halftime this game is going to come down to deflections, loose balls, rebounds, and a couple of stops.”

Back down the other end of the court, Redden missed a jumped but Algonquin grabbed the offensive board. But an errant pass bounced around in the paint before Franklin junior Jalen Samuels (six points, 12 rebounds) grabbed hold, tossing a pass ahead for Mahon who was followed. He hit one of two free throws with 15.2 to ice it.

“It was a risk-reward play but I saw the ball in the air and I thought to myself “that’s mine“ so I went up and try to make a play on it and Jack made a nice play to track it down and score,” Mahon said.

Franklin held a 49-42 lead heading into the final quarter but the Tomahawks needed just 1:34 for a 7-0 run to tie the game.

Panthers sophomore Chris Edgehill (23 points) snapped the run with a nice take to the rim to go up 51-49. Algonquin answered with a free throw to get within one. The teams traded turnovers and then Mahon poked away another ball, leading to a break from the Panthers.

Edgehill drove to the basket to drive the defense before kicking to the corner to Rodgers. But as the defense scrambled to him, he alertly used one extra pass to get it to Mahon, who stepped up and calmly buried the triple to make it 54-50 with 4:51 to play. It was just Franklin’s third made three of the game (finishing 3-for-23 from beyond the arc).

“That felt good,” Mahon said. “I kind of get a little streaky with my shooting. We wanted Chris to attack the basket tonight and get into the lane and dish it out. He kicked it to Jack and he found me and I just let it fly, it felt awesome.”

Mahon missed last year’s sectional final with an injury and was limited his sophomore year against St. John’s because of early foul trouble.

The senior captain scored 10 of his points in the opening quarter to help the Panthers get off to a strong start (22-17 lead after one quarter). He also took on the task of guarding Algonquin’s leading scorer, Kyle Henderson (over 20 points per game).

Mahon limited Henderson to just 13 points on 3-for-11 shooting and had a big hand in Henderson committing nine turnovers.

“What up player, what a person,” Neely said of Mahon. “He wanted the challenge the second we won our last game…he told me I want Henderson. He couldn’t wait for the opportunity he’s been talking about it all week. Obviously, Henderson is a great player, you’re not going to shut him down, but Paul did about as good as you probably can against him. He was averaging over 20 points per game and now that’s another person Paul holds under their average.

“He’s relentless on the defense of end of the floor so most guys wouldn’t be able to come down the other end and hit that big shot when you need them to but he seems to be everywhere. He’s been our true captain for two years by himself and there’s a really good reason for that with the effort he gives night in and night out.”

Franklin limited Algonquin to just three points over the final 5:30 of the game and forced six turnovers.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

The Panthers had a rough start to the game, committing four of their 16 turnovers on their first four possessions, facing a 6-0 deficit before even getting a shot off. But Franklin settled down and used a 13-0 run to take the lead. Leading 18-8 in the frame, the Tomahawks got back into the game with a 9-4 run.

Franklin held a five-point lead three times but each time the Tomahawks had an answer to get within three. The Tomahawks tied the game 32-32 with a minute to go in the half but Edgehill fought through contact to make back to back baskets to give the Panthers a 36-32 lead at the break.

Redden was a big reason why the Tomahawks were in the game, scoring 18 points in the first half. Both Henderson and Brian Duffy did a nice job of forcing the Panthers to bring help and Redden cleaned up with some easy buckets down low.

Franklin remedied that in the second half, holding the Tomahawks’ big man to just seven points in the second.

“We were trapping ball screens off of him and they did a nice adjustment of picking and popping with him to get him some open looks,” Neely said. “We weren’t great on our rotation against him and he got some good looks. And then he had some nice post moves and got some buckets that way. He’s long and we don’t have many long guys will start the game.

“We had some tough matchups out there but we adjusted by rotating a bit better. And then sometimes we would switch and sometimes we wouldn’t, just a couple different combinations to mix it up. But for the most part, we wanted to make him put it on the ground and then play defense against him.”

In the third, the Tomahawks cut the deficit to three with a layup with three minutes to play, but a big three-point play from Samuels, two from Edgehill, another free throw from Samuels and a pair of free throws from Edgehill with two seconds left put Franklin ahead 49-42 at the end of three.

Franklin boys basketball (22-3) will take on D1 West Champion Springfield Central (22-0) in a rematch of last year’s state semifinal. The game is scheduled to tipoff on Monday at Worcester State University at 7:30.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Franklin Handles Natick, Advances To Sectional Final

Franklin boys basketball
Franklin’s Jack Rodgers is all smiles after being subbed out of the Panthers’ win over Natick. (Peter Raider/HockomockSports.com)

By Joe Clark, HockomockSports.com Student Reporter

WORCESTER, Mass. – All season long, the Franklin boys basketball team has relied on their defense and a balanced scoring attack on their way to the top seed in the D1 Central tournament. On Sunday afternoon at WPI, Franklin stuck to that formula in a 68-54 win over #5 Natick in the D1 Central Semifinals.

The Panther’s defensive effort was in full force throughout the first quarter, as they limited the Red Hawks to just ten points to take an 18-10 lead. Franklin sophomore Chris Edgehill score seven of his team-high 19 points for Franklin, including a three that beat the buzzer to give Franklin an eight-point advantage heading into the second quarter.

After Natick’s Will Bodnitzki (nine points, three rebounds) scored with just over four minutes to go in the first half to cut the Franklin lead to 26-17, the Panthers went on a 10-2 run and didn’t give up a field goal to close out the half. Threes from Paul Mahon (13 points, two steals) and Matt Elias (eleven points) highlighted the run that also included two free throws from Jack Rodgers (six points, eight rebounds, three assists) and a basket from Will Harvey (two steals).

Jalen Samuels (13 points, ten rebounds, four assists), who sat most of the second quarter with foul trouble, scored Franklin’s first five points of the second half as he converted a layup before hitting a three on a nice assist from Rodgers.

“Jalen’s a special player when he’s going,” said Franklin coach CJ Neely about Samuels. “Not having him in the first half, luckily we were able to keep our lead for a while there, and then getting him back obviously, being a guy that can get off you on the dribble and having big guys guarding him, I think it’s hard for them to deal with a guy like Jalen.”

