BRIDGEWATER, Mass. – After two years as the top team in Div. 2 South, defending state champion Foxboro saw its quest for a three-peat come to a very abrupt end on Wednesday night against Pembroke at Bridgewater-Raynham High.
The Titans held the Warriors, who led the Hockomock League in scoring at more than 60 points per game, to single digits and no more than three made field goals in each quarter. Pembroke pulled away in the second quarter and left the Warriors in the rearview mirror, pulling out a 50-24 victory that sends the Titans to the South final.
It was obvious from the start that Foxboro had the target on its backs and Pembroke wanted to be the team that ended its run.
“It definitely doesn’t help, but we didn’t come out ready,” said Foxboro coach Lisa Downs about facing every team’s best effort. “I don’t know if it was that we were scared because they didn’t seem that way when they warmed up, so I think it was a matter of they maybe thought we were better than we were and taking that team more for granted than we should have.”
Chelsea Gibbons, who scored half of her team’s points, opened the game with a three that barely even made the net ripple as it dropped through. Foxboro didn’t score again for more than six minutes. Pembroke went on a 13-0 run to take control.
The Warriors did climb back into the game before the end of the quarter. Jordyn Collins drove baseline for a layup and Yara Fawaz got one at the line after a rare offensive rebound. Gibbons (12 points) swished another three and suddenly it was a four-point game (13-9).
It felt like Foxboro was on the verge of righting the ship and preparing to go on a run to get back in front. That wasn’t how it played out.
The Titans came out firing in the second, knocking down each of the first five threes that they took. Gibbons hit a third from beyond the arc to cut the lead to 19-12, but then three more triples for Pembroke pushed the lead to 14. Lizzy Davis got her only points on a putback but the Titans went into the break leading 30-14.
Downs explained, “We tried to do a matchup 2-3 zone at one point and then we went to a half-court 1-3-1 trapping zone. We forced a turnover and then we dribbled out of bounds, things that we don’t do. So many things that were very atypical for us.”
Jayne Howe hit three from the outside in the second quarter and scored 15 of her 17 points in the opening half, outscoring the Warriors by herself. Pembroke used a 17-5 quarter to pull away.
“They’re a very good team,” Downs said. “All of our game plans that we put together to keep the ball out of the hands of [Howe] and [Katie Galligan], we just didn’t execute and it didn’t help that we had no rebounding whatsoever. It was just a perfect storm for us that we couldn’t do anything right.”
Katelyn Mollica knocked down her only jumper of the night to bring Foxboro back within 18 at 35-17 and then Gibbons answered a Pembroke basket with another three. It was as close as Foxboro would get. In fact the Warriors only managed four more points for the rest of the night.
“She couldn’t get into a rhythm at all and then she’s trying to force shots because she knew that she had to score,” said Downs about Mollica, who led the team ins coring as a sophomore, averaging more than 18 points per game. “She was a little bit tight and she wasn’t following through because she was trying to get a shot off quickly.”
Abby Hassman and Collins each scored in the fourth quarter but that was all that the Warriors managed as Pembroke was running down the shot clock on every possession and typically getting multiple looks thanks to its control of the glass.
Coming into the season, following the graduation of influential players like Ashley Sampson, Lily Sykes, Grace Tamulionis, and Shannon Smally, no one saw the Warriors as the potential No. 1 seed in the South. Despite the new faces in the lineup, Foxboro (20-3) still won a third straight league title and reached a third straight South semifinal.
“Each game that we played, each practice, I would see something a little more that I hadn’t expected,” Downs said. “We’re still a young team. They’ve had some good experience the last two years that hopefully they can build on and learn from and hopefully set some goals that after tonight’s game you never want to feel this crappy.”
FOXBORO, Mass. – Despite losing only two games all season and claiming the top seed in Div. 2 South for the second year in a row, Foxboro has been guilty of getting off to slow starts. In the playoffs, allowing a team to hang around is dangerous, as the Warriors were reminded in a hard-fought, two-point win against No. 16 seed Notre Dame Academy in the first round.
The warning was heeded by the Warriors, who came firing out of the gates in Saturday night’s quarterfinal against Dighton-Rehoboth. Foxboro (20-2) jumped out to a 21-2 lead in the first quarter and never looked back, rolling to a 66-35 victory to reach its third straight sectional semifinal.
“I was very unhappy with the way the last game started and they were equally so,” said Foxboro coach Lisa Downs. “I think they were pretty determined not to have it be that way. They were definitely determined mentally to be more prepared.”
She added, “You do have to remind them that there is no other day, if you don’t leave it on the court. They definitely walked away from that game (against NDA) feeling pretty bad about themselves because they knew they could’ve done better. Hopefully, they don’t ever want to feel that way again.”
Although she knocked down five three-pointers in the first round against NDA, sophomore Katelyn Mollica didn’t have a great shooting night overall. That was not a problem on Saturday. She drilled three from beyond the arc in the first quarter and knocked down a jumper off a feed by Lizzy Davis. Chelsea Gibbons also came out on fire, hitting a pair of threes of her own and scoring all 10 of her points in the first.
The Falcons barely had time to register what was happening before the Warriors finished a 19-0 run that put the hosts ahead 21-2. D-R cut into the lead a little before the end of the quarter but Foxboro was in complete control up 16.
“Chelsea and Mollica just started out so strong,” Downs said. “Their shooting percentage was ridiculously good and you knew we couldn’t sustain that. You knew the second quarter it would go down a little bit, but as long as the defense stays the same we’d be in good shape.”
It was unlikely that the Warriors would be able to continue the hot shooting start, but their pressure defense made it difficult for D-R to get a run started and Foxboro’s ability to crash the boards kept giving them second and third chances. Abby Hassman and Yara Fawaz each finished with nine rebounds apiece and combined for 10 in the first half alone. Shakirah Ketant added seven boards off the bench.
Downs said, “As good as we were last year, the inside presence that we have this year is something we didn’t have. Hopefully, that will continue because we’re going to need it. Our inside game, you have to pay attention to it.”
Foxboro led 33-17 at halftime and came out of the break looking to put the game away. Davis (14 points) drilled one of her four three-pointers to get things started and assisted on a Hassman bucket. Mollica then scored the next five, drilling a three and hitting a floater at the shot clock buzzer.
