NORTH EASTON, Mass. – Oliver Ames has been primarily known for its defensive effort this season, as the Tigers remain in middle of the Kelley-Rex division title race by allowing less than 40 points per game. But, on Friday night at the Nixon Gym, it was the OA offense that took top billing.
The Tigers came roaring out of the gates, scoring 28 points in the opening eight minutes, and never let up, racing out to an 86-65 victory against King Philip. The Warriors like to press, run, and get as many possessions as possible and it played right into OA’s strength in transition. With the win, the Tigers opened a two-game lead over KP in second place and clinched a spot in the postseason.
“We did a lot of work in practice in terms of what we expected and I think that for the most part they stayed disciplined,” said OA coach Laney Clement-Holbrook about managing the KP press. “Even the kids that came off the bench, it wasn’t for long minutes, but it was to satisfy what the need was in the moment.”
Rarely does the opening shot of the game set the tone, but when senior Erin Holmberg swished a corner three the energy on the OA bench went through the roof. OA jumped out to a 16-2 lead, as Holmberg fed Hailey Bourne (eight points) for a layup and Caroline Flynn (game-high 24 points and 11 rebounds) for a transition jumper.
Holmberg (career-high 17 points, five rebounds, and five assists) also got a steal and layup to make it 22-6 and then she banked in a buzzer-beating three from a couple feet behind the line to put OA up 28-10 after one.
“When she hit that shot, my heart was…it was amazing,” said Clement-Holbrook, referencing Holmberg’s recovery from the surgery she had last winter. “It was amazing. That gave the energy to the rest of them when they saw her do that. It was awesome.”
Faye Veilleux (13 points and nine rebounds) opened the second quarter with a put-back, but then OA went on a 7-0 run to go ahead by 23. Holmberg (five assists) continued to be a spark plug, assisting on another Flynn transition basket, and Tori Harney scored on a rebound.
“They hit a lot of those mid-range shots, which are kind of the ones that we give up,” KP coach Dan Nagle explained. “They come down, 4-on-3 or 3-on-2, and they take that long two, which a lot of times is a long rebound and we get out and run but tonight it was just a swish.
KP loves to shoot threes, but the Warriors struggled to find the range in the first half. Faith Roy (team-high 16 points) buried one, but then Holmberg answered with a jumper and Kelsey Yelle (12 points) got free on an inbound play and Meg Holleran (nine points) fed her for a bucket. Emma Glaser (seven points) hit a three to close out the half, but OA went into the break up 41-20.
“I actually thought in the first half it felt like we played a lot worse than we did,” said Nagle. “We were missing a lot of good looks and then they were making every look that they got. That’s how we play, it’s who we are, and to their credit they made a lot of shots.”
In the third quarter, KP found its shooting touch and suddenly looked like one of the league’s top offensive teams. Roy drilled a pair from beyond the arc and scored 11 points in the third quarter alone. Veilleux also got free for a pair of threes and Brianna James (six points) hit one as well.
The Warriors scored 27 points in the third. The problem for KP was that it only took one point off the OA lead.
Yelle grabbed an offensive rebound for two, Bourne turned a defensive rebound into an assist for a Holmberg and-one, and then Yelle and Holmberg each scored in transition. There was a scary moment midway through the quarter when Holmberg went down holding her neck, forcing her to the bench for the final 12 minutes, but at that point Flynn turned it on. She scored 10 points over the final four minutes of the third to keep the lead at 20.
OA kept it rolling to start the fourth. Jess Erlich scored back-to-back baskets and Flynn got out on the break for a finish plus the foul, but she went down hard on her ankle and was forced to the bench for the final seven minutes.
With the OA point guard on the sideline, KP dialed up the pressure to try and make a late rally. The Warriors scored 12 straight points to get as close as 73-59.
Emily Sawyer (nine points and 10 rebounds) got the run started by getting on the offensive glass, then Glaser knocked down a jumper. Veilleux showed off her varied game by driving to the rim and then stepping back to hit a three. After a Glaser steal and layup, the lead was down to 14 and the home crowd was starting to feel a little nervous.
Bourne hit two at the line and Caroline Peper hit her biggest shot of the night. After the ball bounced around and KP nearly came up with a steal on multiple occasions, Peper scooped it up. The sophomore was battling a bad back and was limited all night, but she showed no hesitation and buried a three that stemmed the tide.
“Just shoot it, just let it fly,” Clement-Holbrook said about what she was thinking at that moment. “It was a huge three and the fact that she stayed composed, and we’re trying to get her healthy too but she was ready to go.
That shot proved to be a turning point, as OA settled back down and closed the game on a 13-6 run.