Late in the third quarter after two free throws from Mahon put Franklin up 51-30, Natick came storming back, going on a 9-2 run to close the quarter behind seven points from Jahden Erold (22 points, ten rebounds).

“Not our best performance in the second half, I thought our first half was Franklin basketball, the ball was moving, defense was there, rebounding was there for us, but in the second half we started to get a little careless with the ball and started getting a little whiny about the calls and soft on the glass and on defensive end of the floor,” Neely said about his team’s second half performance. “Fortunately enough for us, we were able to make enough shots to kind of survive there in the second half and get out here with a ‘W.’”

After Alexander Cohen (three points, two rebounds) made a three with 2:15 to play to cut Franklin’s lead to just eight at 60-52, Edgehill erupted for the Panthers, scoring eight points in the last two minutes of the game, including a game-clinching three with 28 seconds to play in what would be the last basket of the game.

“I think he’s certainly never been afraid of a big moment, he’s someone that wants the ball in his hands in crunch time,” Neely said about Edgehill. “He’s a great player, and I think we’re relying on him as a team a lot to get our points.”

Franklin (21-3) will face Algonquin (17-7) Friday night at 6:00 PM at WPI for the D1 Central title. The Tomahawks beat St. John’s Shrewsbury 82-70 on Sunday for the chance to play for their first sectional title since 2001.

Franklin Takes Down Top Ranked Tech Boston

Franklin boys basketball
Franklin senior Paul Mahon converts a layup in the first half against Tech Boston. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
 
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
FRANKLIN, Mass. – Coming off a state finals appearance a year ago, Franklin loaded its schedule with tough opponents in hopes of preparing for another deep playoff run.

After beating D1 South hopeful New Bedford on Sunday, the Panthers matched up with the state’s top-ranked team, Tech Boston, in the championship game of the Harvey Nasuti Winter Classic.

Although the flow of the game was hindered by nearly 50 foul calls, the Panthers made the runs at the right times and limited the Bears in transition, resulting in a 76-67 win.

“We feel like we’re one of the best teams in the state,” said Franklin coach CJ Neely. “We’re not worried about who’s one or two or stuff like that. We talk about our goals and taking it one step at a time. This was our next goal [to win this tournament] and Tech Boston happened to the be the top-ranked team. They’re a very good team. We like that we can compete there and show what we’re made of, especially on the defensive side of the ball I think we did a great job able to slow them down some.”

Franklin sophomore Chris Edgehill scored a career-high 31 points and dished out five assists to garner the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player honor. Edgehill went 17-for-18 from the free throw line.

As a team, Franklin was 31-for-48 from the charity stripe, with 37 of those attempts coming in the second half.

The first quarter went back-and-forth with Tech Boston (16-1) twice building four-point leads (7-3, 11-7) but both times the Panthers came back. The latter comeback — a bucket from Jalen Samuels (13 points, 13 rebounds) on a feed from Paul Rudolph and two free throws from Edgehill — tied the game after eight minutes of play.

With the score knotted 18-18 in the second quarter, the Panthers rattled off a 12-3 run over the final 3:21 of the half.

Senior Paul Mahon (eight points, four assists) bookended the run with a pair of layups, Samuels had five straight points in the middle of the run and Edgehill drained a triple off a nice feed from Jack Rodgers. The run gave Franklin a 31-20 lead at the break.

“We wanted to take care of the ball and didn’t want to have too many live ball turnovers where it’s basically a pick six and they get a layup,” Neely said. “And we wanted to make them play half court and I thought if we could do those things we’d be alright. We can’t defend them in the full court if we turn it over and they are getting out. I think we had only three turnovers in the second quarter and we got some separation.”

Tech Boston upped its pressure to start the second half, using a full court press along with some trapping. The adjustment paid off and the visitors started the third quarter with an 8-0 surge to get within one point.

Franklin, however, had a response of its own. The Panthers went on a 14-0 run over the next four minutes to build the separation it needed to ride the rest of the way.

Matt Elias scored the first four points, Edgehill picked up four points via two technical free throws and a layup on the ensuing possession and then Mahon had four points breaking the press as well as an assist to Edgehill in transition.

By the end of the third quarter, the Panthers had a 55-38 lead on the previously unbeaten Bears.

“We knew they were going to have to adjust and start trapping us a little bit and putting some pressure on,” Neely said. “We didn’t do a good job adjusting right away but once we settled ourselves down and stopped chucking it around the gym, we were alright. Guys wanted the ball, they were flashing and catching and being strong with it. They weren’t just dribbling to nowhere. Once we started breaking the press we were fine. And Edgehill is great with the ball, you can rely on him to break some of those traps. And once you get through the top level we got some easy buckets.”

The Panthers didn’t have much of a chance to run their offense in the fourth quarter. Whether it was being fouled on defensive rebounds or trying to break the press, Franklin went to the line 28 times in the fourth quarter alone, sinking 16 attempts.

Franklin boys basketball (19-2) is back in action on Thursday when it travels to Cambridge Rindge & Latin in a rematch of last year’s D1 State Final. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:00 PM.

“We wanted to play a really hard schedule after what we did last year,” Neely said. “We hear it all the time about being in the Central [section]. We wanted to challenge ourselves against the best teams. We scrimmaged Needham, Newton North, and Burke earlier in the year, we played CM and New Bedford and [Tech Boston], we played Arlington. We’re ready, we wanted to be tested. The Central has some challenges, contrary to what people believe. So we wanted to be ready.”

Franklin Rides Balanced Scoring Attack Past Taunton

Franklin boys basketball
Franklin’s Paul Mahon drives to the hoop in the first half against Taunton. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
 
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
TAUNTON, Mass. – With the playoffs nearing closer and closer, the teams that make the deepest runs are usually always armed with multiple weapons.

The Franklin boys basketball team is looking like it’s going to be one of those teams.

The Panthers had three players score 15 or more points, building a 12-point lead at halftime, going up by as much as 21 in the fourth quarter and then had to fend off a late charge from Taunton’s reserves to earn a 63-51 win on the road.

Sophomore Chris Edgehill scored eight of his 15 points in the opening quarter, senior Jack Rodgers netted seven of his game-high 17 points in the second quarter and senior Paul Mahon spread his 15 points out equally across the second, third and fourth quarters to pace Franklin.

