WORCESTER, Mass. – The Franklin boys basketball team has proven to be a serious threat from behind the three-point season throughout the course of the season.
The Panthers have a handful of capable shooters that can get hot any given quarter of any given game.
But on Sunday evening, Franklin couldn’t find its rhythm. Only senior Chris Edgehill connected from deep, once in the first quarter, and once each in the third and fourth quarters. The rest of the Panthers, despite some good looks, just couldn’t find the range, missing on nearly two dozen attempts from deep as a team.
So when push came to shove, Franklin turned to what the program has hung its hat on year in and year out: defense.
The sixth-seeded Panthers got five straight stops to close its D1 Central Semifinal matchup with Worcester South, including a pair of three-pointers that could have tied the game, to earn a hard-fought 45-42 win over the second-seeded Colonials.
“We were getting the looks we wanted early, I thought it was nerves and we would start to settle in but we never really did,” said Franklin head coach CJ Neely. “We turned to our defense. We can always control the defense, the offense will come and go. Some nights you’ll make a ton, some nights you’ll struggle. So we had to rely on our defense and we were able to get the stops.”
Seconds after Thomas Gasbarro put the Panthers ahead with a free throw, South’s Octavio Alexander sprinted past Franklin’s defense for two and a 42-41 advantage with just 1:39 to play.
Franklin had a turnover out of a timeout but came up with a big stop and a big defensive rebound from Gasbarro. Edgehill (20 points, nine rebounds, six assists) drained an elbow jumper to put the Panthers ahead with just over a minute to go.
South’s leading scorer Damien Joseph (12 points) was off the mark but Wilton Causey hauled in the offensive board, fouled in the process. However, Causey missed the front end of a one-and-one and Edgehill raced to track down the rebound.
South had to give the foul with 24.5 seconds to go and senior Brayden Sullivan gave the Panthers enough breathing room, sinking both for a 45-42 lead.
Joseph was off the mark on a three-point attempt and Edgehill once again fought for the rebound. Although he missed the front end of his one-and-one change, junior Andrew Byfield won the fight for the offensive board. He tossed it to Jack Rudolph, who made a terrific play while falling out of bounds to pick out Sullivan and keep possession.
South still had a chance as Sullivan missed the free throw, and the Colonials got a look at the buzzer for the tying three but it was off the mark.
“The way we’ve been rebounding the ball, you can’t really go with the foul strategy,” Neely said. “They had such length, they were getting rebounds on their free throws so I just felt like we couldn’t [foul]. We had to rely on the fact that we can get a stop, that’s been our strength all year. Holding [South] to 42 is a nice number for us. We’re happy with that…that’s two games in a row where basically one stop gets it done, and that’s what we did.
“They had a lot of size, multiple bodies they can throw in there. We did a good job for most of the game on the interior but late in the game, they made it an emphasis and made a lot of baskets.”
Matt Lazarek scored twice and Gasbarro added another bucket to help Franklin’s offense get going early, and Edgehill added a late three but the Panthers trailed 11-9 after one.
Offense was hard to come by in the second, the team’s combing for 19 points total. Junior Declan Walmsley finished off an alley-oop with a slam to get the quarter started, Edgehill added two from the field and two from the line and both Rudolph and Gasbarro scored while cutting to the basket but South maintained a lead by half, taking a 20-19 advantage into the locker room.
Franklin had a bright start to the second half, using a 9-0 run over the first two and a half minutes. Edgehill splashed in an early three and then found Rudolph underneath for a creative finish off the glass. Lazarek sank two from the line before Edgehill and Rudolph hooked up again for a 28-20 lead.
South battled back, closing the half on an 11-6 burst that made it a three-point game after three. Steven Karayan finished off an offensive rebound after another missed three from the Panthers, ending a short drought to give Franklin a 34-31 lead heading into the fourth.
The Colonials knotted the score at 35-35 following a pair of free throws from Joseph before Edgehill connected on his — and Franklin’s — third three of the game. South’s Joseph Cabrera scored in the post to make it 39-39, setting up the frantic finish over the final couple of minutes.
“It’s always great, it never gets old being here,” Neely said of the WPI experience. “It’s not guaranteed you’ll make it back here so it’s awesome. We’re excited [to get to the final], you never know how many opportunities you’ll have. So we’re going to try and get the most out of it, hopefully we’ll be up for the challenge one more time.”
Franklin boys basketball (18-5) advances to its fifth D1 Central Final appearance in the past seven seasons. And for the fourth time, the Panthers will meet up with St. John’s Shrewsbury, the top-seed in the bracket this year, on Friday at 6:00 at Worcester State University.
FRANKLIN, Mass. – Behind a blazing start and a strong finish, the Attleboro boys basketball team earned a crucial division win on the road in Franklin on Friday night.
Senior Bryant Ciccio ignited the Bombardiers from the start, scoring half of Attleboro’s 22 first quarter points, and the visitors connected on four three-pointers in the opening quarter to build a lead they would never relinquish.
And to finish, it was a 12-2 run that spanned the first six minutes of the fourth quarter that propelled the Bombardiers to a 63-51 decision on the road.
“I think the biggest thing about tonight was that we stuck to the game plan,” said Attleboro head coach Mark Houle. “We weren’t just shooting on the first available shot, we really tried to get some paint shots. We didn’t get a lot but I think working the clock, making them work defensively, and looking to see where we had opportunities on skips and seals, I think that helped us.
“And Bryant coming out and really feeling it early was a spark for us. And defensively I thought we played pretty well.”
In the first, Ciccio (21 points, four rebounds, four assists) hit his first two shots, including one triple, and later in the frame hit a pair of three-pointers inside a 30-second span, the latter coming in transition that put the visitors ahead 17-8. Tim Callahan (nine points) added the other triple to give the Bombarders a 22-13 lead after eight minutes.
And in the fourth, holding a 48-41 advantage to start, the Bombardiers clamped down defensively to limit the hosts to just one made field goal over six minutes to push the lead to 60-43. Senior Qualeem Charles (10 points, 10 rebounds) got half of his points in the span and senior Jason Weir (career-high 17 points, seven rebounds) sank one of his four trifectas to give the Bombardiers breathing room.
