Storybook Ending for Oliver Ames Hoops Legend

Laney Clement-Holbrook
Oliver Ames’ legendary girls basketball coach Laney Clement-Holbrook announced her retirement after winning the third state title of her 46-year career. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)

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Laney Clement-Holbrook sits down on a bench just a few steps from the gym where she has spent nearly five decades building the Oliver Ames girls basketball program into a state power and creating lasting relationships with generations of players. It has only been a few weeks since the Tigers beat Norwood to claim the Div. 2 title, and she is proudly wearing a 2022 state champion shirt as a reminder.

The championship trophy has been paraded through the Easton schools, the players recently met in the lobby and got sized for their state championship rings, and the final administrative details are being put on another impressive winter for a program that has become accustomed to consistent success.

It is school vacation week, so the atrium is quiet and Clement-Holbrook is taking a moment to reflect. This is not an ordinary off-season conversation.

After 46 years in charge, 44 playoff appearances, 19 league titles, four South sectional titles, three state championships, and a record-setting 733 wins (an average of about 16 wins per season), Clement-Holbrook announced that she is retiring.

She is stepping away as a champion, an unrivaled winner, a pioneer, a mentor, an inspiration, and unquestionably (although she would never agree to this label) as a legend.

“Oliver Ames girls basketball is going to miss her tremendously,” said 2010 state champion and current Princeton assistant coach Lauren Battista, “but she’s put in so many years of sacrifice and hard work and giving her all to that program to make it what it is and she deserves to go out as the top dog and enjoy these years.”

Kerry Bourne played for Clement-Holbrook, worked with her as a coach in the youth program, and watched her daughter Hailey win a state title for OA this winter. “She wants the girls to win but she wants them to be leaders,” Bourne explained. “She wants them to be compassionate. She always wants them to play fair. It’s her life. She’s put everything into it. She’s given 150 percent to Oliver Ames basketball.”

It didn’t take long after the Tigers lifted the trophy in Lowell for rumors to swirl about whether this might have been Clement-Holbrook’s last year, and whether she would take the opportunity to go out on top, but she said the decision was actually made months before the season started. She came to the realization in August, after speaking with friends, that it was the right time to, as she put it, have some fun while she can.

Laney Clement-Holbrook

“I need to leave a little life left for me so I can enjoy time with the people who I’ve spent my life with in the world of basketball,” she said. “To be able to be free and say, do you want to go to this game or go watch this? I want to have some time to enjoy that because this is a 12-month, 24/7 operation. It’s not like you start thinking about the season the Monday after Thanksgiving.”

Even though OA goes into each new season with the goal of winning a state title, and has since Clement-Holbrook took over the program in the 1976-77 season, how perfect would it be to win one in the final season of a legendary career, to let Clement-Holbrook walk away after all this time and effort as a champion? (And, as a Dedham High Hall of Famer, to have the added bonus of beating Norwood for the final win of her career?)

“It was just the storybook ending,” said assistant coach Christine Hochstein. “She didn’t tell any parents, didn’t tell any of the kids, because she did not want this to be about her and her farewell tour because it’s all about the girls.”

Brittany Engle, who has been an assistant for the past six years and was a star on the first state title team in 2006, added, “I’m so, so happy for her. We were so in the moment that I never thought we’d come up short and then once it finally happened it was, ‘Oh thank God that we can finish on top for Laney.’ It’s so cool and so fitting, she deserves it.”

Laney Clement-Holbrook
Celebrating a new record for wins in a career. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

Creating opportunities and fighting for equality

Clement-Holbrook started at OA as a teacher in 1975. Because she had been a catcher in college at Bridgewater State, longtime athletic director Val Muscato appointed her as head softball coach. She was also named freshman field hockey coach and JV basketball coach, working with Sue Rivard, another member of the OA Hall of Fame. She was also in grad school at Bridgewater State working towards a Master’s in Education (which she finished in 1981). One year later, Rivard retired as basketball coach and Clement-Holbrook took over the program.

Laney Clement-Holbrook

OA was a good fit at the start because it was a short drive from the Bridgewater campus, but it quickly became a welcoming place to start her teaching and coaching career, and eventually, it grew into her home. Now, almost five decades later, the school and Clement-Holbrook are synonymous. It is difficult to think of one without the other.

She started coaching in a very different era. Title IX was only four years old. Massachusetts had just recently progressed from six-player girls basketball (with three players in each half who weren’t allowed to cross midcourt). The girls were only given one hour of practice per day (boys got two hours) and games were played in the afternoon, unlike the boys who got to play at night. None of that sat well with the new coach.

“I had a meeting with the superintendent for them to explain why that was,” said Clement-Holbrook. “It didn’t go very well, but it was a start. These kids’ parents are working, they want to come see their daughters play. I’m grateful there was that transition. You see the passion for basketball in this community and, to me, because it’s a basketball town that helped quite a bit.”

Moscato and OA boys coach Bill Nixon created a basketball camp at Stonehill College. Clement-Holbrook added a girls basketball camp to give more opportunities to local players. In 1986, her former roommate at Bridgewater State, Barbara Stevens, took over at Bentley University (on her way to more than 1,100 wins and a place in the Naismith Hall of Fame), and started a camp for local coaches that became, as Clement-Holbrook described it, “a think-tank for anyone coaching girls or young women.” They also started attending the annual WBCA convention at the NCAA Women’s Final Four and did so for more than 30 years.

“It was so much fun because we learned so many things from that education,” she explained. “When you learn from the best, you would be remiss if you didn’t take some of what you learned and try to apply it and that’s what we did.”

Lisa Downs, who has played and coached against Clement-Holbrook during her time at Foxboro, said, “I really credit her for stepping up and fighting for the girls to receive as much acknowledgment (as the boys). It brought a lot more of the spotlight on girls basketball than it had years back and she’s a pioneer with getting the word out and really pushing the issue to get the girls the credit they deserve.”

Downs continued, “She’s a pioneer in so many ways and I don’t think people realize what she’s done for the sport, not just for Oliver Ames, but for girls everywhere.”

There are significantly more opportunities for female coaches now than in the 1970s. This past winter, eight of the 12 Hockomock League teams were coached by women, including four who were coaching at their alma maters and six who had played at the collegiate level. It is a development that Clement-Holbrook relishes and something she has encouraged for years. She was not only the first woman president of the state coaches association, where she pushed for recognition and opportunities for female coaches but has also added coaches with top-level playing experience on her own staff. Current assistants Engle (Marist), Hochstein (Assumption), and Chrystal Holland (AIC) each played in college.

As she moves into the next phase of her life, Clement-Holbrook is confident that her fellow coaches will continue pushing for equality and that they understand the importance of creating more opportunities for future generations.

Laney Clement-Holbrook

“Yeah girlfriends, it’s time for you to take it and run with it now,” she said. “We got you to this point, now it’s your turn and I love the fact that they’re as passionate about it as I am. You know you did your job and you know you inspired them and you know that you taught them things.”

Laney Clement-Holbrook
Laney Clement-Holbrook along with assistants Brittany Engle (left) and Christine Hochstein (middle) after win over Norwood. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)

Bringing the title home to Easton

“She challenged me,” Engle recalled about the build-up to her senior season in 2005-06. “She told me, ‘You have to be a better leader because there are girls on this team who are afraid of you because you yell at them when they make mistakes and that’s not making them better players, it’s making them play scared.’ Because I wanted to win so badly and it was my last chance, I said fine I’ll try it your way, and she was right.”

Winning a state title is hard. Sometimes the most talented teams don’t win. Sometimes even the best teams, the best players, have off nights, and in the playoffs, you are facing the best teams in the state, which are all ready to pounce when you might not be at your best (and sometimes even when you are).

Laney Clement-Holbrook

OA won its first South sectional title in 2000 but lost in the state semifinal at the Fleet Center. Heading into the 2006 season, Clement-Holbrook’s 29th, confidence was high that the Tigers had the potential to make a run at a championship. There was a strong core of seniors, including Engle (who would reach the 1,000-point plateau that year), but to make it work, to make the personalities mix in a way that would bring the ultimate success, both players and coach needed to adapt.

Laney Clement-Holbrook

Engle explained, “It seemed like Laney gave in and had fun with us, so it felt like we were all in it together. She would give in to our goofiness and let us be ourselves, so as we got closer to the end not only did we think about our goal as seniors but the idea that this will be the first time and that Laney is such a legendary coach that it will be huge for her too.”

Clement-Holbrook said, “You have to get a total buy-in from the kids that they understand they have to give whatever it takes. I was lucky in 2006 because I had a group of seven or eight seniors and the buy-in was huge.”

She joked, “Before we won that first one, I said I want to win a championship before I’m dead and then we won and it was like, well that was fun, maybe we can try it again.”

After the first title, Easton displayed its adoration for the Tigers. The team was given a police and fire escort into town, parents lined the street to welcome the bus back to the school, and a new tradition was born when the Tigers took the championship trophy on a tour of the elementary and middle schools. It was a chance for the players to be recognized and be celebrated by the younger grades, but also provided inspiration for the next group of players who now wanted the same experience.

Laney Clement-Holbrook

“When I was in eighth grade watching that team, they were like our idols,” said Battista, who would go on to score more than 1,000 points in her career and was named Gatorade Player of the Year as a senior. “I remember a few of them came to our little travel basketball banquet and it was like Diana Taurasi was there, LeBron James, that’s how big a deal they were to us at that moment. That’s what Oliver Ames girls basketball was all about, winning state championships and competing at the highest level.”

