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.”
Following a thrilling comeback win in the state semifinal, Foxboro is headed to Springfield for the MIAA Division 2 State Championship. The Warriors will take on a familiar foe in Hopkinton. Foxboro played the Hillers twice this season and split the season series.
HockomockSports.com’s Josh Perry and Ryan Lanigan discuss Foxboro’s season and the upcoming game against Hopkinton. Guests on the podcast include Foxboro head coach Lisa Downs, Boston Herald correspondent Greg Dudek, and Canton head coach Jimmy Choquette.
WOBURN, Mass. -As the clock was winding down in overtime, Foxboro coach Lisa Downs stood with her hands behind her head at the end of the Warriors bench. Her face filled with happy disbelief, as though she couldn’t believe what she was seeing from her team. She was not alone.
Foxboro had fallen behind by as many as 20 points in the second half, struggling to stop North champion Pentucket from getting to the basket on one end and struggling to get anything to go down on the other end of the floor. It looked as though, for the second straight year, the Warriors would end their season in the state semifinal.
But something changed in the third quarter. Foxboro switched to an aggressive 2-3 zone that took away the driving lanes and seemed to lift the team’s energy level and a couple of shots started to fall. The lead was cut down to 10 at the end of three and momentum was with the South champs heading to the final eight minutes at Woburn High.
That was when the senior leadership took over. Lily Sykes buried three shots from beyond the arc and Ashley Sampson put together the type of run that made her a Hockomock League MVP as a junior. After being held to just two points in the first three quarters, she scored 20 in the fourth quarter and overtime, including 19 of her team’s final 20 points, and made a driving layup on the left baseline to tie the game with 2.6 remaining in regulation.
Sampson would go on to score 14 points in overtime, shooting 6-for-6 at the line in the final minute, leading the Warriors to an improbable, thrilling, 58-54 come from behind victory and a spot in the state championship game on Saturday morning.
“We had three captains on the floor the whole game, so we just had to keep telling everyone to keep going no matter how much we were down by,” said Sampson after the game. “I don’t really know what I was thinking, I just didn’t want that to be the last game.”
Downs said of Sampson, “She played like the MVP that she is. When the pressure is on, she’s the one we want to have the ball in her hands and with those seniors on the court we knew we’d be in good shape if we could just chip away a couple baskets at a time.”
She added, “I knew once we got it close that it was going to be anybody’s ballgame. It just came down to who was going to finish when the clock started ticking down to the end and we did.”
Coming off an atypical South final in which the Warriors were held to a season-low 40 points by Nauset, the scoring slump continued in the first half on Wednesday. Abby Hassman started the game with a three and had five in the first quarter, but Foxboro only managed seven as a team. The Warriors were outscored by Pentucket sophomore Casey Hunt, who had 10 by herself.
The second quarter was little better, as the Sachems continued to find holes in the heart of the Warriors defense, driving to the basket and using that penetration to open space for shooters at that the three-point line. Sophomore Angelica Hurley scored eight of Pentucket’s 17 in the quarter, while Sykes (16 points and seven rebounds) scored all seven for the Warriors.
Trailing 29-14 going into the break, Downs implored her team to not let this season, which included a perfect 16-0 record in the league and only two losses overall, be ended in this fashion.
“She just pretty much said, in the nicest way, we’ve never played like that so we really couldn’t do any worse,” said Grace Tamulionis of the halftime team talk. “We just came out and played like it’s a new game and just started over.”
Downs said, “I begged them at halftime not go out this way and none of the seniors wanted to end their entire Foxboro High School [careers] playing the way that they did the first half. They just dug their heels in and did what they did all season, which is win it with defense.”
Pentucket did not back down to start the second half, scoring the first five points to build its largest lead, but there were signs of life from the Warriors. Freshman Katelyn Mollica (eight points) drilled a three to cut the lead to 17. After Hunt scored on a put-back, Tamulionis (five points) knocked down a pair of jumpers.