“I thought as long as we shared the ball like we can, and have four or five guys touch it we would be in good shape,” said Franklin head coach CJ Neely. “It’s about trusting each other and trusting the offense. We talked a lot in practice about trusting each other, screening for each other, believing in what we’re doing. If we do everything we need to, we’re going to get good looks. I think they did a nice job tonight of not caring who scored. Having three guys with 15 or more points is a great way to share it. That makes it so you can’t stop one guy.”

Edgehill got the offense going early, accounting for over half of the Panthers’ 15 points. He opened Franklin’s scoring with a layup, hit a three, and later converted a traditional three-point play.

The Panthers quickly turned their three-point lead to nine with an early 6-0 spurt in the second quarter. Rodgers scored back-to-back buckets, both on assists from Edgehill, and Alex Klowan capped the run on another feed from Edgehill.

Mahon hit an open three and Klowan converted an offensive rebound to keep the lead at 10. A layup from Mahon and a triple with under a minute to go from Rodgers pushed the lead to 14 but Prince Brown answered for Taunton to cut the deficit to 12 (32-20) at halftime.

“When you play a team like that, you have to step up,” said Taunton head coach Charlie Dacey. “You have to focus and it’s happened all year long, at some point we lose our focus. Either take a bad shot, make a defensive error, and then the run begins for no other reason than we made one mistake. Then it becomes two mistakes, then it snowballs and all of a sudden you’re down a decent margin. It’s frustrating.”

“[Franklin] plays such a sound, simple game like Mansfield does. We’ve got athletes too. I’m impressed so much by the simplicity of the game of Mansfield and Franklin. We go off the rails, and we just can’t produce points automatically…we have to work, work, work.”

The game opened up in the third quarter with a much faster tempo, which typically favors the Tigers. Taunton scored 14 points in the frame — its best period so far. But Franklin was equally as comfortable with the speed of the game, having its best offensive quarter with 20 points.

“Taunton’s very fast and when you turn the ball over, they make you pay for it,” Neely said. “We talked a lot about taking care of the basketball and not letting them get offensive rebounds. When they those things happened, they hurt us. But we thought we could get some points in transition ourselves. When we had the chance, we looked for it.”

Edgehill and Naz Kenion traded threes to open the third, then Kenion and John Martins combined for five points to cut it to 42-30. Mahon then connected on five straight points, Lens Esquil and Dante Law answered with two apiece but three from Rodgers and two from Paul Rudolph gave Franklin a 52-34 lead at the end of the third.

“Franklin can go fast, they can go slow,” Dacey said. “Even without [Jalen] Samuels, they don’t seem to skip a beat. They still have the shooting, they still set the screens. They can still produce points from other places.

Mahon gave the visitors a 21-point lead on two free throws (58-37) with three and a half minutes to play. That signaled for both teams to go to the benches for their reserves. Taunton’s second unit made the base of the opportunity.

Michael Quinn drained a three, Brown scored with a strong take, Alex Midouin got to the free throw line for one after an offensive rebound and Malik Charles converted a putback for a traditional three-point play, finishing a 10-1 run over two minutes.

Franklin put its starters back into the game at that point. Quinn scored again to make it a 10-point game and after an Edgehill free throw, Midouin scored down low to cut it to nine. But Mahon hit two free throws and added another after a Taunton miss to ice the game.

“They scrapped, good for those kids,” Dacey said of his reserves. “I have to give it to them, made them put their starters back in. But you just don’t want to be so far out of it against the quality teams. It seems like we’re playing catch up the whole game, and that’s tough to do in high school.”

Lens Esquil led Taunton with 14 points and six rebounds while Brown and Quinn each had six points apiece.

Franklin boys basketball (12-1 Hockomock, 15-1 overall) stays in a tie atop the Kelley-Rex division with the win heading into Friday’s colossal clash with Mansfield. Taunton (6-7, 10-8) will try to bounce back when it travels to King Philip.

Elias Lifts Franklin To Key Division Win Over Mansfield

Franklin boys basketball
Franklin’s Jalen Samuels dunks in the first half against Mansfield. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
 
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
FRANKLIN, Mass. – Having three legitimate offensive options has made Franklin one of the top teams in the area. But its now safe to say senior Matt Elias gives the Panthers a fourth.

Senior Paul Mahon, junior Jalen Samuels and sophomore Chris Edgehill have been reliable options for the Panthers over the past year and a half, but Elias has elevated his game this season.

The senior sharpshooter scored a career-high 17 points, connecting on four three-pointers to lead the Panthers to a key 67-52 win over Mansfield, putting the teams into a first-place tie in the Kelley-Rex. It also marked Franklin’s first win in its current gym, which opened in 2014.

“Elias had a huge game,” said Franklin head coach CJ Neely. “He’s a silent assassin. When he’s playing well, we’re playing well. You go right down the line, we have guys that can play but he’s really stepped up for us all season long, he’s had big shot after big shot. He’s shooting with a lot of confidence, he’s playing with a lot of confidence and that’s what we’re going to need if we’re going to win games like tonight.”

It wasn’t Elias’ first big scoring output of the season, but it may have been his most valuable. It seemed almost all 17 of his points either gave Franklin a big boost or halted Mansfield from gaining any momentum of its own.

He drained a three just seconds after Mansfield hit their first triple, and then another just minutes later to erase Mansfield’s second — and final — lead of the game.

In the third quarter, Edgehill (14 points), the team’s leading scorer entering Friday night’s game, was forced to the bench after picking up his fourth foul with four minutes to go in the frame. Although Mansfield closed the gap some, Elias hit his third three of the game to make it 45-33 and the keep the Hornets at bay.

And after Mansfield was called for an offensive foul with under a minute to play, Elias beat the buzzer with a putback on the offensive end — a potential five-point swing — to keep Franklin up 47-36 going into the final period.

“Those five points were huge,” Neely said. “Jalen and Chris were both out so we were trying to survive that stretch as long as we could. Obviously having both those guys out is not ideal, it’s not how you draw it up. But I was saying if we could keep the lead around 10 we’d in in great shape. Matt’s been there for us all season and he was there again tonight for us and I’m proud of them.”