“Jason played really well, he played within himself,” Houle said. “He’s the type of player that can play inside or outside and he’s definitely shooting the ball a lot better, he’s confident in himself. He didn’t play last year (injury) so it’s taken a little while but I’m really proud of his efforts because he’s stuck with it, he continues to battle. He’s such a competitor and it was a big night for him.
“I thought throughout the game, everyone at some point stepped up. I thought [Franklin] did a great job on Q, making him work for everything but he had a couple of key possessions in the fourth that were big for us. I don’t think it was one guy consistently but I thought different guys stepped up for us at different times and it was a really solid win against a very good team at Franklin.”
Charles started the late run off of a feed from Nick McMahon (six rebounds, four assists), who found Callahan for a bucket two plays later. Ciccio had a rare miss but Charles gobbled up the rebound and muscled through a foul to put it back in as the Bombardiers surged to a 54-43 lead with 5:15 to play.
After a bit of a lull from both sides, Attleboro got Charles the ball again and he was fouled, sinking one of two from the line. Callahan came up with a steal, Ciccio drove to the basket to collapse the defense and found Weir, who drained a three. Ciccio added two free throws with two minutes left to make it 60-43.
While Franklin entered the fourth having success from deep (6-for-18), the Panthers went ice cold from downtown for the majority of the final quarter. Jack Rudolph (14 points, four rebounds, five assists) had the Panthers’ lone bucket of the stretch with a nice take to the basket that made it 50-43 at the time.
After that, the Panthers missed on five straight three-pointers, had a turnover, and then missed two more from downtown.
“They came out hot in the first and that was a tough way to start the game, falling behind,” said Franklin head coach CJ Neely. “Ciccio was lights out, he was doing everything out there, he’s an awesome player. And at the end, I think our offense got a little stagnant and we started to force it a little bit. We don’t have the luxury to go out there and play one-on-one basketball, that’s not what we’ve been about. When we’ve been successful, it’s been a team effort, it’s been extra passes, ball reveals, screening for each other, and taking pride in all of those little details.
“Tonight, I thought we got away from those details in those big moments. It felt like we tried to get it all back in one basket. We got it down to five in the third but I thought it was a lot of those little things. I didn’t think we executed our plan very well, I didn’t think we made them earn it as much tonight. I’m not taking anything away from [Attleboro], they played great but when you’re trying to get back into a game, you can’t have lapses on those little moments.”
Franklin surged in each the second and third quarters to close the gap, but could never quite get over the hump. The only time the Panthers led in the game was after Steven Karayan (13 points) opened the game with a three-pointer.
In the second, Declan Walmsley converted through the contact after a steal from Brayden Sullivan. Rudolph sank a three-pointer and Matt Lazarek had an open layup as the Panthers closed the gap to 25-20. After a free throw from Charles, Karayan hit another three to make it a three-point game.
But Ciccio and Justin Daniels each converted from deep to give Attleboro a 32-25 lead at halftime.
Franklin closed the gap to three early in the third on a steal from Lazarek and layup from Chris Edgehill. Weir and Edgehill traded three-pointers but a steal from Charles led to a fast break for Ciccio and layup from Callahan.
Sullivan got around his man to make it a three-point game again, but once more Attleboro answered with Ciccio connecting from downtown. Weir hit another three and Attleboro took advantage of two offensive rebounds from Weir and Callahan to push the lead to 48-41 after three.
“Both teams worked really hard,” Houle said. “They seemed to take more threes in the fourth than we did, and they are a good shooting team. It’s not like we were giving them the threes, but fortunately, they weren’t hitting them and we were getting some key box-outs and rebounds.”
Attleboro boys basketball (9-1 Hock, 11-2 overall) remains in a first-place tie with Mansfield in the Kelley-Rex with six games to go. The Bombardiers will host Davenport-leading Milford on Tuesday. Franklin (8-2, 11-2) will host Sharon on the same night.
FRANKLIN, Mass. – Franklin’s offense was red-hot to start the game, its defense was on point from start to finish, and the Panthers rolled to a big win over rival Mansfield.
The Panthers sank their first five three-point attempts, forced the visiting Hornets into 18 turnovers and limited Mansfield to under 30% shooting from the field to pick up a 63-45 win, snapping a four-game skid to their rivals.
“[Mansfield] is arguably one of the best teams in the state every year so we know it’s going to be a ridiculous challenge every time we play them,” said Franklin head coach CJ Neely. “We were excited for it, we wanted to play a really good team. Being home obviously helps. Mansfield presents a huge challenge and I thought we were up for it tonight.
“We know each other so well so familiarity is pretty big, I thought our scout was pretty solid and I thought our guys did a job of really executing, especially on the defensive end of the floor. I thought we limited their best guys to some really tough shots and that’s what we wanted to do. We knew what their strengths were and we wanted to do our best to take those guys away. It’s not something you can usually do with [Sam] Stevens and [Matt] Boen especially, and [TJ] Guy is such a presence in there. And down the line, their guys know how to play off of them. I thought our guys did a good job tonight against their offense.”
After an innocuous start from both sides that had the hosts ahead 8-6, the Panthers caught fire from deep. Senior Brayden Sullivan (seven points, seven rebounds) his first triple of the game and senior Steven Karayan followed with one of his own on the next possession. Chris Edgehill (16 points, five rebounds, five assists) battled through contact for two and on the next possession, senior Jack Rudolph (13 points) connected from deep for the second time in the frame for a 19-6 advantage.
Meanwhile, the Hornets struggled to get much going on the offensive end with just one make on seven three-point attempts to go along with five turnovers.
While Mansfield was able to keep pace in the second quarter, it was never able to orchestrate a run to cut into the deficit. An early three from Makhi Baskin was canceled out by five straight points from Declan Walmsley, who scored a career-high 18 points to go along with seven rebounds.
Guy (11 points, nine rebounds, four assists) completed a traditional three-point play on one end but Edgehill did the same for Franklin on the ensuing possession. Edgehill drained a triple after Boen (10 points) drove to the basket for two, and even after freshman Chris Hill drained a late three to make it a single-digit deficit, Edgehill scored at the rim to make it 36-25 at the break.
“[Franklin] showed up with a purpose and wanted to prove something,” said Mansfield head coach Mike Vaughan. “And we showed up like we’ve been here before. It wasn’t about doing the little things, it wasn’t about micromanaging ourselves…we felt that since we wore the jersey, we’re Mansfield and we’re going to win. You can’t do that…Franklin is too good talent-wise, they are good offensively, they are one of the best if not the best team defensively in the league.