Hunt responded with a drive to the basket for a 38-21 lead. Foxboro would outscore the Sachems 22-5 from that point on.
Much of the change in momentum could be traced back to a defensive switch in the second half from man-to-man to a 2-3 zone that allowed Sykes and Mollica to be aggressive on the Pentucket perimeter players.
“It starts with defense, it always has,” Tamulionis explained. “So, when we started playing hard defense I think it really helped on our offense.”
Hassman kicked it out to Mollica for a three to get the run started and Sampson finally got on the board with a jumper. Hassman (seven points and seven rebounds) took the ball to the hole and scored off glass to make it a 10-point game heading to the fourth quarter. The energy seemed to be with the Foxboro bench and fans, as though they could sense there was more to come.
Tamulionis fought for a tough offensive rebound and swung a pass out to Sykes for her third three-pointer of the game to cut the lead to single digits. After a Pentucket basket and a Sampson free throw, Sykes knocked down a step-back three and then buried another, after a Sampson offensive rebound, to get Foxboro within just two points.
“That was not us the first half,” said Sampson about the difference after the break. “We’ve never played like that and we just knew that we had to step it up in the second half and get back to our game.”
Now the Warriors were firing on all cylinders and the crowd was roaring them on. Tamulionis had two chances to give Foxboro the lead and both shots were halfway down but kicked out and Sykes had a steal and fast break for the tie, only to have the layup roll off the rim. Hurley (15 points) made them pay with a three that restored a five-point lead and a momentary respite.
Sampson answered, scoring on a drive plus the foul with a minute remaining on the clock. Again Foxboro had chances to tie or take the lead but couldn’t get that crucial bucket. After two missed shots with 11 seconds to play, Sykes saved a Foxboro possession by diving on the floor to force a jump ball.
There was no surprise who would get the ball in the final seconds. “I did because I don’t think I had really scored until then,” said Sampson when asked if she expected to get the ball at the end of the game. “I was frustrated with myself but there were other people stepping up. That’s all you can ask for.”
The ball swung around to Hassman in the corner who took a dribble towards the top and then flipped it back to Sampson on the baseline. She took one dribble to the rim and scored to make it 43-43. The officials put 2.6 on the clock and Pentucket got a shot off but it hit the backboard and bounced away.
In overtime, Sampson took over. She hit a three from the right wing to give Foxboro the lead and then made it 49-45 with another three on the left. She responded to a Sachems basket with one of her own and then was perfect at the line in the final minute. In the process, she became just the third Foxboro player to pass the 1,500-point mark for her career (Jennifer Brown was the last in 1998).
Sampson said, “I’m pumped. This is what we were working for all season, so now we’ve got our chance to get it.”
“I don’t even know. I don’t know how we did it, but I’m so excited,” added Tamulionis. When asked about how far these seniors have come, from playing as freshmen against Duxbury in a South final to now having the chance to play for a state title, she said, “We’ve played together since we were in fifth grade, so I think to get this chance is just such a good opportunity and we’re all wicked excited.”
Foxboro (25-2) will face Central champion Hopkinton for the third time this season on Saturday at 11 a.m. at the MassMutual Center in Springfield. The teams split two games in the regular season.
TAUNTON, Mass. – Foxboro came into Saturday evening’s Div. 2 South final against Nauset at Taunton High averaging more than 65 points per game this season, but what turned out to be even more important for the Warriors as they aimed for a second straight sectional title was that their defense was allowing fewer than 37 points per game.
It was not a pretty game. Neither team shot well and the game was played more at the pace that Nauset preferred, which was in the half-court, running down the shot clock and not allowing Foxboro to get into transition. Yet, at the end, Foxboro was once again heading to the TD Garden with another trophy in the case following a 40-23 victory, in which it allowed Nauset only six made field goals in the entire game.
