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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OA Defense Clamps Down to Hand Foxboro First Loss

Oliver Ames girls basketball
OA junior guard Caroline Flynn (41) scored 13 points, grabbed 17 rebounds, and had six assists to lead the Tigers to a big win against Foxboro. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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NORTH EASTON, Mass. – Through its opening five games, Foxboro had proven to be far more than its opponents could handle. The lowest margin of victory for the unbeaten Warriors was 31 points back in the season opener. Coming into Tuesday night’s game at the Nixon Gym, they were the top scoring team in the league and the top defensive team.

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As the first quarter was winding down, it looked like business as usual. Foxboro led 15-7 and was lining up another three-pointer to try and extend the advantage. Caroline Peper blocked the shot (one of three blocked three-pointers for her in the game) and Caroline Flynn snatched the rebound. Flynn took off up court and laid a pass off to Peper for a three of her own.

It was the start of a 23-5 run to close out the half that gave the Tigers a lead they would never relinquish. OA held the Warriors to single digits in the second and third quarters, locking down defensively and controlling the glass, to pull out a 54-39 win that keeps them unbeaten in the league and in a first-place tie with Franklin in the Kelley-Rex division.

“These kids have basketball IQs and they’re not afraid to work hard and to be physical,” said OA coach Laney Clement-Holbrook. “I was just so proud of their effort and it didn’t come from just one player. The depth is really significant for us. They’re better now at recognizing where our strengths are.”

It was the first loss of the season for the Warriors, who remain a game ahead of North Attleboro in the Davenport division, and a reminder of the way they have to play in order to have success this season.

“We think we’re better than we are,” said Foxboro coach Lisa Downs. “We can be very good but we need to do the little things that we’ve done so far and tonight we kind of forgot those things.”

Foxboro got off to a strong start. Lizzy Davis (11 points, five rebounds, four steals) was everywhere in the first quarter. She scored six points, burying a corner three and scoring in traffic on an inbounds play, and took a pair of charges. Katelyn Mollica drilled a three to make it 12-5 and it looked like the Warriors would have a comfortable edge after one.

Then Peper blocked Davis’ three and turned into three points on the other end of the floor. The momentum from that play carried over after the timeout.

Peper (game-high 14 points) sliced through the defense for a layup. After a couple of free throws, Flynn snagged an offensive board and swung it around to Peper for a quick-release three that put OA on top 17-16. Shakirah Ketant (11 points) answered on the other end to regain the lead, but it would be the last lead of the night for the visitors.

“All of a sudden we were just playing hectic basketball and no one was relaxed,” Downs explained. “When they got the ball everyone was trying to do their own thing.”

Jess Erlich (10 points) hit four straight at the line to put the Tigers in front again, Hailey Bourne (seven points) drove to the cup for two, and then Peper buried her third shot from downtown to put OA ahead 26-19. Flynn assisted on a Erlich layup and then Bourne set up Tate Hadges (nine rebounds) for a basket in the post.

Leading by 10 at the break (30-20), Clement-Holbrook urged her team to keep its foot on the gas. “Coming out in the third quarter, just maintaining that defensive intensity,” she explained. “I wasn’t comfortable until the final buzzer went off because you can’t not play defense against Foxboro for the whole 32 minutes.”

Bourne scored on a drive and Erlich knocked down a corner jumper off a Flynn assist to get OA right back into the swing of things in the third. Peper’s fourth three of the night put OA up 40-22. After Jordyn Collins got a steal and layup and Yara Fawaz scored in the paint, it looked like Foxboro might have a comeback in it but Flynn grabbed an offensive board and scored to make it a 16-point game after three.

Downs admitted, “We got killed on the boards, which is something that we’ve been priding ourselves on, crashing the board offensively and getting defensive rebounds, and we didn’t do that.”

The offense was working well for the Tigers, but the story was the defensive effort that OA put into stopping Mollica. One of the league’s leading scorers, she was held to just six points and one made field goal. The combination of Bourne and Erin Holmberg never allowed Mollica the time or the space to get off her shot or get Foxboro into its sets.

“Hailey did an amazing job on Mollica and then Holmberg went in and there was not a single drop-off defensively,” said Clement-Holbrook. “[Erin] was amazing and this was the first chance for her to be a factor and knowing what she’s been through it’s just an example for everybody.”

Foxboro never really made a dent in the OA lead in the fourth, only getting as close as 13, after an Abby Hassman steal led to a layup for Davis and then her own drive to the basket made it 52-39. Flynn added four points in the quarter, as did Meg Holleran, and the Tigers comfortably finished the game off.

Oliver Ames (6-1, 5-0) will be back in action again on Friday when it travels to Mansfield. Foxboro (5-1, 4-1) will be on the road again, when the Warriors pay their first visit to the new Stoughton gym.

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OA Falls to Walpole in Rivard Tourney Opener

Oliver Ames girls basketball
Caroline Flynn (41) scored a team-high 18 points and grabbed 13 rebounds but Oliver Ames was beaten by Walpole in the first round of the annual Sue Rivard Tournament. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports,com)

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NORTH EASTON, Mass. – After winning the opening three games of the season by an average of 30 points per night, Oliver Ames was off to a perfect start, but the Tigers knew that Friday afternoon’s opening round of the annual Sue Rivard Tournament would be one of the toughest challenges to this point in the year.

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Walpole proved to be more than OA could handle, pulling away with an 8-3 run over the final three minutes of the game, to secure the 48-44 victory and handing the Tigers their first loss of the young season.

“That’s not really our strength,” OA coach Laney Clement-Holbrook said of Walpole’s ability to force the Tigers into a half-court game.

She added, “We need to be able to read situations because we missed offensive opportunities and then we forced things that weren’t there. We have to be better. We weren’t in any rhythm today. We’ve got to grow up and face the difficult situations.”

The Tigers couldn’t handle Walpole senior guard Sydney Scales, who scored 25 of her team’s 48 points and was able to get into the lane almost at will. She got to the line on 10 different possessions and forced the Tigers to double in the lane, which opened up shots for her teammates.

The Rebels looked like they were on the brink of breaking the game open in the third quarter, pushing the lead to 31-24 after a pair of Scales free throws. OA showed its resiliency to bounce back and force a 34-34 tie heading into the final eight minutes.