Elias then opened the fourth quarter with his fourth triple of the night, extending the lead to 50-37. And then with five minutes to play, after Mansfield gained some momentum off of an offensive putback, Elias came down the other end and converted a traditional three-point play to make it 54-42.

“Matt Elias went out and has a night for himself, talk about an all-star performance,” said Mansfield head coach Mike Vaughan. “That’s what he’s capable of doing, he’s put in the time. If there was an MVP tonight, it has to go to him. Every time I thought we were on a run or going to close the gap, Matt throws his ceiling shot through the bottom of the night.”

After a frantic first quarter, the Panthers held a 17-13 advantage. Mansfield’s offense shot 50% from the field but had seven turnovers. Things didn’t get any better for the Hornets in the second quarter either.

Franklin continued its solid play on both ends of the court, going 6-for-11 from the field while Mansfield’s turnover woes continued. The Hornets had eight turnovers in the second quarter alone (15 first half total) while shooting just 2-for-13 from the floor, including 0-for-8 from downtown.

“We got some looks in the first quarter and they didn’t fall,” Vaughan said. “We got tight, started to press, we started looking to the officials for calls. I think we tried to win the game in one possession, everyone wanted to be a superhero instead of just chipping away and doing what we do. We just dug ourselves too big of a hole.”

The Panthers outscored Mansfield 14-7 in the quarter and took a 31-20 lead into the halftime break.

“I know CJ praises his team and also criticizes his team when he feels like they were outplayed…tonight they were definitely not outplayed,” Vaughan said. “[Franklin] did an awesome job, they took things away, they were well prepared. Simple things that people in the stands might not notice, they did a really good job taking away. They played with a lot more energy, a lot more passion. They played with a chip on their shoulder and we kind of came in and laid down like things were going to be handed to us.”

While Mansfield made small runs throughout the second half, the Panthers pushed their lead to 18 by opening the second half on a 9-2 run. Samuels (18 points, six rebounds) drove to the basket for two, Mahon (six points, three rebounds) drained a three, Samuels converted at the rim again and Jack Rodgers hit a pair of free throws to make it 40-22.

Mansfield got it back to single digits with a 9-2 run of its own, but Elias’ third triple put an end to that surge.

When the Hornets got it back to single digits later in the fourth quarter on a drive by Sam Hyland (six points, seven rebounds), Elias’ three-point play pushed the lead back to 12.

“We tried to take away some of their best options,” Neely said of his defense. Mansfield finished with a season-high 26 turnovers. “They are a tough team to stop, they are one of the best offensive teams around. The way they move the ball and play together is kind of reminiscent of what we do so it’s always going to be a battle. But I think the guys really bought into the scout. We knew we had to be focused for the entire 32 minutes.”

“It’s been a long time,” Vaughan said of having so many turnovers. “My first couple of years we averaged around 20 a game and that was not fun. I think we had 14 or 15 at the half, which is too many. At the end of the day they were playing man to man, they weren’t pressing, they weren’t doubling, they weren’t doing anything special. Granted our shot percentage deserved to be low because they were good defensively but turnovers…that’s careless. That’s not moving, that’s bad concentration. Turnovers you can control, most of them. Anything beyond 12 or 13, that’s too many.”

John McCoy led Mansfield with 14 points and four rebounds while Tyler Boulter and Ryan Otto (six rebounds) each had 10 points. Damani Scott finished with eight points and 10 rebounds.

Franklin boys basketball (5-1 Hockomock, 8-1 overall) is back in action on Tuesday with a trip to Attleboro. Mansfield boys basketball (5-1, 7-2) will try to bounce back on Sunday against Hanover in an endowment game (won’t count towards tournament record) at 5:30.

Dominant Third Quarter Pushes Panthers Past Tigers

Franklin boys basketball
Franklin’s Jalen Samuels goes up for a shot against Taunton’s Malik Charles (35) in the first half. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
 
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
FRANKLIN, Mass. – The Franklin boys basketball team had little trouble finding its defensive identity this season, which is a big reason why the Panthers have won six of their first seven games.

The search for an identity on the offensive end, however, has taken a little bit longer. But the Panthers seemed to find the balance they need in a 72-60 win over Taunton on Tuesday night.

The Panthers exploded for 27 points in the third quarter, turning what was just an eight-point lead into a comfortable 20-point cushion with just eight minutes left.

“I think we were just more aggressive and shared the ball,” said Franklin head coach CJ Neely. “When we play aggressive and guys look to attack the paint, and then when they get in there and make good decisions that can be the difference.

“I think early on in the season we were aggressive in the paint but not making good decisions. And then we started to pass too much. Now we’re finding the balance between driving and scoring and driving and finding a teammate, and I think that was the big difference offensively.”

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

The Panthers nearly doubled their score from the first half with the big quarter. After scoring 28 points on 42% shooting from the floor (10-for-24), Franklin exploded for 11 field goals (3-for-5 from three) in the third on 65% shooting with just one turnover.

Senior captain Paul Mahon scored eight straight points for the Panthers, part of a 14-3 run that Franklin used to open the second half. Mahon splashed a three from the corner and then hit one from a couple steps beyond the line. Franklin got out on a fast break but missed, only for Mahon to come in uncontested for one easy putback and a 36-24 lead just 90 seconds into the second half.

After Mahon got things started, sophomore Chris Edgehill (23 points) and junior Jalen Samuels (16 points, nine rebounds) did the rest for the Panthers in the quarter.

Samuels and Edgehill scored back-to-back baskets and then Samuels followed up his own miss with an easy putback. After Taunton stopped the streak with a free throw, Edgehill drained a three after the Panthers hauled in an offensive rebound.

Taunton’s Naz Kenion, who had a solid game off the bench with 11 points and six rebounds, corralled a three-point miss and scored to cut the deficit to 45-30, but Samuels added to Franklin’s second chance points with an assist from Edgehill. Samuels added two more free throws and Edgehill closed the quarter with four straight points.

“It’s always good to get Paul going,” Neely said. “We didn’t come out with a focus on getting him going specifically but we always want to get him involved offensively. He only took five shots [on Sunday] against Oliver Ames and that’s a problem. We need him to score for us. And we asked Jalen to be more aggressive for us tonight too, and both guys respond. Jalen had 16 and Paul had 13…that’s where we need to be. We need multiple scorers, we can’t just rely on one player.”