“That could’ve been a game where we felt bad about ourselves at halftime and came back out and didn’t have any fight at all, but I thought it was the exact opposite,” Nagle reflected. “I thought our fight, our energy for the entire 16 minutes of the second half was off the chart.”
A one-point loss to Taunton preceded a rare division home defeat to Stoughton last week but with a strong emphasis on defense and a career night from junior Jordan Darling (33 points, 12 rebounds), the Scarlet Hawks put an end to the brief skid with an important 73-61 verdict over visiting Oliver Ames.
The Hawks were the lone Davenport team to win on Tuesday, a week after the division was swept by the Kelley-Rex.
Milford turned the game on its head with a terrific third quarter, doubling its output from the first half in just eight minutes while its defense got the job done against a Tigers’ squad that can score in a variety of ways.
“We came out [in the second half] with a sense of urgency,” said Milford head coach Paul Seaver. “Our defense led to offense is the best way to put it. We had our opportunities in two games last week and we didn’t capitalize so we came into this game really focused on our team and what we can do.
“We put a real emphasis on defense the last couple of days and looking at the score, we held them to 40 points from the field so I thought our defense was phenomenal. I think our defense is what won us the game tonight.”
A back-and-forth first half featured 21 combined fouls and 23 combined free throw shots, so there wasn’t much rhythm for either side. Darling got off to a strong start with seven points in the first quarter while Dom Schofield, Colby Pires (11 points, eight rebounds), and Ben Blanchard (12 points) all scored to help the Hawks seize a 13-8 lead early.
Oliver Ames briefly overcame a tough first shooting quarter (2-for-10 from the field) for its best offensive stretch of the night. The Tigers went on a 12-0 run in the middle of the second quarter that featured seven straight from senior Evan Craig (15 points, eight rebounds), a layup and free throw from Amari Brown (12 points, five rebounds, four assists), and a mid-range jumper from Jay Spillane to go ahead 20-15.
But the Tigers’ offense cooled over the final four minutes of the second quarter, and for the majority of the game. Milford countered with an 11-4 run to end the quarter that was capped by a layup from Ralph Franklin Jr. at the buzzer that gave the Hawks a 26-24 lead at halftime.
Blanchard opened the third quarter with a three and the Hawks were off and running from there. And even when Milford was off the mark on its first shot, like it was on two of its next four possessions, the Hawks shined on the offensive boards. In both cases, it was Darling that collected the offensive rebound and went right back up for two, and junior Sean Murray chipped in with a putback of his own to give the hosts a 37-28 lead at the midway point.
The Hawks pushed the lead to double-digits for the first time on a layup from Blanchard, and the offense closed the quarter with an incredible surge.
Franklin Jr. scored off an assist from Tyler Wetherbee, Darling converted in the post and then on a breakaway after a steal. Weatherbee used a nifty feed from the baseline to find Darling for two more before Oliver Ames looked to put a stop to the bleeding by sinking its first three (after missing its first 12 attempts) via Owen Friel (10 points) with just a couple of seconds left in the third.
But Milford had one more punch to deliver as Darling banked in a shot from just over half court to beat the buzzer and give the Hawks a 52-36 advantage through three quarters.
“This is one of those ones where we got thoroughly outplayed in every phase,” said Oliver Ames head coach Don Byron. “Right down the line, defensively not good, offensively bad choices, bad shooting, and on and on…just felt like we got outplayed.
“Because we’re not shooting well (19-for-59 FG), we’re in transition defense all the time. We usually shoot the ball better and can set the defense. And they hurt us on the boards all night.”
Pires opened the final quarter with a three, Murray scored down low, and Pires finished off his own miss as the Hawks pushed the lead to 59-38 early in the fourth. The Hawks held OA without a made field goal for the first three minutes, limiting the Tigers to just three free throws.
OA senior Ryan Burkett (13 points, 12 rebounds) scored down low but a three-point play from Darling with 2:50 left in the game gave the Hawks their largest lead at 64-46 and capped the junior forwards’ big night.
“He’s always up for the challenge, there’s no doubt about it,” Seaver said of Darling. “And obviously tonight was a career night for Jordan but just after the game, I heard someone tell him how many points he had but he said the team won, that’s all that matters. That sums up the type of kid he is and the team-first attitude everyone on this team has.”
The teams combined for 20 free throws in the final two minutes of action to bring the final score to 73-61.
Milford boys basketball (5-4 Hockomock, 6-4 overall) moves into sole possession of first place in the Davenport just past the midway mark and will travel to Canton on Friday. Oliver Ames (4-5, 8-6) will try to bounce back when it visits King Philip on the same night.
