Attleboro came out for the second half with a different game plan. The Bombardiers dropped back into an aggressive 2-3 zone, forcing Taunton to create offense in the half-court rather than getting baskets in transition. It was a plan that worked perfectly, as Attleboro ran off 14 straight points to turn a one-point game into a comfortable lead.
Once the Bombardiers grabbed the advantage, they never allowed Taunton to get any closer than 12 and held on for the 58-45 victory. The win keeps Attleboro perfect (6-0) in league play, extended its win streak to six games since the season opener, and maintained Attleboro’s lead atop the Kelley-Rex division.
“They kept beating us,” Attleboro coach Bri Bracken said about switching out of the press. “We were a little slow with [the press], so I said let’s try our zone. Our zone has been working really well for us lately, so I said let’s stick with it. At halftime, I just said we need more heart and we’ll come out with the ‘W’ tonight.”
Avery James (11 points) got things rolling for the home team when she drilled a pull-up three from the wing to make it 32-28. Vanessa Ellis grabbed a defensive board, dribbled up the court, and then dropped off a pass to James for a layup. Ellis, a sophomore forward, then stepped back and buried a straightaway three to push the lead to double digits. After James made one of two at the line, Ellis snatched the offensive rebound and put it in plus the foul.
“Unbelievable,” Bracken said of Ellis, who filled the stat sheet with 21 points, 13 rebounds, five assists, and six steals and was able to take some of the ball-handling load off point guard Kayla Goldrick. “The kid can do everything and we’re lucky to have her. Take control of the game, dribble the ball, shoot the outside shot, she’s a huge asset to the team.”
The and-one put Attleboro up by 15. Somerset Berkley transfer Skylar McCrohan (seven points) ended the run with a put-back, but Lily Routhier (nine points, six assists, and six steals) answered with a couple of baskets. Chelsea Bousquet (11 points and five rebounds) drilled a three to keep the Tigers within a dozen after three, but Attleboro went into the fourth in control.
First-year Taunton coach Gretchen Rodrigues admitted that her team didn’t respond well to the switch in defenses and needed a few minutes to regain some rhythm on that end of the floor. “We struggle against the zone sometimes,” she said. “We have shooters but no one who is real consistent.”
Rodrigues continued, “As the game went on, I thought we did better against the zone. We had to learn to hit the middle, hit the sides, but it is what it is. That third quarter killed us. We were playing catch-up and they’re a good team.”
Bousquet and Tarynn Campbell (nine points and eight rebounds) each knocked down threes in the fourth to try and claw Taunton back into the game, but Routhier drilled one after Ellis grabbed an offensive rebound, Sarah Maher (11 rebounds) hit a short jumper, and James hit another three from the wing to keep the Tigers at arm’s length.
Even with a double digit lead, Bracken told her team to keep pushing. She explained, “Anything can happen. I tell my kids all the time, basketball is a game of runs. We go on ours and then they could go on theirs. There was a point where we kept missing shots, so I said just keep going to the basket. We don’t want them chipping away.”
The first half was frenetic, as both teams wanted to play at top speed from the opening tip. Jillian Doherty (eight points, eight rebounds, and two blocks) scored on a put-back and then with a steal under the basket to put Taunton ahead 7-5.
Goldrick (10 points and six rebounds) went backdoor for a layup to tie it and then Ellis started to take over. She got free on an inbound play for a layup, scored off a nice feed from Routhier in transition, and again got out on the break for a tough finish. Ellis scored nine of Attleboro’s 16 in the first.
Taunton was hanging tough. Lexi Haywood nailed a triple to go in front and Bousquet crashed the boards for a put-back that had the Tigers down just three after one.
Goldrick opened the second with a corner three, but Taunton came right back. McCrohan is a handful in the post and, following an offensive rebound by Cali Melo, she scored plus the foul. Doherty showed off her moves in the paint with a turnaround over Ellis and then made a nice block-to-block pass to McMina Clermont for an and-one. Campbell would add a three to put the Tigers up 27-25.
“We really work on our press,” Rodrigues said. “That’s our bread and butter and I thought it definitely disrupted them today. It’s hard because then team adjust and they switch up.”
Attleboro needed a little life before halftime and James got it started with a nice baseline drive and finish. Then Ellis crashed the boards in the final 20 seconds of the quarter, grabbing the rebound and scoring to give the Bombardiers the 29-28 lead heading to the locker room.
Taunton has lost some of the momentum from its great start to the season, having dropped three straight against some of the top teams in the league, but Rodrigues has the answer for how the Tigers get back on track.