Franklin raced out to a 14-7 lead in the first quarter as the Tigers struggled from deep (0-for-10 from beyond the arc). In the second quarter, Taunton cut the deficit to five three separate times but couldn’t get closer.

Back-to-back buckets from Lens Esquil (17 points, nine rebounds) cut it to 16-11, but Matt Elias (13 points) answered for the Panthers with a triple. Lou Vendrell splashed a three to get Taunton within 21-16, but free throws from Jack Rodgers and Elias, followed by a bucket from Samuels stretched Franklin’s lead back to 25-16.

Esquil again rattled off four straight points to bring Taunton within 25-20 in the final minute of the quarter, but Elias drained another triple to give Franklin a 28-20 lead at the break.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Taunton’s up-tempo trap defense paid dividends in the final quarter, forcing seven turnovers in the final frame (50% of Franklin’s turnovers). That led to 25 points in the final frame, but the Panthers never let the game get within single digits.

Behind eight points from freshman Diamond Blakely (11 points total) and four points apiece from Kenion, Esquil and Malik Charles, Taunton cut it to 10 with a minute to play but that was as close as they would get.

Taunton finished the game 2-for-17 from beyond the three-point line.

“Obviously [Taunton] can really slash and get to the rim and bother you that way, but they definitely have some guys that can light it up from the outside so it’s difficult to defend,” Neely said. “We put a lot into one on one defending and not helping off guys like Vendrell and [Dante] Law. They got some looks in the first half, and then they also made some tough shots too. If they were going to continue to make those contested shots then we had to live with it.”

Taunton falls to 5-4 overall with its third straight loss and 2-3 in league play. The Tigers will try to bounce back when they return to action on Friday for just their third home game of the year against King Philip. Franklin boys basketball (4-1 Hockomock, 7-1 overall) will host rival Mansfield (5-0, 7-1) in a key Kelley-Rex division showdown.

Mansfield is riding a three-game win streak at Franklin, and are 2-0 in the new gym.

“You don’t have to get the guys fired up for a Mansfield game,” Neely said. “I think they’re already excited for it. I think as soon as we broke the huddle tonight, that was one of the first things the guys talked about it. It’s a big game for both teams. It’s still early in the season so we’re just trying to get better as is but those games are always battles, always tight. Hopefully, we can come out on top this time.”

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Strong Second Half Lifts Franklin Over CM

By Joe Clark, HockomockSports.com Student Reporter

FRANKLIN, Mass. – When the teams headed into the lockerroom for the halftime break, it looked as if the game was headed to a classic Franklin-Catholic Memorial finish that would come down to the final minutes.

But instead, Franklin came out swinging in the third quarter, outscoring the Knights 28-15 in the frame en route to a 74-60 win for the Panthers.

The third quarter started out similar to the first half as a back and forth affair. CM’s Kani Glover (seven points) opened the scoring up for the Knights, but Franklin sophomore Chris Edgehill (eight points) quickly responded with a three for the Panthers.

Anthony Morales (ten points, eight rebounds) responded back with a layup off a feed from Jarrett Martin (nine points). Jack Rodgers (career-high 18 points, four rebounds, five assists) scored for Franklin down the other end, and Martin hit an athletic layup seconds later to put CM up 37-36 with 6:03 left in the third quarter.

But from the 6:03 mark to the end of the third, Franklin finished with a 23-7 run that included five points apiece from Paul Rudolph (seven points off the bench) and Alex Klowan (eight points and four rebounds off the bench). At the end of the quarter, Edgehill buried a three from just inside half court as time expired to give Franklin a 13-point cushion to end the quarter.

“Chris’ three was huge, you don’t see that coming, it definitely brings a huge momentum into the fourth quarter, the guys were excited in the huddle, so we were ready to go,” said Franklin head coach CJ Neely about Edgehill’s three at the end of the third.

Franklin got off to a fast start as they held a 15-11 edge at the end of the first quarter. Rodgers had eight of his 18 in the first frame, while Jalen Samuels (nine points, ten rebounds) chipped in four points.

Catholic Memorial came back with 20 points in the second quarter, behind six points off two threes from Will McDonnell and seven points from Jarron Flynn (team-high 15 points, five assists, five rebounds). Matt Elias (14 points including four threes, five rebounds) had six points off of two threes for Franklin in the quarter.

One of the keys for Franklin was their senior leadership, as 57 of their 74 points came from seniors, including 18 from Rodgers, 14 from Elias, and ten from Paul Mahon (who also contributed seven rebounds and four assists). In addition, Klowan and Rudolph brought a spark off the bench, as both played big roles in Franklin’s third-quarter run that helped them put the game away.

“They’ve definitely seen CM before, so they know the deal, I think when you don’t play them you don’t get that type of refresher, they’re one of only a few teams than can press you like that and bother you, and when you haven’t seen it you get guys all over you and you can a little nervous throwing the ball around, but they knew it was coming, and we woke up this morning expecting pressure, so now they know it’s coming, they’ve seen it before, so I think it was huge to have them, and then Jalen and Chris have been in a lot of games for us in big moments, so they might as well be seniors at this point,” Neely added about Franklin’s senior leadership.

Since this was an exclusion game for Franklin, it will not count toward their tournament record. The Panthers (2-1 Hockomock, 6-1 overall) are scheduled to take on Oliver Ames (4-2) in their first Kelley-Rex matchup Friday night in Easton.

The Knights (3-3) will face Malden Catholic on the road on Friday Night. Franklin beat Malden Catholic 62-38 in a recent tournament game.

2017-2018 Hockomock Boys Basketball Preview

2017-2018 Hockomock Boys Basketball Preview

By HockomockSports.com Staff

2017-2018 Hockomock Boys Basketball Preview

Attleboro

2016-2017 Record: 13-10
2016-2017 Finish: Reached D1 South First Round
Coach: Mark Houle

Attleboro will be looking to its youth to try and get back to the state tournament this season. With just two seniors and four juniors, half of the Bombardiers’ roster is made up of underclassman.