Fawaz (seven points) had a steal and a layup and Ketant turned an offensive rebound into another basket. Foxboro then got four looks at the basket and finally Ketant smartly tipped a rebound to an open Mollica, who buried the baseline jumper. The Warriors led 49-26 after three.
There was no way back for the Falcons in the fourth, as Mollica scored five more, including her fifth triple of the night, and Davis added eight points, including two more from beyond the arc.
It was a dominating victory for the two-time defending South champions and sends them to the sectional semifinal on Wednesday night at Bridgewater-Raynham. The Warriors will face the winner of Pembroke and Norwood, which was moved to Sunday afternoon.
NORTH ATTLEBORO, Mass. – Foxboro won a state title last season using mostly a six-player rotation, but this year’s squad relies on eight or more players to contribute in different ways every game. On Friday night at North Attleboro, the Warriors needed every bit of that depth to come away from the Pickering Gym with a win.
The league’s top scoring team was held without a made field goal in the first quarter, the league’s second leading scorer, Katelyn Mollica, was held to just six made free throws for the night, and one of Foxboro’s starters, Yara Fawaz, was limited by illness to only a few minutes on the court, but Foxboro still had three players score in double figures and rolled to a 60-29 victory.
“At this time of the year, knowing that I can go eight kids deep and that they can all contribute offensively is huge because last year we couldn’t go that deep,” said Foxboro coach Lisa Downs. “That was the fewest points Mollica’s ever had and we can still beat a team by 20-plus points.”
In many ways, the Rocketeers match up well with the Warriors in terms of athleticism and they came out with a game plan to stop the driving lanes, close out hard on shooters, and be as active as possible on the defensive end.
For eight minutes, it worked perfectly. Foxboro was held without a made basket in the first quarter, scoring all five points from the line, including 4-of-4 for Mollica. The problem for the Rocketeers was on the offensive end. North only made three shots of its own and led by just two points after one. Eliza Dion scored four of her six in the first and Colette Petit drilled a three.
Junior center Shakirah Ketant scored Foxboro’s first basket to tie the game at the start of the second quarter, but Amanda Kaiser answered back with a three to regain the lead. It was the last lead that North would hold, as the Warriors went on a 24-2 run to take control.
“It was a great start for us,” said North coach Derek Herber. “You know going in that you have to stop Mollica and then you just hope and pray no one else is hitting, which in that first quarter we played great defense to do that. The problem is they played great defense and we can’t score on the other end. We hung in there until the middle of the second quarter.”
Lizzy Davis scored nine of her 14 points in the second to spark the Foxboro run, while Chelsea Gibbons added five of her 14. After scoring only five points in the first quarter, Foxboro scored 23 in the second, while holding North to just a handful. Davis knocked down a dagger three-pointer as the half ended, helped by Abby Hassman (nine rebounds) chasing down a loose ball.
“It was a dagger,” Herber said about Davis’ buzzer beater. “It just switched the whole tenor of the half…it kind of deflated the kids.”
He added, “We hang in there and we do a lot of good things, but we just can’t score. You feel for everybody, but we go through stretches. We’re just on the cusp. Hopefully it’s a building process and we’re learning from these things.”
In the third quarter, the Warriors extended the lead. Gibbons had a steal under the North basket for a layup plus the foul and then Davis nailed a three to push the lead to 20 points. Jordyn Collins knocked down a jumper and Anita Busznyak twice scored on drives to the basket. Although Regan Fein and Michelle Pothier scored for North, the visitors led 42-19 after three.
Downs explained, “To go into tournament knowing that we have other girls who can contribute when [Katelyn] is being shut down is huge. Shakirah had kind of a breakthrough, Lizzy is back in the scoring, and Chelsea has been pretty consistent.”
North tried to cut into the lead in the fourth quarter, with Kaiser (eight rebounds) getting a layup off an Olivia Forbes steal and then Forbes following with a three off a Kaiser assist and Julia Feid added three points, but Ketant proved to be too much for the Rocketeers to handle in the post.
She scored off a putback, a post move from the left block, and off a steal under the North basket. Ketant had 10 of her game-high 15 points in the fourth quarter alone, and she also added 12 rebounds as well.
“She was the difference maker today,” said Herber about Ketant’s impact. “In the first game, they didn’t really have a post presence, so we were able to do some things. She was a beast today and just able to take control in there to give them another option.”
Foxboro (16-2, 14-2) will head into its annual Warrior Classic to face Old Rochester on Monday night in a battle of the two teams tied for the top seed in Div. 2 South. North Attleboro (6-14, 4-12) will close out its season on Thursday against Weston.
FOXBORO, Mass. – Coming into Tuesday night’s showdown, Foxboro and Franklin were both unbeaten (8-0) in Hockomock play and were the league’s top two scoring teams, its top two defensive teams, its two division leaders, and boasted the league’s top two scorers.
It was clearly a battle of the top two teams in the Hock and it was a battle that was dominated by the Hock’s top scorer, Ali Brigham. The 6-foot-3 junior center scored 27 points, pulled down 15 rebounds, and blocked six shots, controlling the paint on both ends of the court to help Franklin remain unbeaten with a 52-40 victory.
“She’s frustrated because she thought that she could’ve played better,” Franklin coach John Leighton joked when asked about Brigham’s performance night-in, night-out. “It’s great coaching a kid that wants to become better. She’s not complacent. She’s not close to the player that she wants to be, yet. She keeps expanding her game.”
Franklin’s win ended Foxboro’s 26-game win streak and 33-game league win streak.
While Brigham rightfully stole the headlines for her all-around game, Franklin also won because of its defensive performance on Foxboro sophomore Katelyn Mollica. The league’s second leading scorer was held to just nine points (four in the fourth quarter) thanks to the very close attention of sophomore Erin Quaile.
With Mollica contained, Foxboro was held more than 20 points below its season average.
“It gets tough for Mollica having all that pressure, especially when you have someone who can stick with you the way Quaile did tonight,” said Foxboro coach Lisa Downs. “She completely blocked her out and denied her the ball, but I don’t know if we have any answer for Ali Brigham but our goal was to keep her below her average and we didn’t do that.”