Many of the members of the 2010 state championship team were in the stands at the Fleet Center when the Tigers won four years before. They wore their MetroWest jerseys and winner’s medals and they dreamed of adding their own state championship banner in the Nixon Gym. Four years later, they would get their chance, although not without a moment of adversity in the season opener.

“Our whole preseason was, this is it, last chance, we’re going to make it happen and then we went out and lost our very first game,” Battista recalled. Clement-Holbrook remembered that before the season opener she broke her long-held superstition against going to pre-game team pasta dinners. She said, “I went into the team room at Foxboro and they’re all sitting on the floor in the locker room and they’re all crying their eyes out. I remember walking in and looking at them all and I said, ‘Stop crying, nobody died!’”

Battista laughed when thinking about that moment, “She broke the tension. It was what we needed to kick our butt a little bit and get back to work in practice.” The kick in the butt and the new mantra of ‘Lose the first, Win the last’ worked pretty well, as the Tigers went on to win the next 25 games and bring home a second state title in five years.

“She always has these Laney-isms,” Battista continued, “and sayings that in the moment you’re just like, ‘Oh that’s just Laney being Laney,’ but she delivers it and she sticks to those values in a way that transcends time. It doesn’t matter if you’re coaching a team from the 1990s or today, those same values are what makes her great. It’s always about what’s best for the team and how you are making the people around you better. I’m sure me and my teammates gave her some gray hairs. We know how to push her buttons sometimes, in a good way, but it was such a good and positive environment.”

When Clement-Holbrook set the state record for wins by a girls basketball coach, passing the 633 wins of fellow Bridgewater State grad Vi Goodnow, members of the current state title-winning squad were in the stands holding up signs and cheering for their future coach. The desire to be a part of the OA program and add to the program’s legacy is developed at an early age.

Laney Clement-Holbrook

Bourne, who has been a long-time coach in Easton youth basketball, explained, “If I didn’t have such a wonderful experience at Oliver Ames with Laney as my head coach, then I wouldn’t have started in fourth grade talking about how it’s such an honor to play for Oliver Ames, to play for Laney, to take them to games, to go support OA, and then to now have eight girls still from those 10 (in fourth grade) on the team today.”

“It 100 percent is about reaching out,” Bourne said, adding that the current fourth-grade team was in the stands for the title game in Lowell. “Laney is the one who made sure that the trophy went to every single school and got them excited about it.”

Laney Clement-Holbrook
OA players surround Laney Clenent-Holbrook when she reached win No. 700. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

Legacy that extends beyond the record books

After the Tigers beat Dracut in the Sweet 16, the players and their families gathered at Maguire’s for dinner. They filled up the tent outside the building and celebrated an impressive win against a strong team.

All season long, the players had talked about honoring the 2021 team, which missed its chance to play for a state title because of the pandemic, and they had written that message on the whiteboard in the locker room before every game. Clement-Holbrook went into the tent to address the team. While they hadn’t yet reached the end of the journey, she told them that she appreciated what the whole team, from the starters to the team managers, had done to get the Tigers to that point.

“I talked about the puzzle,” she recalled. “I said, remember when I talked about there’s something special about you? Look at what you’ve accomplished, and I couldn’t be more proud of you, and everybody here has had a part in all of this. We’re not measuring the size of the (puzzle) part, what we’re measuring is the value of all those parts together.”

There are two common threads that come up in every conversation about Clement-Holbrook’s longevity as a coach and her lasting impact on OA basketball – culture and relationships. Whether you’re speaking to current or former players, her staff, or opposing coaches, they all agree that she set a standard for the whole community (from youth levels to varsity) and it’s a standard that everyone readily buys into. They want to play, and to win, for her and for OA.

Laney Clement-Holbrook

The speech on the first day of tryouts hasn’t changed in years. “If you’re fortunate enough to be chosen and to wear the Oliver Ames on your jersey,” Clement-Holbrook explained, “I point to all the banners on the wall, then you’re playing for something bigger than yourself.” It is a message that resonates with the players to this day. In separate interviews throughout the 2022 playoff run, each of the players mentioned, unprompted, the legacy of OA basketball and how meaningful it is to play their part in it.

Laney Clement-Holbrook

“She wants to develop strong women, not just good basketball players,” Engle said. “She wants to equip us with the character and the tools to take advantage of opportunities or make opportunities for ourselves. That’s not just talk because she lived that, so I think it means so much more.”

Bourne added, “I was telling the girls, you get to play for a legend. I was telling them that in fourth grade, so I think I made them a little nervous. I told them, ‘You have an amazing opportunity to play for such an incredible program.’”

When Battista played for the Div. II national title at Bentley, Clement-Holbrook was in the stands in Erie, Pa. to watch. It was an unforgettable moment for one of OA’s best players and for her best friend from college and Clement-Holbrook made sure that she was there to share the experience with them.

“She’s been involved in every major thing in my life, especially with basketball,” Battista said. “Having that kind of connection between playing for her and playing for Coach Stevens means the world to me and I think means the world to her as well.

“Just the attention to detail, the team-over-me mentality, the communication, the relationships, the genuine care for the people that they’re coaching, winning is just a byproduct of all of that stuff. I’m just very lucky that I got to experience this for a long period of time.”

The relationships don’t end in March or even at graduation. In the midst of the celebrations following the win over Norwood, Clement-Holbrook looked into the stands and saw the father of former player Erin Sheehan and he was wearing a state championship jacket from the 2006 season. There are always former players in the stands at home games and there is always a host of people waiting to talk to Clement-Holbrook when she emerges from the locker room.

Laney Clement-Holbrook

Her smile widens and her eyes light up as she talks about the players’ children she meets doing trophy parades, about having a former player give her grief that she is going soft because today’s team did a drill differently than they did years ago, or about having the youth teams line up at the door to high-five the players as they come out of the locker room for warmups. At the end of the day, at the end of her career, these things will be missed more than results on the court.

Laney Clement-Holbrook

Hochstein noted, “She has a relationship with every single player who’s ever played for her. I think Laney could text any one of them and ask for something and they would do it because that’s just the type of person she is. She would do anything for them and when she asks for something, Brittany and I joke that we’re still doing this, you can’t say no to Laney.”

Laney Clement-Holbrook

“Honestly, I think, my greatest strength is people development, not necessarily basketball skill development,” Clement-Holbrook said when asked about establishing connections through the years. “You have to change, of course. I think that one of the keys to success is to read the room, know what you had to do, know what the benchmarks were that you had to set because kids are always different.”

Laney Clement-Holbrook
Laney Clement-Holbrook reacts to the win over Norwood and her third state title. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)

Hollywood ending to a legendary career

“It’s not a job to her, it’s part of her life,” Engle replied when asked if she could pinpoint what it takes to coach at one program and maintain an unparalleled level of success for 47 years.

“She invests herself in this. It’s 12 months out of the year. She’s texting us in the off-season, she’s going to Summer League, she’s going to camps. I’ll get a random email about a drill and I’m like, ‘Laney it’s July, what are we doing?’ But, that’s just how she’s wired. It’s such an integral part of her life and who she is.”

Her passion for the game has never wavered. While this was her final season in charge of the Tigers, no one believes Clement-Holbrook is going to simply walk away from the program. They fully expect to see her in the stands next winter and she is still going to be invested in her current and former players.

Laney Clement-Holbrook

Hochstein said, “She’s dedicated her life to this. This is her commitment to giving back to the community. She’s so committed and passionate about coaching and teaching these girls.”

None of the players knew that this was it. As Caroline Peper stepped to the free throw line in the closing seconds and sealed a state title, no one was thinking that this was going to be the final seconds of Laney Clement-Holbrook’s storied career.

“She just hasn’t aged in my eyes,” Downs said with a laugh. “I feel like she looks and she acts and she coaches the exact same way as she did when I was in high school in the ’80s playing against her. Her love not just of the sport but of coaching girls…I just kept thinking she’s got a couple more years in her.”

Bourne was thrilled that her daughter got to be part of this final season. She said, “It’s been unbelievable. I’m very, very, very grateful that [Hailey] had this opportunity and it’s been a blessing. I can’t even imagine what was going through [Laney’s] mind that night. She knew it was her last night ever to coach and I wish I’d known.”

It seemed to still be sinking in for Engle, who was a player on the first state title and a coach on the last one. “We were so focused on each possession,” she said. “So I think we were just so focused on each little step and being present for each step that afterwards it was like, ‘Oh my gosh,’ and then days later we’re like, ‘Oh my gosh!’ The fact that I can be a part of the bookends of her career…I just feel lucky.”

“It went by kind of fast,” Clement-Holbrook said about her time on the OA sidelines. “I didn’t think to myself, this is the last time I’m going to do this or the last time I’m going to do that. I was so focused on the moment that I never really thought about it. Even on the bus ride home from Lowell, I wasn’t thinking this is it because I wanted to savor the moment. I didn’t want to make it a sad moment because we were having way too much fun.”

So, how about winning a state championship in her final game? How amazing was it to be able to end her career by lifting the trophy? She leaned back on the bench and smiled.