“I’m not sure there was one aspect of the game we did well. We didn’t shoot well, we had 18 turnovers, we didn’t dominate the glass, we were sluggish on our rotations…I can’t name one thing that I thought we could take a positive from other than we have more games to play.”
The third quarter played out similarly to the second with Franklin going toe-to-toe with the Hornets, coming up with counter punch after counter punch anytime Mansfield made a move.
Senior Drew Rooney drilled a three a minute into the third and the Hornets got the first stop on defense but Edgehill cashed in on an offensive board. Sam Stevens scored and the Hornets came up with a steal on the defensive end but gave it right back on a turnover. Sullivan cashed in with two to keep the advantage in double figures.
After Boen sank a pair of free throws, Rudolph came back down and finished through contact for a three-point play, hit a pair of free throws after a technical foul on Mansfield, and Walmsley scored underneath as the Panthers hit a quick 7-0 run that seemed to put the game out of reach.
“They are so disciplined and good at what they do [defensively],” Vaughan said. “It’s kind of like us on offense where we tend to be very disciplined, very good, and that’s how they are on defense. They take things away…kind of like the Belichick of high school basketball where they take away the best players and take away what you do best. Hats off to CJ for them to be able to do that. They are athletic, they are quick, not having a big actually helps them against us.”
After hitting seven threes in the first half, the Panthers attacked the basket with more frequency in the third quarter. Despite not hitting from distance, Franklin still scored 17 points in the quarter and extended their lead by five points.
“We were making a lot of shots but we knew it was bound to come back to normal [percentages],” Neely said. “We knew we just couldn’t settle for that first look, we had to make them work on every single possession. I thought, to their credit, they made an adjustment and got out on the shooters a little more so you have to take what they give you and I thought we did a good job.”
Mansfield added four more points in the quarter, but all from the free throw line. The Hornets then went scoreless for the first 6:12 of the fourth quarter. In that span, Franklin had an 8-0 burst that featured free throws from Edgehill, Matt Lazarek, and five points from Walmsley.
“By far the best game of his career, no question about it,” Neely said of Walmsley. “We know he can shoot it but he’s really been able to bother guys defensively, has a lot of length and athleticism. He can block some shots, slides his feet pretty well, and can bother people with his close out because his arms are so long.”
Mansfield snapped its scoreless stretch as Cincere Gill drove to the basket for two and followed with back-to-back three-pointers in the final two minutes.
“When you get to a situation where you aren’t scoring, your better players are starting to force action,” Vaughan said. “And then you’re getting outside of what you do, and then it’s a snowball effect and gets worse and worse. And a lot of that goes to how Franklin defended. We came out of character, I didn’t like our mindset.”
Franklin boys basketball (4-0 Hockomock, 7-0 overall) moves atop the Kelley-Rex division with the win and will visit Stoughton on Tuesday. Mansfield (2-1, 4-2) is back in action on Monday when it visits Foxboro.
Canton, 39 @ Franklin, 66 – Final – Franklin denied the visitors a basket in the opening quarter to build a 16-point lead and never looked back, running away with a league win over Canton. The Panthers took a 37-9 advantage in the halftime break with seven players scoring in between the first two quarters and 11 total for the game. Senior Steven Karayan hit three three-pointers while classmate Chris Edgehill sank a pair, combining for half of the Panthers’ 10 three-pointers in the game and tying with a game-high 13 points apiece. Matt Lazarek added 10 points for Franklin while sophomore Lanse Dorcelus paced Canton wight eight points.
North Attleboro, 49 @ Oliver Ames, 59 – Final – Oliver Ames held a double-digit lead in the first half but had to erase a double-digit deficit in the second half to earn a win over the Rocketeers. The Tigers lead 14-4 after eight minutes of play but the Rocketeers answered with 14 points in the second quarter and exploded for 24 points in the third, stretching their lead to as much as 14 in the frame. The Tigers’ clamped down defensively, allowing just seven fourth quarter points while going off for 26 points of their own to get the win. OA junior Amari Brown hit big three and had five of his game-high 19 points in the final quarter while senior Evan Craig scored eight of his 13 points in the fourth. Ryan Burkett added half of his 12 points in the fourth for OA. North Attleboro junior Edan Kelley connected on a pair of triples in North’s big third quarter on his way to a team-high 12 points.
Sharon, 48 @ Mansfield, 73 – Final – For nearly three quarters, the Eagles hung around with state powerhouse Mansfield. Sharon cut the deficit to 46-40 in the second half but the Hornets dominated the final 12 minutes, using a dominant 21-8 fourth quarter to pull away. Junior Matt Boen led the charge for the hosts, scoring a game-high 18 points along with 10 rebounds and three steals, helping Mansfield take a 36-23 lead at halftime. Junior TJ Guy added 15 points and six rebounds in the win while senior Sam Stevens netted 15 points, including a pair of three-pointers. Sharon sophomore John Baez scored all of his team-high 12 points in the second half, including a pair of third-quarter three-pointers to help the Eagles earn a 17-16 edge in the frame. Alex Burton finished with 11 points for the Eagles.
Milford, 60 @ King Philip, 57 – Final – Milford led from start to finish, jumping ahead by as much as 18-points before fending off a second half surge from the host Warriors. Junior Ben Blanchard exploded for a career-high 28 points to pace the visitors, who led 17-13 after one and 33-25 at the halftime break. Blanchard hit a pair of threes and finished with 10 points in the third quarter to help the Hawks build and keep its lead. Junior Jordan Darling, who scored 11 of his 19 points in the second half, drained an important three in the fourth quarter to keep KP at bay. KP senior Andrew McKinney scored 16 of his team-high 20 points after the halftime break, including nine in the third quarter to help the Warriors get back into the game. Senior Alex Fritz hit a trio of second half three-pointers, including one with just 0.6 seconds left to cut Milford’s six point lead in half.
Attleboro, 44 @ Stoughton, 49 – Final – Stoughton used a strong defensive effort and three players in double digits to pick up a second straight win on home court. Aliyah Wright led the way with 14, while Lexi Baptista added 12, and Shyanne Trinh finished with 10.