The Panthers jumped out to an early lead, as Brigham scored eight points in the first, matching Foxboro’s total in the quarter. She twice got baskets on offensive rebounds, drove to the basket and was set up by a Bea Bondhus drive. Bondhus (nine points) also scored twice herself and Megan O’Connell (10 points) added four points.
Chelsea Gibbons hit a three, Mollica hit a pull-up three and Lizzy Davis scored on a jumper, but that was all the Warriors could manage against Franklin’s pressure defense.
Leighton said, “Erin Quaile and Shannon Gray have been doing this all year. We unleash them on the other team’s best guards and they’re very good athletes and tough as nails but it helps having Ali behind them. They ran a lot of screens for Mollica tonight and I thought we hedged well; no one was alone on an island.”
That pattern held in the second, as the Warriors were held to eight points as a team again. A quick 6-0 run extended the Panthers’ advantage to 14 points, but Foxboro hung around thanks to four points from Yara Fawaz (team-high 12 points and six rebounds). But, whenever Foxboro seemed to be climbing back into the game, Franklin responded and Brigham scored off assists by Quaile and Elizabeth Wilson to push the lead back to 12 at halftime.
“Foxboro doesn’t win as many games in a row as they have without that,” said Leighton about Foxboro continually pushing back. “There is zero quit, but I thought we answered defensively every time they made a run. We got patient on offense, worked the ball around and instead of taking that first open look, work it around and either get an inside touch or kick it out to the open kid.”
The third quarter was back-and-forth. Brigham was again the focal point for the Panthers, who found different ways to get her the ball on the block and moved the ball well from side-to-side and kept the Foxboro defense moving. With Brigham and O’Connell (seven rebounds) controlling the glass, Franklin also prevented the Warriors from getting out in transition.
Fawaz scored four more points in the third, combining well with fellow forward Abby Hassman (five assists) to try and step away from the basket and, of course, Brigham. Davis also drilled a three and Anita Busznyak took a lead pass from Mollica for a rare basket on the break.
Despite Foxboro feeling like it was on the brink of a comeback, the Warriors fell a further point behind heading to the fourth quarter. Still, the hosts kept battling back, with six straight points to start the fourth cutting the lead to 43-36 after Mollica’s steal and layup.
O’Connell answered with a basket and then assisted on a Brigham basket. Fawaz got into the lane to score and make it a nine-point game again, but Bondhus came right back down and drilled a three from the left wing to push the lead into double digits and seal the win.
Brigham remarked, “I think we were just so focused and so ready to win that we just handled what we needed to do. If they went on a run, we came back with another one.”
Downs was philosophical about the end of the win streak. She said, “It’s one of those teams that’s going to help us for down the road to prepare for the postseason because they are so talented. We never really could get past that hump, but they didn’t stop fighting and I give them credit for that.”
Franklin (11-1, 9-0) will be back home on Friday night to host Attleboro, while Foxboro (10-1, 8-1) will host North Attleboro, which comes in with five wins in its last six games.
FOXBORO, Mass. – With Foxboro girls basketball trailing, 30-25, with just under two minutes left in the second quarter against Oliver Ames, the Warriors were in need of a spark to close the deficit before halftime.
A three-pointer by sophomore Katelyn Mollica (18 points) cut the lead to 30-28 before Anita Busznyak tied it up with a layup. With time winding down, Chelsea Gibbons hit a layup just before time expired, and Foxboro took a 32-30 lead. From there, the Warriors never looked back, winning their seventh game of the year and remaining undefeated with a 70-57 win over the Tigers.
“That was huge, because you love to go in the locker room even with a little bit of a lead, because it just gives a different atmosphere in the locker room and just gives them a little confidence, because it was neck and neck going into that point,” Foxboro coach Lisa Downs said about the team’s run at the end of the half.
Lizzy Davis (14 points), who spent much of the first half on the bench after two fouls in the first 1:15 of the game, started the third quarter by hitting a three-pointer and then hit back-to-back jump shots to give Foxboro a 39-30 lead.
“Lizzy Davis starting the third quarter off the way she did, I think it just gave everyone a little bit of energy, she was in foul trouble in the first half so I think just for her to do that was huge because it’s easy to get a little bit upset with yourself having three fouls at halftime,” Downs said
Following a made free throw by OA’s Alex Sheldon (five points), Mollica completed a three-point play to give Foxboro their largest lead of the night up to that point at eleven (42-31). A 6-0 run by the Tigers cut the lead to 42-37, but two free throws by Shakirah Ketant (seven points) and a three-pointer by Chelsea Gibbons (16 points) off a feed from Davis put Foxboro back up by ten at 47-37.
“At halftime, we discussed the importance of the third quarter and to come out with a lot of intensity and a lot of poise,” Downs said.
Foxboro led 50-39 with under a minute to play in the third quarter, but back-to-back scores by OA freshman Caroline Peper (17 points off the bench) and Tate Hadges (eight points, four rebounds) cut the Warriors lead to 50-43. Again though, the Warriors scored late in the quarter to shift momentum, as Mollica’s layup with three seconds left in the third quarter gave Foxboro a 52-43 lead heading into the fourth.
In the fourth quarter, Foxboro never surrendered the lead, as the closest OA got was within eight, after two made free throws by Peper with just over three minutes to go in the quarter made the score 58-50. Another 7-0 run by the Warriors would push their lead to 15 with just over two minutes to go in the half and essentially seal the win for Foxboro.
“The girls that really showed they wanted the ball did some really strong things like Chelsea Gibbons, as I said Lizzy Davis, but I thought Shakirah Ketant came in and did some really great things inside the paint, which we didn’t really have a great inside presence in the first half, so I think adding that was really creating a little bit of a defensive disturbance for Oliver Ames, as they had to focus their attention inside as well as wherever Katelyn Mollica was,” Downs added about the Warriors’ second half performance.
Foxboro (7-0) will travel to Attleboro on Friday to take on the 3-5 Bombardiers. Oliver Ames (5-2) will look to get back in the win column at Mansfield on Friday night.
FOXBORO, Mass. – There are a lot of new faces on Foxboro this season and players jumping into bigger roles for the defending Div. 2 state champions, but some things haven’t changed for the Warriors. The game is still played at a fast pace, the defense is still aggressive, and Foxboro continues to win Davenport games.