Caroline Flynn (18 points and 13 rebounds) hit four straight free throws to cut the lead to just three. Flynn then added a basket on an offensive board to make it 34-30. Tate Hadges grabbed three straight on the offensive glass to earn a trip to the line. She knocked down one to make it a three-point game and then Flynn spotted up in the corner on a Jess Erlich look ahead on the break and buried a three that tied it in the closing seconds of the quarter.

“We put too much pressure on her and somebody else needs to step up and help her,” Clement-Holbrook said of Flynn, who was also tasked with chasing Scales on the defensive end for the bulk of the game. “If we don’t, then we become one-dimensional and we need to be multi-dimensional to be successful.”

Walpole bounced right back with five straight to start the fourth, all by Scales. It took more than three minutes for the Tigers to get on the board, but Erlich’s basket made it just a three-point game. Caroline Peper (12 points) hit a pair at the line and then she knocked down her first three-pointer since the opening minutes to give OA a 41-40 lead with 3:03 to play, its first lead since the first quarter.

The visitors answered right back. Scales kicked out to Elisabeth Roche for a big three that restored the Walpole lead. Hailey Bourne (seven points) made one-of-two at the line and OA had the ball with a chance to get back in front, but Brooke Walonis stole the ball and then drilled a clutch three for a four-point edge.

OA wasn’t done. The Rebels shot just 4-for-13 from the line in the fourth quarter and allowed the Tigers to hang around, despite their shooting struggles. Bourne came up with a huge rebound and putback with 21.3 on the clock.

The Tigers got the ball back after Walpole made one-of-two and got a good look for Peper for a tying three but she wasn’t able to knock it down. One more free throw sealed the win for the Rebels and sent them to the tournament final.

“We couldn’t get the foul shot in and then Pep struggled off that screen,” Clement-Holbrook explained. “I was just disappointed because I thought we lost every 50-50 ball in the second half and we weren’t playing with basketball I.Q.”

She added, “I know the level of competition was beyond what we had seen and we just didn’t play like we had been.”

OA got off to a decent start to the game. Flynn and Peper each buried threes to put the Tigers up 6-0. The two Carolines combined for all 13 of OA’s points in the first. Peper scored in transition, off an Anna Murphy assist, to make it 13-10. Scales, who had seven in the first, continued to cause problems and she drove to the basket to put Walpole up 15-13 after one.

Defense was the star in the second quarter. Flynn cut the lead in half (19-16) with a layup plus the foul and Erlich cut backdoor for a layup that made it a two-point game (20-18). With Walpole leading by four, Meg Holleranstole the ball and fed Bourne for a layup to make it 24-22 at the break.

Oliver Ames (3-1) will take on neighboring Brockton in the consolation round of the Rivard Tournament on Saturday.

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2019-2020 Hockomock Girls Basketball Preview

2018-2019 Hockomock Girls Basketball Preview
The new girls basketball season promises to be as competitive as ever with a number of teams jockeying for a place in the state tournament. Here is our team-by-team breakdown. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

By HockomockSports.com Staff

2019-2020 Hockomock Girls Basketball Preview

Attleboro

2018-2019 Record: 8-14
2018-2019 Finish: Missed postseason.
Coach: Martin Crowley
Attleboro was three wins shy of reaching the postseason last year, despite a roster filled with inexperienced players, and the Bombardiers demonstrated the potential in the squad by upsetting Franklin late in the season and handing the Panthers their only league loss. This winter, the Bombardiers will be looking to turn potential into reality and make a jump into the playoff picture.

Six players are returning from last year, including seniors Nyah Thomas and Liv McCall, who give Attleboro a talented backcourt on both ends of the court. Thomas adds length and slashing ability, while McCall is a sharpshooter who will be the team’s primary ball-handler. Sophomore Meg Gordon has taken a big leap from last year and head coach Marty Crowley thinks that she is ready for a breakout season on the wing.

Juniors Gabby Bosh and Emma Reilly will both be back to add some nous to the lineup, while sophomores Hailey and Lindsey Perry add grit and toughness. Junior Ryan Johnson will add size to the frontcourt, while sophomore Lillian Froio and juniors Jackie MacDonald and Laura McVeigh add depth and physicality. Overall, it is a much deeper, more experienced group for Crowley to build lineups with this season.

“For us to be successful we must be able to play defense consistently and rebound,” Crowley said. “Nyah and Liv I am sure are going to draw a lot of attention from other teams, so we must make sure that we are smart offensively and get touches for everyone, however, we feel as if we have the players in place who will contribute offensively.”

Canton

2018-2019 Record: 14-7
2018-2019 Finish: Reached D2 South Semifinal.
Coach: Jim Choquette
Youth was served for the Bulldogs last season, as a talented trio of freshmen jumped into the starting lineup and helped Canton have one of its most successful seasons in program history, with 14 wins and a return to the state tournament. There were still some learning curves to overcome, but now a more experienced group is play with speed and get out on the break as often as possible to give Foxboro a challenge in the Davenport title race and bring home a postseason win.

Although Canton is still a relatively young team, the talent on the roster is undeniable. Sophomores Kiara Cerruti and Sydney and Fay Gallery all had impressive rookie campaigns, showing off their skills on the wing, from three-point range, and in the paint. They will face even more pressure this season, as teams know what they like to do and will be even more determined to take them out of their games.

Sophomore Carly Fitzgerald will be one of the players stepping into the point guard role vacated by the graduation of Julia Hamilton and will be the facilitator getting Canton into its offense. In the paint, Canton has size and athleticism in senior Lilah Milton and junior Kayla Albert, who are both active rebounders and finishers at the rim and both have shown the ability to knock down the occasional jumper as well. Juniors Angie Elias and Sam Lamarr and sophomore Annie Hoban all have experience from last year to add to Canton’s depth.

Canton coach Jim Choquette said, “Each day we will try to improve as a coaching staff and a program. By the end of the season, our hopes are to be playing at our best.”