Franklin, 61 @ Canton, 34 – Final – Sophomore Olivia Quinn scored 22 points to lead the Panthers on the road, her second straight game of at least 20 points. Ali Brigham added 16 for Franklin. Fay and Sydney Gallery scored 15 points apiece for the Bulldogs.
Oliver Ames, 59 @ North Attleboro, 34 – Final – OA used a big second quarter to get separation on North, outscoring the Rocketeers 23-9 to build a 16-point lead at halftime and a 24-point lead heading into the fourth. Caroline Peper scored 12 to pace OA in the win. The Tigers also got nine points from Hailey Bourne and eight each from Caroline Flynn and Kelsey Yelle. North coach Nikki Correia gave her team credit for battling to the end, but the Tigers were too tough in transition. Regan Fein scored 13 for North and Amanda Kaiser added eight.
King Philip, 77 @ Milford, 46 – Final – The Warriors bounced back against Milford by making 12 threes as a team. Faith Roy and Courtney Keswick each scored 13 in the win, while Brianna James and Emma Glaser each scored 11 points. Freshman Emily Sawyer scored 10 points, grabbed 10 rebounds, and blocked six shots for her first career double-double. The Hawks had three players in double digits. Jillian Michelson was the top scorer with 12, while Brooke and Carly Ferreira each had 10 in the loss.
Mansfield/Oliver Ames, 9@ Bishop Feehan, 0 – Final – The Warriors exploded for five goals in the second period to skate to a win over Bishop Feehan, who is in their first year at the varsity level. Freshman Reese Pereira scored a pair of second period goals for MOA.
Franklin, 96 @ Canton, 74 – Final
Stoughton @ Foxboro, 7:00
King Philip, 45 @ Taunton, 48 – Final
Oliver Ames @ Mansfield, 6:00
Franklin, 90 @ Canton, 78 – Final
Stoughton @ Foxboro, 7:00
King Philip, 48 @ Taunton, 40 – Final
Oliver Ames @ Mansfield, 6:00
Boys Indoor Track
Taunton, 47 vs. Attleboro, 53 – Final
Canton, 22 vs. Stoughton, 78 – Final – Canton sophomore Kyle Downing was a double-winner but Stoughton swept the top three spots in six events on its way to a big win. Downing clocked in at 5:05.68 to win the 1 Mile race with junior Jack Hernon (5:05.84) right behind for second place. Downing also won the 2 Mile race in 11:14.16 for the Bulldogs. Junior Jonathan Chery added a second place finish in the 55M dash (6.89) and third in the 300M (38.42), placing top six in the entire league in both events.
Foxboro, 31 vs. Sharon, 65 – Final
Milford, 50 vs. North Attleboro, 49 – Final
Franklin, 29 vs. Mansfield, 71 – Final – Mansfield swept three events, including two won by Andrew Williams, to earn a win over Franklin. The Hornets took the top three spots in the 55M dash, the 55M hurdles, and the long jump with Williams taking first in both the hurdles (8.47) and the long jump (19-11.00). Sophomore Dylan Buchanan (8.80) and sophomore Jake Wall (8.98) completed sweep in the hurdles while senior Joe Cappelletti (19-00.00) and junior Stephen Saba (16-11.25) were second and third, respectively, in the long jump. Williams also took first in the high jump, with a league-meet best leap of 6-04.00. Cappelletti won the 55M dash in 6.94 with Wall taking second (6.96) and senior Ethan Thevenot (7.16) rounding out the top three. Other winners for Mansfield included senior Jack Rivard (300M, 38.02), senior Mike Mullahy (2 Mile, 10:22.44), and junior Nico Holmes (shot put, 42-09.25).
King Philip, 37 vs. Oliver Ames, 62 – Final
Girls Indoor Track
Taunton, 68 vs. Attleboro, 31 – Final – Attleboro earned a sweep in the 1 Mile race but the Tigers took the overall win on Friday night. Junior Kelly Neuendorf (5:38.50) pace the Bombardiers in the 1 Mile race with classmate Kimberley Esteban (5:49.88) taking second and sophomore Madison Ellis (5:54.03) crossing third. Attleboro junior Cassondra Stuger won the 300M in 43.70 and was second in the 55M dash (7.76) while junior Kamsi Igbobi won the shot put (31-04.75) and took second in the long jump (14-00.00) for the Bombardiers.
Canton, 34 vs. Stoughton, 62 – Final – Canton senior Bronwyn Mahoney continued to shine at the shot put, taking first with a league-meet best toss but the Bulldogs suffered a loss to Stoughton. Mahoney had the best throw of her career, a PR at 33-06.25 to take first place. Senior Kayla Wong won a pair of events for Canton, taking first in both the 1 Mile (6:09.83) and the 2 Mile (13:43.25) while sophomore Gabby Herivaux set a new PR in the 300M, crossing first in 46.77.
Foxboro, 37 vs. Sharon, 63 – Final
Milford, 36 vs. North Attleboro, 64 – Final
Franklin, 41 vs. Mansfield, 59 – Final
King Philip, 62 vs. Oliver Ames, 38 – Final
North Attleboro, 138.35 @ Franklin, 133.20 – Final – Franklin sophomore Kate Rudolph was the top Panther in all four events and won the All Around but the Rocketeers picked up a close win in the meet. Rudolph was first in the All Around, edging out North’s Lindsay Robinson (34.95) and Megan Collins (34.1). Rudolph scored a 9.0 on the vault, an 8.25 on bars, an 8.9 on the beam, and an 8.95 on the floor.
Franklin results: Vault – K. Rudolph 9.0, Lexi Lupien 8.9, Maia Keohane 8.3, Maddie McGuire 8.1; Bars – K. Rudolph 8.25, EMma Nelson 8.1, Caroline Woelfel 7.8, Ashley Hamman 7.8; Beam – K. Rudolph 8.9, L. Lupien 8.1, A. Hammann 8.05, E. Nelson 7.9; Floor – K. Rudolph 8.95, C. Woelfel 8.9, A. Hammann 8.1, L. Lupien 8.05.
WRENTHAM, Mass. – After struggling against a tough Franklin defense for the first two quarters, the King Philip offense found its rhythm early in the second half.