One of the returning starters is sophomore Katelyn Mollica and on Friday night, even with Canton senior Maggie Connolly (seven steals) hounding her for three quarters, she dominated. Mollica scored a career-high 31 points, including 17 in the third quarter alone to lift the Warriors to a 86-61 win in an early season divisional clash.
“She’s unreal, and that step-back…you can’t defend against that,” said Foxboro coach Lisa Downs about Mollica’s offensive game. “Once we were able to fast break too that got her in the open court with the ball in her hands, so that freed her up and she’s money at the free throw line.”
Connolly was also the star on offense for the Bulldogs, scoring a career-high 22 points in the loss, but this game was a learning experience for Canton’s talented underclassmen.
“Even if some of these girls who were on the court tonight weren’t during last year’s run, they were at practices and seeing how it has to be done to be successful,” said Canton coach Jim Choquette about the Warriors. “Our girls are young and trying to figure that out.”
Foxboro jumped out to its speed right from the opening tip, taking a 10-2 lead in the opening minutes and with four different players getting on the board. Canton tried to get back into by forcing turnovers, with Connolly getting out on the break and finishing a pair of three-point plays on her way to a 12-point first quarter.
The Warriors just kept scoring, with Chelsea Gibbons (13 points) putting in five in the first and Mollica adding six, but the Bulldogs closed the quarter on a 7-0 run to cut the lead to just 20-16. On the first play of the second, Julia Hamilton lobbed a pass into Erin Devine for an easy layup that made it a two-point game.
It would be as close as the Bulldogs would get for the rest of the night, as Foxboro outscored Canton 24-11 in the second to take control of the game.
Mollica added eight in the quarter, including six from the free throw line, and Abby Hassman (the other returning starter from the state title game) scored six of her eight mostly driving the ball to the basket. Junior Lizzy Davis and sophomore Adrienne Dunn each added a three top open up a 17-point lead at the break.
“I was just angry,” Downs said about the discussion between the first two quarters. “We weren’t looking up quick enough. Our fast break wasn’t working because we were getting two or three dribbles too long and not going up the sideline. Once we started getting it into a track meet that opened things up.”
One area that Foxboro dominated was on the glass. Hassman (10 rebounds) and junior Yara Fawaz (seven boards) led the way for the Warriors, using their athleticism and quickness to control the paint. Canton also battled foul trouble for much of the first half, forcing a lot of subbing and rotating the lineup.
Choquette said, “Both games we were in the same boat. Some of the younger girls just have to adjust and realize they call it a little tighter. On the other hand, I like that they’re being aggressive, they’re not scared, and they’re not backing down.”
Mollica took over in the third. After back-to-back baskets by Gibbons extended the lead to 22 points, Mollica stepped back for a three-pointer, then hit a pull-up jumper in transition, and scored again on the break to push the advantage to 59-30.
Freshmen Sydney Gallery (nine points) and Kiara Cerruti (10 points) scored buckets for the Bulldogs, but then Mollica drilled a pair of threes to avoid any slip in the momentum.
In the fourth, Canton tried to claw back with Connolly adding six more points and the talented group of freshmen starting to find their footing. Syndey Gallery scored six in the quarter, while her sister Fay added five of her nine points and Cerruti scored four. It wasn’t enough to get Canton back in the game but it was a positive way to finish the night.
“This is a great test for where we are right now,” said Choquette. “We can get back to practice the next few days, get ready for Franklin, and then have two weeks to fully dissect everything and what we need to improve on.”
Downs praised her bench for being able to hold onto the lead in the fourth, including six points from junior Julia Kelley, but also praised the Bulldogs. “Those freshmen are good,” she said, “so once they get a couple games under their belt it’s going to be a totally different Canton team.”
Foxboro (2-0) will try to stay unbeaten when it travels to Taunton on Wednesday night. Canton (1-1) will look to bounce back with a tough trip to unbeaten Franklin.
2017-2018 Record: 9-13 2017-2018 Finish: Missed postseason. Coach: Martin Crowley
The Bombardiers were just two wins shy of a playoff spot last season under new head coach Marty Crowley and Attleboro brings back three starters and has added several new faces to the roster to try and make a postseason push this winter.
The graduation of leading scorer Sam Pierce (16 points per game) means that a number of players are going to need to step in and make up for production on offense and on the glass. Senior point guard Jordyn Lako will be back to run the Bombardiers offense and provide three-point shooting, while junior Nyah Thomas is a versatile weapon on the offensive side of the ball. Both are also aggressive defenders, who set the tone on that end of the floor. Senior forward Mackenzie Roberts can score in the post or from beyond the arc and junior Liv McCall is a dynamic guard who is capable of big scoring nights.
Defense has always been the focus of teams that Crowley coaches and the Bombardiers will be no different. To keep up that defensive intensity, the Bombardiers have added depth to the rotation. Seniors Abby Struminski and Dom Garnes (who was out last season with an injury) provide leadership, while sophomores Gabby Bosh and Sonny Stuger and freshmen Meghan Gordon and Lillian Froio are newcomers to keep an eye on.
“Hopefully we can generate scoring opportunities off our defense and use our athleticism to create baskets,” said Crowley. “We have a great mix of experience and youth. We are excited about what lies ahead. Practices have been spirited and the kids have been working hard.”
2017-2018 Record: 10-11 2017-2018 Finish: Reached Div. 2 South first round. Coach: Jim Choquette
Last winter, Canton got a taste of the postseason for the first time in seven seasons and now the program will try to build on that momentum while finding a way to replace the scoring and rebounding of Hannah Jerrier, who averaged a double-double for the Bulldogs last winter. An exciting crop of underclassmen has been added to the roster and now Canton will try to build experience with a schedule that puts them on the road for the majority of the first half of the year.
While Jerrier will obviously be missed, the Bulldogs bring back the other four starters and other players with plenty of experience to try and make it a much shorter wait to get back into the playoffs. Senior point guard Julia Hamilton is back to run the offense, senior Erin Devine gives Canton control on the glass and a rim protector on defense, senior Molly Ludwig gives balance to the offense, and senior Maggie Connolly is one of the league’s top defensive players on the perimeter. Senior Nicole Galvin will add depth to the backcourt.