Foxboro

2017-2018 Record: 20-3
2017-2018 Finish: Reached D2 South Semifinal.
Coach: Lisa Downs
The two-time defending Davenport division champions return all but one player from last year’s roster, so Foxboro remains the team to beat for the league title and expectations are very high heading into a new season. After a trip to the Div. 2 South semifinals last season, the Warriors will be aiming for even more this winter, trying to regain the top spot not just in the Hock but also in the South sectional.

Junior Katelyn Mollica was the team’s leading scorer last year and is already closing in on 1,000 points for her career. The team’s primary ball-handler and one of the best shooters in the league, Mollica will be one of the top offensive threats in the league. She will have plenty of help. Senior guard Lizzy Davis and senior forwards Yara Fawaz and Abby Hassman will also return to the starting lineup this season and add athleticism, speed, and tenacity on both ends of the floor, taking some pressure off Mollica with their ability to score in the open court.

Senior Shakirah Ketant came on strong at the end of last season and gives Foxboro a different, more physical look in the paint. Junior Jordyn Collins is a tough on-the-ball defender and has speed to burn. Seniors Jamie DeVellis and Julia Kelley both saw time on the floor last year and will add to Foxboro’s depth. Sophomore center Hannah Blake is a new face that could provide more strength in the post.

“The Hockomock League continues to produce teams, which make every night a tough one – there are really no teams that you can take lightly,” said Foxboro coach Lisa Downs. “The preparation required to compete in this league really benefits teams that get to the postseason.”

Franklin

2018-2019 Record: 21-4
2018-2019 Finish: Reached D1 State Semifinal.
Coach: John Leighton
Franklin is coming off its best season in program history and the Panthers have the talent returning to potentially surpass that success this winter. After winning the program’s first sectional title and coming within minutes of reaching the state title game, Franklin returns three of its starters and a host of bench players ready to step into bigger roles this year.

The key to it all is senior Ali Brigham. The George Washington-commit controlled the paint on both ends of the floor last season and remains the league’s most dominant star, as she continues to expand her game to make it even more difficult for the opposition. Teams can’t focus only on Brigham, as senior forward Meghan O’Connell showed in the playoffs the problems she can present with her ability to score and rebound and sophomore Olivia Quinn is another forward with size that teams will struggle to match up with.

Junior point guard Erin Quaile is a tenacious defender and a solid ball-handler, who is developing her outside shot. Senior Sydney Garilli and juniors Elizabeth Wilson, Teagan Collins, and Carissa Alers all saw time last season and will be in the backcourt rotation. Franklin will also add several newcomers, who could step right in and contribute, including juniors Katelynn Taylor and Kaleigh Houlihan and sophomores Emma Sousa and Stefany Padula. On balance, the Panthers look likely to be the team to beat again in the Kelley-Rex.

“I am excited by what I have seen to date,” said Franklin coach John Leighton. “They are a very motivated group who have bought into their team motto ‘We Over Me.’ They are good teammates who seek team success over individual glory.”




King Philip

2018-2019 Record: 14-8
2018-2019 Finish: Reached D1 South Quarterfinal.
Coach: Dan Nagle
King Philip had a breakout season in 2018-19, winning 13 games and reaching the Div. 1 South quarterfinal. Returning seven players from last year’s roster, new head coach Dan Nagle takes over a program in solid shape and is looking to build on last season’s success and try to challenge Franklin at the top of the league standings this winter.

Senior Faye Veilleux spearheaded KP’s breakout season when she emerged as one of the top post scorers in the league. Her versatility and her ability to get out in transition will be crucial to Nagle’s fastbreaking style. Senior Faith Roy will give the Warriors a clutch outside shooter and classmate Taylor Butler adds physicality to the guard or forward position.

Junior Emma Glaser will be expected to take on a bigger role after a strong sophomore season on the wing and junior point guard Brianna James demonstrated the ability to get into the lane at will and finish even against taller opponents. Juniors Caroline Aaron and Courtney Keswick are also back from last year to provide depth on the wings and 6-foot-3 freshman Emily Sawyer will give KP much-needed size in the post, as they try to combat Franklin’s Ali Brigham. The Warriors are going to try and break teams down with aggressive defending and their speed in transition.

Nagle said, “It has been a great start to the year with this group of kids. From top to bottom our roster is full of girls who love the game of basketball and are enjoying the process of improving day to day here in the early going. I think we will be a fun team to watch this season, and I look forward to the challenge of having our kids compete night in and night out in an excellent league like the Hockomock.”

Mansfield

2018-2019 Record: 17-6
2018-2019 Finish: Reached D1 South Quarterfinal.
Coach: Mike Redding
Mansfield has consistently been one of the top programs in the Kelley-Rex division but even the best programs are going to need time to overcome the graduation of 10 seniors. The Hornets will lack experience, but head coach Mike Redding will be looking for improvement over the course of the season and will be hoping to have the team playing its best basketball as the tournament rolls around.

Senior Becca Hottleman was recently cleared after knee surgery and will be back at the point for the Hornets. Hottleman is one of only two players that got starts last year. Junior forward Ashley Santos is the other and she will be one of the players expected to see her numbers take a jump, as she should expect to get a few more looks on the offensive end. Senior Kelly Doherty and junior Kayla Vine will jump into starting roles on the wings, while junior Sara Dooling will be a starter at forward.

While there is a lack of varsity playing time on the roster, there are plenty of upperclassmen that will be expected to contribute. Junior Sarah Sacco will back-up Hottleman at the point, while junior Ally Prentis and senior Grace Benton will add depth at the wing. Senior Grace Maher and juniors Brooke Berube and Kacey Veiking will see time in the frontcourt and freshman wing Abby Wager should get opportunities to build experience this season.

“This group has very limited varsity basketball experience overall because we had that large and talented group of 10 seniors last year, but we’re not young and will rely on senior leadership and a deep junior class and all have varsity experience in other sports,” said Redding. “We have good size and depth in the post and all of them can shoot, handle the ball, and play like guards, which should cause some problems for the defense. It will be a work in progress and we’ll have to battle for wins in a very good league but this will be a good basketball team by February when the tourney rolls around.”

Milford

2018-2019 Record: 1-19
2018-2019 Finish: Missed postseason.
Coach: T.J. Dolliver
Last year was a tough one for Milford. After graduating the bulk of the roster, an inexperienced group struggled through the season, but never lost the work rate and closed out the winter with its first win. The Hawks are still relatively young, but head coach TJ Dolliver is approaching the new year with optimism because of his team’s continued growth.