“I couldn’t have ever asked for a happier ending. Someone up there was thinking of me. I’m a lucky kid.”

Quotes

Laney Clement-Holbrook

“There are some coaches who walk into the gym and probably know who your starting five are going to be and that’s about it, but she knows every single thing about your team, so I try to do the exact same thing to play her because I know what we’re going to be facing. It’s a ton of fun as a coach. It’s almost like a chess match because you know what they’re going to be doing, maybe not fully, and then you have to counteract that. It keeps it fun because you’re coaching against someone who is so good and has so much basketball IQ.”Lisa Downs, Foxboro girls basketball coach

“People like Laney paved the way for all these opportunities for us to pursue this as a profession. When she started, I can’t even imagine the battles she had to fight just to get the opportunities that the boys team was getting. When I was growing up in Easton, I always thought the girls team was better than the boys team and that’s because of her and what she put into it. I always thought that was the normal, that’s how things were, and now that I’m a little more experienced I know that’s not the case. I was lucky that I got to grow up in her sphere of influence because she had such a great influence on basketball and 100 percent on my life and my career trajectory in coaching.”Lauren Battista, 2010 state champion

“I’m very thankful for this year obviously. Honestly, it was a whirlwind and it almost doesn’t feel real yet. We talked about it for so many years, ‘You guys really have a chance to win the state championship.’ Even though it’s so difficult to do, I really believed in them and now that it’s actually happened it’s just unreal. I understand that Laney didn’t want to tell us beforehand but I wish I knew that day was her actual last day.”Kerry McLaughlin Bourne, Class of 1990

“We say these kids grow up watching OA basketball, they want to play for Laney, they want to play for their hometown high school. The kids really want to be part of this program that they’ve grown up watching since they were little. That’s Laney. She puts the time in. We won the Dracut game and the next day I think eight of our players showed up at the fourth-grade championship game for Metro. Those are the kind of kids that she’s coaching and that’s what she’s teaching them, that you’re part of something bigger. Those little girls are looking up to you. That’s the kind of program that she’s built at OA.”Christine Hochstein, OA assistant coach

“She tried to really broaden my perspective as a player and it took until my senior year to see the value in that lesson and what she was trying to get across. I gave a little and she gave a little and she allowed me to be the best version of myself. You know when you go bowling with little kids and you have the bumpers on the side? I think that’s what she tried to do my senior year, allow me to think it was my idea but she was keeping me in the lane. High school basketball didn’t make me a better three-point shooter, but it definitely made me a better teammate, it definitely made me a better leader, definitely helped prepare me for challenges that I would face in college and as a coach. I think the fact that she brings so much of herself to the table, her character, and that she lives the values she preaches to us that eventually, she’s going to get through.”Brittany Engle, 2006 state champion, OA assistant coach

Clement-Holbrook Retires After 47 Years at OA

Oliver Ames girls basketball
OA coach Laney Clement-Holbrook celebrates with her players after earning the 700th win of her career. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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After more than 40 years on the sidelines, Oliver Ames girls basketball coach Laney Clement-Holbrook has announced her retirement. Clement-Holbrook finished with a state record 733 career wins in her 47 years, averaging more than 15 wins per season. She won three state titles (2006, 2010, and 2022) and 19 Hockomock League titles, including at least one in each of the past five decades.

Clement-Holbrook is a member of the Dedham High, Bridgewater State University, New England Basketball, Massachusetts Basketball Coaches, and Oliver Ames Halls of Fame. She was also the first female president of the Massachusetts Basketball Coaches Association and in 2017 was selected to coach the McDonald’s All-American game.

Just last week, Clement-Holbrook led the Tigers to a win over previously undefeated top seed Norwood to win her state title.

Read the full press release from Oliver Ames athletic director Bill Matthews below:

EASTON — Superintendent Lisha Cabral and Athletic Director Bill Matthews announce that girls basketball Coach Elaine Clement-Holbrook has retired following close to 50 years coaching athletics at Oliver Ames High School. She began coaching at OAHS in 1975 as an assistant field hockey coach, assistant
basketball coach and the head softball coach. She became the head basketball coach during the 1976-77 season. Coach Clement-Holbrook’s overall record is 733-244. In January 2016, she broke the Massachusetts record for most wins by a girls basketball coach, passing the previous record of 633 wins.

Her teams have qualified for the State Tournament 44 times in 46 years. The team won the championship in 2006 and 2010, and for a third time earlier this month. Other team accomplishments with Coach Clement-Holbrook at the helm include:
19 Hockomock League Titles
Four Division 2 South Sectional Championships
Two Division 2 Eastern Mass Championships
Two-time Division 2 State Semifinalists
Three-time Division 2 South Sectional Finalists
Four-time Division 2 South Sectional Semifinalists

Coach Clement-Holbrook has been named the Massachusetts Basketball Coaches Association (MBCA) Coach of the Year four times, and recognized by both the MBCA
and Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) with Victory Club Awards for each time passing another 100 wins, the latest recognition being for 700 wins in 2020. She has also been recognized as Coach of the Year by the Brockton Enterprise, Boston Globe, Hockomocksports.com, National Federation Interscholastic Coaches Association for District 1-Northeast, and the WBCA-District 1.

During her career, she additionally received the Oswald Tower Award for Professionalism and Ethics in Coaching in 2011, and was selected to be Head Coach
of the East for the McDonald’s All American Game in Chicago in 2017.

“Coach Clement-Holbrook will leave an amazing legacy with Oliver Ames athletics. She has mentored and coached hundreds of Oliver Ames students during her career, and has served as an excellent role model demonstrating patience, dedication, enthusiasm and humility,” Director Matthews said. “She has achieved many incredible coaching milestones and consistently set her teams up to succeed year in and year out. More importantly, she has instilled character and values in her team members. She will be missed by our student-athletes and athletics staff. We wish her the best in her retirement.”

Added Superintendent Cabral, “Coach Clement-Holbrook’s abilities, experience and dedication are extraordinary. She will leave a lasting legacy and example for others in Easton that is almost impossible to recreate. Her impact is far beyond athletic coaching. Her athletes and students alike have benefitted from her consistent model of courage, passion and excellence that will touch their loves forever. We are fortunate that she will continue teaching at Oliver Ames, but she will be missed tremendously as a member of our coaching staff.”

Coach Clement-Holbrook has served as a district representative for the MBCA and as the MBCA’s first female president, and on the WBCA High School Coaches Committee. She is an inductee of the Northeast New Agenda Hall of Fame (1992), Dedham High School Athletic Hall of Fame- Inaugural Class (1999), Bridgewater State College Athletic Hall of Fame (2001), New England Basketball Hall of Fame (2006), Massachusetts Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame (2008), and the Oliver Ames High School Athletic Hall of Fame (2018).

She has officially retired from coaching following the conclusion of the 2021-22 season. She is currently continuing to teach classes at Oliver Ames.

Murphy’s Return Was Final Piece To Oliver Ames’ Puzzle

Anna Murphy Oliver Ames
Oliver Ames senior Anna Murphy dribbles to the basket in the first half against Norwood. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
 LOWELL, Mass. — Legendary Oliver Ames head coach Laney Clement-Holbrook likes to describe her squad as a puzzle, the players fitting together to create a true team.

The Tigers temporarily lost one of the pieces to its puzzle in the middle of February when senior Anna Murphy was forced out of action with a concussion in a win over Foxboro.

Anna Murphy

Murphy didn’t play the final four games of the regular season, which included two of OA’s three losses this entire year, missed the first-round win over North Middlesex, and saw very little action in the playoff rematch with Foxboro, essentially missing a half dozen games to close the season.

Click here for a photo gallery from Oliver Ames vs. Norwood.

“It was difficult, I just remember thinking how bad I wanted to be back, I really wanted to be back but I wasn’t getting better as quick as I wanted to but I wanted to be ready for the tournament,” Murphy said. “And Laney knew that too, she kept telling me to take my time. It took a little longer than I wanted, even though it wasn’t the same as before, it worked out perfectly fine.

“It was unfortunate because I had to stay indoors, I missed everyone so much. I was FaceTiming them at the pasta dinners…it was unfortunate it happened but I think it helped us grow and it made me appreciate the time I had with all of them. It makes me sad to think it’s over now.”

Now back in the fold, Murphy played a vital role in helping Oliver Ames clinch the Division 2 State Championship with a 53-48 win over previously undefeated Norwood.

“Getting her back, absolutely completed [the puzzle],” Clement-Holbrook said. It broke our heart that she missed six games because of that concussion. It was just like God looking over our shoulders and this made things right. The fact that she contributed in that way, especially tonight, it was like all the pieces were back together.

“I always talk about a puzzle, we are one big puzzle. Just because someone’s piece is bigger or someone’s is smaller, if you pull it out, it’s not a complete puzzle anymore.”

The senior reserve has been a big boost in the early goings throughout the playoff run, getting six points in the win over Dracut and adding a basket in the first half of OA’s overtime thriller against Medfield in the state semifinals.

It continued on Saturday night at the Tsongas Center, converting a layup in the first quarter for a 15-10 lead, and then adding a floater (20-14) and a putback in the second, the latter bucket giving the Tigers a 24-21 lead at halftime.

“We absolutely missed her,” said classmate Caroline Peper. “With her out it was a missing part of our team. Even in the Medfield game, we knew she was going to be the key component that was missing in our previous games. We knew she was going to make a great impact and just needed to do what she was doing before she left.”

