Last season, Canton needed a dramatic, overtime win against Weymouth in the regular season finale to end a seven-year state tournament drought. One day short of a full year later and the Bulldogs welcomed the Wildcats for this year’s regular season finale in second place in the Davenport division and several weeks after securing a much quicker return to the state tournament.
The Wildcats would make Tuesday night’s game interesting, cutting the Canton lead down from as many as 16 in the second half to just three points in the fourth quarter, but the Bulldogs closed on a 9-3 run to earn the 57-48 victory. It was the 14th win of the season for Canton, which is the program’s highest win total in at least 23 years.
“From the beginning, the whole team has had their sights set on having a great postseason,” Canton coach Jim Choquette explained. “Last year, we were happy to make it there, which we were able to accomplish, and this year I know the girls are excited to try and make a good run and trying to play our best at the end of the year and extend the season as long as possible.”
Canton also celebrated senior night on Tuesday and, as Choquette is quick to point out, the graduating class has made great strides over the past four years. As freshmen, the current seniors went 6-14. They have now flipped that record completely, made back-to-back playoff appearances, and are the program’s winningest class in two decades.
“It’s awesome,” said senior Julia Hamilton. “It’s pretty amazing to me. Everyone’s put in so much hard work to come this far and prove to everyone else that we deserve to be in the tournament and one of the teams that people have to watch out for.”
On senior night, Nicole Galvin, who has been injured this season, was able to take the floor for the opening tip. Her classmates then took over to put Canton in front early.
With Weymouth ahead 10-7, senior Molly Ludwig drove to the basket for a layup to cut the lead to one. On the following possession, senior Maggie Connolly (four assists) kicked it out to Hamilton for the first of her two threes in the first quarter. That put the Bulldogs up 12-10 and they wouldn’t trail again.
Freshman Kiara Cerruti (team-high 14 points) scored on a drive to the basket and senior Erin Devine (eight points and five rebounds) followed with a basket off one of Hamilton’s six assists. Hamilton then nailed her second triple to make it 19-14 and Ludwig closed the quarter with her second basket for a six-point lead, 21-15.
Fay Gallery scored to start the second quarter, extending the lead to eight, but the Wildcats rallied with seven straight points to get back within one. Canton closed the half on a 9-0 run to take back control. Devine started the run with a layup off a Sydney Gallery (eight points) pass and then Fay Gallery got free in transition for a layup. Cerruti nailed a three and Sydney Gallery got an open look off an inbounds play to push the Canton lead to double digits at the break.
The second half started like the first, with Canton in control. Connolly and Lilah Milton got baskets to start the third and a Sydney Gallery steal and layup pushed the lead to 40-24, but Weymouth bounced back with an 8-0 run to end the quarter.
The run extended to 11-0 thanks to a Kerin McCarthy three-point play to start the fourth, but Sydney Gallery answered with an offensive rebound and score. After a Weymouth basket, Connolly got free in transition and Kayla Albert knocked down a jumper on an inbounds play.
“The four times we’ve played Weymouth their fourth quarter finish has been outstanding,” said Choquette. “One thing we said during one of the timeouts was don’t try and hang on and win this, we really need to finish the game and that was a nice change.”
He added, “A lot of it just comes down to execution. We had an inbounds play where we executed terribly and they got a five-second call on it. We got the ball back and ran an offensive play where we executed perfectly and got a layup. How well we can execute will determine how well we do in the tournament.”
Weymouth again got the lead to just three points at 48-45, but Fay Gallery responded with a drive down the lane for two and then a three off a Hamilton drive and dish. A pair of free throws by Cerruti and a layup for Sydney Gallery clinched the win in the final minute.
Canton (14-6, 11-5) will be in the top half of the Div. 2 bracket and will find out its seed on Friday.
Hamilton said, “It’s our responsibility [as seniors] to show more leadership and the experience that we have from the playoffs last year. As long as everyone keeps working hard, it’s just a team game…It’s really exciting and it’s my senior year and I don’t want this to end.”
NORTH EASTON, Mass. – Trailing 50-49, Sydney Gallery knocked down a free throw to even the score with 3:46 left on the clock. It turned out to be the start of a 12-0 run that allowed Canton to open up Tuesday night’s game against Oliver Ames at the Nixon Gym and earn the Bulldogs a rare win in this series.
Canton closed the game with a 16-6 run over the final four minutes and shot 15-of-18 at the free throw line in the fourth quarter to seal a 65-56 victory and move one win from a quick return to the state tournament.
“We worked on it a lot in practice,” Canton coach Jim Choquette said of the free throw shooting. “We tried everything to put them in as many situations as possible and in the last game and this game it really paid off. The other thing is trying to find and put the ball in the right people’s hands. Kiara was really shooting the ball well tonight so we just ran some inbounds plays to get her the ball.”
Freshman Kiara Cerruti scored 10 of her game-high 20 points in the fourth and personally went 8-for-8 from the line down the stretch, while playing strong defense on OA’s rookie leading scorer Caroline Peper (11 points).
“From the line she was amazing but we also had her guard Peper and she gave up four shots,” Choquette said. “Kiara’s defense on her, and other players in the league, has been outstanding and it was cool watching two of the really good freshmen in the league battling.”
The game was close throughout, with neither team building more than a five-point lead until late in the fourth quarter. Fay Gallery (16 points and six rebounds) and Julia Hamilton (six points and six steals) each hit threes to get things started for Canton in the first quarter. Peper nailed one of her own to tie the game at 9-9 but Canton scored five straight until a layup from Alex Sheldon (11 points, 13 rebounds). Kayla Albert scored her only basket on a rebound to make it 16-11 after one.
“We knew they could shoot and I think that was maybe our biggest concern,” said OA coach Laney Clement-Holbrook. “It has nothing to do with what grade they’re in, they can score. I don’t think we did a good enough job defensively, I think our help was just too slow, and it was a good effort but they shot the lights out.”
OA turned things around in the second. Ally Scolnick (game-high 15 points) scored six in the quarter and Hailey Bourne twice got to the basket for layups. Cerruti nailed a three in the final seconds of the second to close the gap to one, 28-27, at the break.
The back-and-forth nature of the game continued in the third. Fay Gallery drove to the basket for two and then buried a three to put Canton up four. Bourne and Sheldon got back-to-back baskets to tie the game. Maggie Connolly scored six of her 12 points (she also pulled down 12 rebounds) in the quarter but was matched by Scolnick, who drilled a pair of threes.
Clement-Holbrook said, “We didn’t have the running game like we normally do and I think Canton did a good job getting back on us. They took away what we do offensively and we couldn’t take away what they do.”
Sydney Gallery (seven points) scored at the buzzer to put the Bulldogs ahead 43-42 going into the final eight minutes.
After a pair of Connolly free throws, Caroline Flynn (nine points) gathered an offensive rebound and scored to cut the lead to one. More free throws for both teams gave Canton a lead but Peper scored and then Sheldon got her final points of the night to put the Tigers ahead 50-49.