Four juniors are entering their third varsity seasons and the Hawks will be counting on them to provide necessary leadership on and off the court. Emma Lawrence, Jillian Michelson, Carly Fereira, and Katie Maietta have all gotten plenty of playing time last year and the hope is that experience will serve them well this winter.

This will be a guard-heavy lineup, especially with no player over 5-foot-8. Junior Elise Fauerbach will add some physical play to the frontcourt and sophomore forward Jill Araujo is a newcomer that can add some depth in the paint.

“There is a lot to pay attention to but what I care about the most is how we do this together,” said Dolliver. “I have a great group of girls and a great coaching staff and I believe this season will be very rewarding.”

North Attleboro

2018-2019 Record: 7-14
2018-2019 Finish: Missed postseason.
Coach: Nikki Correia
It has been a tough run over the last few seasons for North Attleboro, which won seven games and missed the playoffs for the third straight year, but there are still positives to take away as former assistant Nikki Correia takes over for her first year in charge. North has several experienced players returning to try and push Big Red back up the standings.

The backcourt should be a plus for North with senior point guard Olivia Forbes back to run the show and keep the Rocketeers getting into the transition game that Correia prefers. She will be joined at the guard position by junior Amanda Kaiser, who emerged as not only a threat from deep but also as a tough defender who gets her hands into the passing lane. Juniors Siobhan Weir and Lydia Santos will add to the depth at guard to help with the full-court pressure that North will turn to this year.

North hasn’t had much height in the past few seasons, but there are several forwards who can compete on the glass. Senior forward Eliza Dion is an aggressive defender and can take her defender off the dribble. Senior Regan Fein will add extra depth in the paint. Freshman guard Ava McKeown and sophomore guard Summer Doherty are two newcomers that could make an instant impact.

“I am looking forward to being apart of watching this team and this program grow this year,” Correia said. “There are six returning seniors, so that veteran play will be very helpful, as well as returning a great shooter and adding an athletic sophomore and freshman to the mix.”




Oliver Ames

2018-2019 Record: 13-9
2018-2019 Finish: Reached D1 South Quarterfinal.
Coach: Laney Clement-Holbrook
Oliver Ames had a lot of new faces last year, but the success was very familiar. The Tigers finished with 13 wins and reached the Div. 1 South quarterfinal, giving Wellesley all it could handle on the road. A year of experience and the return of a strong core of players means expectations are even higher for OA this winter.

Sophomore Caroline Peper will be the player that is going to draw the most attention at the start of the new season. As a freshman, Peper was one of the league’s top scorers and its top shooters. Junior Caroline Flynn was also an all-star last year. She runs the point, is one of the top passers on the team, and also one of its top rebounders. Her overall game helps the Tigers control games. Also in the backcourt will be seniors Meg Holleran and Erin Holmberg, who is coming back after surgery cost her almost all of last season.

Senior Tate Hadges will be on the front line, giving OA another strong defender and rebounder. Sophomore Hailey Bourne, while undersized, gives the Tigers a lot of effort in the post even when matched up against some of the best frontcourt players in the league. Junior Jess Erlich and Tori Harney and sophomore Anna Murphy will add to the team’s depth on the wing.

“As always, the Hock will present with a very high level of competition,” said OA coach Laney Clement-Holbrook. “We are looking forward to being capable of putting together a variety of strong personnel combinations which will provide us with depth as we face those challenges.”

Sharon

2018-2019 Record: 9-11
2018-2019 Finish: Missed postseason.
Coach: Sandra Lombardi
Sharon narrowly missed out on its first playoff appearance under head coach Sandy Lombardi, finishing just one win away from a tournament berth. With three returning starters and several younger players who got significant playing time last year, the Eagles will be eyeing that elusive postseason berth.

Three seniors will be counted on to lead the team at both ends of the floor. Point guard Ally Brown will be expected to get the Eagles into their offensive sets and is a strong defender on the other end, keeping pressure on the perimeter. Shooting guard Kaitlyn Wallace is the team’s top outside threat, stretching the defense with her range and also being a strong passer off the dribble. Forward Telishya Herbert led the team in scoring last year and is a matchup nightmare in the paint with her aggressive play going to the basket.

The starting lineup will be rounded out by junior Leah Fandel and sophomore Trinity Payne, two athletic forwards that will give Sharon decent size on the front line. Senior Nicole Teven, juniors Julia Early and Gaby Cabral and freshman Tess Letendre will all see plenty of playing time this season and will look to contribute to the team’s success.

“Ally, Kaitlyn, and Telishya have the most varsity experience and I expect great things from them this year,” Lombardi said. “We have a young team and I am hoping some of the younger players are able to step up this year as well.”

Stoughton

2018-2019 Record: 7-13
2018-2019 Finish: Missed postseason.
Coach: Charmaine Steele Jordan
A new era will begin this winter, as Stoughton moves into its brand new gym with a lot of new faces on the roster, hoping to get the Black Knights back into the playoff race this season after missing out on the tournament last year.

The key for the Black Knights will be its senior leadership. Although Sydnee Hyacinthe has moved on to Milton Academy, they still return a strong core led by senior Aliyah Wright. The point guard can be a dominant presence on both ends of the floor, sparking Stoughton on defense and breaking down the opposition off the dribble. Senior Shyanne Trinh is healthy to start the season and will be the team’s top outside threat, with the ability to knock down shots off the dribble. Senior forward Lexi Baptista is an athletic post threat who can also step back and knock down the mid-range jumper.

Senior Hannah Pagano and juniors Brooke Bulger, Mackenzie Manning, and Catherine Downey will add to the team’s depth, especially in the backcourt. Sophomore Makaiyah Singleton Rivera and freshman Kyla Sheedy-Goff will be two of the newcomers to the roster that could make a name for themselves this season.

“Despite being somewhat young this season this group of ladies worked really hard in the off-season,” said Stoughton coach Charmain Steele Jordan. “The sky is the limit this season and our Black Knights are going compete hard until the final whistle blows.”