Junior Lilah Milton came on strong at the tail of end of last season, including a huge game in the playoff-clinching win over Weymouth, and could take up some of Jerrier’s scoring from the power forward position. Sophomore Kayla Albert gained valuable experience last season as a freshman and current rookies Sydney and Fay Gallery, and Kiara Cerruti have the potential to step right into the rotation and contribute.
“Details are everything to us,” said Canton coach Jim Choquette. “If our group of young talent and veteran leadership/experience can continue to stay focused on the details during the good times and tough times of a season then we should continue to improve and have a very excited and successful season.”
2017-2018 Record: 26-2 2017-2018 Finish: Won Div. 2 state championship. Coach: Lisa Downs
Last season was one to remember for the Warriors, who rolled through the regular season in dominating fashion and lived up to the team’s immense potential by bringing home the Div. 2 state title. With the graduation of a very strong senior class, the expectations are much lower for the Warriors this season but there are several returning players and new faces that have Foxboro coach Lisa Downs confident that the program can continue its recent run of success in the Davenport division.
Losing players like Ashley Sampson, Lily Sykes, Grace Tamulionis, and Shannon Smally is a challenge for any team, but the Warriors will bring back a pair of starters from the playoff run in sophomore Katelyn Mollica and junior Abby Hassman. Mollica is the team’s top returning scorer and will be one of the top point guards in the Hock with her ability to shoot and score off the dribble. Hassman gives Foxboro a strong presence on the glass and showed increased confidence in her offensive game at the end of last season. Senior Chelsea Gibbons and junior Lizzy Davis should see increased minutes and bigger roles in the offense this year.
Juniors Shakirah Ketant and Yara Fawaz should give Foxboro more depth in the post and contribute on the glass and both saw limited minutes in the playoffs last winter. Sophomores Adrienne Dunn and Jordyn Collins will be newcomers to the backcourt and have impressed during the preseason, while junior forward Anita Busznyak is expected to see a lot more time this year and could be a player to watch.
Downs is hoping this year’s team will learn from the graduating class. She said, “The time they spent practicing with and playing against these girls has really paid off – they know what is expected of them on the court and what is required to be a winning team. We have established a winning culture at Foxboro and the players know that I expect nothing more than what they should expect from themselves.”
2017-2018 Record: 15-9 2017-2018 Finish: Reached Div. 1 Central first round. Coach: John Leighton
The Panthers bring back 10 players from last year’s roster, which reached the state tournament but lost in the opening round to Natick, and there are high expectations on Oak St. as the new season gets underway. Franklin enters the season as the favorite in the Kelley-Rex division and its balanced lineup has the potential to make a run in the state tournament as well.
Much of the enthusiasm for Franklin’s chances this winter come from 6-foot-3 center Ali Brigham. The junior recently committed to George Washington (where her father once played) and is the lone returning player from last season HockomockSports.com First Team. While she (deservedly) garners much of the attention, the Panthers have a number of other weapons to give the opposition headaches. Senior guard Bea Bondhus, who committed to Springfield College, is one of the top three-point shooters in the Hock and sophomore guard Elizabeth Wilson is back from an injury that cut short the promising start to her varsity career.
The Panthers will also bring back versatile junior forwards Megan O’Connell and Breanna Atwood, who add size in the paint but can also take defenders off the dribble or knock down outside shots. Seniors Hailey Sanders and Calen Frongillo add depth to the frontcourt, while senior Shannon Gray and juniors Kelsey MacCallum and Sydney Garilli are capable of stepping in at either guard position.
“It is our goal to compete each night and to improve from last year,” said Franklin coach John Leighton. “With 10 returning players, we feel our experience will help us to better prepare for the season and compete against the best in our league.”
2017-2018 Record: 4-16 2017-2018 Finish: Missed postseason. Coach: Amy Siggens
King Philip had to battle injuries throughout head coach Amy Siggens’ first year in charge, including a late season injury to leading scorer Shannon O’Connor, but the Warriors are healthy coming into this season and with a year to get use to a new system, confidence is high that KP can make a push up the standings and fight for a postseason berth this winter.
O’Connor is the key piece returning for the Warriors. A four-year varsity player who has been recruited by Div. I college programs, O’Connor gives KP a consistent scorer and someone who will draw opposing defenses. Senior Julia Leroux will be back at the point and running the KP offense, while junior Faith Roy is the team’s best outside threat and has developed as a ball-handler who can score in a variety of ways. Sophomore Emma Glaser, who battled injuries throughout her freshman season, will add versatility to the lineup and can play multiple positions and her classmate Courtney Keswick is a newcomer to watch in the backcourt.
The Warriors will also have strength in the post with senior Catherine Cummings providing a solid presence on the glass and junior Faye Veilleux giving KP length and athleticism at the forward position. Newcomers like junior Taylor Butler and returning senior Kendall Mason will give added depth and strong play on the defensive end of the floor.
There is a lot of enthusiasm surrounding our team this year with our sights on continued growth and improvement upon our overall record from a year ago,” Siggens said. “Our practices have been very competitive and I’m encouraged by our team’s attitude and overall interest in getting better. I like this team a lot and I look forward to the challenge of helping each girl reach her maximum potential.”
2017-2018 Record: 20-6 2017-2018 Finish: Reached Div. 1 South final. Coach: Mike Redding
After three straight league titles and four trips to the Div. 1 South semifinal in the past four seasons (including back-to-back finals), Mansfield has been one of the most consistent teams in the Hockomock League, but the Hornets enter this season trying to replace Meg Hill, who scored more than 1,000 points and pulled down more than 1,000 points in her stellar career. With 10 seniors and loads of athleticism, this might be a very different looking Mansfield attack, but one that has the potential to keep the Hornets right back on top in the Kelley-Rex division and capable of making another deep tournament run.
The Hornets have been known for slowing the ball down and running intricate sets, but this team is suited for getting up and down the court as quickly as possible, highlighted by senior guard Mady Bendanillo, one of the quickest players in the Hock. Senior forward Maggie Danehy has emerged as a strong interior scorer and someone who can control the glass, but she is also someone who can run like a guard and get out on the break for easy baskets. Seniors Sydney Mulkern and Erin Daniel add wing scoring and are both solid shooters who can spread the floor and open lanes to the basket.