Sydney Gallery tied the game with a clutch free throw and then her twin sister put the Bulldogs ahead to stay, draining a three off a Connolly assist. Cerruti followed with a drive to the basket and a lefty, scooped finish off glass. The Tigers tried to get back into it with a three by Teper and a three-point play by Scolnick but the Bulldogs shot 10-of-12 from the line to hold on.
“It’s growth because we had a scenario where we called a timeout and drew up on the board what we wanted to run but then we get out it looked nothing like that,” Clement-Holbrook said. We need to grow.”
While neither coach could remember exactly when Canton had last beaten OA, Clement-Holbrook could only say it had been a long time. Choquette admitted that the lack of experience of his talented freshman may have been an advantage because they weren’t worried about the history between the two teams.
“To be on the road at OA, which is the legendary basketball school in the league, I think the freshmen help because they don’t know what the history is,” he explained. “They just think it’s another game, so when they show up they think let’s grind it out and see if we’re better than them.”
Canton (9-4, 7-4) will try to clinch a playoff spot and move within a game of the Davenport title when it hosts Foxboro on Friday. Oliver Ames (8-5, 7-4) will look to bounce back against Taunton.
CANTON, Mass. – King Philip kept fighting back in the second half, closing the gap to as little as five points in the fourth quarter, but for the second time in three games Canton went to the free throw line and sealed a victory.
Five days before, Canton came from behind to beat division rival Stoughton with nine free throws in the final minutes. On Tuesday night, at home, the Bulldogs were at it again, shooting 11-of-12 at the charity stripe in the fourth quarter to hold off the Warriors and pull out a 53-41 victory. It is a fourth straight victory for Canton.
“It’s tough for other teams because if they foul one girl she’s making her free throws and if they foul another girl, she’s hitting her free throws,” said Canton coach Jim Choquette. “We’re doing a good job moving the ball, getting it to the right girls at the right times and the girls are really doing it – they’re executing from the line and it’s obviously something that puts us in situations to win.”
The Warriors needed to come from behind with a strong fourth quarter to beat Taunton last time out and got off to another tough start on Tuesday. Canton jumped out to a 15-4 lead in the first quarter. Julia Hamilton scored six of her game-high 14 points in that run, knocking down a pair of three-pointers, and freshman Fay Gallery scored five of her 13 points to get Canton off to the perfect start.
“Frustration got us,” said KP coach Amy Siggens about the tough start. “If someone misses a shot, they’re young kids and we’re teaching them that you have to move on and get over it and it’s been a struggle. We had a 14-day break and we’ve been on the road since and it’s been tough.”
KP did cut into the lead as leading scorer Faye Veilleux (14 points and 12 rebounds) knocked down a corner three and then a pull-up jumper in transition, but Lilah Milton’s offensive rebound and putback put the Bulldogs up 17-9 after one.
The second quarter was a defensive struggle. Kiara Cerruti (10 points) nailed a three off a Hamilton assist to start the scoring but Canton managed only eight points in the quarter. Gallery also hit a three and Erin Devine scored on an offensive rebound, but that was all.
Despite the lack of scoring, Canton extended its lead by a couple of points because its defense held the Warriors to just six points in the second. Caroline Aaron scored on a back-cut and nice dish from Emma Glaser and then Faith Roy (five points) drilled a three, but it was a 10-point lead for Canton at the break.
Things picked up offensively for both teams in the third quarter. Cerruti started the third with a three but KP cut the lead down to just eight. Catherine Cummings, Glaser, Julia Leroux, and Taylor Butler all scored buckets to get the lead down to single digits.
“We came back into it in the second half,” Siggens said. “I was impressed with how they came out and fought for it a little more than we did in the first half. We saw some different combinations and we’re still figuring it out day to day and see what works.”
Cerruti scored off a steal and then Hamilton drilled another one from beyond the arc to get the Bulldogs back on track and give them an 11-point cushion heading to the fourth.
KP scored the first six points of the final quarter, as the game got even more frenetic. Veilleux scored twice and Butler knocked down a jumper to make it 38-33. Canton answered right back with a 6-0 run. Hamilton sank a pair at the line, Sydney Gallery (six points) got a layup, and Fay Gallery (five steals) got an offensive rebound and scored.
Choquette explained, ,”One of the strengths for us this season is different people doing different things during games. Kiara has led us in scoring a number of games and tonight she guarded Roy and held her scoreless in the second half. [Roy’s] having an amazing year and I told Kiara that this was a terrific defensive performance.”
Brianna James scored and got fouled. She missed the free throw but KP got the offensive board and Veilleux swung it around to Courtney Keswick for a basket. Trailing by nine, Veilleux managed to fire a pass from halfcourt to James for another layup. It was KP’s last basket.
“It really comes down to fundamentals,” said Siggens. “They’re a great team, they outplayed us and they out-hustled us.”
Sydney Gallery and Maggie Connolly (nine rebounds and four steals) each hit a pair at the line and Canton walked away with a fourth victory in the last seven days.
“This is our fourth game in seven days, so towards the end of the game I’m not surprised if people are a little tired,” Choquette said. “We come out and do wonderful things and then get a little tired, which is why I think one of the strengths of our team is the entire team, it’s 13 girls, it’s the bench, it’s everyone coming in and contributing.”
Canton (5-2) will try to keep the momentum going on Friday night at Sharon, while King Philip (4-2) will try to bounce back at Attleboro.
FOXBORO, Mass. – There are a lot of new faces on Foxboro this season and players jumping into bigger roles for the defending Div. 2 state champions, but some things haven’t changed for the Warriors. The game is still played at a fast pace, the defense is still aggressive, and Foxboro continues to win Davenport games.
One of the returning starters is sophomore Katelyn Mollica and on Friday night, even with Canton senior Maggie Connolly (seven steals) hounding her for three quarters, she dominated. Mollica scored a career-high 31 points, including 17 in the third quarter alone to lift the Warriors to a 86-61 win in an early season divisional clash.
“She’s unreal, and that step-back…you can’t defend against that,” said Foxboro coach Lisa Downs about Mollica’s offensive game. “Once we were able to fast break too that got her in the open court with the ball in her hands, so that freed her up and she’s money at the free throw line.”
Connolly was also the star on offense for the Bulldogs, scoring a career-high 22 points in the loss, but this game was a learning experience for Canton’s talented underclassmen.
“Even if some of these girls who were on the court tonight weren’t during last year’s run, they were at practices and seeing how it has to be done to be successful,” said Canton coach Jim Choquette about the Warriors. “Our girls are young and trying to figure that out.”
Foxboro jumped out to its speed right from the opening tip, taking a 10-2 lead in the opening minutes and with four different players getting on the board. Canton tried to get back into by forcing turnovers, with Connolly getting out on the break and finishing a pair of three-point plays on her way to a 12-point first quarter.
The Warriors just kept scoring, with Chelsea Gibbons (13 points) putting in five in the first and Mollica adding six, but the Bulldogs closed the quarter on a 7-0 run to cut the lead to just 20-16. On the first play of the second, Julia Hamilton lobbed a pass into Erin Devine for an easy layup that made it a two-point game.