The Warriors hit three of their first five shots from the floor after being limited to just five total field goals in the first half. And the visiting Panthers had three empty trips and a fourth end in a turnover. Suddenly, Franklin’s double-digit lead was down to just six at 29-23.
Panthers’ coach CJ Neely, who earned his 100th win with Franklin, quickly called a timeout and had a simple message for his squad.
“Just relax,” Neely said of the message. “We just went back to the basics [out of the timeout] and we wanted to get them on their heels.”
And just like that, the Panthers’ defense from the first half was back. Senior Ryan Sullivan (13 points, three rebounds) came up with the steal on one end and senior Matt Lazarek finished off an easy layup after a nice pass from classmate Thomas Gasbarro.
Franklin used an 11-2 over the next three and a half minutes to regain its double-digit lead and never looked back to secure a 63-45 win over King Philip.
“We talked a lot about our defense at halftime and how proud we were with the number we had them at half,” Neely said. “We wanted to continue that obviously but we had some turnovers and they had a quick 7-0 run and all of a sudden they are right back in it. I didn’t think we were sharing the ball like we did during the preseason and I thought tonight all of our biggest baskets were on extra passes. Once the ball started moving, the offense started to click.”
KP senior Robert Jarest was the catalyst of the Warriors’ run, finishing off a layup and then sneaking in for a putback off of an offensive rebound. A three-pointer from senior Owen Conlin made it 29-23.
Franklin’s response featured an alert layup from Rudolph, a strong take from senior Chris Edgehill (21 points, five rebounds, three assists), a three from senior Steven Karayan (11 points), and another finish at the rim from Edgehill to make it 40-25 with 1:32 to play in the third.
“Franklin’s defensive intensity just stayed high and we couldn’t respond and keep up with it,” said second-year KP head coach Dave DeStefano. “We had a couple of turnovers and we lost the momentum that we had. Their defense is on another level, it’s really tough to match. The only time we were comfortably was right out of halftime, we started to play hard and do the things we are good at but we couldn’t maintain it.”
KP senior Andrew McKinney (six points, six rebounds) sank a pull up elbow jumper and junior Donte Barros came off the bench and finished off a layup through traffic plus the harm to get the Warriors within 10.
Edgehill and KP’s Chris Roy traded threes but another layup from Karayan and two technical foul free throws from Rudolph gave the Panthers a 47-33 edge after three.
Declan Walmsley and Brayden Sullivan each hit early fourth quarter three-pointers while KP countered with five points from Alex Fritz (11 points). But yet another three, this one from Karayan off a feed from Gasbarro, helped seal the deal. A three-point play from Rudolph and two each from Edgehill and junior Andrew Byfield helped push the lead to 20.
“I think shooting is one of our strengths this year, which is different from last year,” Neely said. Franklin shot 9-for-27 from three-point range. “We can really spread the floor out, and that’s something we talked about at halftime because we felt we had good shooters passing on open looks. That hurt the flow of our offense. We have a ton of confidence in our guys that can shoot, they just have to be ready to shoot.”
Early threes from Edgehill and Sullivan helped Franklin race out to an 8-0 lead to start the game, holding the Warriors off the scoreboard for over four minutes of action until Roy sank a triple. KP got within two on a three from Fritz but that was the only field goal for the KP senior as the Panthers made sure to give him plenty of attention defensively. Fritz also missed over five minutes in the second quarter due to foul trouble.
Fritz scored a career-high 36 points in KP’s season-opener. Sullivan was tasked with man-to-man defense on him, while Rudolph, Gasbarro, and senior Andrew Cunningham all saw him playing defense on him.
“With a guy like that, it’s not a one-man operation defensively,” Neely said. “Brayden’s been pesky on a lot of guys to start the year but we knew it was going to have to be a team effort. I thought we made his shots difficult. He’s going to make some baskets, and some of the shots he makes are some of the highest level shots I’ve seen in the past couple of years so you just have to make it hard. I thought we did a good job of doing that.”
Franklin lead 14-9 after the first quarter but there wasn’t much rhythm in the second eight-minute frame. The Panthers went to the free throw line 18 times in the second quarter while KP made five trips. Edgehill and Byfield converted from down low early but the Panthers had just one more field goal over the final 6:40, hitting 9-of-18 free throws. Franklin led 29-16 at half.
Franklin boys basketball (2-0 Hockomock, 2-0 overall) is back in action on Friday night in its home opener against Canton. King Philip (1-1, 1-1) is also home, hosting Milford.
FRANKLIN, Mass. – Graduation hit both teams’ offense hard. One team lost its all-star, dual-threat quarterback, and the other lost the bulk of its starting receivers, but on Thursday night at Pisini Field both Franklin and Milford showed that they have plenty of firepower remaining.
The two teams combined for 61 points, including 40 in the second half alone, and more than 600 yards through the air. In the end, the Panthers had just enough to hold off the Hawks and pull out a 34-27 victory in the season opener for both programs.
Franklin quarterback Thomas Gasbarro completed 70 percent of his passes (21-of-30) and threw for 293 yard and three touchdowns, while Milford senior Colby Pires completed 57 percent of his throws (12-of-21) for 325 yards and three scores of his own.
It didn’t take the hosts long to get into sync. On its first possession, starting at the Milford 46, Gasbarro hit Jack Nally for an eight-yard completion and then on the second play from scrimmage hit Jake Davis in stride down the far sideline. The senior receiver dove from several yards out and just snuck inside the pylon for a 7-0 lead.
“They’ve got a great connection,” Franklin coach Eian Bain said of Gasbarro and Davis. “Jake is such a terrific athlete and I think that shows in lacrosse and football. Tommy is just a grinder. I don’t think I’ve seen a tougher performance out of a QB. Milford was real creative with their pressures and their scheme defensively. Tommy stood in and he was getting hit on some of those throws.”
Milford’s defense came through with a big stand on Franklin’s next possession. Luke Rosa sacked Gasbarro on fourth and one from the Hawks 29. Milford got the ball and took only five plays to go downfield and tie it. Pires connected with Carter Scudo (four catches for 151 yards) on a 39-yard completion to get to the Franklin 15 and Rosa (16 carries, 87 yards) punched it from there.