Taunton

2018-2019 Record: 7-15
2018-2019 Finish: Missed postseason.
Coach: Amy Siggens
After a number of seasons under coach Walter Harrigan, Taunton has turned to former King Philip coach Amy Siggens this year and she has brought plenty of energy into her first preseason with the Tigers, trying to push the program back into the playoff hunt.

As Siggens and the players become more comfortable with each other, the Tigers will count on their returning starters to get things off to a good start. Juniors Sonya and Jaelyn Fernandez and Kelsey White will be the players to watch this season after strong sophomore campaigns. All three have good size, with both Sonya and Jaelyn providing strong presences on the boards and out on the break and White causing match-up issues on the perimeter. All three will need to step up on the defensive end and keep the Tigers running.

Taunton also has depth, although it will be relatively inexperienced. Seniors Liz Crisman and Jaylah Chaves and junior Tori DaRosa will add more depth in the backcourt. Sophomores Braeley McDonald and Abby Souza (who has helped out on varsity since she was an eighth-grader) and freshman Kameron St. Pierre will also chip in this season.

“Any coaching change brings lots of challenges and, this season, we will be faced with our share,” said Siggens. “I am very encouraged from what I’ve seen thus far. Our bench is young and talented but how quickly a good group of less experienced players develop, will determine the degree of our progress and we are off to a good start.”

OA Gives Wellesley All It Can Handle in Quarterfinal

Oliver Ames girls basketball
OA freshman Caroline Peper was tightly guarded all night long but still managed to score in double figures as OA pushed No. 2 seed Wellesley to the final whistle. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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WELLESLEY, Mass. – The upset was there for the taking. Oliver Ames was down by just one point entering the fourth quarter on the road at second-seeded Wellesley in Friday night’s Div. 1 South quarterfinal and battled back from seven points down in the fourth to get within three twice, but the Tigers couldn’t find the baskets they needed against the experienced Raiders.

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Oliver Ames (13-9) gave the hosts everything they could handle, but the Raiders showed their mettle and made the big shots when they were needed to pull out a 46-41 victory that sets up a semifinal against Bay State Conference rival Braintree.

“We knew we were going to have to deal with a lot of screening, a lot of slips,” said OA coach Laney Clement-Holbrook. “We spent two days on how to help, how to hedge, how to help the helper, all those things, but you’ve got to put the ball in the basket at the other end too. It’s one thing to get a stop but you’ve got to score.”

From the start, it was obvious that offense was going to be tough to come by for both teams. Despite scoring a combined 26 points in the first quarter, neither team was able to find a rhythm offensively, although Wellesley was finding some success slipping screens in the pick and roll and getting its forwards heading to the basket.

OA was relying on its ability to get into the paint and out on the break to generate its offense. Senior forward Alex Sheldon got off to a good start with five points in the first, including three free throws, and sophomore Caroline Flynn got an offensive rebound and then scored off a Meg Holleran assist.

Wellesley led 15-11 after one, but the defenses got even tougher to breakdown from that point forward. The Raiders would only make two shots and score seven points in the second quarter, but they also held OA to just one made field goal (a Flynn layup in transition) and six points to actually extend their lead to five points at the break.

Senior guard Gianna Palli came out firing in the third, getting free for a rare drive to the basket and burying a deep three from the wing to push the Wellesley lead to as many as eight points. As it turned out, the basket would be her last of the night, as Sadie Homer clamped down and allowed Palli (11 points) little room to maneuver.

“I’m really proud of her,” Clement-Holbrook said of Homer, who has the opportunity to play volleyball and basketball next year at Dean College. “She was able to finish as a senior the way that we hoped that she would.”

Just when it looked like Wellesley may break the game wide open, the young Tigers came storming back. Freshman Caroline Peper, OA’s leading scorer, finally wriggled free of the attentions of Wellesley senior Molly Cronin to score on an offensive rebound plus the foul. Homer found Flynn (10 points) in transition for an easy basket and then Flynn set up Sheldon (seven points) for a short jumper.

When Flynn kicked out to Holleran for an open three, OA had come all the way back to tie the game at 29-29. Wellesley responded with a big three from Cronin but Holleran set up a cutting Peper (12 points) for a basket that made it a one-point game with eight minutes remaining.

In close games, when the pressure gets ratcheted up, experience counts and the Raiders definitely benefited from playing in this stage or later in recent years. Anna Glashow drilled a three and then, after a Peper basket, Lily Woodring beat the buzzer with a contested mid-range jumper following a great defensive possession. Brooke Guiffre (game-high 14 points) hit a three from the corner to put the Raiders back up seven.

Peper had been largely held in check by Cronin’s defense, but she got fouled on a three-point attempt and made all three at the line to get the game back within four. Clement-Holbrook saw this game as a learning experience for the rookie on how to handle this level of attention from opposing defenses.

“Now she’s a known entity,” Clement-Holbrook said of Peper. “Cronin’s not going to let a ninth grader beat her, that’s what it comes down to, so I just talked about this will be a good experience. I said, the down side will be if you don’t learn from this in the off-season and make yourself a better player.”

Trailing by five, OA had several defensive stops in a row, but each time the Tigers failed to take advantage at the other end and the clock started to whittle away. Finally, Holleran fought to grab an offensive rebound and wriggled through a few defenders for a basket that made it 41-38. Wellesley went to the line but missed a pair only to have Goehringer snag the rebound with 57.1 on the clock.

OA again locked down on the defensive side of the ball, sticking with players through a myriad of screens on the perimeter until the ball swung over to the left wing where Guiffre made the biggest shot of the game, sticking a three despite Flynn’s hand right in her face.

“She drained it,” said Clement-Holbrook. “Those were big moments for them and they took advantage of the situations and I think that was the difference that we didn’t do that in situations where we had fought back and got it to three.”

The game was far from over, as Homer (seven points) came down and answered with a three of her own to keep it a one-possession game with 10.2 remaining. OA fouled on the inbound and Guiffre missed the front end of the one-and-one. Flynn got the rebound and headed up court but the Tigers were called for traveling with 4.5 left.

Guiffre made amends by hitting two at the line and sealing the win.