It would be as close as the Bulldogs would get for the rest of the night, as Foxboro outscored Canton 24-11 in the second to take control of the game.
Mollica added eight in the quarter, including six from the free throw line, and Abby Hassman (the other returning starter from the state title game) scored six of her eight mostly driving the ball to the basket. Junior Lizzy Davis and sophomore Adrienne Dunn each added a three top open up a 17-point lead at the break.
“I was just angry,” Downs said about the discussion between the first two quarters. “We weren’t looking up quick enough. Our fast break wasn’t working because we were getting two or three dribbles too long and not going up the sideline. Once we started getting it into a track meet that opened things up.”
One area that Foxboro dominated was on the glass. Hassman (10 rebounds) and junior Yara Fawaz (seven boards) led the way for the Warriors, using their athleticism and quickness to control the paint. Canton also battled foul trouble for much of the first half, forcing a lot of subbing and rotating the lineup.
Choquette said, “Both games we were in the same boat. Some of the younger girls just have to adjust and realize they call it a little tighter. On the other hand, I like that they’re being aggressive, they’re not scared, and they’re not backing down.”
Mollica took over in the third. After back-to-back baskets by Gibbons extended the lead to 22 points, Mollica stepped back for a three-pointer, then hit a pull-up jumper in transition, and scored again on the break to push the advantage to 59-30.
Freshmen Sydney Gallery (nine points) and Kiara Cerruti (10 points) scored buckets for the Bulldogs, but then Mollica drilled a pair of threes to avoid any slip in the momentum.
In the fourth, Canton tried to claw back with Connolly adding six more points and the talented group of freshmen starting to find their footing. Syndey Gallery scored six in the quarter, while her sister Fay added five of her nine points and Cerruti scored four. It wasn’t enough to get Canton back in the game but it was a positive way to finish the night.
“This is a great test for where we are right now,” said Choquette. “We can get back to practice the next few days, get ready for Franklin, and then have two weeks to fully dissect everything and what we need to improve on.”
Downs praised her bench for being able to hold onto the lead in the fourth, including six points from junior Julia Kelley, but also praised the Bulldogs. “Those freshmen are good,” she said, “so once they get a couple games under their belt it’s going to be a totally different Canton team.”
Foxboro (2-0) will try to stay unbeaten when it travels to Taunton on Wednesday night. Canton (1-1) will look to bounce back with a tough trip to unbeaten Franklin.
WEYMOUTH, Mass. – Just four days after being four seconds away from clinching a playoff spot at Stoughton, Canton was forced to play an extra four minutes on Tuesday night at Weymouth to try and extend its season and end a seven-year wait for a return to the postseason.
The Bulldogs watched a buzzer beater fall short at the end of the fourth quarter, regrouped in the huddle, and outscored the Wildcats 13-7 in the extra period to pull out a 65-59 road victory that means Canton (10-10) will be playing playoff basketball for the first time since 2011 and first time under head coach Jim Choquette.
“I thought Friday night (against Stoughton) might help us in the future,” said Choquette, “being on the road in a hostile environment where we have to come up with a win, and it did help us. I don’t think the girls panicked for a minute. The girls really stayed steady. Just staying positive through all of it was the most important part.”
Senior forward Hannah Jerrier, who saw the team jump from only two wins her freshman season to 10 wins this year, added, “Ever since the first day of tryouts my freshman year, the goal has always been get to the playoffs, get to the playoffs. Each year we got closer and closer but never got it, but now that we’re finally there it’s kind of amazing.”
Jerrier finished the game with 15 points and 14 rebounds, including nine points in the fourth quarter and overtime, but it was not her typical dominant performance in the paint. Instead, Canton turned to an unlikely hero. Sophomore Lilah Milton came off the bench to score a career-high 21 points and pull down 10 rebounds in the biggest game of Canton’s season.
“For a sophomore who never even played JV, for her to step in during the two biggest games of the season for us and have that success and that much confidence shows a lot of how far she’s come,” said Choquette of Milton.
Things did not start well for the Bulldogs. They fell behind by as many as 11 in the first quarter, trailing 15-4 to the Wildcats, who also won the first meeting between the teams back in January. Molly Ludwig scored on an offensive rebound and then Maggie Connolly scored off an assist by Jerrier to cut the lead to six at the end of one.
Connolly scored only four points on Tuesday, but was the most aggressive player on the floor, willing Canton back into the game in the early going. She finished with 12 rebounds and seven assists, as well as being a pest defensively.
“A few games ago, Maggie turned a light switch on and just refused to lose,” said Choquette. “She was going to, in her mind, do anything possible to get us to the playoffs. I told the girls in a timeout, she can’t do it alone; we have to step up.”
In the second, Canton started to clamp down on defense with Erin Devine getting a pair of blocks to fire up the traveling fans, which included the boys’ basketball team. Devine (12 points) also chipped in with six points in the quarter, as Canton started to get the ball into the paint.
Milton also started to get going in the second with a three-point play off a Devine assist and then a jumper off a pass from Julia Hamilton. Connolly fought for an offensive rebound in traffic and fed Milton for another layup to tie the game at 25-25. Hamilton drilled a three to give Canton its first lead since the opening basket.
“When we were down by a lot, we kept getting slow, everyone’s spirits were down,” Jerrier explained. “Once we started hustling that’s when we started scoring all of our points and going on those good runs.”
Weymouth took back the lead in the third quarter when it caught fire from beyond the arc. The Wildcats made four three-pointers, including a trio from Kerin McCarthy (18 points). Devine scored four points in the third and Hamilton (11 points) hit her second three, but the Wildcats led by one heading to the fourth.
The hosts scored the first four points of the fourth but Jerrier answered with banked three from the left wing to cut the lead back to two points. After another McCarthy three, Milton scored on an offensive rebound and knocked down a short jumper. Following a pair of free throws by Jerrier, Milton hit a turnaround off glass from the right box to give the Bulldogs a one-point edge with a minute to play.
“It’s amazing to have some of these underclassmen who haven’t had that much varsity experience come into these big games like this and take over,” said Jerrier.
Twice Canton appeared to have a steal that could have iced the game. Connolly was unable to get her feet set when she lunged to pick off an inbound pass and was called for traveling and then Jerrier had the ball knocked away after another inbound mistake by the Wildcats, but the officials ruled that she touched it last. On its third attempt, Weymouth got the ball to Delaney Spinney and she knocked down a jumper for a 52-52 tie.
On the other end, with under 10 seconds to play, a pass to Jerrier appeared to get knocked away by a Weymouth defender, but again the call went against the Bulldogs. The Wildcats would get one last chance and had a decent look but the shot did not fall and Canton stayed alive.
“We all knew that we were capable of winning,” said Jerrier of the conversation in the huddle, “but we just didn’t have our heads in the right place. We all had to focus on our goal, which was winning the game. When we all came together to do that, we got it.”