“They’ve got to believe that we can win,” she said. “It’s a new system for them, we’re all learning, we’re all doing this together, and we just have to have good practices this week and come out ready to play on Tuesday.”
Attleboro (6-1) heads into a very difficult week, as the Bombardiers will travel to fellow league leader Foxboro on Tuesday and then play host to defending Kelley-Rex champ Franklin on Friday. Taunton (4-4) will try to bounce back and get over .500 when it heads to Stoughton on Tuesday.
2021-2022 Record: 16-7 2021-2022 Finish: Reached Div. 1 Round of 32 Coach: Brianna Bracken
Former Attleboro standout Bri Bracken took over the coaching duties late in the preseason a year ago, but she stepped right into her first varsity job and led the Bombardiers to a 16-win season and a return to the state tournament. The graduation of top scorer Meg Gordon will be tough to replace, but the Bombardiers have a versatile lineup and a focus on the defensive side of the ball that still makes them a tough challenge even for the top teams in the league.
Attleboro returns only two starters from last season. Junior Kayla Goldrick impressed in her first two years on varsity, playing on the wing or as the primary ball-handler. Her control on both sides of the ball will be critical this season. Senior Lily Routhier, who transferred from Wheelock last year, is a strong rebounder and can score in multiple ways around the paint. Sophomore Vanessa Ellis wasn’t a starter for most of last year, but she came through with some big games down the stretch, scoring in bunches around the rim and being a force on the glass.
An injury to junior Rylie Camacho will deprive the Bombardiers of one of their best perimeter shooters, but Bracken will be hoping that juniors Merry Bosh and Molly Moore and sophomore Avery James can step into bigger roles in the backcourt and add scoring punch. Senior Sarah Maher is going to have a bigger role on both ends this season, bringing the energy and intensity every game. This will be a different look from last year, as the Bombardiers will have different go-to players every night.
“We have a great mix of experience and youth,” Bracken said. “We are excited about what lies ahead. Practices have been intense and the girls have been working really hard.”
2021-2022 Record: 16-7 2021-2022 Finish: Reached Div. 2 Quarterfinal Coach: Jim Choquette
How do you move on from graduating not just one but three of the best players in program history? That will be the challenge for Canton coach Jim Choquette this season, as the Bulldogs are coming off a winter that included a rare home playoff game and a trip to the Div. 2 quarterfinals and return a group of players that have experience but will need to step into bigger roles this year.
There is a veteran core that the Bulldogs will be relying on. Senior forward Samya DaSilva can score in the paint and knock down shots from the perimeter, while classmate Erin Beatty has been a force on the boards and brings a lot of energy on both ends of the floor. Senior guards Emily McCabe, Marissa Staffiere, and Han Hong all can run the point and are strong defensive players who will be tasked with keeping the ball moving for Canton on offense to find the best shot.
In addition to those familiar faces, juniors Fatima Sidibay and Jess Wright will provide additional athleticism in the frontcourt. Junior Mercia Kolokithas can stretch defenses with her perimeter shooting and sophomore Sally Hoban will provide depth on the wing along with Ava McCoole. Deanna Kolokithas is another newcomer to watch this season, as she can give Canton a boost at point guard, allowing the veteran guards to move off the ball.
“Every season is different, even if you have similar players,” Choquette explained. “We have spoken about that this year and I’ve encouraged our team to write their own narrative, what they want, how they want to get it, and the sacrifices they’re willing to make to accomplish it. I’m so excited to see how we respond as coaches to help them and as players to achieve.”
2021-2022 Record: 14-8 2021-2022 Finish: Reached Div. 2 Sweet Sixteen Coach: Lisa Downs
While head coach Lisa Downs knew there would be some growing pains for a roster loaded with underclassmen, Foxboro was not only building for the future in 2021-22 but showing that it could already compete with the league’s top teams. This season, adding a year of experience to their talented core, the Warriors will be aiming to get back to the top of the Davenport division and make a run in the state tournament.
The backcourt was the key for Foxboro last winter. Sophomore Kailey Sullivan burst onto the scene and was the rare freshman that could lead a team in scoring and also look right at home running the point against the tough defenses in the Hock. Junior Camryn Collins finished just behind Sullivan in the scoring charts, but her handle, her athleticism, and her ability to read the game made her an impact player on both ends of the court. Add in junior Erin Foley’s tenacity on the defensive end and it is a backcourt that can cause any team problems from baseline to baseline.