“From day one, first day of practice, we wanted to make sure that defense was the best aspect of our game, so we came out here and we just played the best defense we possibly could,” said senior Lily Sykes. When asked if there was a point that she was concerned about winning the game, especially as the offense struggled, Sykes replied, “Honestly, I personally no. We just have too many weapons for teams.”
Nauset had only two seniors on its roster coming in, while Foxboro, even with senior center Shannon Smally sidelined with a shoulder injury, started three seniors and four players with experience on this stage. Foxboro used that experience to not panic even as its shots were not falling.
“That’s a young team and it’s intimidating to play in this type of venue and with this many people and all that pressure,” said Foxboro coach Lisa Downs. “The seniors could just settle themselves down better than the younger kids.”
Sykes added, “We played in the sectional finals freshman year. I don’t think any of us were nervous, so we just came out and knew we were going to win.”
Things started well for the Warriors, who jumped out to a fairly typical 13-1 lead in the opening quarter. Ashley Sampson (game-high 17 points and six steals) knocked down a pair of threes to get things going and then completed a three-point play to give Foxboro the early advantage. Freshman Katelyn Mollica, the lone starter who is experiencing the playoffs for the first time, also drilled a three.
Nauset’s lone basket of the first was a three by 6-foot sophomore center Skyeler Sandison that made it 13-4. Abby Hassman hit a jumper off one of Sykes’ five assists to give Foxboro a 15-5 edge after one quarter.
Sandison was the primary threat for Nauset coming in and Foxboro relied on Grace Tamulionis to front the center and deny passes into the post. The strategy worked perfectly. Even when Tamulionis was not able to deflect the pass, a Foxboro player was lying in wait on the backside to get the steal. Sandison finished with only five points and even though Tamulionis only scored four herself, after leading the Warriors with 19 in the semifinal, she was a key to the win.
“She did amazing,” said Downs of Tamulionis. “We only had one day to practice for that and Sandison was our main focus. We were kind of leaving Ashley’s man unattended to double team on her because once she gets the ball in the paint she’s pretty deadly in there.”
The offense started to sputter in the second. After Chelsea Gibbons hit a pair at the line, she picked up a steal and fed Sampson for a rare fast break bucket. Mollica (13 points) added a steal and layup to push the lead to 13, but Nauset would answer with five straight to give the fans who made the trip up from the Cape a little hope.
Sampson took the momentum back with a floater and a transition basket off a Gibbons assist. It was 25-13 at the break even with Foxboro admittedly not playing at the top of its game.
“I give them credit, they were getting back much quicker than I thought they would,” Downs explained. “They were also pressuring our rebounders so we couldn’t get the outlet as quick as usually do…but when we had the open court we were able to attack the basket.”
The third quarter was even worse, as the two teams combined for 11 points. Nauset got four, including a three-pointer, from Reagan Meehan, but Mollica drained a three as well, Tamulionis hit a free throw line jumper, and Sampson scored with an offensive rebound. That was all the scoring for the third.
“We know what we’re capable of but we were a little bit tense and our shots were a little bit flat,” said Downs, “so we just need to really exaggerate that follow through.”
Tamulionis scored with a layup off a Sampson assist to get the fourth quarter started and push the lead to 17 at 34-17. Meehan (eight points) completed a three-point play to give Nauset some life, but Mollica knocked down a corner three and added two more with a steal and layup to seal the victory.
It does not matter if the win was pretty or not, Foxboro still gets to take home the trophy for the second straight year and gets another shot at playing at the TD Garden. It is something that the Warriors have been thinking about for a full year.
“With this group of seniors, I would’ve been upset to have left too early,” said Downs. “They have unfinished business and they got a taste of it last year and they haven’t forgotten it.”
Sampson said, “It’s really exciting. Last year obviously didn’t end how we wanted but now we have the experience of playing there so it won’t be totally new to us. I think that will really help us.”