Twice Canton took the lead in the overtime only to have Weymouth answer back. Milton gave the Bulldogs the lead for good when she scooped up a loose ball and knocked down another mid-range shot. Jerrier added a jumper of her own and then Milton scored off a feed from Connolly for a six-point edge with 1:14 left.
A three cut the lead in half, but the players never looked as nervous as the people in the stands. Hamilton made 5-of-6 from the line in the final minute and Canton was finally playoff-bound.
“Ultimately, the one that we needed to have a win in, the girls came through,” said Choquette. “So many game we rely on Hannah to do everything. We need 30 points; we need 18 rebounds and thank God she can actually play that well. But tonight, I was so proud of the rest of the girls stepping up.
“The girls just decided tonight was our night and they got it done.”
STOUGHTON, Mass. – Even with a raucous crowd roaring just to her left, sophomore Lilah Milton knocked down the first of two free throws with fewer than 20 seconds remaining in the game to give Canton a one-point lead at Stoughton and put the Bulldogs on the brink of tournament qualification for the first time since 2011.
Milton’s second free throw bounced off the front of the rim and was rebounded by Stoughton junior Lindsay McDonald, as the home crowd somehow got even louder, adding to the playoff-like atmosphere of the rivalry game. Maggie Connolly came within inches of a steal for the Bulldogs at midcourt, but Aliyah Wright came away with it and found McDonald open in the corner.
With adrenaline pumping, McDonald’s shot sailed over the rim, over 6-foot-3 Canton center Erin Devine and right to the hands of Jordan Motley. The forward went up strong, finished around the outstretched arms of Devine with four seconds on the clock, and lifted Stoughton to a thrilling 49-48 come from behind victory.
Here is the frantic final sequence of tonight’s game, Lilah Milton hit the first of two free throws to put Canton ahead but Jordan Motley’s rebound and score gave Stoughton the win #hockomockpic.twitter.com/J8okWfH23T
A night that began with Motley being honored on the court with the rest of Stoughton’s senior class ended with her being swallowed up by her classmates who stormed the court after the final horn sounded.
“Canton played phenomenal and for us we just grinded it out with our defense,” said Stoughton coach Charmaine Steele Jordan. “We missed a ton of free throws but we got it done at the end of the game and Jordan Motley came through like you hope for any senior on senior night with a tough finish down there.”
“Throughout the season we haven’t had a lot of fans,” Motley said in between photos with friends and family after the game, “but tonight they showed out and that pushed us even when we were down. Even when we were losing they still cheered for us and that was awesome.”
It was a heartbreaking finish for Canton, but the Bulldogs season is far from over. Canton will travel to Weymouth on Tuesday and a win will clinch the program’s elusive return to the playoffs.
“We always talk about playing our best towards the end of the year going into the tournament, whether we make it or not, and we are playing great right now,” said Canton coach Jim Choquette. “We put ourselves in the position to beat a playoff team and a team that beat us the first time around. The girls just dug deeper and deeper and deeper.”
Stoughton got off to a great start, leading 6-0 in the early going, but Canton bounced right back behind junior point guard Julia Hamilton, who caught fire from three-point range. Hamilton hit four from beyond the arc, scoring 12 of her team-high 14 points in the quarter. With Devine on the bench with foul trouble, Milton stepped in with four points to help the Bulldogs to a 16-10 lead after one.
The Black Knights came back strong in the second by getting the ball into senior forward Val Whalen (19 points and 14 rebounds). She scored nine points in the quarter and was helped by Wright (15 points), who also scored nine in the second. After a Whalen put-back, Connolly went end-to-end for a layup but Stoughton went into the break leading 31-28.
Canton came out strong in the second half, holding Stoughton to two points on a couple of free throws in the third quarter and putting together what ended up being a 17-4 run that put the Bulldogs ahead by as many as 10 points (45-35).
After being held to just five points in the first half, senior forward Hannah Jerrier (13 points and 14 rebounds) scored six in the third, including a layup off a Connolly offensive rebound and assist.
“Most games we know everyone is going to focus on her and do everything they can to stop Hannah,” said Choquette. “Once Julia hit some shots and Lilah was able to get some seams then it left Hannah open.”
In the fourth, Canton continued to be aggressive on the offensive end with Milton (12 points) competing a three-point play and Hamilton driving and dishing to a cutting Connolly (six points and 10 rebounds) for a layup that extended the lead to 10 points and forced a Stoughton timeout.
“We just said keep our heads up,” said Motley about the conversation in the huddle. “Our team is very young and they haven’t been in situations like this that often so Val and I as seniors we told them it’s our senior night, we want to win, and to keep our head up the whole game.”
The Black Knights regrouped, switched to man-to-man defense and were spurred on by one of the largest crowds the team has drawn this season. Wright scored off a Sydnee Hyacinthe assist in transition to start the comeback and Motley scored in the post to cut the lead down to five. A Whalen transition basket made it a three-point game and this time it was Canton forced to call time.
“We had several close games at the start of the season and it kind of prepared them to keep it together, keep their cool,” said Steele Jordan. “My team believed in each other and getting stops.”
Wright swooped across the rim for a lefty layup on the break to make it a one-point game at 45-44, but Hamilton answered with a pair of clutch free throws for the Bulldogs. Whalen assisted on a Wright basket to again make it a one-point game and then the senior made 1-of-2 at the line to tie it.
Had the Black Knights not gotten the win, free throw shooting would have been the story for the hosts, who made only 14-of-32 at the line.
Instead, the win gives Stoughton, which has now won 10-of-11 since a 1-7 start to the season, even more confidence heading into the tournament, especially if the Black Knights continue to get this level of support from the fans.
“Oh my goodness, the atmosphere was fantastic,” said Steele Jordan. “The stands were full. The fans were phenomenal. For me, this is the way you want a senior night to be.”
Choquette dismissed the idea of this being a tough loss to recover from with one game to play. He insisted, “No, we’re not bouncing back from some team that we should’ve beaten who’s 5-15. We lost on a last-second shot to a playoff-caliber team and we earned the right by playing so well all year to play another game and have a chance to go to the tournament.”
Stoughton (11-8, 10-6) will close out the regular season on Monday when Norwood pays a visit. Canton (9-10, 7-9) will travel to Weymouth on Tuesday night.
TAUNTON, Mass. – There was no hiding the fact that Wednesday’s game was a big one for both Taunton and Canton, two programs hovering around the .500 mark and trying to fight their way back to the postseason.
Behind 25 points and 15 rebounds from senior forward Hannah Jerrier and strong contributions off the bench on both ends of the floor, the Bulldogs turned a two-point halftime deficit into a 56-46 victory that brings them back to .500 overall and in the league.
“It was one of those things tonight where we said anything and everything we can possibly do, we need to do,” said Canton coach Jim Choquette. “We knew how good they were…we knew this was going to be a very long, tough night.”