Foxboro also got solid contributions in the front court from sophomore Ava Hill, who looked increasingly comfortable as the season wore on, and junior Isabelle Chamberlin. Sophomore Adie Ruter will be a new piece to the puzzle this season. The 6-foot-2 center gives a new dimension to the Warriors’ offense and her development in the off-season has her poised for a breakout year. Freshmen Kylie Sampson and Adrianna Porazzo continue the tradition of underclassmen jumping right onto varsity with an opportunity to contribute.
“I’m anxious to get started working with this team,” Downs said. “I really envision a pretty high ceiling once we get established. We will continue the Foxboro team culture of hard work on defense and team play on offense, so it will be pretty exciting to see what they are able to accomplish.”
2021-2022 Record: 22-2 2021-2022 Finish: Reached Div. 1 Quarterfinal Coach: John Leighton
Franklin has dominated the Kelley-Rex division for the past four years, which included a state title run as well, but with a lot of new faces jumping into the lineup this season, the league title race could be a lot closer this winter. The Panthers may not be able to overwhelm teams with size like they have in past few years, but an athletic core of players returns to play typically tough defense and get out and run on the break.
The focal point this season will be senior forward Katie Peterson. After a breakout junior year in which she led the team in scoring, the UMass girls lacrosse commit comes back as one of the top wings in the league. Her athleticism will be critical on both ends of the floor. Senior guard Bridget Leo is also back to run the offense and will be one of the team’s top perimeter defenders. Senior Lizzie Newman emerged last season as a solid rebounder and post defender and her outside shooting could be a major factor.
There are also several players who stepped in at times last year that will need to take on bigger roles for the Panthers this season. Junior Sasha Tracey gives Franklin good length on the wing and adds another athlete that can get out on the break and finish. Her improved outside shot will also help stretch defenses. Sophomore Chloe Fales is a newcomer to watch with her athleticism and ability to score at multiple levels.
“This team is working to find its identity and play unselfish basketball,” said Franklin coach John Leighton. “I have been very impressed with the leadership of our seniors who have stepped up and provided mentorship to our younger players to speed their integration into the team.”
2021-2022 Record: 11-11 2021-2022 Finish: Reached Div. 1 Round of 32 Coach: Jeff Miszkiewicz
Only the two division winners allowed fewer points per game than King Philip last season, as the Warriors focused on strong half court defense under first-year coach Jeff Miszkiewicz. Defense will remain key for KP this season, but there is also an effort to bring more balance to an offense that struggled to keep up with some of the top teams in the Hock. With a year of experience in the new system, the Warriors will be looking to provide a challenge to Franklin and Oliver Ames in the Kelley-Rex.
Senior center Emily Sawyer has developed into a force on both ends of the floor and her presence in the paint will be a major piece of KP’s play this year. An almost automatic double-double every night, Sawyer has improved her offense every year and remains an imposing shot blocker and disruptor on defense. Fellow senior Jackie Bonner will give KP much-needed balance on offense with her ability to shoot from distance and take defenders off the dribble. KP looked like a different team when she went down with an injury last season.
While Bonner and Sawyer get a lot of the attention, KP has solid depth in both the front and backcourt. Senior guard Leah Santoro gives the Warriors a tenacious perimeter defender and junior Jordan Bennett runs the offense well at the point and showed flashes of being a threat from three-point range. Junior forward Maddie Paschke provides energy, rebounding, and finishing in the paint, and classmate Kylie Watson continues to improve on shot-making both in the paint and from the outside.
Miszkiewicz is also counting on several new faces to add to his squad this season. “They all bring something different to the court and have a chance to really impact games this year,” he said. “We can score on all three levels consistently, so we look to attack any advantages that we can get. Last year, we prided ourselves on playing tough, gritty defense. We try to make every shot difficult and hold teams to one shot.”
2021-2022 Record: 12-11 2021-2022 Finish: Reached Div. 1 Round of 32 Coach: Heather McPherson
Mansfield will play in the Davenport division for the first time this winter and, with only three players graduating from last year’s playoff team and both of its leading scorers back, there are hopes that this could be a title-winning debut for the Hornets.
Senior Abby Wager is the team’s top scorer from a year ago and the athletic wing will be the focal point for most teams defensively this year. The Southern New Hampshire-commit causes problems on both ends of the floor with her length and speed and her addition of different facets to her offensive game. If teams want to extend out to the perimeter, Mansfield can also hurt them in the paint with junior forward Kara Santos, who emerged as a consistent scorer on the block.
Experience should be no problem for the Hornets, who have a host of players that gained valuable experience last season. In the backcourt, seniors Olivia Salisbury and Bridget Hanley can run the point and step up with big scoring nights when needed. Senior Natalya Gill was instant offense off the bench for the Hornets, while classmate Rose Maher can knock down big shots from the outside. Senior Brooke Butler gives the Hornets another strong rebounder and paint presence.