NORTH EASTON, Mass. – As a freshman, Franklin forward Olivia Quinn got to experience life on the varsity team, spending every practice going up against the Panthers star center Ali Brigham during the team’s run to a Div. 1 Central title. That experience seems to have paid off handsomely for the Panthers because Quinn has taken her game to another level this winter.
In a showdown at the Nixon Gym of the top two teams in the Kelley-Rex division, Quinn was unstoppable. She poured in a career-high 32 points, including 23 in the second half, and knocked down five three-pointers, including all four that she took after the break.
Quinn and Brigham combined to score 37 of Franklin’s 41 points in the second half, as the Panthers rolled to a 71-41 victory and grabbed control of first place in the division.
“I thought on offense we executed at a high level, especially in the second half,” Franklin coach John Leighton explained. “We got under control, we didn’t kick the ball around the gym, stopped fouling, and just got good possessions. When they doubled Ali, we moved the ball and kids knocked down open shots.”
OA coach Laney Clement-Holbrook added, “We just didn’t do the little things we needed to do to stay afloat. Give them credit. They’re the real deal, they certainly are, and I’m grateful that we get another chance because there are certainly things we need to work on. That’s the level that we’re trying to achieve.”
While Brigham, the reigning league MVP and HockomockSports.com Player of the Year, will always be the primary focus for opposing teams, but the Panthers showed right away that there are other weapons for teams to deal with. Kaleigh Houlihan knocked down a pair of threes in the first quarter, including one in the corner off an inbounds pass from Elizabeth Wilson to put Franklin up 14-8 after one.
Tate Hadges knocked down a jumper and Caroline Peper (nine points) knocked down her only three of the game, and Hailey Bourne (seven points) hit a jumper off a Meg Holleran assist, as the Tigers tried to keep it close in the second.
Wilson scored all four of her points in the second quarter, Brigham (22 points and three blocks) added four more and Quinn started to find the range with seven in the quarter to help Franklin build the lead. A Quinn corner three on a Houlihan assist made it 30-18, but OA got Caroline Flynn free inside for a layup to cut the lead back to 10 heading into the locker room.
It didn’t take long for the Panthers to break the game wide open, as the Tigers simply couldn’t contain Brigham in the third. The George Washington-commit scored 12 points in the quarter on a variety of post moves on both sides of the rim and even stepping back to drill a three that put the Panthers up 41-26.
“It’s nice having a Div. I kid sitting there,” Leighton said, “but it creates good spacing and (point guard) Erin [Quaile] did a good job creating, getting to the rim when we needed her to. It really puts the defense in peril when everyone is getting touches. No kid can be a spare part.”
When OA did get the ball out of Brigham’s hands, Quinn was there to create another difficult matchup. She scored with a lefty scoop, nailed a three off a Quaile assist, and then hit another from the corner, as Franklin led by as many 22 in the third. Quaile also got to the rim for the only two points not scored by Quinn or Brigham in the quarter.
“As a freshman, I had a lot less confidence,” said Quinn, who entered the week as the fourth leading scorer in the league at more than 15 points per game. “This year, I’m taking on a bigger role in the team and they’re all helping me out and it’s been a great season so far.”
Leighton noted, “Her playing time what it was but she worked her tail off. Going at that speed, going against Ali every day in practice, makes you better. The big thing is confidence. Tonight it all came together. They had a hard time closing out and it gave her the look and she knocked it down.”
Franklin’s defense was preventing OA from keeping the game close, holding the Tigers to just three made field goals in the third. Tori Harney got a jumper after Flynn (10 points and eight rebounds) snagged an offensive board and swung the ball around to the forward. Flynn also scored inside and Bourne managed to slip through the defense on a drive, but it was Franklin by 20 heading to the fourth.
In the fourth quarter, Quinn took over. Quaile set her up for a three and then, after Brigham got a bucket inside, she buried a second one on a kick-out. An offensive rebound for two and the layup plus the foul in transition after a Meghan O’Connell steal put the Panthers up by 27. Another basket on a Brigham assist and a pair at the line completed an impressive night for Quinn and the Panthers.
“We got beat off the dribble repeatedly, we didn’t cover three-point shooters, and I said to them that they’re not 30 points better than we are, but they are today. We didn’t execute any part of our game plan and we didn’t learn from our mistakes.”
Quinn said, “Them being the only other undefeated team in the Hock, this was a big game for us and we really came ready to play with a lot of intensity and gave it to them early.”
Franklin (9-0, 8-0) will be back home on Tuesday in another showdown, this time against Davenport division leader Foxboro. Oliver Ames (8-2, 7-1) will try to bounce back from its second loss when it hosts Milford.