Trailing by two at the break, the Bulldogs came out with a 2-2-1 full-court press and held Taunton without a made basket for the first seven minutes of the third quarter. Choquette said that Canton had not practiced the press this season, but the players decided it would be effective.
“It was very close, back and forth, and the girls at halftime said I think they’re getting nervous in the backcourt why don’t we do a two-guard press,” he explained. “We drew it up on the board…we went with it, they were confident, and it was probably the best thing we could’ve done.”
Following a pair of Taunton free throws, Jerrier scored in the paint off an assist by Erin Devine, who used her 6-foot-3 frame as a passer in the high post, and then Canton tied the game on a offensive rebound by Maggie Connolly (nine points and 12 rebounds). Julia Hamilton put the Bulldogs ahead with a pull-up jumper.
It was a lead that Canton would never relinquish.
Devine grabbed an offensive rebound and scored, as the Bulldogs pushed the lead to five points before the Tigers finally got a shot to fall in the second half. There were only 50 seconds left in the third when MacKenzie Handrahan (11 points and six boards) scored underneath on an assist by Tori DaRosa. Sonya Fernandez (nine points and eight rebounds) scored on a putback to cut Canton’s lead to 35-32 heading to the final eight minutes.
Canton broke the game open a little at the start of the fourth. Again, Devine played provider with an assist over the top of the Taunton defense to Jerrier on the block.
“She makes a difference because she’s able to pass high and catch high and Hannah is able to catch high and keep her position down low to get the inside shots,” said Harrigan about the connection between Devine and Jerrier. “They probably had 12-15 layups tonight and the offensive rebounds just killed us. We were trying to box but the size just killed us.”
Defense continued to turn into offense for the Bulldogs and Connolly scored off a steal and layup and then she scored on a back-cut off a feed from point guard Hamilton. Connolly scored seven points in the fourth.
“Maggie defensively is one of the ones who leads us,” said Choquette. “She’s obviously very fast, so when we get a steal we like to throw it ahead to her [because] we know she’s going to get it.”
The Bulldogs jumped out by nine points, but Taunton bounced right back with seven straight points. Handrahan scored in the post and then freshman Kelsey White (11 points) got a steal and a layup. After Handrahan scored on an offensive rebound to make it 43-41, Taunton got a steal but immediately lost the ball and Handrahan fouled out diving into the pack after the loose ball.
“We had a lot of momentum going at that point,” said Harrigan of the point when Handrahan committed her fifth foul. “We sort of felt like we had control of the game and it took the wind out of our sails at that point.”
He added, “Some of it is our inexperience. We’d get a steal and turn it over. We got it back down to three at one point and we stole the ball but turned it over and they went right down and got a layup.”
At times this season, Canton has struggled down the stretch of games. On Wednesday, the Bulldogs put Taunton away with a 13-5 run. Jerrier hit a pair at the line and got free underneath for two points on an inbound play. White drilled a three that cut the lead down to six but a Connolly steal and layup sealed the win.
“In the past few games, even in some of our wins, we’ve struggled to finish games off, so I think the difference tonight was getting loose balls and obviously most games we have a height advantage but that doesn’t always mean we win the rebounding or free throw battle and I think we did a good job of that,” Choquette said.
Taunton had the lead in the first half despite struggling offensively for long stretches. After an 0-for-11 start from the field, the Tigers made eight straight shots including a Fernandez jumper at the buzzer to have a 16-11 lead after one. Hannah Moniz scored all five of her points in the first.
In the second, Jerrier scored eight points and sophomore Lilah Milton added four of her eight, but the Tigers had another late flurry, including a White three in the final seconds of the half, to take a 25-23 lead at the break.
“The first quarter was 16-11 and I think we scored all 16 in three minutes and second quarter the same thing,” said Harrigan. “Give them credit, they dominated the boards and the inside and I think that was the difference in the game.”
Canton (6-6, 5-5) will step out of the Hockomock League on Monday when the Bulldogs travel to Dover-Sherborn. Taunton (6-9, 4-6) will try to bounce back on Tuesday at Stoughton.
MILFORD, Mass. – Holding onto a seven-point lead with a little more than a minute remaining in Tuesday night’s game against Davenport division rival Canton, Milford moved the ball around the perimeter to run clock. Despite the pressure from the Canton guards, the Hawks were able to keep the ball moving until it got to senior guard Kate Irwin on the left wing.
The lefty point guard took two hard dribbles to get space and pulled up from just inside the three-point line. Irwin got a clean look and hit nothing but net on the last of her game-high 26 points, 17 of which came in the second half.
Irwin’s jumper effectively sealed a 49-38 victory for the Hawks, who move into a tie with the Bulldogs for second place in the division ahead of the visit of league leading Foxboro on Friday.
“We played that to perfection,” said Milford coach T.J. Dolliver of the team’s penultimate possession. “I’m happy to see that because when we played Stoughton we didn’t handle the end of game situation well and that bucket there is the difference in the game. We ran 25 seconds off and made a bucket.”
Irwin had only two points in the first quarter, as Canton junior Maggie Connolly made her work for every shot. The imposing figures of 6-foot-3 Erin Devine and 6-foot-1 Hannah Jerrier in the paint also made it difficult to find good looks at the rim.
Senior guard Emily Piergustavo picked up the slack for the Hawks in the first with seven of her nine points, including a a three and a basket from an offensive rebound. Devine led the Bulldogs with four and it was a three-point edge for the Hawks heading to the second.
That was when Irwin started to catch fire. She opened the second with a traditional three-point play off a steal, scored off a Piergustavo offensive rebound and assist and then got another steal and transition basket.
“Getting to the hoop in the half court was going to be difficult,” said Dolliver about his team’s desire to run at every opportunity, “so luckily we got our good looks in transition and we were getting to the hoop.”
Canton continued to keep the game close, despite only getting four points from Jerrier. The team’s leading scorer was blanketed by Milford’s 2-3 zone with all of the Hawks making sure to know where the senior was at all times. The zone opened up opportunities from the outside and junior guard Julia Hamilton (nine points) made a pair of threes, the second of which tied the score at 24-24 in the third quarter.
“We get into a lot of situations where we defer to the bigs because they’re talented and it’s part of our game plan to utilize them, so it’s nice to have Julia do one of the things she’s good at and help our team get us ahead in that area,” said Canton coach Jim Choquette.
Jerrier (10 points and 11 rebounds) scored off a Connolly assist to give the Bulldogs a 26-24 lead, but Milford went on a 9-2 run to finish the third with a five-point advantage. Irwin scored eight of those final nine points, hitting a pair of pull-up jumpers and scoring twice off of steals.
“She always makes the difference,” said Dolliver of Irwin. “She’s a tough kid too. I get on her now and then and she handles it well.”
The game remained tight in the fourth quarter. Jerrier scored on a putback to start the fourth, but Gillian Valanzola scored off an Irwin assist to answer. Hamilton got the ball into Devine for a basket at the rim and, after Jess Tomaso scored to push the lead back to four, Molly Ludwig scored off another Hamilton assist to make it 37-35.