“Extremely excited for the season,” said McPherson. “The level of focus and pace that we have committed to this preseason makes me extremely excited for the season with these girls!”
2021-2022 Record: 5-14 2021-2022 Finish: Missed postseason Coach: TJ Dolliver
Milford brings back five seniors from last year’s team, including a pair of four-year varsity players at captain, which the Hawks hope can provide the leadership for a move up the Kelley-Rex standings. After winning five games a year ago, Milford continues to set its sights on getting back into the playoff picture.
Senior forward Emily Croteau is an all-energy player at forward and will be one of the players that Milford counts on at both ends of the floor. She crashes the boards, defends, and her hustle is infectious. Classmate Brooke Ferreira is more of a calming presence in the backcourt, getting the Hawks into their sets and knocking down shots on the perimeter. Fellow seniors Molly Hartman and Aliza Syed will add experience and strength in the paint.
Junior forward Khatrina Leger could be ready for a breakout year after impressing in flashes as a sophomore. Leger used her athleticism to keep possessions alive and was able to get creative with her finishing around the rim. Classmate Erin Michelson uses her length on the wing to cause problems on the defensive side and junior Maeve Driscoll can come into the game and make some big shots on the perimeter.
“We have a lot of versatile players with different skills so our offense and defense is going to rely on execution during the games,” said Milford coach TJ Dolliver. “I have a great group of girls who are ready to compete on a daily basis. We have a lot of room to grow and I am looking forward to seeing where it takes us.”
2021-2022 Record: 4-16 2021-2022 Finish: Missed postseason Coach: Nikki Correia
North Attleboro incorporated plenty of youth into last year’s rotation and those young players will need to be ready from the start this winter because the Rocketeers are only returning four varsity players from 2021-22 and have as many underclassmen (four) as seniors on this year’s team. It is a guard-heavy rotation, which fits into head coach Nikki Correia’s preferred up-tempo style, but there will be a learning curve for a relatively inexperienced group.
Senior Ava McKeon will be the leader on the court for North this season. A four-year varsity player, McKeon gives the Rocketeers an edge with her tenacity, toughness, and athleticism. The rest of the team can feed off the energy that she provides on both ends of the court. Sophomore guards Sam Faria and Sam Sweeney both showed as rookies that they can knock down shots from the outside, but need to be more consistent to take the North offense to the next level. Classmate Maryellen Charette also impressed at times as a freshman and could be ready for a breakout year at forward. Confidence will be important for the younger players to meet the expectations that come from being regular starters.
North has added some new faces to the roster this year to contribute off the bench and give teams different looks. Senior guard Emma Hanwell and forwards Kylie James and Kayla Dominique, as well as junior forward Katie Corsetti will make the jump up from the JV team this season. Freshman guard Ella McLaughlin is another player with the potential to make instant contributions.
“I think our strengths on offense will be our quick guard play,” Correia said. “Our offense seems to be a little more organized and the guards are able to control the tempo. I am really looking forward to the season with this group of players. We are young and have so much potential to really surprise some opponents this year.”
2021-2022 Record: 22-3 (Davenport champions) 2021-2022 Finish: Won Div. 2 state title Coach: Brittany Engle
The defending Div. 2 state champions are going to have a very different look this season. Not only did Oliver Ames lose its top two scorers (Caroline Peper to graduation and Jasmyn Cooper to transfer) but also saw the retirement of legendary coach Laney Clement-Holbrook after more than four decades in charge. OA has turned to former assistant coach Brittany Engle, who is also a 1,000-point scorer and former state champ for the Tigers, who inherits a roster with only four returning players from last season.
Junior guard Kaydance Derba is the team’s top returning scorer and is one of the best long-range shooters in the league. Her length, her passing, and her ball-handling will all be critical for a team that is going to rely on a lot of relatively inexperienced players. Classmate Sarah Hilliard might be ready for a breakout season. The junior forward showed flashes of being a dominant post player last year, coming up with huge games on both ends of the floor during OA’s tournament run and her athleticism is a tough matchup for most teams.
A pair of seniors round out the returning players. Maddie Homer, who was voted volleyball MVP this fall, missed time last year due to injury but she came back to play a role in the state title game win against Norwood. She brings a lot of intensity on the defensive end and is another solid ball-handler that can get the Tigers into their sets. Classmate Grace Dupill will bring more athleticism to the forward position and leadership for a young squad that wants to challenge Franklin for the Kelley-Rex title.