On its first drive of the second quarter, Franklin regained the advantage. Gasbarro spread the ball around on the possession, hitting Ben Greco, Owen Palmieri, and Davis. It was Nally that got into the end zone, as Gasbarro threaded the needle on a pass to the front stick, getting the ball just over the corner to make it 14-7.
The Franklin defense held onto the lead with a pair of red zone stops. First, the Panthers were able to cut Pires a yard short on fourth and 11 from the 21 and then, following a punt that gave Milford the ball back in great field position, the Hawks got as close as the six only for Austin Jordan to end the half with a sack of Pires.
Franklin nearly extended its lead on the first drive of the third quarter, but Maxwell Martin made a great play to rip the ball out of the hands of Matt Lazarek for an interception in the end zone. Milford moved the ball out to midfield but there was controversy as the ball came loose on a jet sweep and Franklin recovered. The Hawks claimed it was a pass, not a hand-off, but the officials ruled it a fumble and the Panthers took over.
It became a bigger decision eight plays later when the Panthers punched it in for a two-score lead. Again, it was Gasbarro to Davis (eight catches, 166 yards), matching the receiver’s jersey number with a 23-yard strike. Although the extra point was no good after a low snap, the Panthers led 20-7.
That margin lasted about two minutes. On third and eight from his own 16, Pires found Scudo, who broke free of a tackle and got 28 yards. Then Pires slipped a pass to Dan Farrell over the middle and he found a seam for a 56-yard catch-and-run touchdown.
Fourteen seconds later, the stunned home crowd was right back on its feet.
On the ensuing kick, senior Cole Lakatos, a transfer from Maryland, stepped up to grab the bouncing ball at the 27, found a hole on the left side, and raced 73 yards for his first Franklin touchdown. “Lakatos is brand new, but he’s a football dude and football dudes can play,” said Bain.
While a special teams score could’ve been a beak breaker, the Hawks refused to go away quietly. A 10-play, 78-yard drive got them back within one score. Rosa set up the eventual score with a 22-yard burst down to the Franklin 15. Three plays and one penalty later, on third and 21, Pires threw one up for Scudo on the near sideline and the junior managed to come down with it just in bounds to make it 27-20.
“He’s electric,” Milford coach Anthony Vizakis said of Scudo. “He’s got the speed, he’s got the hands, and we’re really excited to see what he’s going to do.”
When asked if he was surprised at how quickly Pires has gelled with a new set of receivers, Vizakis replied, “They’ve been working all summer. He’s got those guys in the morning working and they’re doing extra stuff after practice, so it didn’t really surprise me. I think we’re only going to get better from here.”
The game settled down for a couple minutes as the teams managed to go just about eight minutes without getting into the end zone. Franklin appeared to put the game away with a 11-play, 71-yard drive that chewed up several minutes off the clock. Sophomore Mack Gulla opened his account for the Panthers when he burst through the line for a four-yard score.
Gasbarro showed off his ability to make plays on the run, keeping a couple of plays alive, taking hits, and managing to find open receivers to keep the drive alive.
“We try to work the scramble drill when we can, but a lot of that is just natural,” said Bain. “He did one that he found Jake Davis near the end there and I’m thinking we’re getting the sack and maybe we’re calling something safe on the next call and punting the ball.”
It seemed like the game was finally out of reach, but appearances can be deceiving. Milford came right back down the field, going 80 yards in only two plays, to make it a one-score game again and give themselves a shot at an onside kick. Pires connected with Scudo for 58 yards to get things started and then with Matt Varteresian for 22 and the score.
“Our kids don’t quit,” said Vizakis. “They play right to the end. We’re training them to play 48 minutes of football now and they played every single play. I’m really proud of the way that they played.”
Franklin managed to collect the onside kick with two minutes left, run out the clock, and finally take a breath.
The Panthers (1-0) will travel to Andover next Saturday, while Milford (0-1) will host Attleboro.
Attleboro got off to a strong start to the 2018 season, jumping out to a 4-1 record with its only loss coming against eventual D2 South champ King Philip, and allowing only five points per game. But a last-minute loss in a shootout against Mansfield and a fourth quarter comeback by Franklin the following week sparked a six-game losing streak to close out the season. The Bombardiers come into 2019 looking to turn that around and use its experience to make a run at the Kelley-Rex title.
Offensively, the Bombardiers will be led by senior quarterback Jason Weir. At a bruising 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, Weir is a punishing runner and has a big arm to make plays downfield in the passing game. Junior Justin Daniels will be the starting tailback with senior Isaac Guidel and a big offensive line trying to open holes for the running game, led by senior Qualeem Charles (6-foot-5 and 325 pounds), who has a host of colleges recruiting him. Senior Ethan Cameron will provide a weapon on the outside, while junior Michael Strachan offers another threat over the middle from his tight end position.
Charles will dominate the line of scrimmage on the defensive side of the ball as well, but the strength of the Attleboro defense will be its experienced linebacker corps. Strachan, a three-year starter who is getting looks from some Div. I colleges, will be joined by Guidel and senior Nolan Jaeger. Weir will play strong safety, after two seasons at defensive end, and will be counted on to step in to help stop the run. Cameron will be at free safety and giving the cornerbacks help over the middle. Attleboro has a large contingent of sophomores who could step in to contribute right away, including Alvin Harrison, Chris Leonardo, Adam Pearlstein, and Freddy Wheaton.
Attleboro coach Mike Strachan said, “We are looking forward to the season getting underway and with the leadership of our four captains we are looking to be explosive on offense and very physical defensively. The Hockomock League is one of the best leagues in the state with some great teams. We will have to play our very best each week if we are going to compete at a high level.”
Franklin nearly pulled off the biggest upset of the 2018 season when the Panthers forced perennial power Xaverian to double overtime in the Div. 1 South semifinal. It was a big step forward for the program and head coach Eian Bain hopes it will be a building block for even more success in 2019.
Offensively, the graduation of quarterback Nick Gordon will be a big loss for the Panthers but senior Thomas Gasbarro saw a lot of time under center last year and he will step in and take the starting job. Gasbarro will have plenty of weapons to choose from, as the Panthers have plenty of speedy, athletic players in the skill positions. Senior Jack Nally is a threat out of the backfield or split out wide and his classmate Jake Davis is a solid receiver over the middle or downfield. Senior Matt Lazarek is a potential target from the tight end position and Owen Palmieri is another dangerous ball carrier. Junior Parker Cheuvront emerged last season as one of the top kickers in the Hock and is another weapon that the Panthers can count on if a drive does stall.