While her offensive contributions in the first half were important, her points in the fourth were gigantic for the Tigers. OA was forced into some lineup changes due to foul trouble, and the Norwood defense was zoned in on stopping Peper and sophomore Jasmyn Cooper. That left plenty of opportunity for others to step up and Murphy took advantage.

Anna Murphy

She hit nothing but net on a tough elbow jumper with under four minutes to play that put the Tigers ahead 44-38. And she wasn’t rattled by the bright lights or loud crowd either as she sank a pair of free throws to make it 48-43 with two minutes to go.

“She’s so consistent, such a great role model,” Cooper said. ”She gives us great energy off the court and on the court. It really brings the energy up in the gym.”

The Mustangs battled back into the game, a quick 5-1 burst capped by a strong take from Erin Reen got the top-seed within one with 25.9 seconds left. After missing the free throw, Murphy hauled in a huge defensive rebound and was fouled.

Cool as a cucumber, the senior sank both free throws to push OA’s lead back to three at 51-48 with 21 seconds left in the game. OA got a final stop and Peper iced the game with two free throws with just seconds left.

“I think everyone believes in everyone else on this team, which is amazing,” Murphy said. “We’re all so skilled and developed players that we aren’t afraid to take it when we need to. Pep was being guarded like crazy, Kaydance [Derba] was in foul trouble, and it’s those times that the whole team works together. At that point, it was just finding the open player.”

On top of her offensive showing, Murphy had her hands full on the defensive side. Classmate Hailey Bourne, one of the best defenders in the region, picked up two fouls early on and battled foul trouble all game. That meant Murphy was tasked with guarding Villanova-commit and 1,000-point scorer Megan Olbrys.

Click here for a photo gallery from Oliver Ames vs. Norwood.

While Olbrys finished with a team-high 21 points, she was consistently and constantly heavily defended by Murphy and others.

Anna Murphy

“Without question [everyone had their moment]. The only two players who had the physicality to handle [Meg Olbrys] were Hailey [Bourne] and Murph. When Murph came in, she stepped up.

“It was just so satisfying for me because I just felt like she had been so cheated but it ends with us winning a state championship so I couldn’t be happier.”

Murphy’s return proved to be the final piece needed in Oliver Ames’ puzzle, and that resulted in the D2 State Championship.

Oliver Ames Books Spot In Final After Overtime Thriller

Oliver Ames girls basketball
Oliver Ames celebrates after its overtime win over Medfield in a D2 State Semifinal matchup. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
 
QUINCY, Mass. — For the first time in over a decade, the Oliver Ames girls basketball team is heading back to the Division 2 State championship game.

The third time proved to be the charm for the Tigers against Medfield as Oliver Ames, who had lost back-to-back games to the Warriors at the end of the regular season, emerged from a hard-fought battle with a 62-59 overtime win to earn a spot in the D2 Final.

The victory wasn’t secure until the last second — all tenths of it — ticked off the clock and the final buzzer sounded in overtime. The journey to get there was full of twists and turns, punches and counter punches, and momentum swings you couldn’t script in a Hollywood thriller.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

“When you play the same team three times, all sorts of things happen,” said Oliver Ames head coach Laney Clement-Holbrook. “You’re just so very familiar with each other and what each other does…it comes down to execution. There were moments I thought we had it, and then there were times we made it a little too easily for them. But the thing I’m most proud of is their resiliency because they didn’t quit, they didn’t give up, and they came back.”

While Medfield had the edge for the first two quarters, Oliver Ames surged ahead during the second half. But even with some big runs, the Tigers couldn’t quite put the Warriors away in regulation.

Similar to their 10-0 run in the third quarter, Oliver Ames hit its stride in the fourth quarter and looked poised to run away with the win. The Tigers rattled off a 13-6 run over a four-minute span, a triple from sophomore Kaydance Derba (nine points, four assists) shortly after OA broke the press put OA ahead 51-43 with two minutes to go in the game.

But similar to how the Warriors responded to OA’s big run in the third (a 7-0 run of their own), Medfield quickly turned the game on its head. Ann McCarthy (28 points, eight rebounds) drew back-to-back fouls for four straight free throws. After a traveling call on OA, McCarthy attacked the rim for two more to make it a two-point game.

Medfield kept the pressure up and forced another turnover and McCarthy splashed in a triple to complete a personal 9-0 run as the Warriors suddenly jumped ahead 52-51 with under a minute to go.

Oliver Ames girls basketball

OA had a shot blocked and then turned it over on the ensuing inbounds play, giving Medfield the ball with the lead and just 19.1 seconds to go.

There was no quit in the Tigers as both senior Hailey Bourne (three steals, three blocks) and sophomore Jasmyn Cooper (14 points, eight rebounds, eight assists, three steals) read the inbounds play perfectly and combined for the steal. Cooper found classmate Sarah Hilliard (six points, 10 rebounds, four assists), who alertly dished it off to senior Caroline Peper (26 points, eight rebounds, three blocks) for an easy layup and OA was back up 53-51 with 12 seconds to go.

Bourne came up with a steal on Medfield’s ensuing inbounds but after a foul, the Warriors got a steal of their own, and McCarthy was fouled. The Medfield star hit the first to tie the game but was short on the second. OA grabbed the rebound, was fouled instantly but their 1-and-1 chance from the line with 0.2 seconds left was off and the game headed to overtime.

“I want to give kudos to our crowd,” Clement-Holbrook said. “We’ve had a couple of the boys come to practice with us the last week and they showed up and brought more people, and they were so important. Those foul shots at the end, I just kind of turned to them and they ramped up the noise. That’s high school basketball.

“These kids just love to play, the senior class has been absolutely amazing in terms of paying it forward for these young kids. They are demonstrating the right things, saying and doing the right things, both on and off the court. I’m so proud of them.”

After each team hit a free throw to open overtime, Cooper came down with an offensive board and put it back in to give the Tigers a 56-54 lead. A baseline make from Medfield tied it but Derba fired a beautiful bullet pass to Cooper cutting to the rim for two and another lead.

Although OA got a stop, the Tigers turned it over trying to take it over half. Bourne had another terrific play, coming up with a block that was called a jump ball, and OA had the possession arrow.

The Tigers couldn’t add to the lead and McCarthy came back with another layup to tie it, but Peper was fouled and went to the line in the double bonus.

She sank both.

Medfield answered with one of their own, but with under 30 seconds to go, the Warriors had to foul and OA made sure to get the ball to Peper.

She sank both, again.

“Yeah, that’s a situation I want to be in, that was the plan to get the ball,” Peper said. “I’m pretty confident in my free throw shooting, I shoot a lot of them in practice. I was ready to be in that position.”

With a 62-59 lead, the Tigers got another final stop, and one last halfcourt heave from the Warriors was off the mark to seal the win.

“When it went to the situation in overtime where they had to foul, we want Peper at the line,” Clement-Holbrook said. “She’s got ice in her veins. We wanted her to get her hands on the ball.”

Oliver Ames saw a pair of eight-point leads disappear, once in each quarter. The latter putting the Tigers just seconds away from a defeat, but Bourne credited her teams’ resiliency for being able to bounce back.

“We never put our heads down, we just kept going,” Bourne said. “Even when there was just one second left on the clock, we never put our heads down. We all came together and just really looked at each other and said, ‘We got this.’ No one dropped their head at all. I think that just goes to show how determined we are.

“It’s very hard to beat a good team three times and we felt like we had nothing to lose.”

It was a slow start on the offensive end for the Tigers, who got early baskets from Cooper and Peper, and a late one from Anna Anna Murphy but trailed 12-6 after a quarter.

Oliver Ames girls basketball

Once OA was able to get its outside scoring going, the offense opened up. Peper hit a pair of triples and Derba added one of her own to get the Tigers within one. After Medfield responded, Peper hit nothing but net on another triple, and Cooper found Hilliard down low for two as the Tigers cut the deficit to 24-22 at the break.

“[Peper] and Kaydance got the offense going,” Clement-Holbrook said. “We wanted to get the ball inside but Medfield did a great job of taking it away, there was not a lot of space. I have three sophomores in my starting lineup, so this was really their first time with this environment. Just from an emotional standpoint, the noise, the crowd, I thought they handled themselves beautifully.”

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Hilliard returned the favor to Cooper three minutes into the second and that sparked a 10-0 run for OA. Peper hit another three and then found Maddie Homer for a layup. A steal from Hilliard ended up with yet another three from Peper and the Tigers surged ahead 38-30. Medfield applied its full court press and closed the quarter with a 7-0 burst to make it 38-37 going into the fourth.

“We knew the pressure was on them,” Peper said of playing Medfield for a third time, having lost the two meetings. “We believed we could beat them because we had some of our players missing on those games that are pretty key components to our team. We weren’t ourselves those games so we came into this game wanting it so bad.”

Oliver Ames girls basketball will take on the winner of #1 Norwood and #5 Whitman-Hanson in the Division 2 State Championship at the Tsongas Center, with the date (either Friday, Saturday, or Sunday) and time to be announced.