Athletic senior forwards Emily Vigeant and Steph Kemp can outrun many of the guards in the league and senior point guard Kara Bendanillo is another speedster who can push the ball off makes or misses. Sophomore Ashley Santos saw time last year as a rookie and adds to the frontcourt depth and versatility, while junior Becca Hottleman will be back to give Mansfield another option at guard.
It is a different feel to the lineup but one that Mansfield coach Mike Redding feels can be effective. He said, “We need to rebound as a team and must change our style to up-tempo with defensive pressure/fast breaks and play to our strengths (athleticism and depth).”
2017-2018 Record: 13-9 2017-2018 Finish: Reached Div. 2 Central quarterfinal. Coach: T.J. Dolliver
Milford coach T.J. Dolliver brings back six players from the team that not only reached the state tournament last season but also went on the road and beat Burncoat handily, the program’s first playoff win since 2001. The problem for the Hawks is that almost the entire rotation from last year’s team has graduated, including 1,000-point scorer Kate Irwin.
While this may be a rebuilding year for the Hawks, Dolliver sees it as an opportunity for players to step into new roles and establish themselves as starters and as regular contributors. The lone senior back from last year is forward Grace Risio, who Dolliver said made a difference when she was given the opportunity last year, and sophomore guard Jillian Michelson saw some time in the backcourt as a rookie.
The Hawks will have eight sophomores on the roster this season, so it is clear that Milford is going to try and build with youth, similar to several teams from last year. Among the players from last year’s roster, forwards Katie Maietta, guard Emma Lawrence, and forward Carly Ferreira all got time as freshmen and could see those minutes increase significantly this winter.
Dolliver said, “With our entire rotation graduating last year, there are a lot of opportunities waiting for everyone in the program. It will be exciting to watch who emerges within the group and elevates their game to compete at the varsity level.”
2017-2018 Record: 4-16 2017-2018 Finish: Missed postseason. Coach: Derek Herber
Last year was a tough transition season for the Rocketeers, as North Attleboro moved on from a number of players who were starters for several years and incorporated a number of new, young faces into the lineup. North had a better second half to the season and will try to build on that this winter with a more experienced group of players.
Senior Julia Feid is back on the wing and is North’s top returning scorer, coming off a season in which she averaged more than nine points per game. Fellow seniors Liz Smahi and Emma Noreck will add leadership in the backcourt and try to set the direction for the team this year. Junior point guard Olivia Forbes, who was on the HockomockSports.com All-Underclassman Team last season, will be back to get the offense going and provide strong defense on the perimeter. Junior Eliza Dion also returns to add rebounding and interior scoring for a team that can’t count on a lot of height in the paint.
The North offense improved over the course of last season with the addition of sophomore Amanda Kaiser (8.6 points per game) and junior Julia Kleczkowski (40 percent from three-point range), who can both fill it up from the outside and who are both willing to take any shot that presents itself. Several newcomers will fill out the roster with the potential of adding important minutes over the course of the season, including sophomore Lydia Santos and Siobhan Weir.
“We will rely on Julia Feid to be our first option on offense and the sooner we can develop a consistent second option will be a factor in the early part of the season,” said North Attleboro coach Derek Herber. “The inside scoring option will hopefully be Eliza Dion, while both Amanda Kaiser and Julia Kleczkowski showed an ability to stretch the defense with their outside shooting in limited time last year.”
2017-2018 Record: 16-6 2017-2018 Finish: Reached Div. 2 South quarterfinal. Coach: Laney Clement-Holbrook
Oliver Ames will be making a transition this year following the graduation of Kayla Raymond, who was a two-time HockomockSports.com First Team performer and last year’s league MVP (and is already a three-time Rookie of the Week at Stonehill College), but the Tigers have a number of returning players to try and make up for Raymond’s production on both ends of the floor and make another run at a league title.
Senior Alex Sheldon grew in confidence over the course of last season and became a double-double machine by the end of the year, dominating on the glass and improving her finishing around the rim. Junior Erin Holberg emerged last year as a strong scorer on the perimeter with her touch from the outside and ability to take defenders off the dribble. Junior Meg Holleran is in her third season on varsity and is a tough, physical defender who can knock down shots from the outside.
Sophomore Caroline Flynn had a strong freshman season, playing several positions (from point guard to small forward), crashing the boards, and showing off decent range. The return of senior Sadie Homer will add energy on both ends of the floor and give the Tigers another strong outside shooter to stretch the floor, while senior Ally Scolnick came off the bench last season to add another shooter to the OA offense.
OA coach Laney Clement-Holbrook said of the experienced returning players, “They will lead the youngest team OA has put on the court in quite a long time. We are looking towards gaining valuable game experience and coming into to our own as the season progresses.”
2017-2018 Record: 2-18 2017-2018 Finish: Missed postseason. Coach: Sanda Lombardi
It was a tough winter for new Sharon coach Sandra Lombardi, as the Eagles struggled to a two-win season, but five of their losses were by 10 points or fewer and they return all but one player from last season’s team. With a year to get acclimated to Lombardi’s system, an experienced roster of returning players, and several newcomers, Sharon has its sights set on getting into the postseason for the first time since its run to the Div. 2 South final in 2013.
Sharon returns its leading scorer and playmaker in senior Emma Eberhardt, who was on the HockomockSports.com Third Team last season, and she will once again be the focal point of the offense, as well as one of the team’s leading defenders. Eberhardt’s versatility as a wing player should open things up for junior guards Kaitlyn Wallace and Ally Brown, who will both fill in as ball-handlers after the graduation of Miranda Cheung. Wallace will extend defenses with her shooting from the outside and Brown adds energy to the backcourt defense.
Senior guard Bridget McManus will add depth and junior forward Telishya Herbert provides a strong presence in the paint. Junior Olivia Langol-Leonard added frontcourt depth and was active on the glass in her time on the court, while senior forward Evanjuline Elisma can score in transition and adds another solid wing defender.
“We only lost one player due to graduation,” said Lombardi. “We have the entire team back and we added some height. I’m excited to see what the season brings. The girls are working hard and our goal is to qualify for the postseason.”