Again, the Hawks were able to close a quarter strongly. Kate Lobisser rattled in her only basket of the night to get the run started and Irwin added three more with a finish, plus the contact, following a steal. After the teams traded a series of free throws, Irwin got open in the corner and hit the dagger jumper to ensure the win.
“We didn’t execute enough to win,” admitted Choquette. “You have to give credit to Milford…at the end of the day, they just made more of those little things that they had to right. The score’s not as close as the game was, but in a close game it comes down to the team that makes the extra play.”
Milford’s ability to compete with Canton’s size on the glass was also a factor in limiting the Bulldog’s offense. Tomaso and Valanzola each finished with six rebounds, while Irwin and Juliana Tracy each finished with five.
Dolliver explained, “I don’t know how many offensive rebounds they had but they had their fair share and they’re going to get their fair share in every game, but that was a point of emphasis before the game because that’s where a lot of their points come from.”
Milford (5-2, 3-2) will host league leading Foxboro on Friday night. Canton (4-2, 3-2) will be back home on Friday to face Sharon.
The Bombardiers enter the season with a new coaching staff and a very different starting lineup to the one that nearly knocked off Mansfield in the Div. 1 South playoffs last season. Former King Philip coach Marty Crowley has taken over after Rick Patch stepped down in the off-season and he will have only a few returning varsity players to call on this winter.
Senior forward Sam Pierce will be the key piece on offense, as Attleboro tries to replace the more than 30 points per game that was lost with the graduation of Sarah Deyo and Julia Strachan. Pierce has been a consistent scorer and rebounder for the past few seasons, but this will be the first time that she is the primary offensive weapon and could be poised for a breakout year. Junior Jordyn Lako and senior Grace Mayer are strong on-the-ball defenders and should help Crowley implement his high-pressure defensive scheme. Senior Kim White will also be one of Attleboro’s ball-handlers in the backcourt.
One of the players who saw a little time on varsity last season that is expected to make a big jump is sophomore Nyah Thomas, who has the length to be a tough defender and showed in her few appearances last year that she can rebound and take the ball to the basket. Sophomore Liv McCall is a fearless shooter that will stretch the floor and transfer Mackenzie Roberts will give the Bombardiers added size in the paint.
Crowley said, “For us to be successful we must be able to play defense consistently and rebound. Sam, I am sure, is going to draw a lot of attention from other teams, so we must make sure that we are smart offensively and get touches for everyone.”
2016-2017 Record: 6-14 2016-2017 Finish: Missed postseason. Coach: Jim Choquette
There has been excitement around the Canton program for the past few seasons and that continues this winter, as the Bulldogs look to secure a place in the state tournament behind an experienced lineup that has been developing together for several years.
Senior Hannah Jerrier is the key for the Bulldogs, as the forward is coming off a league all-star season in which she emerged as a potential double-double night after night. Jerrier is a solid rebounder and scorer in the paint, reaching the 20-point mark nine times last season and averaging more than 16 points and nine rebounds per game. Junior Julia Hamilton will be back at point guard for the Bulldogs to help get the Canton into its offensive sets and provide pressure, on-the-ball defense. Senior Jess Powers is also back after missing a season to a knee injury and will add a boost to the team’s outside shooting and take pressure off Jerrier on offense.
Junior Maggie Connolly returns for her second year in the backcourt and seniors Lindsey Barrett, Nikki Gefteas, and Leya Conard will all add depth to the Canton roster this season, while junior Erin Devine adds another important post presence on both ends of the floor. The versatility of the roster will allow head coach Jim Choquette to change his game plans every game, slowing it down to play half-court or ratcheting up the pressure to go up tempo.
“Canton remains focused on playing together and staying positive for the best season possible,” Choquette said. “Leading up to our first game there’s been an extreme amount of effort and energy by a large group of unselfish girls and our seniors have all been great examples of staying positive throughout all situations!”
2016-2017 Record: 22-3 2016-2017 Finish: Reached Div. 2 State Semifinal Coach: Lisa Downs
After winning the Div. 2 South title and reaching the TD Garden last winter, this year’s Foxboro team will have high expectations, but with four starters returning, including reigning Hockomock League MVP Ashley Sampson, the Warriors will once again be the favorites to take home the Davenport division crown.
Having already passed the 1,000-point mark for her career, Sampson enters her senior season as the focal point of the Foxboro offense. Her ability to get into the lane and finish, as well as step back and knock down shots, makes her a tough cover and opens space for her teammates. Fellow senior Lily Sykes is one of the beneficiaries of that space and she can take advantage of open looks on the perimeter. Senior Grace Tamulionis is another player who can stretch the floor for the Warriors and can be an ‘X’ factor for Foxboro in big games. Senior Shannon Smally adds rebounding and post presence to keep defenses honest.
The Warriors are now the veteran team in the division, but there are also several younger players that have developed into critical pieces off the bench, including sophomore Abby Hassman, who has grown in the off-season into a strong rebounder. Freshman Katelyn Mollica will add backcourt depth with her tenacity on defense and already impressive court awareness. Junior Chelsea Gibbons is another player that is expected to step into a bigger role this season.
Foxboro coach Lisa Downs said, “This group of seniors have been part of our Varsity team since their freshmen year and with each year, they have learned and developed more – all of the girls on this year’s team put in the necessary work; now its time to execute.”
2016-2017 Record: 9-11 2016-2017 Finish: Missed postseason. Coach: John Leighton
Franklin got off to a rough start last season, beginning 0-6 with an inexperienced roster, but then closed the year with nine wins in the last 14 games, just missing out on a return to the postseason. This year, the Panthers will try to build on that year of experience and book a return to the playoffs.
The Panthers will have strength in the middle to try and get off to a much better start this season. Sophomore Ali Brigham, last year’s HockomockSports.com Underclassman of the Year, has received several Div. I NCAA offers, including one from the University of Minnesota, and at 6-foot-3 can dominate the paint on both ends of the floor. Franklin will also have outside scoring with junior guard Bea Bondhus, who is a consistent three-point shooter and will stretch defenses to open up the post for Brigham.
Franklin has plenty of size this season. Sophomore forwards Breanna Atwood (5-foot-9) and Megan O’Connell (5-foot-10) and senior forward Kate Morse (5-foot-11) will provide plenty of depth on the inside. Junior Shannon Gray will be back to run the point and senior Grace Sameski will add backcourt depth. Freshman guard Elizabeth Wilson is poised to make an instant impact for the Panthers, as she did in the season opener by knocking down three free throws in the final seconds to force overtime against Holy Name.
“We are a young team with only two seniors, but I am very pleased with the effort and progress of the team,” said Franklin coach John Leighton, who is excited about the return of the majority of the team’s scoring and the potential of the youth on the roster.
King Philip has a new coach this season, with former Wellesley assistant Amy Siggens taking over for Marty Crowley, and there could be a period of adjustment for a still relatively young Warriors roster to adapt to the new system, but there is excitement about the progress being made by the seven returning varsity players.