2020-2021 Hockomock Girls Basketball Preview

A new girls basketball season will tip off in January. Read a team-by-team look at each team. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

By HockomockSports.com Staff

2020-2021 Hockomock Girls Basketball Preview

Attleboro

2019-2020 Record: 10-12
2019-2020 Finish: Reached D1 South First Round
Coach: Martin Crowley
After a couple of rebuilding years, Attleboro made a jump last winter and clinched its return to the playoffs in the final game of the regular season. While the Bombardiers will miss the all-around game of Nyah Thomas, who is at Worcester State after a breakout senior season, Attleboro will count on six returners from last year’s roster and a couple of promising newcomers to make some noise in the Kelley-Rex.

Thomas’ scoring and ball-handling will be tough to replicate, but the Bombardiers have strength and athleticism in the post. Junior Meg Gordon developed into a double-double machine last year, using her quickness and length to cause problems in the paint. Senior Ryan Johnson is another forward with length that can impact the game on the glass and protecting the rim.

In the backcourt, senior Gabby Bosh is back to run the point as well as being a pesky defender. Juniors Hailey and Lindsey Perry will also add to the depth at the guard position and to the team’s overall speed and defensive effort. Freshmen guards Kayla Goldrick and Narissa Smith are newcomers that have the potential to make an instant impact and should immediately find themselves in the backcourt rotation.

Attleboro coach Marty Crowley said, “For us to be successful we must be able to play defense consistently and rebound. This is by far the most athletic team we have had and hopefully we can use that to our advantage. We are blessed to be in the gym everyday with such great kids and that is a win in itself.”

Canton

2019-2020 Record: 13-10
2019-2020 Finish: Reached D2 South First Round
Coach: Jim Choquette
Canton has been a youthful team with potential for the past two seasons and the Bulldogs come into the winter with an opportunity to turn that potential into the program’s first league title since 1992. After graduating just one player from last year’s team and with many of its standout players now in year three as starters, Canton has the experience to match its talent.

Juniors Fay and Sydney Gallery and Kiara Cerruti have been standouts since their first games as freshmen and have the all-around games to cause match-up problems for the opposition. All three can score from the perimeter, but Sydney gives the Bulldogs a presence on the post while Fay can score off the dribble and be a playmaker on offense. Cerruti is a pure scorer, with good range and the ability to take defenders off the bounce.

Depth should be a strength for the Bulldogs this season, with players able to come off the bench and produce at every position. Carly Fitzgerald and Marissa Staffiere will return in the backcourt, giving Canton solid ball-handlers and a pair of strong defenders. Senior Kayla Albert adds length and rebounding in the paint and sophomore Samya DaSilva showed off great footwork last year and will be another scoring threat on the block.

“I’m very excited to take the floor with this group of girls,” said Canton coach Jim Choquette. “I love their desire to improve, win games and represent the town of Canton to the best of their abilities. We all want to improve on our past successes, and we’ve been working hard to do so. Very lucky to be coaching this team!”

Foxboro

2019-2020 Record: 24-2
2019-2020 Finish: D2 State Co-Champion
Coach: Lisa Downs
Foxboro closed out the 2019-20 season by winning its final 16 games and securing a second state title in the past three seasons. The Warriors graduated four starters from last year’s team, so players will have to step into bigger roles this season and newcomers will have to produce right away to make it five straight Davenport titles.

Defense and tempo are the hallmarks of Foxboro’s success under head coach Lisa Downs and that should be the same this year. For scoring, the Warriors are going to count on senior Katelyn Mollica. One of the top players in the league for the past three seasons, the Stonehill College-commit is one of the league’s top shooters and strong help defender. Senior Jordyn Collins is another key component from last year’s team, as a tenacious defender and a slasher who can get to the rim.

Senior Hannah Blake will step into the starting lineup at center this winter and Downs thinks that she has the potential to be one of the best bigs in the league. Senior Morgan Sylvestre had some big moments last year (for instance, the D2 South final against Hingham) and will see more time at point guard this year. Freshmen guards Camryn Collins and Erin Foley will both be in the mix right away and sophomore Lauren Miley is back after missing all of last year with an injury.

“We graduated a large chunk of our roster from last season so we will have quite a few new faces on the court to accompany Katelyn,” Downs said. “We will continue to focus on our defensive efforts and will strive to pursue the fast pace that we have become familiar with. Safety of the girls is obviously my first concern, but it is also my hope to be able to provide the most fulfilling season possible in terms of overall improvement on both ends of the court.”

Franklin

2019-2020 Record: 25-0
2019-2020 Finish: D1 State Co-Champion
Coach: John Leighton
Last winter, Franklin went start-to-finish as the top team not only in the league but in the state and capped off an undefeated season with the program’s first state championship. The graduation of center Ali Brigham, who was arguably the program’s best-ever player, is a big change for the Panthers this year but there is plenty of talent and experience on the roster to make a push for a three-peat of Kelley-Rex titles.

Junior Olivia Quinn is one of the main reasons that the Panthers are considered the favorites in the Kelley-Rex again this year. Quinn scored nearly 400 points and was one of the top three or four players in the league last season. She continues to develop and improve and will be the focal point of the offense this year. Senior Erin Quaile is the two-time Defensive Player of the Year but is also a solid point guard who limits turnovers, calms things down, and gets Franklin into its sets.

The offense will obviously look a little different this year, without a 6-foot-3 center in the middle, but the Panthers have talent on the wings to cause problems. Seniors Elizabeth Wilson and Kaleigh Houlihan, and junior Stefany Padula can all stretch the defense with their ability to knock down perimeter shots. The forward position should also be strong with Emma Sousa, Brigid Early, and Katie Peterson giving Franklin length and athleticism on the block.

“We are excited to be back on the court and I have been very impressed by our depth,” said Franklin coach John Leighton. “Our girls have been committed to getting better and competing on every play.”

King Philip

2019-2020 Record: 12-9
2019-2020 Finish: Reached D1 South First Round
Coach: Dan Nagle
King Philip head coach Dan Nagle has implemented a unique system based on high pressure and constant running. The Warriors don’t have to worry about shot clock violations. With a roster of athletic players who will all be counted on at some point and have a year of experience in the system, Nagle hopes this year’s team can create even more chaos that last winter and push Franklin at the top of the Kelley-Rex.

Senior Emma Glaser is the team’s top returning scorer and the Springfield College-commit will be counted on to take a step up, as the Warriors lost their top three scorers to graduation and transfers. Glaser is an athletic wing with range out beyond the three-point line. Athleticism is a common theme for this roster. Senior Caroline Aaron is another versatile wing who can contribute on both ends of the floor.

Depth won’t be an issue for the Warriors, who regularly sub five players at once and everyone gets playing time. Junior guards Elizabeth Molla, Liv Lafond, Grace Clyde, and Julia Marsden will provide scoring punch. At 6-foot-3, sophomore center Emily Sawyer gives KP a unique weapon in the middle and looks more comfortable with the speed at varsity. Senior Courtney Keswick battled injuries last year but is back healthy and gives KP a consistent three-point threat. Sophomore Jackie Bonner is a scorer being moved up from JV who could be poised for a breakout year.

Nagle said, “It’s year two in the system, so the learning curve has been a lot smaller and kids are picking things up fast. What we do is no secret. It’s going to be pandemonium every game, win or lose. This year’s team might even be a better fit for it because generally we have better team speed and it being year two makes a huge difference.”

Mansfield

2019-2020 Record: 9-14
2019-2020 Finish: Missed postseason
Coach: Heather McPherson
After more than two decades in charge, Mike Redding retired as head coach after last season. There will be some continuity for the program however, as former player and assistant coach Heather McPherson will move into the first seat this year. McPherson can count on continuity on the floor as well, with six seniors among the returning players for the Hornets.

While the Hornets missed the playoffs last year, they also had some impressive wins against playoff teams along the way, beating Attleboro, King Philip, and Bishop Feehan. Senior Kayla Vine was one of the league’s top perimeter shooters and also a solid playmaker with her ability to get into the paint. Senior Ashley Santos extended her range as a shooter last year was a strong all-around player that was a tough matchup on both ends of the court. Sophomore Abby Wager showed flashes of her potential as a scorer during a strong rookie season and her development could be a big boost this year.

Mansfield will have plenty of depth to call on. Senior Ally Prentis adds another shooter, senior Sarah Dooling is another versatile forward, and seniors Brooke Berube and Kacey Veiking give the Hornets a lot of height in the paint. Junior Anna Darlington and sophomore Olivia Salisbury should see more time in the backcourt.

McPherson said, “I couldn’t ask for a better senior group to begin my varsity coaching career, they have set an exciting tone to the season with their energy, effort, enthusiasm. With all of the uncertainty that this year has brought we are excited for the opportunity to be playing basketball. For us to compete each night we will need to play good fundamental basketball.”

Milford

2019-2020 Record: 3-17
2019-2020 Finish: Missed postseason
Coach: TJ Dolliver
While Milford went winless in league play last year, the Hawks lost no one to graduation and will have seven seniors on this season’s roster. Experience will be a key for Milford, which for the first time will be playing in the Kelley-Rex division. Although the Hawks have struggled at times offensively, no one can argue with the team’s effort and athleticism, especially on defense (ask state champion Foxboro, which was held to just 44 points last year) and that should once again be the team’s strength.