But just because the Bombardiers are young, doesn’t mean they aren’t experienced. Senior Nate Douglas, a returning starter, has been getting minutes on varsity since his freshman year, and classmate Elvin Sam emerged as a reliable shooter off the bench last season. Sophomores Qualeem Charles and Bryant Ciccio made big impacts during their rookie campaigns last season. Charles (6’5) will be a big presence in the post while Ciccio will be one of the primary ball handlers.

Charles will be joined by sophomore Jason Weir (6’2) in the post while junior forward Dom Victor will be a game-changer on both ends of the floor. At 6’4, his athleticism will cause a lot of matchup problems for opposing defenses. Douglas and Ciccio will be joined by Mason Houle, Kevin Velazquez and Tim Callahan in the backcourt.

“We will need to have our younger players step up this year,” said AHS head coach Mark Houle. “We expect to be a well-rounded team who can play a fast pace game or well in a half court set.”

Canton

2016-2017 Record: 9-11
2016-2017 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Ryan Gordy

The goal is pretty clear for Canton this season. Not only do the Bulldogs want to reach the postseason for the first time since 2014, they want to compete for the Davenport division title.

With two of the top players back in the lineup, both goals are reasonable. Senior Tony Harris and junior Devin Foster, both HockomockSports.com Third Team selections a year ago, return to anchor a Bulldogs’ team that just missed out on the playoffs last year. They’ll be joined by Austin Maffie and Jake Verille, both returning starters, as well as Paul Corcoran, Kyle Fitzgerald and Ryan Lentol, who all have varsity experience.

Harris and Foster give Canton an immediate edge on offense with two talented scorers, but it will be important for others to step up and make plays all season long. On defense, the Bulldogs will rely on their quickness to try and bother teams.

“This is a fun group who have played a lot of basketball together, they like each other which helps with team chemistry,” said Canton head coach Ryan Gordy. “Hopefully that will translate into a good product on the court.”

Foxboro

2016-2017 Record: 12-10
2016-2017 Finish: Reached D2 South Quarterfinals
Coach: Jon Gibbs

The mantra “Defense Wins Championships” has been proven in many different sports, at many different levels. The 2017-2018 Foxboro Warriors are hoping that will be the case this season.

Head coach Jon Gibbs says that this team has the potential to be the best defensive team that he’s coached. “We have a lot of quick, tough, physical guards that move their feet well on the perimeter and are committed to the defensive end of the court,” he said. “I think this should be a major strength of our team.”

It helps that Foxboro returns the reigning HockomockSports.com Defensive Player of the Year in senior Joe Morrison. As a junior, Morrison routinely limited opponents’ best offensive player, and was a big reason why the Warriors allowed just 55.9 points per game.

Sophomore Brandon Borde returns to the starting lineup alongside Morrison. Borde had a strong freshman season and will likely see his role increase this year, especially on the offensive end of the court. Seniors Teddy Maher and Matt Rognione, both with plenty of varsity experience will both see plenty of time this year and will be relied upon to make plays.

“We have a very good mix of experience and youth,” Gibbs said. “Our seniors have shown excellent leadership thus far, practices have been competitive, and everyone is working hard to earn their spot and get better. We hope to keep building and improving each day so that we are peaking and playing our best basketball at the end of the season.”

Franklin

2016-2017 Record: 22-5
2016-2017 Finish: Reached D1 State Final
Coach: CJ Neely

After making it to the Division 1 State Final a year ago, the Panthers are hoping to be just as competitive this season. With three starters back, and a handful of experienced and talented bench players, the expectations for Franklin are certainly high.

Losing Josh Macchi to graduation will hurt, but the Panthers return their best player in senior Paul Mahon, along with two terrific young talents in junior Jalen Samuels and sophomore Chris Edgehill. When playing at his best, Samuels’ athleticism and offensive skills make him one of the toughest marks in the league. Edgehill really turned it on in the tournament and if he can sustain that level of play throughout the regular season, the Panthers will be a favorite for the league title.

Seniors Alex Klowan, Matt Elias, Jack Rodgers and Gavin Farnan all picked up valuable minutes a season ago and will be key pieces for the Panthers, whether its apart of the starting line up for coming off the bench. Having so many experienced players ready to come off the bench should give Franklin the upper hand on a lot of teams.

“Our strength on the offensive end will be in our balance and willingness to share the ball and create great scoring opportunities for the team,” said Franklin head coach CJ Neely. “On defense, we hope to make our opponents uncomfortable at all times and really focus on getting stops as a unit.”

King Philip

2016-2017 Record: 8-13
2016-2017 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Mark Champagne

After losing just three seniors that played valuable minutes last season, and a full season complete under head coach Mark Champagne, King Philip is looking to take the next step this year and get back to the postseason.

The biggest shoes to fill are those left by Seth Sullivan and Will Weir, but the Warriors have five players back that either started or saw significant varsity minutes a season ago for a team that was just a couple games away from making the playoffs. Not only were they just a couple of games off, they were competitive in almost every game, including a three-point loss to Attleboro, a one-point loss to Taunton, and a three-point loss to Mansfield in a four-game span.

Seniors Tom Madden, Pharoah Davis, and Nolan Bradley are all back this season, along with juniors Kyle Layman and Bruce Santillus. Layman and Madden (both 6’4) will give the Warriors size in the frontcourt while Davis, one of the most experienced players in the league, will be the premier ball handler. Bradley provides King Philip with a threat from beyond the three-point line and Santillus showed this offseason the ability to fill the scoresheet up.

“With more familiarity comes trust, and a more comfortable time spent in the gym this season,” Champagne said. “Guys have worked hard in the offseason and we expect it to pay dividends as we get into our schedule. We have good depth and good leadership.”

Mansfield

2016-2017 Record: 23-3
2016-2017 Finish: Reached D1 South Final
Coach: Mike Vaughan

This might be the most turnover we’ve seen the Hornets have in quite some time, but just because there will be a lot of new faces doesn’t meet much will change for the Hornets.

Expectations are still sky high, as Mansfield will be looking to compete for another Kelley-Rex title (Mansfield has won five straight division titles). And when it comes to the postseason, the Hornets are aiming to get back to at least the spot they got to last year – the D1 South Final – with aspirations to go further.