NORTH EASTON, Mass. – Through its opening five games, Foxboro had proven to be far more than its opponents could handle. The lowest margin of victory for the unbeaten Warriors was 31 points back in the season opener. Coming into Tuesday night’s game at the Nixon Gym, they were the top scoring team in the league and the top defensive team.
As the first quarter was winding down, it looked like business as usual. Foxboro led 15-7 and was lining up another three-pointer to try and extend the advantage. Caroline Peper blocked the shot (one of three blocked three-pointers for her in the game) and Caroline Flynn snatched the rebound. Flynn took off up court and laid a pass off to Peper for a three of her own.
It was the start of a 23-5 run to close out the half that gave the Tigers a lead they would never relinquish. OA held the Warriors to single digits in the second and third quarters, locking down defensively and controlling the glass, to pull out a 54-39 win that keeps them unbeaten in the league and in a first-place tie with Franklin in the Kelley-Rex division.
“These kids have basketball IQs and they’re not afraid to work hard and to be physical,” said OA coach Laney Clement-Holbrook. “I was just so proud of their effort and it didn’t come from just one player. The depth is really significant for us. They’re better now at recognizing where our strengths are.”
It was the first loss of the season for the Warriors, who remain a game ahead of North Attleboro in the Davenport division, and a reminder of the way they have to play in order to have success this season.
“We think we’re better than we are,” said Foxboro coach Lisa Downs. “We can be very good but we need to do the little things that we’ve done so far and tonight we kind of forgot those things.”
Foxboro got off to a strong start. Lizzy Davis (11 points, five rebounds, four steals) was everywhere in the first quarter. She scored six points, burying a corner three and scoring in traffic on an inbounds play, and took a pair of charges. Katelyn Mollica drilled a three to make it 12-5 and it looked like the Warriors would have a comfortable edge after one.
Then Peper blocked Davis’ three and turned into three points on the other end of the floor. The momentum from that play carried over after the timeout.
Peper (game-high 14 points) sliced through the defense for a layup. After a couple of free throws, Flynn snagged an offensive board and swung it around to Peper for a quick-release three that put OA on top 17-16. Shakirah Ketant (11 points) answered on the other end to regain the lead, but it would be the last lead of the night for the visitors.
“All of a sudden we were just playing hectic basketball and no one was relaxed,” Downs explained. “When they got the ball everyone was trying to do their own thing.”
Jess Erlich (10 points) hit four straight at the line to put the Tigers in front again, Hailey Bourne (seven points) drove to the cup for two, and then Peper buried her third shot from downtown to put OA ahead 26-19. Flynn assisted on a Erlich layup and then Bourne set up Tate Hadges (nine rebounds) for a basket in the post.
Leading by 10 at the break (30-20), Clement-Holbrook urged her team to keep its foot on the gas. “Coming out in the third quarter, just maintaining that defensive intensity,” she explained. “I wasn’t comfortable until the final buzzer went off because you can’t not play defense against Foxboro for the whole 32 minutes.”
Bourne scored on a drive and Erlich knocked down a corner jumper off a Flynn assist to get OA right back into the swing of things in the third. Peper’s fourth three of the night put OA up 40-22. After Jordyn Collins got a steal and layup and Yara Fawaz scored in the paint, it looked like Foxboro might have a comeback in it but Flynn grabbed an offensive board and scored to make it a 16-point game after three.
Downs admitted, “We got killed on the boards, which is something that we’ve been priding ourselves on, crashing the board offensively and getting defensive rebounds, and we didn’t do that.”
The offense was working well for the Tigers, but the story was the defensive effort that OA put into stopping Mollica. One of the league’s leading scorers, she was held to just six points and one made field goal. The combination of Bourne and Erin Holmberg never allowed Mollica the time or the space to get off her shot or get Foxboro into its sets.
“Hailey did an amazing job on Mollica and then Holmberg went in and there was not a single drop-off defensively,” said Clement-Holbrook. “[Erin] was amazing and this was the first chance for her to be a factor and knowing what she’s been through it’s just an example for everybody.”
Foxboro never really made a dent in the OA lead in the fourth, only getting as close as 13, after an Abby Hassman steal led to a layup for Davis and then her own drive to the basket made it 52-39. Flynn added four points in the quarter, as did Meg Holleran, and the Tigers comfortably finished the game off.
Oliver Ames (6-1, 5-0) will be back in action again on Friday when it travels to Mansfield. Foxboro (5-1, 4-1) will be on the road again, when the Warriors pay their first visit to the new Stoughton gym.