Senior Emma Lawrence will be the team’s focal point this year after an all-star junior season. Lawrence has long arms, endless energy, and the ability to get to the basket. Fellow senior Jillian Michelson is another player who will shadow the opposing team’s top offensive player and use her speed and length to cause problems. Sophomore Brooke Ferreira stepped in at point guard last year and had an impressive rookie campaign. Her ball-handling and ability to get into the lane was critical to the team’s offense, which could at times struggle from the perimeter.

Milford is not a tall team, but the Hawks have several versatile forwards that crash the boards and will make it tough for teams to score in the paint. Seniors Carly Ferreira, Katie Maietta, and Elise Fauerbach add physicality on the block for a team that likes to get up and pressure the ball.

“Having a senior-heavy roster and a team of hard working girls, this season will be a lot of fun,” said Milford coach TJ Dolliver.

North Attleboro

2019-2020 Record: 9-11
2019-2020 Finish: Missed postseason
Coach: Nikki Correia
Under first-year head coach Nikki Correia, North Attleboro bounced back last year and went into the final game of the regular season with a chance of clinching a return to the postseason. Although Big Red missed out on the tournament, the Rocketeers come into this season with optimism. A year of experience in Correia’s system and a strong corps of returning players gives North hopes of springing a surprise in the Davenport division.

Senior guard Amanda Kaiser will remain the focal point for opposing defenses and will force them to extend beyond the three-point line to prevent her from getting going. Kaiser is also a strong defender, who can kickstart the North break by forcing turnovers. Sophomore Summer Doherty is another wing player whose quickness and length causes problems on defense and her strength allows her to get into the lane on offense.

Senior Siobhan Weir keeps things calm even as North tries to get out and run as often as possible, while also adding a strong mid-range game. Senior Lydia Santos missed last season with injury and will be another strong ball-handler and leader in the backcourt. Sophomore Ava McKeon had an impressive rookie season on the wing and uses her strength and athleticism to get into the lane and her energy to get on the boards. Fellow sophomore Taylor McMath got called up last season and made an instant impact as a post player. North isn’t the tallest team, but McMath gives the Rocketeers extra length in the paint on both ends of the floor.

“I know with my team they have been so excited just to be on the basketball court again with their teammates and ready to compete,” said Correia. “Overall we have a strong unit and I can not wait to start the basketball season and see what these girls will do as a team. They all bring different strengths to the game so once they can mesh it all together on the court it will be great to see.”

Oliver Ames

2019-2020 Record: 14-7
2019-2020 Finish: Reached D1 South First Round
Coach: Laney Clement-Holbrook
Oliver Ames is back in the Davenport division for the first time since 2016, when the Tigers won their last league title. OA returns with the goal of ending Foxboro’s four-year run as the top team in the division and has a talented, experienced roster to try and win the program’s Hock-best 23rd league title.

The Tigers pushed Franklin for the Kelley-Rex crown all the way to the final week of league play last year and that experience has given them added confidence heading into the new season. Injuries took their toll down the stretch, but when fully healthy OA boasts one of the deepest rosters in the league. Caroline Flynn is more of a point forward than a point guard but she has developed into one of the league’s top playmakers, while also being one of its top rebounding guards. Caroline Peper battled a back injury all of last season, but when healthy is one of the top shooters in the Hock.

Junior Hailey Bourne has emerged as one of the top defensive players in the league, capable of guarding players on the perimeter or in the post. Senior Jess Erlich adds shooting from her forward position. OA has six returning players who will be bolstered by an exciting crop of newcomers, including freshman guard Jasmyn Cooper.

OA coach Laney Clement-Holbrook, who passed the 700-win mark last season, said, “OA’s strengths will come from the depth of their lineup and a cast of young and upcoming players with great intensity and love for the game. Despite the challenges associated with pandemic, OA is excited to have the chance to play this season and value every second they get to compete for the top spot.”

Sharon

2019-2020 Record: 4-16
2019-2020 Finish: Missed postseason
Coach: Sandy Lombardi
Sharon finished with only four wins last season, but the Eagles also lost seven games by 10 points or less, including five games by five points or fewer and twice lost by a single basket. With a good core of versatile players returning, the Eagles are hoping to make a move up the standings in what continues to be a competitive Davenport division.

The graduations of Ally Brown and Kaitlyn Wallace take away two of the team’s top ball-handlers and perimeter scorers, but the Eagles can make up for that with strength in the paint. Senior Leah Fandel and junior Trinity Payne are difference makers on both ends of the court, capable of crashing the boards, protecting the rim, and offering interior scoring. Both players are capable of stepping back and knocking down short jumpers too, adding a different dimension to the offense.

Sophomore guards Tess Letendre and Emily Freeman will be counted on to pick up some of the slack on the perimeter and get the Eagles into their offensive sets. Seniors Gaby Cabral and Julia Early will also be counted on to take bigger roles this season. The Eagles will also have a pair of freshmen, Rachel Hager and Eva Poulton, who will be expected to contribute right away.

“I’m excited for the girls to have an opportunity to play this season,” said Sharon coach Sandy Lombardi. “Looking back a few months ago I would not have imagined us having a season at all.”

Stoughton

2019-2020 Record: 9-11
2019-2020 Finish: Missed postseason
Coach: Charmaine Steele Jordan
Stoughton narrowly missed out on a playoff spot last year, falling just one win short of qualifying for the tournament (that included a one-point loss to North Attleboro midway through the season). The Black Knights will have to try and make up for the graduation of their two leading scorers, Aliyah Wright and Shyanne Trinh, but head coach Charmaine Steele Jordan expects that this year’s roster will live up to the program’s standard of hustle, hard work, and aggressiveness.

Mackenzie Manning is the team’s top returning scorer and Steele Jordan is counting on the senior guard to provide leadership and passion for the younger players. Fellow seniors Cate Downey and Jess Maddalena (who is out for the season with an injury) are also going to be counted on to set the tone for the team.

Junior guard Makaiyah Singleton Rivera saw plenty of time last year and gives the Black Knights a boost of speed and energy on the perimeter. There are also several underclassmen who will be jumping up to varsity and could add important minutes this season. Sophomore guards Kiara Scardina and Shayla Ford and freshman forward Alyssa Edwards are newcomers to keep an eye on this season.

Steele Jordan said, “I’m really thankful for all the players that came out for our program this year in the middle of pandemic. Looking forward to kicking off the season in 2021. Our goals have not changed, the Black Knights will play hard, play together and represent the Stoughton community with pride this season.”

Taunton

2019-2020 Record: 5-15
2019-2020 Finish: Missed postseason
Coach: Amy Siggens
Taunton has struggled to get going this winter, as practices were halted after just three days and the teams won’t resume basketball activities until next week, which has forced the opening games with Attleboro to be postponed. The Tigers will also be without last year’s leading scorer, sophomore Kameron St. Pierre, who has opted out. With all of that, second-year head coach Amy Siggens is still excited that the team this season and building on the fundamentals of her system.

The Tigers will be an experienced, if still young, team this season. Seniors Jaelyn and Sonya Fernandez will be the focal points on the offensive end. They are both versatile players capable of stepping back and knocking down shots and also taking their defenders off the dribble. Their athleticism on both ends of the court makes them a tough matchup. They also provide leadership for a team that is building consistency. The Tigers won five games last year, but also lost seven times by single digits, including once in overtime.

A strength of the team will be its depth in the backcourt. Senior Tori DaRosa is a tough defender and gets the Tigers into their sets. Juniors Abby Souza and Braeley McDonald are also strong options to provide shooting off the bench. Sophomore Maddie Michenzie can be a force on the boards and adds a different dimension in the post on both ends of the court.

“We’re rolling with the punches here,” said Siggens about having to postpone practices until the New Year. “Everyday is something new and you just have to adjust. We’re focusing on the leadership of our seniors but also the development of our young kids. This is a year to really pull it back and go after the fundamentals and the basics.”

Oliver Ames Can’t Contain Rebels In D1 South Opener

Oliver Ames girls basketball Caroline Flynn
Oliver Ames junior Caroline Flynn tries to get past Walpole Sydney Scales in the second half. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
ByRyanLanigan_2016FollowRyanLanigan_2016
 
 
NORTH EASTON, Mass. – The Oliver Ames girls basketball rallied to erase a double-digit deficit in the first half in its D1 South First Round matchup with #10 Walpole.

The Tigers nearly did it again in the second half, but couldn’t complete the comeback bid in the final seconds, suffering a 53-45 loss to the Rebels.

Oliver Ames trimmed a once 14-point fourth quarter deficit down to five in the final minute, even getting a chance to shrink the lead even more but came up just short as the Rebels hit enough free throws down the stretch as OA’s offense ran out of gas.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

“We just didn’t finish it, we didn’t take advantage of our chances late,” said longtime Oliver Ames head coach Laney Clement-Holbrook. “We had the perfect scenario [at the beginning of the comeback], shooting free throws with no time coming off the clock trying to get back into it and we missed a couple.

“They were missing to keep us in it but we just didn’t step up to finish. We had the big comeback in the first and we had to get back into in the second, I wonder if we expended too much energy there.”

Walpole rattled off a 15-2 run over the final four minutes of the third quarter to create its second double-digit lead of the game and the Rebels’ advantage peaked just before the midway point of the fourth quarter when senior Ainsley Dundon drained a three for a 45-31 lead.

The Tigers slowly started to claw back into the game, first with defensive stops and then with trips to the line. OA went just 1-for-4 from the line in that span but sophomore Caroline Peper (19 points) sank her second three of the game on the next trip to make it 47-39 with three minutes to play.