Boston University-commit Shannon O’Connor will once again be a player to watch for the Warriors this winter. The junior’s ability to shoot off the dribble, defend multiple positions, and take the ball to the basket has made her one of the league’s elite perimeter players. As O’Connor continues to develop as a playmaker that will create open looks for her teammates, including junior Julia Leroux and sophomore Faith Roy. Senior Christina Hathaway (one of only two seniors on the roster) will add strength in the paint on both ends of the floor.
The Warriors will not lack for size this season. O’Connor is listed at 5-foot-11, junior Catherine Cummings and sophomore Faye Veilleux are listed at 5-foot-10, and Roy is listed at 5-foot-9. The versatility of those players will give Siggens room to switch up lineups when needed. KP is still pretty young and Siggens has added two freshmen, Emma Glaser and Brianna James, to this year’s roster.
Siggens said, “Early on we will stress the importance of being unselfish on offense and being tough and aggressive on defense. Knowing mistakes will be made, there will be no small emphasis on the importance of playing hard all the time… I am encouraged by our team’s enthusiasm and attitude.”
2016-2017 Record: 20-4 2016-2017 Finish: Reached Div. 1 South final. Coach: Mike Redding
Replacing the production of last season’s HockomockSports.com Player of the Year Jen Peel is a difficult task, but Mansfield has the talent, depth, and experience in the roster to make it work. The Hornets return four starters from last year’s squad and will lean on a loaded and versatile junior class to try and make it a three-peat of league titles.
The key returner for Mansfield is 6-foot-3 center Meg Hill. The Stonehill College-commit is already the program’s best in blocked shots and is soon to be the career leader in rebounds, while improving her offensive game every season. With Peel gone, junior Mady Bendanillo will be tasked with getting the ball into the post to Hill and to fellow junior Maggie Danehy, who had an impressive start with a double-double against Medfield in the Endowment Game. Reigning HockomockSports.com Defensive Player of the Year Ann Maher will also be back at shooting guard and is one of the team’s most consistent three-point threats.
Juniors Erin Daniel, Emily Vigeant, Sydney Mulkern and Kara Bendanillo will likely compete for the fifth starting spot and all should see plenty of playing time this year. With 5-foot-11 senior Maeve Carney and 5-foot-10 freshman Ashley Santos, the Hornets should be able to dominate the paint and sophomore Becca Hottleman will add depth at the point guard position.
Mansfield coach Mike Redding said, “We have a chance to be very good again with our junior group getting a ton of experience last year and we hope to compete for league title again.” He added that the Hornets bolstered the schedule this season as well. Redding said, “Our record may not be as good as last year when we earned the No. 1 seed, but we will be more battle tested for the state tourney in March.”
2016-2017 Record: 10-11 2016-2017 Finish: Reached Div. 2 Central first round. Coach: T.J. Dolliver
A year after returning to the postseason for the first time since 2012 (and nearly pulling off an upset of Marlboro on the road), Milford brings back seven seniors to try and make a push for a Davenport division title and another state tournament appearance.
The Hawks have a versatile lineup led by four-year starter Kate Irwin. The lefty point guard is one of the most dynamic perimeter scorers and playmakers in the league and she continues to improve each season. Her ability to get into the paint opens up room for her teammates and she can also step back and knock down threes. Irwin will be helped by fellow seniors Gillian Valanzola and Juliana Tracy, who add size on the post.
Senior Emily Piergustavo is a knock-down shooter from beyond the arc and her classmate Jess Tomaso has proven to be a solid rebounder from the guard position. There are also two sophomores and four freshmen on the roster this season to add depth and build for the future under third-year head coach T.J. Dolliver.
Dolliver said, “I am very excited for our team this year. This is my 3rd year with a lot of these girls and seeing how they have progressed over the years have really set this team up for a fun season.”
Last season, North Attleboro boasted one of the most experienced lineups in the league with five of its top six players being seniors, but this year the Rocketeers will be incorporating a number of new faces, as only six players (only starter) return from last winter.
The lone returning starter is junior guard Julia Feid, who had a breakout season on the wing and will be counted on to lead the offensive attack this year. Feid’s classmate Emily Haskell will also be on the wing for North this season and will also have a large chunk of the offense run through her. Senior Emily Pastore, junior Liz Smahi, and sophomore Michelle Pothier will also contribute scoring from the wing, while junior Lauren Pezzi and sophomore Olivia Forbes will run the point and distribute the ball in the half court.
The graduation of Caroline Collard and Liz Morehouse leaves an opening on the post, but North has several players that will step in to provide a presence in the paint. Senior Julia Santos and juniors Emma Noreck and Kaley Sullivan will each get opportunities to contribute. North faces a tough early season schedule with the likes of Franklin, Oliver Ames, Archbishop Williams, and Hingham, so it will be critical for the new players to find their feet quickly.
North Attleboro coach Derek Herber said, “The team has quickly began to gel and I am hopeful that we if we can survive the early part of the season, we can qualify for the tournament.”
2016-2017 Record: 13-8 2016-2017 Finish: Reached Div. 2 South First Round. Coach: Elaine Clement-Holbrook
Oliver Ames struggled to find consistent offense last season and it kept the Tigers from being able to challenge Mansfield for the league title or make another run in Div. 2 South, but a healthy lineup with several key returning players has OA optimistic for improvements this winter.
The main focus will be on senior forward Kayla Raymond. The Stonehill College-commit is one of the most versatile players in the league, with the length and leaping ability to dominate in the paint and the range to step out and knock down jumpers. Raymond is listed as a forward/center but could potentially be used at multiple positions. Senior guard Abby Reardon is back to get the Tigers into their offensive sets and as one of the league’s top on-the-ball defenders. Classmate Katie Flynn also returns to give Raymond help in the post.
In addition to the seniors, junior Alex Sheldon will provide depth at the forward position and junior Sadie Homer was a dynamic scorer on the perimeter before an injury cut her season short last year. Homer was a solid three-point shooter last year and will be expected to stretch defenses again this season. Sophomore guard Meg Holleran emerged as a playmaker during her freshman campaign and could see a bigger role this year.
“OA is looking to blend some younger talent and are working hard to provide some depth in the backcourt,” said OA coach Laney Clement-Holbrook. “Looking forward to the fight for the Kelly Rex Division.”
In addition to a new coaching staff, Sharon will see a number of new faces on the roster, as several of last year’s players are focusing on other sports this winter. Former Rockland and East Bridgewater assistant Sandra Lombardi takes over for Cliff Tomassian and will have a young group to work with in her first head coaching position.
Junior small forward Emma Eberhardt is one of the returning players that will be expected to provide leadership and scoring for the Eagles. Eberhardt, a HockomockSports.com All-Underclassman Team performer last year, was Sharon’s top scorer last winter and also has the size to be a problem for opponents on the glass. She scored 16 points in Sharon’s win over Nipmuc in the season opener. Senior guard Miranda Cheung will also be back for Sharon to provide ball-handling and perimeter shooting.