2017-2018 Record: 13-9 2017-2018 Finish: Reached Div. 2 South quarterfinal. Coach: Charmaine Steele Jordan
Stoughton started last season with five straight defeats and only one win in the opening eight games, but the Black Knights turned things around with a vengeance, winning 11 of its final 12 games of the regular season and winning its opening game of the state tournament. Stoughton’s only two losses in its final 14 games of the season were to state champion Foxboro. That is a lot of momentum for the Black Knights to carry into this year.
It may be a little different look for Stoughton this winter after the graduation of Val Whalen and Jordan Motley. Instead of being a team that dominates the paint, there will be a host of guards and wing players who can still battle on the glass, but will bring energy and tenacity on the perimeter on both ends of the court. Junior Aliyah Wright is back as the team’s point guard and her length makes her a factor guarding multiple positions. Senior Lindsay McDonald adds versatility as a combo guard and sophomore Sydnee Hyacinthe is a dynamic guard and stretches defenses with her ability to shoot from the outside.
While there are a lot of familiar faces returning for the Black Knights, there are several players who will have more responsibility this year and the potential to make big contributions. Junior Lexi Baptista defends well at the forward position and gives a different look on the post, while seniors Hailey Egan and Heather Maddalena will add extra toughness to the backcourt. Junior Shyanne Trinh is still battling an injury at the beginning of the season, but she will give Stoughton a big scoring boost when she returns.
“This season will be all about our effort, energy and enthusiasm on defense,” said Stoughton coach Charmaine Steele Jordan. “The Black Knights will be most successful when we put in work on the defensive end and finish each play with a Black Knights rebound.”
2017-2018 Record: 7-15 2017-2018 Finish: Missed postseason. Coach: Walter Harrigan
Taunton started last winter well and had the potential for making a return to the state tournament, but injuries slowed things down for the Tigers and they missed out on the postseason. While the year didn’t end the way they would have hoped, a number of younger players were given valuable varsity experience and there are a number of returning players ready to make an impact.
Senior Lily Patneaude will be the player to watch for the Tigers, as the team’s leading scorer from last year. After battling an injury down the stretch, her return gives Taunton a consistent primary offensive weapon and takes some of the scoring pressure off her teammates. Senior point guard Alexa White is also back to provide leadership, energy, and tenacity on the defensive end of the floor. Sophomore Kelsey White showed flashes as a rookie of being the secondary scorer that Taunton needs, with her ability to knock down shots from the outside and take defenders off the dribble.
Even with a year of experience, Taunton is still a relatively young team. Sophomores Jaelyn and Sonya Fernandez will provide athleticism from the forward positions and give Taunton effort in the paint, while sophomore Tori DaRose, and freshmen Abby Souza (who saw brief minutes as an eighth-grader last season) and Braeley MacDonald give the Tigers depth off the bench.
“We have great group of enthusiast student athletes consisting of senior leadership, youth, athleticism, and talent,” said Taunton coach Walter Harrigan. “This team is looking forward to a fun and exciting season.”
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – The calendar hadn’t yet turned to 2018 yet, but Foxboro head coach Lisa Downs something in her team that made her believe there was something special about this group.
The Warriors trailed by four with less than a minute to play in their second meeting against highly touted Coyle & Cassidy.
Senior Ashley Sampson had a steal and a bucket to get within two. After Coyle missed the front end of a one-and-one, senior Lily Sykes drained the go-ahead three with 10 seconds left in the game to give the Warriors a dramatic win.
That comeback told Downs everything she needed to know about her team, and how far her seniors could take the team.
“I had a good feeling we’d get to this point, but what really let me know we would was that second Coyle game, when we won at their gym,” Downs said. “I saw the exact same expression on the girls’ faces that I saw in the timeout. I just looked in their eyes…and I could relax, they calm me down.”
Downs saw the same look in her players eyes on Saturday morning as they rallied from a 10-point halftime deficit, winning the Division 2 State Championship with a 49-41 win over Hopkinton.
Sykes, Sampson and fellow senior Grace Tamulionis spearheaded the comeback. The trio have been making plays for the Warriors since their freshman year, so it’s only fitting they led the way in the state final.
Tamulionis got hot from three in the final quarter, hitting one early to cut the deficit to 31-29, and then draining another to cut Hopkinton’s six-point lead to three (35-32).
Sampson then kept the Warriors in it with some strong takes of her own, coming away with a steal for an easy layup to make it a one point game. When Hopkinton answered on the other end, Sampson drew a foul on a layup and sank both free throws to keep Foxboro within striking distance.
Then it was Sykes turn, sniffing out an inbounds pass to prevent Hopkinton from building its lead. And although Foxboro didn’t score off the steal, the defense continued its strong play and got a big stop. On the other end, Sykes beat her defender and took it strong for a scoop layup.
That bucket gave Foxboro a 38-37 lead with 3:44 to go, their first since leading 2-0 to start the game, and a lead they wouldn’t relinquish the rest of the way.
“It’s the best feeling ever,” Sykes said of winning alongside Sampson and Tamulionis. “They are my best friends even off of the court too. So to win this with them is awesome.”
“It’s the best thing that could ever happen,” Sampson said. “To end the season all together, it doesn’t feel real right now.”
“It means everything,” Tamulionis said. “We’ve been talking about it since freshman year, working towards it and I remember last year at the banquet she (Coach Downs) was like this is our goal this year just get here and to actually do it is…just awesome.”
It marked the second straight game the Warriors had to overcome a double digit deficit. Foxboro rallied from as much as 20-points down in the second half in the state semifinal against Pentucket.
Sampson finished with a team-high 15 points while both Sykes and Tamulionis had 11 points apiece.
“Even if I had a shred of doubt in my mind, it was completely removed when I saw their eyes,” Downs said. “It was a timeout, and I just looked at each of them, and they just knew. It was like ‘Coach, we got this.’ They knew what they needed to do, they knew what they were capable of doing, and we knew we just needed to kick it into high gear.”
After Sykes put the Warriors ahead, freshman Katelyn Mollica drove hard to the basket for a key layup to make it a three-point game.
Sykes came up with another steal, leading to two free throws from Sampson to make it 42-37. After another stop, Sampson returned to hit two more free throws and a 44-37 lead with a minute to go.