A putback off an offensive rebound from Walpole freshman Catie Hurley and a free throw from senior Sydney Scales pushed the lead to 10, 50-40, with just over a minute to go but OA continued to fight back.

Peper scored off a nice cut to the basket, converting a feed from Tori Harney (five points, four rebounds, three assists). After Walpole missed the front end of a one-and-one, Harney drained a contested three and the Tigers were down just five, 50-45, with 57 seconds to play.

Walpole again missed the front end of a one-and-one to give the Tigers a chance to make it a one-possession game but OA couldn’t find a clean look and had a three-point shot go off the mark. Scales sank two more at the line and OA again came up short on a three. Walpole gave OA a final shot with two more misses from the line but the Tigers had two shots off the mark.

“Walpole is a good team…the Hock and the Bay State are the two best leagues in the state,” Clement-Holbrook said. “To draw somebody from that league, you don’t look at the record, that means nothing. They play tough teams throughout the year and the had beaten us before too.”

The Tigers score the majority of their points between the second and fourth quarters as the Rebels’ defense limited the hosts to just two field goals in the first quarter and seven points total, and six points total in the third.

“They really were physical with us, they didn’t give us any open looks,” Clement-Holbrook said. OA finished 3-for-14 from three-point range and shot under 30% from two-point range. “They bumped us like we’re supposed to bump others. I hope the takeaway from this is we learn from that, that’s how you defend when you’re going against teams that can shoot. You have to be right up on them, be physical.”

Trailing 12-7 after a quarter of play, OA’s offense didn’t shift into gear until it was faced with a 21-11 deficit. Anna Murphy converted down low to get the run started and junior Caroline Flynn (11 points, 12 rebounds) scored off a feed from Meg Holleran (eight rebounds).

Harney came up with a big block on Scales on one end and Peper converted on the other, and then the Tigers’ defense forced a shot clock violation before Peper hit a jumper. Holleran battled for an offensive rebound and sank a pair of free throws to make it 21-21.

Flynn hit a free throw to cap OA’s 11-0 surge to take a brief 22-21 lead before Scales answered with one of her own to make it 22-22 at the halftime break.

Holding a 26-25 lead early in the third thanks to a pair of baskets from Peper, the Tigers’ defense continued to focus in on Scales. When the two teams met in the regular season, Scales accounted for over half of her team’s points (25 of 48).

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While Scales finished with less points this time around (20 points), her teammates stepped up to hit big shots. In Walpole’s 15-2 run. Scales help set up a pair of threes from freshman Brooke Walonis, who also added a strong take to the rim for eight points in the frame. Scales put an exclamation point on the run with a three that beat the third quarter buzzer.

“You know who’s who in the neighborhood and you’re going to try and take them away, but those role players for them stepped up,” Clement-Holbrook said. “They had players hit those big threes, they had the offensive rebound [putback].”

Oliver Ames girls basketball finishes the season at 14-7.

OA Sweeps Mansfield, Clement-Holbrook Hits 700 Wins

Oliver Ames girls basketball
OA coach Laney Clement-Holbrook celebrates with her players after earning the 700th win of her career. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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NORTH EASTON, Mass. – Laney Clement-Holbrook took over at Oliver Ames in her early 20s and over the next 44 years turned the Tigers into a perennial power. Three years ago, Clement-Holbrook became the all-time winningest high school basketball coach in the state and on Friday night at the Nixon Gym she added a new historic milestone to her already legendary career when she became the state’s first member of the 700-win club.

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It was a moment that she tried to keep quiet, wanting to keep the attention on her players, especially the three players celebrating senior night. Athletic director Bill Matthews sent a notice to the media the night before the game and word spread, drawing a big crowd for the visit of Mansfield.

Any worries that her team might be distracted or not be able to handle the moment were quickly dispelled. The Tigers won each of the individual quarters, took a double-digit lead by halftime, and pulled away in the second half for a 72-49 win and a season sweep of the Hornets.

“This is what we want them to be able to handle is the big stage, so I thought for the kids this was a great experience for them just because there would be a lot more people, a lot of energy,” Clement-Holbrook said. “Hopefully this will move us forward as a team.”

When asked what it has meant to coach at OA for as long as she has, Clement-Holbrook praised the coaches who she learned from, including Val Muscato, Bill Nixon, and Sue Rivard, and she also pointed to the numerous alumni that came back to celebrate the special night.

“Some of these kids played for me in the 80s,” she said with a laugh. “I’m just so grateful to have the chance to be here for so long. It was the first place and it will be the last place I coach. It’s a special moment.”

After the handshake line, Clement-Holbrook shared a quick word with Mansfield coach Mike Redding. He expressed his admiration for someone he has coached against for more than 20 years.

“It’s been an honor going against her. I’ve done 23 years and they have been the standard bearer,” he said. “Just the quality every single year is amazing. She still has the passion, the enthusiasm, she’s been doing it 40-plus years but it’s still like her first year coaching.”

OA senior guard Meg Holleran is the third member of her family to play for Clement-Holbrook, following her older sisters Kate and Shannon, who were both in attendance, and was a freshman on the varsity team when Clement-Holbrook set the wins record three years ago.

“She wanted this to be about senior night and just getting the win,” Holleran said. “We actually heard it was the 700th from a parent, she didn’t even tell us herself. We just wanted to come out and we had a big surprise for her at the end.”

The Tigers got off to a fast start, as Caroline Peper (21 points and four assists) drilled a pair of threes and scored eight points in the first. Her second attempt came on the third shot of a possession, as OA dominated the glass. Senior Tate Hadges (seven points) added four in the first and classmate Erin Holmberg (four points and five assists) got on the board off a pass from Holleran.

Sarah Dooling scored five of her eight points in the first and Abby Wager added four of her five points, but OA held a 17-12 lead after one.

Ashley Santos tried to keep the Hornets close in the second, as she scored 10 points in the quarter, but Mansfield only managed one more point as a team. Meanwhile, the Tigers were getting contributions from up and down the roster. Tori Harney (10 points) hit a couple of long jumpers and had six points in the second and Caroline Flynn (13 points, nine rebounds, and six assists) got a layup after a Peper steal.

Mansfield cut the lead from 11 points down to seven after back-to-back buckets by Santos, but the Tigers closed the half with threes from Jess Erlich (eight points) and Peper to go into the break up 36-23.

“We had some turnovers and they took advantage and it seemed like anytime we had a little momentum, we couldn’t get a stop,” Redding explained. “We try hard, but we’re just maybe not quick enough, tall enough. We had a decent effort, they just had some kids step up.”

OA broke the game wide open in the third. Peper came out firing again, scoring eight points on a pair of threes and a transition layup, all assisted by Flynn, who added four points of her own. Santos continued to stay hot for the Hornets with five more points and Kayla Vine got an and-one for her lone points of the night, but OA’s depth pushed the lead to 19 by the end of the quarter.

A three by Santos cut the lead to as little as 14 in the fourth, but the Tigers never allowed Mansfield to get too close, finishing the game on a 14-5 run. Hailey Bourne got it started with an offensive rebound and layup, Flynn added a drive plus the foul, and then Erlich had a corner three to restore a comfortable margin.

The final minutes were largely a countdown to history. Only when the horn sounded on another OA victory, did Clement-Holbrook finally crack and smile and acknowledge what the student section had been chanting about over the game’s closing minutes.

It was the perfect way to end a day filled with recognition of one of the state’s most successful coaching careers.

“It has been a very busy day,” said Clement-Holbrook, who gave the keynote address at the MIAA’s Girls and Women in Sports Day at Faneuil Hall in Boston in the morning. “What an incredible honor it was today to walk into Faneuil Hall and for it to be such a historical event. To see this game go from me playing six-player basketball at Dedham High School to this in my lifetime is incredible.”

Holleran added, “I’m so happy for her. She deserves it so much. I got to go see her give the speech today at the MIAA Girls and Women in Sports Day and it’s just surreal, she’s achieved so much, and I’m so proud of her. It’s great to be part of it.”

When asked to try and put 700 wins into perspective, Redding replied, “It’s mind-boggling. Just the longevity, the quality, and just classy young women. It makes this league special, such good people, great competition, and we’ve become good friends. Pretty special coach, got to be the best in Massachusetts history and one of the best in national history.”

Oliver Ames (13-3, 12-2) will travel to Franklin on Tuesday hoping to hand the Panthers their first loss of the season and push the Kelley-Rex title race to the final game of the season. Mansfield (6-12) will host North Attleboro on Sunday afternoon and try to stay alive for the postseason, needing to win out to qualify.

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OA Steps On the Gas and Races Past King Philip

Oliver Ames Girls Basketball
OA junior Caroline Flynn scored 24 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, despite missing the final seven minutes of the game, and led the Tigers to a win against KP. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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NORTH EASTON, Mass. – Oliver Ames has been primarily known for its defensive effort this season, as the Tigers remain in middle of the Kelley-Rex division title race by allowing less than 40 points per game. But, on Friday night at the Nixon Gym, it was the OA offense that took top billing.

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The Tigers came roaring out of the gates, scoring 28 points in the opening eight minutes, and never let up, racing out to an 86-65 victory against King Philip. The Warriors like to press, run, and get as many possessions as possible and it played right into OA’s strength in transition. With the win, the Tigers opened a two-game lead over KP in second place and clinched a spot in the postseason.