All six seniors that graduated all played important roles over the past couple of years for the Hornets, including last year’s HockomockSports.com Player of the Year Sam Goldberg. However, Mansfield does bring back experience in Tyler Boulter, John McCoy, Ryan Otto and Sam Hyland. Senior Nick Ferraz will give Mansfield some depth in the frontcourt after missing last year to injury, and senior transfer Justin Vine gives the Hornets another shooting option.

Junior Damani Scott showed glimpses at the end of last when he was called up while Khristian Conner and Tommy Dooling should see increased roles this season.

“I think our strength will be controlling the tempo on offense and having a bend don’t break defensive mindset,” said Mansfield head coach Mike Vaughan. “I think we have lots of options with going small ball, playing with a taller lineup, or a good shooting line up. That creates lots of tough matchups over the course of the game.”

Milford

2016-2017 Record: 11-12
2016-2017 Finish: Reached D2 Central Quarterfinal
Coach: Paul Seaver

Although the Hawks graduated three of their top scorers from last year, expectations are still high in Milford. It will be tough to replace the offensive output of Zack Tamagni, Anthony Arcudi, and Nate Davila, but the Hawks will be relying on their size this season to get the offense going.

Senior Kayden Kelley is back for his third year starting on varsity and will be an important piece on both ends for Milford. Standing at 6’4, Kelley is a tough matchup and is one of the best rebounders in the league. He averaged 14.3 boards per game a year ago and led the league in double-doubles. Senior Shane Cosquete will start at point guard again this year, and will be relied upon on to set the offense in motion. He will likely be relied upon for more scoring this season.

Junior Brendan White will join the starting lineup after coming off the bench in 23 years ago. A physical presence, White brings energy and defensive toughness to the lineup. Transfers Andew Fraioli (6’5) and Joey Everett (6’3) give the Hawks depth in the frontcourt.

“We’ve improved statistically offensively and defensively over each of the past three seasons and that’s a trend that we will be hoping to continue here in 2017-2018,” said Milford head coach Paul Seaver.

North Attleboro

2016-2017 Record: 15-8
2016-2017 Finish: Reached D1 South First Round
Coach: Sean Mulkerrins

It’s no surprise that after graduating four starters, and the team’s sixth man that it will be a youth revolution in Big Red Country. Starters Brent Doherty, Johnny Friberg, Kyle McCarthy and Tommy Reynolds are gone, as well as Moni Cuevas, who played plenty of minutes off the bench.

The one returning starter is senior Chad Peterson, a familiar face in the Rocketeers’ lineup since his freshman year. And all four of the other returning players – senior Derek Shanks and juniors Matt Seavey, Josh Montague and Nate Gonsalves – all saw plenty of minutes last season.

While Peterson will likely take on a leadership role and see increased point production, expect Montague to emerge as a leading scorer for the Rocketeers. Shanks can stretch the floor some and hit mid-range jumpers, Seavey is a solid option in the post, and Gonsalves is a capable ball handler.

Offensive, North will rely on its size. On top of Seavey and Shanks, the Rocketeers have a pair of 6’6 forwards in Jacob Petersen and Owen Nassaney to add depth and size to the frontcourt. Junior Jonathan James, recovering from a football injury, will likely factor in as well.

“We are really looking forward to seeing how this new group gels,” said North Attleboro head coach Sean Mulkerrins. “With a lot of new faces, its really been a preseason spent trying to find our identity. We know we need to grow up really fast as the Hock won’t give us any nights off. We’re really pleased with how this group has responded to the coaching and is accepting the challenges that lay ahead. We are excited to see what this team can accomplish together.”

Oliver Ames

2016-2017 Record: 13-11
2016-2017 Finish: Reached D2 South Quarterfinal
Coach: Don Byron

Oliver Ames surpassed most expectations in its first year in the Kelley-Rex division, coming in third and opening the playoffs with a road win at Milton.

But the toughest part about the Kelley-Rex is that the challenge gets harder and harder every year. And with Oliver Ames losing three starters – Carter Evin, Nick Welch, and Dylan Mahoney – to graduation, the Tigers will be facing an uphill battle. The good news is that the Tigers have seniors Jack Spillane and Matt Muir back this year. Both were starters a year ago, and Spillane showed the ability to really fill up the stat sheet, scoring 25 points or more on three occasions.

Junior Ethan Eckstrom, a center, will see more minutes this season and his size will be key to helping defend opposing teams. Senior Noah Fitzgerald showed last year how much of a pest he can be on the defensive side of the ball, and the Tigers will rely on him to do so again this year.

Junior Jake Erlich earned his way into the lineup and picked up valuable experience last season. He will likely see an increased role this season and his strength help the Tigers in the post.

Sharon

2016-2017 Record: 7-13
2016-2017 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Andrew Ferguson

It will be tough to replace Ricardo Ripley at point guard, but the good news for Sharon is that the majority of the Eagles that played valuable minutes last year as returning this season.

Senior Malik Lorquet broke out of his shell last year and showed that he can take over a game. Now a senior, Lorquet will be a focal point on both sides of the court for the Eagles. Senior Jimmy Fitzhenry can catch fire at any moment, and when he does, he is one of the most dangerous shooters in the league.

Alex Kaufmann also showed glimpses last year as a sophomore, both as a ball handler and a scorer. Between him, Lorquet and Fitzhenry, the Eagles have a solid offensive core to rely on. Jayvon Monteiro is one of the most passionate players in the league and will see an increased role at guard and be key to Sharon’s defense. Aidan Kane, Ben Kaplan, and Aaron Strong will all be important players off the bench for Sharon.

“Our goal is to improve upon last year, the end of the year was a confidence boost for our returning players and we’re hoping to carry over that momentum to this year,” said Sharon head coach Andrew Ferguson. “We have an experienced group of starters, but will be looking for our less experienced players to make a jump and help us at the varsity level.”

Stoughton

2016-2017 Record: 5-15
2016-2017 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: John Gallivan

Stoughton will be looking to improve on last year’s season, and the best way to do that will be to improve on the defensive end of the court.

The Black Knights haven’t had too much trouble on the offensive end, and with leading scoring Cam Andrews back for his senior year, it likely won’t be a big issue this year either. But the Knights have allowed a league-high in points each of the last two seasons.