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Brigham Hits Milestone and Panthers Rally to Win at OA

Franklin girls basketball
Franklin junior center Ali Brigham is mobbed by her teammates after scoring her 1,000th career point on a third quarter free throw at Oliver Ames. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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NORTH EASTON, Mass. – Midway through the third quarter of Wednesday night’s game at the Nixon Gym, Franklin junior center Ali Brigham was sent to the line with a chance to reach the 1,000-point milestone. She missed the first, but drilled the second one to become the first Franklin player to hit that mark since Kelley Meredith in 2008 (Kyle Gibson reached 1,000 points in 2011 for the Franklin boys).

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After head coach John Leighton called a quick timeout, Brigham, who finished with a game-high 20 points and 12 rebounds, was mobbed by her teammates on the court.

There were plenty of hugs and smiles at that stage of the game, with the Franklin ahead 33-32, but Oliver Ames nearly put an early end to the celebrations when it took a seven-point lead in the fourth quarter. With three minutes to play, the Tigers led by four and it looked like Franklin’s unbeaten run through the league was about to end.

The Panthers rallied with a 13-4 run to close out the game, including 10-2 over the final three minutes, to pull out a 53-51 victory and allow Brigham the chance to savor her moment as well.

“We’re really excited for the tournament that we’ve got coming up this weekend and we just won the Hock, so this is a game that we could’ve let slip,” Brigham said after the win. “I think that was really big for us to come back in the fourth because we work so hard at practice to not let a game like this slip us up.”

Brigham has been a dominant force in the paint since her freshman year, and came into the week leading the league in scoring with more than 22 points per game. Leighton praised his star for her desire to keep improving her game.

“What’s neat is the improvement every year,” Franklin coach John Leighton said. “The scoring has been great, but she also knows what she needs to get to 1,000 rebounds, which says a lot about a kid when that’s what she’s worried about. She’s worked on getting other people open. When things slogged down, she set more screens to get everyone else going.”

While the headlines would be about Brigham’s milestone, it was freshman Olivia Quinn and senior Bea Bondhus that would bring Franklin back in the fourth quarter.

Twice Ally Scolnick (eight points) got behind the Franklin defense for transition layups, both assisted by Caroline Flynn (eight points), freshman Caroline Peper (team-high 17 points and eight rebounds) drilled a corner three, and her classmate Hailey Bourne (eight points) snagged an offensive rebound to help OA build a 47-40 lead.

Quinn helped the Panthers claw back into the game by crashing the boards. She scored six of her seven points in the quarter (hitting three of Franklin’s four made field goals) and all came on offensive rebounds, including a layup that tied the game at 49-49.

“At this point, [freshman] is not a term that I associate with her because she’s played in so many meaningful minutes,” Leighton said of Quinn. “She moves so well with her height. We can have her do multiple things.”

Bondhus (14 points) followed another defensive stop by driving down the left side of the lane, absorbing the contact, and finishing at the rim for the go-ahead score. Another defensive stand and two more free throws put the Panthers up four with only seconds remaining.

“The game plan was very specific and I would say that 99 percent of the time they executed it and I was really proud of their defensive effort,” said OA coach Laney Clement-Holbrook. “It was all of them. It was the best team performance that we’ve had this season.”

Things were a struggle at the start of the game for the Panthers, who were clearly trying to get Brigham some touches, but OA senior forward Alex Sheldon was doing everything in her power to keep Franklin’s 6-foot-3 center uncomfortable and limit her touches. Bourne, despite giving up plenty of size to the George Washington-commit, also jumped into the post to provide some defensive help.

“They were so physical,” said Clement-Holbrook. “They weren’t afraid to bump. They tried to make it a little bit difficult for her.”

Flynn got off to a good start on the offensive end with six points in the first, twice getting transition baskets off Sadie Homer assists, but Brigham still managed to get eight in the quarter and keep the Panthers down just three, 16-13.

“I was a little worried,” Brigham said, “because 15 is kind of a big number but I came out fast and it was good. My team did a good job of just doing their thing and it just happened.”

Franklin clamped down defensively in the second, limiting the Tigers to just seven points as a team, six of those scored by Peper. On the other end, Bondhus started to heat up. She scored six in the quarter, including a steal and layup that put the visitors ahead 24-23. Shannon Gray hit a jumper to put the Panthers up three at halftime.

Brigham was only three points away from 1,000 to start the third and opened the second half with a basket, but Peper countered with a bucket, assisted on a Meg Holleran basket, and then drilled a three to tie the game at 32-32. Megan O’Connell was taking advantage of the attention being on Brigham to score six of her nine points in the quarter.

After Brigham hit her free throw to reach the milestone, Scolnick got her first points to tie the game at 34-34. Bourne went 4-of-4 at the line and the teams entered the fourth quarter tied.

OA opened the fourth with a 9-2 run and looked on the verge of a signature win, but the Panthers showed why they have only lost once this season and were able to earn the come from behind win.

“I think it’s very valuable for us,” said Leighton about being pushed to the end. “I thought they played with real grit at the end. We locked it down and I thought we got every single defensive rebound. We stopped turning it over. We did the little things that you need to win.”

Franklin (17-1, 15-0) will close out league play against Attleboro on Friday before taking on perennial power Braintree (and either Belmont or Cathedral in the second game) at the IAABO Board 27 Tournament at Woburn High over the weekend. Oliver Ames (10-7, 9-6) will end its league schedule by hosting King Philip.

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Bulldogs Use Late Run to Earn Rare Win at OA

Canton girls basketball
Canton freshman Kiara Cerruti (13) scored a game-high 20 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter, and went 8-for-8 from the line down the stretch as the Bulldogs pulled out a win against OA. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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NORTH EASTON, Mass. – Trailing 50-49, Sydney Gallery knocked down a free throw to even the score with 3:46 left on the clock. It turned out to be the start of a 12-0 run that allowed Canton to open up Tuesday night’s game against Oliver Ames at the Nixon Gym and earn the Bulldogs a rare win in this series.

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Canton closed the game with a 16-6 run over the final four minutes and shot 15-of-18 at the free throw line in the fourth quarter to seal a 65-56 victory and move one win from a quick return to the state tournament.