The defense is an experienced group. Senior Evan Wertz has been one of the league’s tackle leaders for the past two seasons and he is the team’s top playmaker from his linebacker position. Nally, Davis, Palmieri, and senior Ben Greco give Franklin a tough secondary to throw against and all are capable of coming up with the big turnover to get the ball back in the hands of the offense. Luke Cunningham and Dom Natale will give the Panthers strength at the line of scrimmage.
“The challenge for this group is to continue to improve and build the program,” said Bain. “They need to add their own chapter and their own stamp on the program. We have the right people in the room. We need to play with the swagger and confidence of a contender, but be humble in our preparation. If we stay true to the process, we have great potential.”
Despite not winning the league title last year, the target on King Philip’s back continues to grow.
The Warriors might have missed out on the Kelley-Rex crown, but they won their third straight sectional title and made their this straight appearance in the state final, this time falling to North Andover (6-0). While this year’s senior class knows other than Super Bowl appearances, head coach Brian Lee says this group is focused on taking it one game, starting with the opener against North Attleboro. KP has a strong core of players back on the offensive side of the ball, including quarterback Robbie Jarest and running back Ryan Halliday. Both players had really strong junior seasons and should be the leaders of the group this year. The offensive line includes returners Nolan Gunning (left tackle), Sean Piller (center), and Pat Zarba (right guard) while Wyatt Manzi, Jack Collentro, and Griffin MacKay are in the mix to fill the remaining spots. Having an experienced line bodes well for the KP run game that will heavily feature Ryan Halliday plus fullback Shawn Conniff and halfbacks Sam Callanan and Crawford Cantave.
The Warriors’ defense has been one of the best units in the state in recent years, and while the expectations remain high for the group, there will be a lot of new faces. KP graduated its entire secondary so the Warriors are turning to senior Brian Wasserug and Cantave, a sophomore, to take on starting spots. Halliday and Callanan, both captains, will handle outside linebacker duties with Mike Malatesta in the mix for the middle spot. Gunning and Manzi will also see action on the defensive line alongside Conniff. Dillon Conti takes over kicking duties for the departed Cole Baker.
“These kids know how much work, how much effort it takes to get where we want to be,” Lee said. “But it’s all about going game by game, starting this week with a team [North Attleboro] that we have a ton of respect for.”
Looking at the long list of returning players, it is no surprise that expectations around Alumni Field are sky high this fall. Mansfield enters the season with experience at just about every position and with the bitter taste of last year’s South final loss to rival King Philip still stinging. Despite a rash of injuries that forced running back Aidan Sacco to play as an emergency quarterback for most of the season, Mansfield still won a league title and this year’s team may be even more talented, which has ramped up the hype and put the target squarely on the Hornets’ backs.
The line of scrimmage will be a strength for the Hornets on the offensive side of the ball, as they return four of five starters from last year’s unit that allowed the team to rush for more than 2,600 yards. Senior Jason Comeau and reigning HockomockSports.com Underclassman of the Year TJ Guy will be two key cogs in the line, while senior Noah Jellenik and junior Jake McCoy are also back. Senior Andrew Cowles will step into the fifth spot. They will seek to protect senior quarterback Jack Moussette, who had a cameo under center last year before an injury forced him to miss the bulk of the season. The skill positions will be loaded with athletes. Cincere Gill had a breakout sophomore season at running back and senior Nick Marciano is back after an injury cut short his junior season. Senior Michael DeBolt was one of the top kickers in the league but also gives Mansfield another weapon on the edges, while senior Vinnie Holmes adds a bruising presence coming out of the backfield.
Holmes is the headliner on the defensive side of the ball. Along with fellow linebackers Marciano, DeBolt, and senior Joe Plath, Holmes will be expected to make big plays all over the field. The defensive line will be strong with three returning players: senior Chris Graham, McCoy, and Guy. Junior Nico Holmes will step in as the fourth man on the line. Much like on offense, speed will be a strength and the secondary is loaded with playmakers, including Gill, junior Matt Boen, and senior Makhi Baskin.
“We have a bunch of experience all over the field, but we really have to develop depth with the second team to handle a tough schedule and challenges every week,” said Mansfield coach Mike Redding. “This is one of the fastest group of skill guys we’ve ever had and we could be explosive on offense. We lack a little size up front on defense, but we should be able to overcome that by flying around with pursuit to the ball with our speed.”
There was no question that 2018 was a tough season for the Tigers. Oliver Ames lost by a point in the season opener to Concord-Carlisle and didn’t earn its only win until the penultimate game against Durfee. The Tigers will hope to turn things around quickly with an infusion of young talent under new head coach Ed DeWitt.
On offense, the players will be learning a new system, but there is experience in the backfield to try and implement different schemes. Senior running back Nathan Cabral figures to see plenty of the ball again this year after his breakout junior season in which he ran for more than 1,100 yards. He will be joined by senior quarterback Cam Perron and senior running back Sam Stevens to give the Tigers a strong core. Seniors Harrison Webster and Adam Cann (who is coming off an injury) will give Perron weapons to utilize on the outside.
There will be a lot of new faces on the defensive side, as DeWitt can call on three or four returning starters and will need a number of players to provide contributions on both sides of the ball. The linebacking corps was particularly hit by graduations, although senior Tyler Campbell can provide some experience and leadership in that position and Cabral brings athleticism to the role. Max Anderson and Anthony DeCosta will be important at the line of scrimmage, while Stevens will step into the secondary along with senior corner Nick Gillis and junior corner Jadon Ricci.
“The competition in camp has been great,” DeWitt said. “The players have committed to the program and bought into the day to day work that we need to do. We are focusing on making sure we treat every day as an opportunity to improve and string together some positive momentum.”
The Tigers started last season with three straight wins and then finished with three wins in their final four games to end 2018 with a winning record. Taunton enters this fall with a relatively inexperienced roster, but one that is looking to continue the momentum in the program and try to push forward so it can challenge the top teams in the Kelley-Rex division.