Sophomore Telishya Herbert made the jump from JV to varsity midway through last season and had an instant impact on the Eagles with her athleticism and her ability to score in the paint. She had 10 points against Nipmuc and could be ready for a breakout year as Sharon’s second scorer to take some pressure off Eberhardt. Also back from last year’s roster are junior Evanjuline Elisma and sophomore Ally Brown.
Lombardi said of her new team, “We are going to be quick and aggressive. I’m excited to see what the season will bring.”
The Black Knights narrowly missed out on the postseason last year, despite having a number of underclassmen in the roster, and expectations for this season include a return to the playoffs under third-year head coach Charmaine Steele-Jordan.
Senior Val Whalen was the team’s MVP last season after leading the Black Knights with more than 13 points and nine rebounds per game. Whalen has improved every season and her intensity on defense and on the glass boosts is contagious. Stoughton is a physical team that likes to put pressure on the ball defensively and Whalen sets the tone. Senior Jordan Motley is also a tenacious rebounder and gives the Black Knights another strong presence in the paint.
Sophomore guard Shyanne Trinh had a breakout freshman campaign, scoring more than 10 points per game, and her ball-handling and long-range shooting opens things up for the post players. Fellow sophomore Aliyah Wright also had a strong rookie campaign and her size is a difficult matchup for many of the point guards in the Hock. Stoughton will also count on junior guards Lindsey McDonald and Hailey Egan and sophomore Lexi Baptista. Freshman Sydnee Hyacinthe has also been called up to add depth in the backcourt.
Steele-Jordan said of her senior forwards, “I’m looking forward to their leadership, hustle on the court and their defensive presence this year. Whalen and Motley’s veteran play along with our returning sophomores will be great for the Black Knights this season.”
2016-2017 Record: 1-21 2016-2017 Finish: Missed Postseason. Coach: Walter Harrigan
Taunton is coming off a difficult season in which the Tigers finished with just one victory, but one game into the new year and Taunton has already matched that total. The season opening win over Cumberland (R.I.) fits with the optimism around the program, as the Tigers blend youth with experience in the hopes of making a run at a playoff spot.
The Tigers will be led by senior forwards Hannah Moniz and Mackenzie Handrahan, who combined for 26 points in the win at Cumberland and provide a mix of rebounding, scoring at the rim, and outside shooting to balance the Taunton offense. Junior Lily Patneaude also returns from an all-star season and is Taunton’s most dynamic scorer with range from well beyond the arc. Junior Alexa White is another guard that will provide solid contributions on both ends of the floor.
Junior Shantel Andrew, a 5-foot-7 forward, is expected to be a significant contributor this season, after missing two years with knee injuries. As usual, Taunton has plenty of youth on the roster with four freshmen making varsity, a couple of whom got playing experience last year as eighth graders. Forwards Jaelyn and Sonya Fernandez and guards Kelsey White and Tori DaRosa are going to be counted on to play big roles this year for the Tigers.
Taunton coach Walter Harrigan said, “Our goal for this year is to continue to work hard while focusing on the development of good habits which will hopefully lead to team improvement and a trip to the state tournament.”
PROVIDENCE, R.I. – For most of the second half of Sunday afternoon’s game, everyone the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, including the Sharon defense, knew where Canton was going on the offensive end of the floor. The ball was going into the block to junior Hannah Jerrier as often as possible.
Knowing that she was going to get the ball did not make her any easier to stop.
Jerrier scored 26 points, including all 10 of Canton’s points in the third quarter and 18 of the 27 points the Bulldogs scored in the second half, and pulled down nine rebounds to lift the Bulldogs to a 58-49 victory and a season sweep of the Eagles.
“I think our team, now that we’re halfway through the year, is understanding their roles and they see Hannah being successful in the post, so they have more confidence in throwing it to her,” said Canton coach Jim Choquette. “Hannah stepping up has really helped us the last few games.”
The Bulldogs went to Jerrier on almost every possession in the third quarter, as they tried to protect a 12-point halftime lead. Guards Julia Hamilton and Maggie Connolly and fellow post players Emma Murphy and Erin Devine each had assists on the four baskets that Jerrier had in the third, as Canton utilized the high post to perfection and extended a run from the first half that built the lead to as many as 20 points.
“We were trying to go full-court press because that worked the first time we played them,” said Sharon coach Cliff Tomassian of trying to defend Jerrier. “Once they beat the press they were able to get it down to her for easy buckets. In the half-court, she’s just tough to defend.”
It took the Eagles a while to get going on the offensive end int he third quarter, but Sharon started to chip away at the lead. Shira Stoller hit a runner and freshman Tylesia Herbert (seven points and three steals) buried a three from the far corner. Stoller closed the quarter with a steal, a layup, and the foul that got Sharon back within 10 heading to the fourth.
“We stuck with it,” said Tomassian. “I thought the girls just stepped it up and made some plays. All we ask is that no matter what the score is, no matter who we’re playing is to keep fighting.”
In the fourth, Stoller (seven points) banked in a runner to cut the lead down to single digits at 45-36 and Veronica Wallace started to heated up for the Eagles. She answered a Jerrier basket with a drive to the hoop and took a defensive rebound and flew past everyone on her way to another layup that got Sharon as close as five points (50-45).
“The first game we played them she had five missed layups and I think she took it a little personal and she came to play today,” said Tomassian of Wallace, who had eight points in the fourth and a team-high 12 for the game. “No one wants to stop her. If she gets into the open court in practice, everyone stands still and doesn’t want to touch her.”
Choquette took advantage of a timeout to settle down the Bulldogs and remind them of his halftime message. He explained, “There’s always a letdown and a point where they’re hitting their stride. I’m not worried about that part, once we get to a certain point, we have to draw a line in the sand and answer.
“During one of the timeouts he called, I said okay that was their run and it’s right back to playing our game. That worked, we answered their challenge and won the game.”
Connolly (eight points and seven rebounds) had a drive to the basket plus the foul that got momentum back with the Bulldogs. She scored six of her eight points in the fourth and Jerrier added eight as well to close out the win.
Playing in a much different environment than they are used to, both teams came out a little flat to start the game. Sharon’s offense was not helped by two quick fouls on sophomore Emma Eberhardt, who is the Eagles’ leading scorer this season. Eberhardt missed most of the first half and finished with eight points.
“She usually doesn’t come out very much at all,” said Tomassian of Eberhardt. “It’s the second half of the season and we’re seeing teams again or they’re seeing her before they play us and they’re defending her much better.”
Canton was struggling a little with the Sharon press but as the first quarter wore on the Bulldogs started to find seams and score in transition. Hamilton had all seven of her points in the first half and Murphy added 11 of her 13 before the break, as Canton closed the second quarter on an 8-0 run to break the game open.
On Tuesday, Canton (4-9, 3-8) will try to make it three wins in a row when it travels to Oliver Ames. Sharon (5-10, 2-9) has to run the table to qualify for the state tournament and that begins on Tuesday with a trip to Franklin.