Andrews led the Hockomock League in scoring last year with 17.8 points per game and will demand the attention of opposing defenses. Senior Colin Sanda can also hit from the outside and will be a solid second option for the Black Knights, who graduated eight players including reliable scoring options Cam Gomes and Matthew Valle.

In the frontcourt, junior David Bell (6’2) showed some potential at the end of last year and should factor in more in 2017-2018.

“Offensively we may create problems for some teams but our defense has to be better than it has been in the recent past,” said Stoughton head coach John Gallivan.

taunton

2016-2017 Record: 13-9
2016-2017 Finish: Reached D1 South First Round
Coach: Charlie Dacey

When it comes to pace, Taunton is hoping to be among the fastest teams in the league this season. The Tigers will still be young this year, but not as much as last year with plenty of young players returning after gaining experience last season.

Seniors Lens Esquil and Malik Charles both played last year and have shown improvement in their skills; they’ll be relied upon to be team leaders this season. Sophomore Dante Law had a tremendous freshman season, and hurt a lot of teams in a lot of ways. Whether it was from deep, like his six three pointers against Foxboro, or his ability to attack the basket, he’s one of the most dangerous young players in the league. Junior Lou Vendrell also emerged as a top scorer last season and could be one of the top shooters in the league this year.

Junior John Martins is another experienced player that is capable of scoring while Diamond Blakely and Prince Brown will share point guard duties. Naz Kenian, Tyler Medeiros, and Wesner Charles are all going to be options for head coach Charlie Dacey as well.

“We have much depth with tremendous team speed,” Dacey said. “If we can learn to harness this speed and use it productively we could be interesting.”

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)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
 
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.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

“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.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

 
“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.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Macchi, Panthers Land Big Win Over Visiting Taunton

Franklin boys basketball
Franklin’s Connor Peterson goes for a layup in the first half against Taunton. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
 
FRANKLIN, Mass. – Before Franklin hosts Mansfield this coming Friday in a game that will likely decide the Kelley-Rex title, the Panthers had a big test against a visiting Taunton squad on Monday night.

The Panthers passed with flying colors.

Franklin took a two-point lead at the end of the first quarter and blew the game wide open with dominant second quarter, eventually walking away with a 78-36 win over Taunton.

While Franklin got nearly everything it wanted inside in the first quarter (7/9 from 2PT) and put up 16 points, Taunton freshman Dante Law had 10 points to help the Tigers keep pace.

Leading 16-14 to start the second quarter, Franklin senior Josh Macchi completely took over on the offensive end. The Panthers defense forced nine turnovers alone in the second quarter and Macchi dominated the boards to help Franklin build a big lead.

“We’re always emphasizing defense but we felt like the past few games, leading up to this we got a little sloppy,” said Franklin head coach CJ Neely.”We’ve been really focusing on it in practice and really focused on protecting the paint. In terms of rebounding, we have a lot of long bodies, a lot of athletic guys that can get int he paint and make things happen and we have to start doing it. We hadn’t been creating second opportunities until tonight.”

Macchi started a 10-2 run with an easy putback and senior Connor Goldstein drained a three on the following possession. Connor Peterson (20 points) grabbed an offensive rebound and converted a quick layup and Macchi hit a free throw the next trip down after hauling in an offensive rebound.

Macchi (17 points, 12 rebounds) pulled in one of his seven offensive rebounds on the next trip, but it was the only time that the Panthers didn’t score on a second opportunity. On the defensive end, Macchi came away with a steal and then found junior Alex Klowan for a three. A free throw from Jack Rodgers capped Franklin’s 10-2 run over the first five minutes.

“I thought Josh had a tremendous game again for us tonight,” Neely said of Macchi He’s been playing out of his mind. The past seven or eight games, he’s been in double-digits each time and he’s just killing it on the boards. He’s our one senior starter, and he’s really stepped up.

The Panthers weren’t done there though, scoring 13 points over the final three minutes of the quarter. Macchi was responsible for six himself – four from putbacks – and assisted on another three from Klowan. Sophomore Jalen Samuels (nine points) converted a putback and hit a layup in the final moments to give Franklin a commanding 43-18 lead at halftime. Franklin outscored Taunton 27-4 in the quarter.

“Just a disaster,” relayed Taunton head coach Charlie Dacey regarding the second quarter. “The transitions…the complete and utter failure to block out killed us. They weren’t running spectacular sets, but they just cleaned up every time. It seemed like a lot more offensive rebounds in that quarter than eight.”

Even more impressive for the Panthers was their dominate quarter came without junior captain Paul Mahon. Mahon, who entered the game tied for the team lead in scoring, picked up his second foul early in the quarter and was forced to the bench.

“I thought Klowan came in and gave us some good minutes, Matt Elias does a good job in there,” Neely said. “Sometimes Paul is done for the half when he gets the two fouls, sometimes he isn’t. I told him we’ll see how it goes. The guys stepped up and did a great job without him. I’m pretty proud of the guys for stepping up and extending the lead.”

Franklin quickly put to bed any thought of a super comeback, rattling off a 9-2 run in less than three minutes.

The Panthers went to work down low with Peterson converting a three point play to begin the half, Macchi driving for two and Peterson getting two more field goals in the paint.

“We thought we had a mismatch inside with CP,” Neely said. “Sometimes they were doubling, sometimes they weren’t. We wanted to get him the ball to see what would happen. If he had single coverage, just go at them. If they brought the double, guys had to be ready to shoot and guys hit some shots.”

After surrendering 14 points in the opening quarter, Franklin’s defense allowed 10 or less points in the final three quarters. Taunton scored just 22 points over the final three quarters. Law finished with a team-high 12 points, junior Tyler Medeiros had 11 rebounds and freshman Naz Kenian added seven points.

Franklin boys basketball (14-3 overall, 12-1 Hockomock) hosts rival Mansfield (15-2, 12-1) on Friday night at 6:30. The Panthers and the Hornets are the lone two teams left that can win the division and Friday’s contest will determine who’s in the driver’s seat. Taunton (11-6, 6-6) is back in action on Wednesday at Stoughton.

“Obviously it’s a big rivalry and we know what it’s about,” Neely said. “But we have to treat it like every other game. Their a good team so hopefully we can execute as well as we did tonight and come out on top.”