“I’m excited for the season,” Engle said. “We’ve got a lot of good athletes who work hard, and are coachable and competitive. Coming off of a state title, expectations are high, but measured. This is a different team, but one with a lot of potential.”
2021-2022 Record: 4-16 2021-2022 Finish: Missed postseason Coach: Matt DellaBarba
Coming off a four-win season, Sharon returns four starters and nine players from last year’s roster, intent on making a move up the standings in the Davenport division. There is a change on the sidelines, with former Plymouth South coach Matt DellaBarba taking over this season and he will be hoping to utilize the experience that the Eagles have to make a run at a potential playoff spot.
Most of the focus this winter will be on junior center Jasmine Davis. After a stellar first varsity season in which she introduced herself with a 30-point, 20-rebound debut against Milford, Davis was one of the most prolific post players in the league as a sophomore. Sharon can take advantage of the attention Davis will draw to create shooting space for classmate Rachael Hager, who can force defenses to stay home with her ability to knock down shots from distance. Senior Tess Letendre and junior Eva Poulton round out the returning starters and both are solid ball-handlers and defenders in the backcourt and give the Eagles balance on both ends of the floor.
There is going to be plenty of experience coming off the bench for Sharon as well. In the backcourt, senior Clara Armon and juniors Carmen Leonardi and Natalie David will give the Eagles good energy and aggressiveness. Seniors Samantha Dunham and Emily Freeman add depth, rebounding, and solid defense in the front court. DellaBarba wants to make sure all of his players are threats to score on offense and communicate well in his team defense scheme.
“Being completely new to the Hockomock League I’m not entirely sure what to expect in my first season in the league,” DellaBarba said. “I know year in and year out the Hockomock League is one of the most competitive leagues in the state, so our focus right now is making sure we’re approaching every practice and game with energy and giving maximum effort in every opportunity that we receive.”
2021-2022 Record: 1-19 2021-2022 Finish: Missed postseason Coach: Eric Adams
Stoughton had its struggles in 2021-22, winning just one game, but the Black Knights are in the process of rebuilding through youth. With former assistant Eric Adams taking over for Charmaine Steele Jordan this winter, Stoughton will have continuity on the sidelines despite the coaching change and that should be a boost for a lineup that features only two seniors.
While young, Stoughton does have some varsity experience to call on. Senior guards Andrea Khouzami and Anna Hobbs will provide much-needed leadership in the backcourt. Junior Maiya Merritt is a quick guard who can get into the lane and sophomore Raina Tat showed that she has the ability to stretch defenses with her range, and the confidence to not pass up an open look.
In the front court, junior Alyssa Edwards is a three-sport athlete and she uses her strength and quickness to good effect on both ends of the court. Junior Katrina Varnum gives Stoughton a rim protector and a solid rebounder to protect the paint, while she also showed increasing confidence as a finisher around the rim. Sophomore Leah McCarty returns to give more depth on the block. Stoughton also has four freshmen on the roster, guards Kristen McKay, Molly Fox, Isabel Belmonte, and Cecelia Squires, who could be stepping in and getting minutes right away.
“This team is a young team; two seniors, four juniors, two sophomores, and four freshmen,” Adams explained. “This year is going to be a building year and we are eager to grow as a program.”
2021-2022 Record: 4-16 2021-2022 Finish: Missed postseason Coach: Gretchen Rodrigues
The transfer of the league’s leading scorer from last year, Kameron St. Pierre, will be a big challenge for Taunton this season. Losing more than 20 points per game, nearly half of the team’s nightly output, will obviously require more than just one or two players to step up. First-year coach Gretchen Rodrigues is counting on her team’s athleticism and focusing on the defensive end of the floor first to get the Tigers out and running this season.
Junior point guard Cali Melo will be a key player for the Tigers in this system, not only setting the pace for the team but also providing the energy on the defensive side of the floor. Melo is a tenacious defender and rebounder and will be like a coach on the floor. Junior guard Lexi Haywood provides long-distance shooting for the Tigers and is one of the players that could benefit from a few more touches on the offensive end. Sophomore Jillian Doherty gives Taunton more speed and finishing on the break and senior McMina Clermont adds more vocal leadership, defense, and rebounding.
While a lot of the focus is on the outgoing players, Taunton also got a transfer in who could be a major factor in the paint this season. Sophomore Skylar McCrohan has come from Somerset Berkley and Rodrigues will be counting on her crashing the boards and getting buckets in the post. Freshman Taryn Campbell is a quick guard and solid shooter, who will come in and contribute right away.
“We are going to push the ball, play hard all the time, play unselfish, and be in great shape,” Rodrigues said. “My style is up and down, pressure a lot, and utilize all 94 feet.“