“This is incredible,” Sykes said. “I’m almost speechless. But I knew we could rely on the senior leadership. Freshman year we were all together playing on the court together. For us to come all the way here and step up together, it’s just amazing.”
Foxboro finishes the season 26-2.
“It’s bittersweet because I’ll never have another group like this one, they are one of a kind,” Downs said.
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – Foxboro just couldn’t make it easy. After storming back from 20 points down in the second half to win a dramatic state semifinal in overtime against Pentucket, the Warriors found themselves down by 14 points to Hopkinton in the first half, having scored just nine points, in Saturday morning’s Div. 2 state championship at the MassMutual Center in Springfield.
“I think they were feeling a little confident, more than they should’ve coming into the game and then they recognized the fact and were reminded of the fact that that’s a very good team,” said Foxboro coach Lisa Downs.
Just as it did in the semifinal, the Foxboro defense turned the game around in the second half. After allowing Hopkinton seniors Ivy Gogolin (13 points) and Regan Keavany (six points) to score 19 combined in the first half, the Warriors held the pair to only five after the break.
Behind a lockdown defense, Foxboro (26-2) used a 32-14 second half run to pull out a 49-41 victory and seal the program’s second state championship, and first since 1995.
“That just shows that we never give up,” said senior guard Ashley Sampson, who scored nine of her team-high 15 points in the fourth quarter. “We were down 10 to a good team but our defense, especially Lily pestering the guards, it got us back into it.”
Lily Sykes, who finished with 11 points, five steals, and two charges taken, added, “We knew that we played that 2-3 really well against Pentucket, so we were like okay we can work on it for Hopkinton too but obviously it didn’t turn out the way we wanted it to, clearly, because they hit every single outside shot. Man is our bread-and-butter so we just stuck to that and we know that defense creates offense.”
For Sampson, Sykes, and fellow seniors Grace Tamulionis and Shannon Smally, the state title was the culmination of their four years together at Foxboro. From playing together as freshmen in a South final to winning back-to-back Davenport division and Div. 2 South titles to getting redemption for last year’s loss at the TD Garden and reaching the title game, going on the journey together made the result that much sweeter.
“It’s the best thing that could ever happen,” said Sampson. “To end the season all together, it doesn’t feel real right now.”
Tamulionis added, “It means everything. We’ve been talking about it since freshman year, working towards it and I remember last year at the banquet she (Coach Downs) was like this is our goal this year just get here and to actually do it is…just awesome.”
The ultimate happy ending did not look promising in the first quarter. Foxboro managed just four points, on an Abby Hassman jumper to start the game and a Sampson jumper that cut the lead to 8-4. Hopkinton was hardly lighting up the scoreboard, but all four made field goals were threes (two by Keavany) for an early 12-4 lead after one.
In the second, the Hillers got the ball into the hands of Gogolin and the UNH-bound senior provided Hopkinton’s first 13 points in the quarter. The Hillers pushed the lead to 23-9 as Foxboro continued to struggle to find the range. Sykes (11 points) buried a three and Sampson followed with a pull-up jumper before Katelyn Mollica (eight points) got her first points on a tough finish at the rim.
With an 8-4 run, Foxboro got the lead down to 10 at the half and, just as they had done three days before, the Warriors refused to panic.
“I think it was nerves at first but it was the same as any place we’ve ever played,” Tamulionis said. “The game made us a little nervous and it took us a little while to warm up.”
Downs remarked, “Even if I had a shred of doubt in my mind, I was completely moved when I saw their eyes. There was a timeout and I just looked at each of them and they were just like, coach we’ve got this.
“They knew what they needed to do, they knew what their capabilities were compared to what they had already done out there and we knew it was just a matter of time and we needed to kick it into gear.”
The Warriors got going at the start of the second half. Sykes nailed her second three to start the third, Sampson hit a pair at the line, and Tamulionis finished a fast break off a Sykes assist. Sykes grabbed a steal and a layup to cut the lead to just one.
“Defense is always our thing because you can have an off-night shooting but the only time you’re going to have an off-night on defense if your effort isn’t there and my girls are always giving 100 percent,” said Downs.
Hopkinton scored the final four points of the quarter to extend the lead to five heading to the fourth, but the Warriors had stolen the momentum.
Tamulionis hit a pair of threes early in the fourth that kept Foxboro within three points. Sampson twice got the Warriors within one, once on a steal and layup and then on a pair of free throws. Sykes got another steal in the backcourt and went in for a layup that gave Foxboro a 38-37 lead, its first since the opening basket.
“It was a little bit of redemption because coach would’ve killed me,” said Sykes of the go-ahead basket. In the Pentucket game she had missed a layup that would have tied it late in the fourth quarter. She joked, “I hit it and was like, finally I hit a layup.”
Mollica scored with a drive to the rim and Sampson became more aggressive taking the ball to the basket and getting to the line. She went 7-of-9 down the stretch and Mollica added four from the charity stripe as well.
“I just wanted to win that game,” said Sampson of her mentality in the final quarter. “I was going up weak when I had the opportunity to go inside but I had to go up strong and, if not make it, then draw the foul and take the free throws.”
The seniors have played 99 games together during their high school careers. It has been a long journey to this moment and it was one that each of them wanted to savor.
“It’s wicked exciting. I don’t even know, it doesn’t feel real at all. It’s just awesome,” said Sampson. When asked what it meant to be a state champion, Tamulionis simply added, “I don’t believe it. It’s crazy.”
Sykes said, “It’s the best feeling ever. They’re my best friends off the court and to win this with them is huge.
“I’m speechless. I just knew that it was the senior leadership. Freshman year we were all on the court playing, all three of us, and to just come back and step up in this huge game is just amazing.”
Downs, who was an assistant coach in 1995, the last time that the Warriors won the state title, praised her seniors for their contributions to the program and admitted that along with the excitement of winning is the sadness of not having another practice or game with this group.
“It’s kind of surreal,” she explained. “It was 111 days ago, I counted on the calendar, that we started the season and we knew we had to put some tough games on our schedule because no one else would play us this year.
“I always kind of knew we’d get to this point, not that I’d let them know, but the Coyle game at their gym we won by one, I saw the exact same faces that I saw in that timeout [today]. Obviously, it’s bittersweet because I’ll never have a group like this one.”