“We did a lot of work in practice in terms of what we expected and I think that for the most part they stayed disciplined,” said OA coach Laney Clement-Holbrook about managing the KP press. “Even the kids that came off the bench, it wasn’t for long minutes, but it was to satisfy what the need was in the moment.”

Rarely does the opening shot of the game set the tone, but when senior Erin Holmberg swished a corner three the energy on the OA bench went through the roof. OA jumped out to a 16-2 lead, as Holmberg fed Hailey Bourne (eight points) for a layup and Caroline Flynn (game-high 24 points and 11 rebounds) for a transition jumper.

Holmberg (career-high 17 points, five rebounds, and five assists) also got a steal and layup to make it 22-6 and then she banked in a buzzer-beating three from a couple feet behind the line to put OA up 28-10 after one.

“When she hit that shot, my heart was…it was amazing,” said Clement-Holbrook, referencing Holmberg’s recovery from the surgery she had last winter. “It was amazing. That gave the energy to the rest of them when they saw her do that. It was awesome.”

Faye Veilleux (13 points and nine rebounds) opened the second quarter with a put-back, but then OA went on a 7-0 run to go ahead by 23. Holmberg (five assists) continued to be a spark plug, assisting on another Flynn transition basket, and Tori Harney scored on a rebound.

“They hit a lot of those mid-range shots, which are kind of the ones that we give up,” KP coach Dan Nagle explained. “They come down, 4-on-3 or 3-on-2, and they take that long two, which a lot of times is a long rebound and we get out and run but tonight it was just a swish.

KP loves to shoot threes, but the Warriors struggled to find the range in the first half. Faith Roy (team-high 16 points) buried one, but then Holmberg answered with a jumper and Kelsey Yelle (12 points) got free on an inbound play and Meg Holleran (nine points) fed her for a bucket. Emma Glaser (seven points) hit a three to close out the half, but OA went into the break up 41-20.

“I actually thought in the first half it felt like we played a lot worse than we did,” said Nagle. “We were missing a lot of good looks and then they were making every look that they got. That’s how we play, it’s who we are, and to their credit they made a lot of shots.”

In the third quarter, KP found its shooting touch and suddenly looked like one of the league’s top offensive teams. Roy drilled a pair from beyond the arc and scored 11 points in the third quarter alone. Veilleux also got free for a pair of threes and Brianna James (six points) hit one as well.

The Warriors scored 27 points in the third. The problem for KP was that it only took one point off the OA lead.

Yelle grabbed an offensive rebound for two, Bourne turned a defensive rebound into an assist for a Holmberg and-one, and then Yelle and Holmberg each scored in transition. There was a scary moment midway through the quarter when Holmberg went down holding her neck, forcing her to the bench for the final 12 minutes, but at that point Flynn turned it on. She scored 10 points over the final four minutes of the third to keep the lead at 20.

OA kept it rolling to start the fourth. Jess Erlich scored back-to-back baskets and Flynn got out on the break for a finish plus the foul, but she went down hard on her ankle and was forced to the bench for the final seven minutes.

With the OA point guard on the sideline, KP dialed up the pressure to try and make a late rally. The Warriors scored 12 straight points to get as close as 73-59.

Emily Sawyer (nine points and 10 rebounds) got the run started by getting on the offensive glass, then Glaser knocked down a jumper. Veilleux showed off her varied game by driving to the rim and then stepping back to hit a three. After a Glaser steal and layup, the lead was down to 14 and the home crowd was starting to feel a little nervous.

Bourne hit two at the line and Caroline Peper hit her biggest shot of the night. After the ball bounced around and KP nearly came up with a steal on multiple occasions, Peper scooped it up. The sophomore was battling a bad back and was limited all night, but she showed no hesitation and buried a three that stemmed the tide.

“Just shoot it, just let it fly,” Clement-Holbrook said about what she was thinking at that moment. “It was a huge three and the fact that she stayed composed, and we’re trying to get her healthy too but she was ready to go.

That shot proved to be a turning point, as OA settled back down and closed the game on a 13-6 run.

“That could’ve been a game where we felt bad about ourselves at halftime and came back out and didn’t have any fight at all, but I thought it was the exact opposite,” Nagle reflected. “I thought our fight, our energy for the entire 16 minutes of the second half was off the chart.”

Oliver Ames (10-2, 9-1) will be on the road on Tuesday at Canton, while King Philip (8-5, 7-3) will travel to Davenport division leader Foxboro.

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Quinn Sets Career-High as Franklin Rolls at OA

Franklin girls basketball
Franklin sophomore Olivia Quinn scored a career-high 32 points, including 23 in the second half, to lead the Panthers to a big win at OA. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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NORTH EASTON, Mass. – As a freshman, Franklin forward Olivia Quinn got to experience life on the varsity team, spending every practice going up against the Panthers star center Ali Brigham during the team’s run to a Div. 1 Central title. That experience seems to have paid off handsomely for the Panthers because Quinn has taken her game to another level this winter.

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In a showdown at the Nixon Gym of the top two teams in the Kelley-Rex division, Quinn was unstoppable. She poured in a career-high 32 points, including 23 in the second half, and knocked down five three-pointers, including all four that she took after the break.

Quinn and Brigham combined to score 37 of Franklin’s 41 points in the second half, as the Panthers rolled to a 71-41 victory and grabbed control of first place in the division.

“I thought on offense we executed at a high level, especially in the second half,” Franklin coach John Leighton explained. “We got under control, we didn’t kick the ball around the gym, stopped fouling, and just got good possessions. When they doubled Ali, we moved the ball and kids knocked down open shots.”

OA coach Laney Clement-Holbrook added, “We just didn’t do the little things we needed to do to stay afloat. Give them credit. They’re the real deal, they certainly are, and I’m grateful that we get another chance because there are certainly things we need to work on. That’s the level that we’re trying to achieve.”

While Brigham, the reigning league MVP and HockomockSports.com Player of the Year, will always be the primary focus for opposing teams, but the Panthers showed right away that there are other weapons for teams to deal with. Kaleigh Houlihan knocked down a pair of threes in the first quarter, including one in the corner off an inbounds pass from Elizabeth Wilson to put Franklin up 14-8 after one.

Tate Hadges knocked down a jumper and Caroline Peper (nine points) knocked down her only three of the game, and Hailey Bourne (seven points) hit a jumper off a Meg Holleran assist, as the Tigers tried to keep it close in the second.

Wilson scored all four of her points in the second quarter, Brigham (22 points and three blocks) added four more and Quinn started to find the range with seven in the quarter to help Franklin build the lead. A Quinn corner three on a Houlihan assist made it 30-18, but OA got Caroline Flynn free inside for a layup to cut the lead back to 10 heading into the locker room.

It didn’t take long for the Panthers to break the game wide open, as the Tigers simply couldn’t contain Brigham in the third. The George Washington-commit scored 12 points in the quarter on a variety of post moves on both sides of the rim and even stepping back to drill a three that put the Panthers up 41-26.

“It’s nice having a Div. I kid sitting there,” Leighton said, “but it creates good spacing and (point guard) Erin [Quaile] did a good job creating, getting to the rim when we needed her to. It really puts the defense in peril when everyone is getting touches. No kid can be a spare part.”

When OA did get the ball out of Brigham’s hands, Quinn was there to create another difficult matchup. She scored with a lefty scoop, nailed a three off a Quaile assist, and then hit another from the corner, as Franklin led by as many 22 in the third. Quaile also got to the rim for the only two points not scored by Quinn or Brigham in the quarter.

“As a freshman, I had a lot less confidence,” said Quinn, who entered the week as the fourth leading scorer in the league at more than 15 points per game. “This year, I’m taking on a bigger role in the team and they’re all helping me out and it’s been a great season so far.”

Leighton noted, “Her playing time what it was but she worked her tail off. Going at that speed, going against Ali every day in practice, makes you better. The big thing is confidence. Tonight it all came together. They had a hard time closing out and it gave her the look and she knocked it down.”

Franklin’s defense was preventing OA from keeping the game close, holding the Tigers to just three made field goals in the third. Tori Harney got a jumper after Flynn (10 points and eight rebounds) snagged an offensive board and swung the ball around to the forward. Flynn also scored inside and Bourne managed to slip through the defense on a drive, but it was Franklin by 20 heading to the fourth.

In the fourth quarter, Quinn took over. Quaile set her up for a three and then, after Brigham got a bucket inside, she buried a second one on a kick-out. An offensive rebound for two and the layup plus the foul in transition after a Meghan O’Connell steal put the Panthers up by 27. Another basket on a Brigham assist and a pair at the line completed an impressive night for Quinn and the Panthers.

“We got beat off the dribble repeatedly, we didn’t cover three-point shooters, and I said to them that they’re not 30 points better than we are, but they are today. We didn’t execute any part of our game plan and we didn’t learn from our mistakes.”

Quinn said, “Them being the only other undefeated team in the Hock, this was a big game for us and we really came ready to play with a lot of intensity and gave it to them early.”

Franklin (9-0, 8-0) will be back home on Tuesday in another showdown, this time against Davenport division leader Foxboro. Oliver Ames (8-2, 7-1) will try to bounce back from its second loss when it hosts Milford.

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