FRANKLIN, Mass. – Much of the attention on Oliver Ames this season will be centered on junior forward Kayla Raymond, and rightfully so, but the Tigers are going to need other players to step up if they want to repeat last season’s run to the Div. 2 South title.
On Friday night, in the opener of a Coaches vs. Cancer doubleheader, those other players made the plays that the Tigers needed to pull out a divisional road win against Franklin. While Raymond was once again the star with a game-high 22 points and 14 rebounds, OA had five other players score at least six points.
“That’s ultimately what we have to do,” said OA coach Laney Clement-Holbrook. “Everyone is going to be keying on Kayla and that’s what they’re going to be focused on doing and we need other people who can step up and contribute and take some of the pressure off.”
In the opening quarter OA needed only one player, as Raymond scored eight of the Tigers’ nine points in the first and the Panthers were held scoreless for the opening 6:40 of the game.
“She didn’t force anything, but the second you go one-on-one…she’s into the offense immediately,” said Franklin coach John Leighton about Raymond. “She’s a junior, she’s only going to get better. She’s a great kid and makes her team better.”
Franklin scored the final four points of the first and despite the rough start trailed by only five at the first break. In the second, both teams exploded offensively, splitting 52 points between them in a back-and-forth quarter.
The Panthers were given a lift by sophomore Bea Bondhus off the bench, scoring 11 of her team-high 14 points in the quarter. Her driving layup gave Franklin its first lead at 25-23. Freshman Ali Brigham chipped in with eight of her 12 points in the second as well, giving the Panthers an inside-out combination that was tough to guard.
“She’s got her length and she’s athletic and you can just tell she’s going to get better every time she plays,” said Clement-Holbrook of Brigham, who also pulled in 10 rebounds. “Her awareness as to where the ball is, where the defense is, how to time the ball over the top, she’s going to be a serious issue to deal with.”
Raymond continued her strong performance burying a three from the corner and scoring off an assist by Meg Holleran (six points). Senior Hannah Carroll also heated up in the second, scoring seven of her nine points, including a transition three. Katie Flynn added six of her eight points and Sadie Homer (eight points, 10 rebounds, six steals) chipped in with a three to close the half and put OA back up five.
“I thought we came out in the first quarter too high energy and not enough execution,” said Leighton. “When that second shift came through for everybody, you saw marked improvement. I thought Ali and Bea really sparked us there and I thought Shannon [Gray] really stepped up at point guard and move the ball well for us.”
The Panthers cut into the lead in the third. Katie Morse scored the first five points of the quarter, including a corner three to tie it only to have Homer answer it on the other end. Carli Koffinke scored on a drive, but again OA matched it with a layup from Abby Reardon (six points). Koffinke (eight points) hit a floater to close out the quarter with Franklin down just two, 44-42.
Needing to close out the game, OA went back to its star. Raymond hit a turnaround jumper on the right block, assisted on a basket for Flynn, then snatched an offensive rebound for a basket. Homer added a steal and an assist on a Reardon layup and then Raymond drilled her second three to put the Tigers ahead by 12.
Franklin continued to hang around but had turnovers on consecutive possessions and OA closed it out with free throws. “That’s been our Achille’s heel,” said Leighton. “Big game, big crowd, and things got a little tighter.”
He added, “In the end you have to play better ‘D’. You can’t give up 60 points in high school girls’ basketball regularly and win. I thought we made some steps forward but Kayla Raymond is a special kid and when we packed it in they had other kids step up and make shots.”
Clement-Holbrook is still looking for consistency from her relatively young team and hoping to see a four-quarter performance.
She explained, “We didn’t play our best and the fact that they were able to get things together in the final three minutes was really the difference.
“In no game this season have we played four consistently good quarters. I told the seniors, a quarter of the season is already over and we need to play with urgency.
Oliver Ames (4-2) will try to keep momentum high against King Philip on Tuesday before its showdown with league-leading Attleboro next Friday. Franklin (0-6) is young and struggling through a rare tough start to the season, but will hope to get the season jumpstarted next week against Taunton.