One of the biggest changes for the Tigers will be under center. Noah Leonard was the starter for three seasons, but junior Danny MacDougall will take over this year. MacDougall will also see time at receiver to try and take advantage of his athleticism. He will be joined in the backfield by classmates Bretton Heggs and Josh Lopes, who both got time at running back as sophomores. Juniors Kedrick Santos and Devante McPhail will be the primary weapons at receiver. Up front, the Tigers have decent size. Senior Mike Murray will be at center, senior Hussein Kassab at one tackle, junior Marquis Dalomba at the other tackle, and junior Jordan Manning at guard.
Similar to the offensive side of the ball, the Tigers lack experience on defense and are still learning the schemes, but physical scrimmages have helped prepare them for the season. Senior Woudanly Danger is a force at the line of scrimmage and will require attention from opponents and senior Jackson Wellman has been one of the team’s top tacklers from linebacker. Junior defensive end Deandre McPhail adds to the strength of the line. Senior Curt Marshall and MacDougall will be the safeties and senior Cam Carroca will be at corner.
“We’re going to keep doing what we’re doing and trying to get better and to be competitive in the league,” said Taunton coach Brad Sidwell. “We’re definitely inexperienced, but physically we have guys who can do it and we need to coach them up so they’ll be ready to go once the season gets started.”
FRANKLIN, Mass. – For the Franklin boys basketball team, terrific defense led to easy offense.
And that combination resulted in a dominant performance and a comfortably 57-36 win over visiting Attleboro.
The Panthers flipped a two-point game upside down with a 20-0 run over the final six minutes of the second quarter to pull away from the Bombardiers, who entered the contest with a chance to win at least a share of its first Kelley-Rex title.
Franklin limited the visitors to just 22% shooting from the field in the opening half as the Bombardiers couldn’t find a connection from deep, going just 1-for-17 from three-point range. And with consistent stops, Franklin’s pushed the pace and cashed in with an impressive transition offense, converting some easy looks down low. Franklin shot 65% from the field in the opening half, making 12-of-18 shots from two-point range.
“That was definitely our best game of the season, by far,” said Franklin head coach CJ Neely. “The guys were excited to play tonight, there’s no doubt about it. I think they were a little sore about how last game went and how the season has gone in some respects. They wanted to make a statement tonight and I thought they did, especially in that second quarter. We went in at halftime, and we usually have a list of things we want to change or that we did poorly, and we didn’t have many things on the list. The guys really bought in, that was the best they’ve bought in to a game plan and scouting report all season.”
While Attleboro only had four first half turnovers, it couldn’t solve the Panthers defensively. During Franklin’s game-changing run, Attleboro only had one turnover on a shot clock violation, and 0-for-11 from the field, with eight of those shots coming from three-point range.
“They did everything better than us tonight, offensively and defensively,” said Attleboro coach Mark Houle. “They made us really feel uncomfortable all night, and we didn’t have any answers.
“We didn’t hit [a three] in the first quarter but I have confidence in our guys that can shoot it, we can get hot, but we didn’t get enough paint touches. [Franklin] did a nice job of taking that away early, something that most teams haven’t been able to do. That limited us really. But quite honestly, we weren’t executing on offense. There were still things that we could have done, but we weren’t executing, and that led to a stagnant offense. And we couldn’t attack the rim because their defense was set. That was a very good defensive effort by them.”
Franklin led 15-7 after the first quarter but Attleboro opened the second quarter with a quick 5-0 run to make it a two-point game. Bryant Ciccio (11 points) drained a three and Kevin Velazquez picked off a pace and went the distance for a layup to make it 15-13.
From there, it was all Panthers. Jalen Samuels (15 points, nine rebounds, four assists) converted his own putback and then scored off a feed from Chris Edgehill (seven points, seven rebounds, seven assists). Will Harvey (career-high 19 points, nine rebounds) sank a three-pointer off a feed from Jack Rudolph, then Edgehill came down with a defensive rebound, pushed it up court and found Rudolph for two. Samuels then drove to the basket, drew in the defense and dished it off to Harvey for an easy two and a 26-13 lead with 3:43 left in the second quarter.
The Bombardiers tried to shoot their way out of the funk, taking six triples on their next seven possessions. The lone trip that didn’t result in a three-point attempt was a turnover on a shot clock violation.
Meanwhile, Franklin continued to cash in on the offensive end. Edgehill got some space in the lane for two, Jake Macchi (nine points) sank a three on a pass from Rudolph just moments after Samuels blocked an Attleboro three, and Samuels scored in low on a floater to put Franklin up 35-13 heading into halftime.
“Getting out in transition was key for us, getting up and down,” Neely said. “And when we attacked the paint, I think the biggest thing was getting in there and then making the extra pass for some dunks and some layups.”
The second half was much more even than the first, but the damage was already done by the Panthers. Tim Callahan made Attleboro’s second triple of the game with 2:44 left in the quarter (2-for-21 from deep through three), Ciccio added five points, including Attleboro’s only two free throws in the game, and Qualeem Charles (eight points, 10 rebounds) got an early bucket, but Franklin got points from Macchi (a three), Harvey (five) and two apiece from Edgehill and Rudolph to hold a 47-24 advantage entering the fourth.
“One of the biggest things we worked on was long closeouts,” Neely said. “We practiced having to get there and get there with a hand without flying into the crowd. We’re going to have to live with them making a couple. We knew we’d have to focus on Q, you can’t let one guy try and do it himself. I thought Harvey played one of his best games this season, and he rebounded really well and played great defensively.”
Attleboro’s defense limited the Panthers to 10 points in the fourth, but only scored 12 on its own. Mason Houle sank two threes in the fourth, the latter cutting the deficit to 15 points but with only three minutes to go. Harvey added four in the final frame and Matt Lazarek came off the bench to hit a triple for the Panthers, who shot 56% from the floor for the game and dominated the rebounding battle, 33-18.
“We had some good looks, but they were mostly contested shots,” Houle said. “We have to regroup. We have the opportunity to learn from this. We didn’t do many good things tonight on either end tonight. Their transition offense, we didn’t do a good enough job against it. That led to 20 straight points…and just layups. It was them getting the rebound and pushing it for a layup.”
Franklin boys basketball (12-4 Hockomock, 14-5 overall) is back in action on Sunday with a noon tipoff against New Bedford. Attleboro (13-3, 16-4) will try to bounce back when it travels to rival North Attleboro for a non-league clash on Monday.