“We worked on it a lot in practice,” Canton coach Jim Choquette said of the free throw shooting. “We tried everything to put them in as many situations as possible and in the last game and this game it really paid off. The other thing is trying to find and put the ball in the right people’s hands. Kiara was really shooting the ball well tonight so we just ran some inbounds plays to get her the ball.”

Freshman Kiara Cerruti scored 10 of her game-high 20 points in the fourth and personally went 8-for-8 from the line down the stretch, while playing strong defense on OA’s rookie leading scorer Caroline Peper (11 points).

“From the line she was amazing but we also had her guard Peper and she gave up four shots,” Choquette said. “Kiara’s defense on her, and other players in the league, has been outstanding and it was cool watching two of the really good freshmen in the league battling.”

The game was close throughout, with neither team building more than a five-point lead until late in the fourth quarter. Fay Gallery (16 points and six rebounds) and Julia Hamilton (six points and six steals) each hit threes to get things started for Canton in the first quarter. Peper nailed one of her own to tie the game at 9-9 but Canton scored five straight until a layup from Alex Sheldon (11 points, 13 rebounds). Kayla Albert scored her only basket on a rebound to make it 16-11 after one.

“We knew they could shoot and I think that was maybe our biggest concern,” said OA coach Laney Clement-Holbrook. “It has nothing to do with what grade they’re in, they can score. I don’t think we did a good enough job defensively, I think our help was just too slow, and it was a good effort but they shot the lights out.”

OA turned things around in the second. Ally Scolnick (game-high 15 points) scored six in the quarter and Hailey Bourne twice got to the basket for layups. Cerruti nailed a three in the final seconds of the second to close the gap to one, 28-27, at the break.

The back-and-forth nature of the game continued in the third. Fay Gallery drove to the basket for two and then buried a three to put Canton up four. Bourne and Sheldon got back-to-back baskets to tie the game. Maggie Connolly scored six of her 12 points (she also pulled down 12 rebounds) in the quarter but was matched by Scolnick, who drilled a pair of threes.

Clement-Holbrook said, “We didn’t have the running game like we normally do and I think Canton did a good job getting back on us. They took away what we do offensively and we couldn’t take away what they do.”

Sydney Gallery (seven points) scored at the buzzer to put the Bulldogs ahead 43-42 going into the final eight minutes.

After a pair of Connolly free throws, Caroline Flynn (nine points) gathered an offensive rebound and scored to cut the lead to one. More free throws for both teams gave Canton a lead but Peper scored and then Sheldon got her final points of the night to put the Tigers ahead 50-49.

Sydney Gallery tied the game with a clutch free throw and then her twin sister put the Bulldogs ahead to stay, draining a three off a Connolly assist. Cerruti followed with a drive to the basket and a lefty, scooped finish off glass. The Tigers tried to get back into it with a three by Teper and a three-point play by Scolnick but the Bulldogs shot 10-of-12 from the line to hold on.

“It’s growth because we had a scenario where we called a timeout and drew up on the board what we wanted to run but then we get out it looked nothing like that,” Clement-Holbrook said. We need to grow.”

While neither coach could remember exactly when Canton had last beaten OA, Clement-Holbrook could only say it had been a long time. Choquette admitted that the lack of experience of his talented freshman may have been an advantage because they weren’t worried about the history between the two teams.

“To be on the road at OA, which is the legendary basketball school in the league, I think the freshmen help because they don’t know what the history is,” he explained. “They just think it’s another game, so when they show up they think let’s grind it out and see if we’re better than them.”

Canton (9-4, 7-4) will try to clinch a playoff spot and move within a game of the Davenport title when it hosts Foxboro on Friday. Oliver Ames (8-5, 7-4) will look to bounce back against Taunton.

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Mulkern Shoots Hornets Past OA in Defensive Struggle

Mansfield girls basketball
Mansfield senior Sydney Mulkern came off the bench and lifted the Hornets with a game-high 17 points, including 13 in the second half, to hold off Oliver Ames. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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MANSFIELD, Mass. – Coming into Friday night’s game against Oliver Ames in the Albertini Gym, Mansfield coach Mike Redding wasn’t sure what he would be able to get from senior guard Sydney Mulkern, who had been sick at practice the day before.

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As it turns out, the Hornets got plenty from Mulkern. She came off the bench and scored a game-high 17 points, including 13 in the second half and eight in the fourth quarter, to provide the offensive punch in an otherwise defensive struggle with the Tigers, helping the Hornets pull out a 41-32 win.

“Syd was sick all week but she gave us some minutes and just made some big shots,” Mansfield coach Mike Redding said. “We really didn’t think she was going to play tonight. Yesterday she really looked awful and said she’d be able to help a little off the bench and she was probably the difference tonight.”

Neither team was really able to find a rhythm on the offensive side of the court.

The game was tied at 2-2 five minutes into the opening quarter. Maggie Danehy (13 rebounds) scored her only bucket on an offensive rebound to put the Hornets in front, but freshman Caroline Peper (nine points) answered with a three. Ashley Santos scored back-to-back baskets, but Ally Scolnick knocked down a three to tie it 8-8. Caroline Flynn also grabbed 10 rebounds in the first alone and finished with 20 boards for the Tigers.

Mulkern’s first points gave Mansfield a 10-8 lead after one, a lead that it would never relinquish.

The second quarter was even more difficult for both offenses. Mady Bendanillo (eight points and seven rebounds) scored to make it 12-8 but neither team would score again until there was 2:10 left in the quarter when freshman Hailey Bourne got her lone basket of the night for OA. Mulkern hit a layup and Megan MacVicar scored off a Bendanillo assist to make it 18-12 at the break.

“It was 18-12 at the half, come on girls can we score some points?” OA coach Laney Clement-Holbrook was left asking at halftime. “We scored 57 against Foxboro and we only managed 12 in a half tonight. I’d be so happy with 41 as a points against game, but, I don’t know, offensively we just weren’t present.”

Mansfield came out in the second half and started to pull away, leading by as many as 12 points at one point. Mulkern started the third with a deep three off a pass from Kara Bendanillo (six steals and three assists). Peper cut the lead to 23-16, but Mady Bendanillo hit a huge three-pointer at the shot clock buzzer to put the Hornets up double digits and her sister followed with a layup in transition for a 28-16 lead.