Sykes added, “I thought coming into the season we had a chance but with every single person contributing it’s the best season ever.”
Foxboro (24-2) advances to face North champion Pentucket at the TD Garden on Tuesday at 5:45.
“We knew going into it not having Shannon for the first time, there would be an adjustment. For a freshman to start in the in the sectional semis, it’s intimidating so I wasn’t sure how [Katelyn] would react, and she was a little tight in the first quarter, as we all were. Once the second quarter came, we started to hit more shots and I think that gave us confidence.”
“Defensively we made a few mistakes that I wasn’t psyched about but they picked up the intensity when we needed to on the offensive end. And defensively we did a better job on the boards in the second half, still not as good as we need to be. On offense we started making the extra pass, making some open shots and shooting a little bit more confidently.”
It was a rapid start to the games the Warriors, who are known for their ability to get out in transition and score in bunches, found themselves squaring off with a team that played at the same pace.
“Honestly all season long we’ve been the fastest ones out there,” Downs said. “They were getting back quicker than we were accustomed too, hats off to them they had a nice job. And they were getting back on our fast breaks and we usually can get a couple three on ones and we didn’t have the numbers we usually have.”
Silver Lake’s Annabella Boudreau hit her first two threes of the game to give the Lakers their lone lead (6-3) but Foxboro received trifectas from senior Grace Tamulionis (19 points, seven rebounds) and Mollica (16 points, four assists) to keep pace.
The Warriors finished the first with an 11-4 run over the final 4:33 to play, getting buckets from Ashley Sampson (eight points, six rebounds, three assists), a jumper from Chelsea Gibbons and another three from each Tamulionis and Mollica.
The confidence from the successful shooting over the final four minutes carried into the second quarter, and the offense continued to roll.
The Lakers cut the deficit to five but Tamulionis answered with her third triple of the game off a pass from Mollica, then Abby Hassman matched a jumper from Silver Lake’s Holly Reeder-Morning. Mollica found Tamulionis once again behind the line and she drained her fourth three to make it 25-14 with under four minutes to go in the first half.
Silver Lake kept it close with a 5-1 run only for Lily Sykes (seven points, five rebounds, four assists) to answer with a triple.
Foxboro amped up its defensive pressure to end the half with a steal from Sampson leading to two from Tamulionis, and then a steal from Hassman resulting in a triple from Mollica, giving Foxboro a 36-22 edge at the break.
The Warriors pesky defense came alive in the third quarter, holding the Lakers to just 4-for-17 shooting from the floor in the third quarter while forcing four turnovers. Foxboro used a 12-2 surge to start the quarter, pulling away from the Lakers for good.
Tamulionis drained another three to start the second half followed by two each from Mollica, Tamulionis, and Hassman. Mollica connected for a three on a feed from Hassman to cap the run.
“I told Grace before the game that we needed a big night from her on the scoreboard and she delivered,” Downs said. “Usually once she hits that first shot she’s more relaxed and all of a sudden the floodgates open. She did what we needed her to do. Her and Katelyn Mollica, very happy with what they contributed tonight.”
Foxboro finished with 11 three-pointers on 27 attempts. Tamulionis led the way with five threes made while Mollica had four.
“Grace loves that [three-point] shot,” Downs said. “We’re so lucky this year with Abby [Hassman] doing as well as she does that I can put Grace out on the wing. When she has the shot on, she’s deadly with it. She’s a tough matchup because you kind of need a guard to defend her. So when they put a big on her, she’s able to up fake and go a little bit. She’s doing a great job.”
The Warriors held the Lakers to just seven points in the final quarter, limiting Silver Lake to just 15 point total in the second half.
Foxboro girls basketball (23-2) returns to the D2 South Final and will take on #3 Nauset on Saturday at 5:30 at Taunton High. Nauset has averaged 50.6 points per game so far in the tournament while allowing 37 points with wins over NDA, Duxbury, and Pembroke.