“There were a lot of good athletes defending and the refs let us play us a little bit and it was just tough to get a good look,” Redding said. “Both teams are pretty well-coached on what the other team wants to do and we had some kids step up.”

OA continued to find points tough to come by, but the Tigers made a little run to cut the Hornets lead to just five. Sadie Homer got a steal and transition layup and twice Meg Holleran was able to find Scolnick (team-high 13 points) on consecutive backdoor cuts.

“We got into no rhythm but I think it was self-inflicted,” said Clement-Holbrook. “Not to discredit Mansfield’s defense because they always play good defense, but we were so out of sync. We had shot but we just didn’t finish them. We are much more capable of presenting ourselves in a better way but we just didn’t play up to our capabilities.”

Kara Bendanillo got out in transition to close the third with a layup and give the Hornets a seven-point edge heading to the fourth. Scolnick opened the fourth with a jumper to keep it close but then Mulkern broke the game wide open.

She sandwiched a Becca Hottleman steal and layup with a pair of threes (one after Kara Bendanillo kept a possession alive with an offensive rebound) to extend the lead back to 11.

OA kept the game on edge to the final whistle by causing havoc with a press, raising the energy of the team but not getting the Tigers any closer than eight points.

“We’d rather win ugly than lose. Defensively we played well but on offense we were just out of sorts,” Redding said. “We made enough shots but we never got into any rhythm and fortunately they didn’t either.”

Redding admitted that this was an important win for the Hornets, despite it still being early in the season. The Hornets, who are seeking a program-record fourth straight league title, trail division-leading Franklin by two games and are now tied with the Tigers for second in the Kelley-Rex.

“This was almost like an elimination game for us,” he said. “Now were still two back and Franklin still has OA twice, they have Foxboro, and we have Franklin at home. There’s a long way to go but you feel like we’re in it and now we need to go on a little run in January to be there in February and have a shot at a [title].”

Mansfield (5-3, 4-2) will face a tough test on Tuesday night with the visit of Canton, which has won five games in a row, while Oliver Ames (5-3, 4-2) will try to get back on track at home against Sharon before facing Franklin for the first time.

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Bench Sparks OA to Opening Win at Stoughton

Oliver Ames girls basketball
Oliver Ames got a strong performance from its bench and that carried the Tigers to a season-opening win on the road at Stoughton. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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STOUGHTON, Mass. – Oliver Ames came into the season with a young squad and head coach Laney Clement-Holbrook has used the metaphor of a jigsaw puzzle to explain to the Tigers how they are all going to need to put together the pieces to be successful. Those pieces formed a nice picture on day one.

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Every OA player got the chance to play and the Tigers got 22 points off the bench, outscoring Stoughton’s bench 22-8, to open the season with a 46-33 road victory over the Black Knights.

“I was really happy with their effort,” said Clement-Holbrook. “Today proved to me that we have capabilities in terms of depth. Everybody played, I got some really good minutes out of a multitude of players. I wasn’t hesitant before I put the freshmen in.”

It was a rough night for the Stoughton offense, as the Black Knights struggled to find the range and shot only 3-of-34 in the first half. Defense kept the home team in the game, and allowed Stoughton to get as close as seven points in the fourth quarter.

Stoughton coach Charmaine Steele Jordan said, “The tough part is that when you’re not making shots early, that’s tough. But they showed me at the end that they have fight and they have grit and when we started getting to the rim then good things happened for us.”

The Black Knights scored the opening five points of the game, as sophomore Sydnee Hyacinthe buried a pull-up three and scored off a steal. It would turn out to be her only points of the night. It took OA four minutes to make a shot from the field, but junior Meg Holleran’s three gave the Tigers a one-point lead. Sadie Homer (eight points) scored on a fast break off a Tate Hadges assist to put Stoughton ahead 11-10 after one quarter.

In the second, Stoughton’s offense continued to struggle. Hanna Holden knocked down a lefty shot in traffic for the lone basket of the quarter, as the Black Knights managed just three points.

“We were settling for the three early and I was saying that we need to get into attack mode because we have kids that can get to the rim,” said Steele Jordan.

OA got a much-needed offensive spark from the bench. Ally Scolnick (team-high 11 points) drilled a corner three off a Holleran inbounds pass and freshman guard Caroline Peper added one from the corner as well. Freshman Hailey Bourne followed up a missed layup on the break for her first career points and then Peper got a pass from Homer and went with a reverse for a 23-13 lead at the half.

Clement-Holbrook said, “I’m trying to empower them with the understanding that if you can just do what you do well then that’s a positive and I thought tonight was a good example.”

Offense was a struggle for both teams, but it got even tougher to score in the third with the two teams combining for just 13 points.

Aliyah Wright scored her lone basket of the night on a drive, junior Heather Maddalena knocked down a jumper and senior Lindsay McDonald got her first basket of the night. That was it for Stoughton. Homer scored on the break, Erin Holmberg had a free throw and got her only basket on a transition layup, and Caroline Flynn (13 rebounds) hit a jumper. That was it for OA.

The Tigers led by 11 heading into the fourth, but the Black Knights were still in the game. Lexi Baptista (10 rebounds) started the fourth with a short jumper and then McDonald grabbed an offensive rebound and finished plus a foul. McDonald caught fire in the fourth, scoring 11 of her game-high 14 points. She also had 17 rebounds on the night.

Twice McDonald got the Black Knights within seven points, at 33-26 and 38-31, but each time the Tigers responded. Scolnick scored six points in the fourth, Holleran (nine rebounds) had one of her three assists to set up sophomore Jessica Erlich. Flynn capped the game with a transition layup to extend the lead to 13 points.

“We talked about defense, talked about rebounding, and talked about boxing out and I think we did those three things consistently tonight,” said Clement-Holbrook.

“We can only go up for here, so I’m excited for where we can go this season,” said Steele Jordan. “They competed. You always want to come out with a ‘W’ but tonight wasn’t our night and hopefully we’ll come out and Friday and it will be different for us.”

Oliver Ames (1-0) will try to make it two wins in a row on Friday night with a trip to Taunton. Stoughton (0-1) will open Davenport division play on Friday at North Attleboro.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.