NORTH EASTON, Mass. – Canton’s Julius Hicks hadn’t attempted a field goal all game, but when the Bulldogs needed him in crunch time, the senior captain delivered.
Hicks hit all three of his attempts from the floor in the fourth, including a pair of big three-pointers, to help Canton capture a 48-39 win on the road over Oliver Ames.
There was little separation throughout the first three quarters, and points were at a premium with the sides even at half (21-21) and again after three quarters of play (29-29). After scoring just eight points in the third quarter, Canton erupted for an 8-0 run to start the fourth in less than two minutes.
Sophomore Anthony Dilietizia drained a three off of the opening inbounds pass and a steal from senior Matt Chafin resulted in a pair of free throws for the senior captain. Another OA turnover, their third straight to start the final period, Chafin (15 points, 4 assists) penetrated the lane and dished it out to Hicks (10 points) for a triple to make it 37-29 just 1:46 into the fourth.
“I thought we executed a little bit better offensively, we played with more structure and more purpose,” said Canton head coach Eric MacKinnon. “We made sure to call something out every time. And defensively we got some deflections and got some steals and we converted. We really emphasized really getting organized and running something with a purpose.”
Oliver Ames sophomore Cole Craffey (17 points, five rebounds, three assists) hit back with a traditional three-point play to cut the deficit to five, but after some empty trips from both sides, Hicks took a pass from Zaza Francoeur (7 points, 7 rebounds, 3 blocks) and hit a three from straightaway.
“He was ready,” MacKinnon said of Hicks. “He looked exhausted out there but he made them when it mattered. Like any high school team, when you make a couple of shots, it gets you a little more excited on the other end.
“I think they missed some shots they normally make but I thought when we got the steals and deflections, we made the right play instead of forcing something. It was good that when we built that lead, we kept it and didn’t let it go.
Caden Mirliani finished a tough layup through contact to give Canton the first double-digit lead of the game at 42-32, and even when OA answered, the Bulldogs broke the press and a long possession finished with a layup from Hicks.
“The start of the fourth quarter was the difference,” said Oliver Ames head coach Oliver Vil. “They hit a big three, we missed one, and that’s kind of been the story for us the last couple of games with these little runs and we don’t stop the bleeding when we should.
“We started to play hero ball a little bit, and that’s something you get when you’re a young team. Defensively we’ve done well, we were second in the league in points against. We’re just hurting a little bit on the offensive end, and hopefully, that comes with more experience.”
The first three quarters featured back-and-forth runs from both sides. Francoeur hit a three to open the game and converted his own miss as Canton jumped out to a 6-0 lead but the Tigers came alive and closed with a 13-0 run, including a pair of three-pointers from senior Chris Elias (9 points).
A layup from Ashton Cetoute and consecutive threes from Chafin gave Canton the lead to start the second with an 8-0 run, and a bucket from Lucas Massih kept the Bulldogs ahead.
OA freshman Soren Lolonga (13 points, 7 rebounds) and Craffey combined for the final seven points to pull the Tigers level at the half, 21-21.
Lolonga was OA’s lone scorer in the third quarter, accounting for all eight of the Tigers’ points. Jamaal McConnell had success attacking the basket and had a late assist in the third to Mirliani, but Lolonga tied the game at 29-29 with a late free throw.
Canton boys basketball (4-2 Hockomock, 6-3 overall) hits the road on Tuesday with a visit to Franklin while Oliver Ames (1-5, 3-6) visits North Attleboro.
Attleboro has consistently been in the hunt for the Kelley-Rex division in recent years, and if the Bombardiers are going to be there again this year, they will have to do so with a lot of new players to the varsity level.
Not only did the Bombardiers graduate a sizable senior class, but the majority of them were also key pieces in longtime head coach Mark Houle’s lineup and rotation. Add in the transfer of promising 6’5-forward Trevor White, and Attleboro has very few pieces left from last year. But that’s not to say Attleboro is without talent. Junior Neo Franco is coming off a very successful first year with the team, earning HockomockSports All-Underclassmen Team honors. Jaiden Outland saw more and more minutes as the season went on and he showed what he’s capable of with a career-high 18 points in Attleboro’s win over Durfee in late February last year; he could be poised for a big year. Senior Michael Beverly is the third returner for the Bombardiers after picking up some minutes last year while newcomer senior Justin Hanrahan could be a key piece right away.
Another reason for optimism is that most of the new faces in the lineup this year played for the Bombardiers’ JV squad last season, which posted an impressive 19-2 record. Seniors Spencer Sherck, Zyeem Charles, Nathan Hodson, and Michael Alfonso will provide key leadership for Houle this year. Junior Max Crawford will join sophomores Dante Monestime, Hayden Crowley, and Brady Erwin as potential contributors for the Bombardiers.
“We need to continue our commitment to be a highly competitive defensive team, our communication, and understanding of defensive concepts is a priority and is a reason we were one of the top defensive teams in the league last year,” Houle said.
2021-2022 Record: 9-11 Coach: Eric MacKinnon
Canton surprised a lot of people on the outside of the program with a nine-win season that certainly was good enough for a playoff spot, but the Bulldogs have put that seeding drama in the rearview mirror and are now focused on surprising people again this year.
In order to do so, the Bulldogs will need new players to step up as second-year head coach Eric MacKinnon only has one returning starter from last year. Matt Chafin emerged as a top perimeter option, averaging 8.8 points per game last year (reaching double figures in just under half of the games). Although he isn’t returning from last year’s lineup, Julius Hicks provides a big boost for MacKinnon and Bulldogs, coming back after missing all of last season with an injury. Hicks would have certainly been in the rotation last year and will be a vital piece this year. Junior Zaza Francoeur is an athletic wing player that can impact the game on both ends of the floor for the Bulldogs.
Defense emerged as one of Canton’s strengths a season ago as the Bulldogs bought into MacKinnon’s game plan. Canton allowed the least amount of points against in the Davenport division at 50.6, and they will look to replicate that again this year.
“With our personnel and style of play we have the ability to score from the perimeter and play inside-out at times,” MacKinnon said. “Our length and athleticism should allow us to get out in transition.”
Foxboro is one of the few teams in the league that has more familiar faces returning than not, and after only missing out on the Davenport title by one game last year, the Warriors are aiming to compete with defending champs Sharon and division newcomer Mansfield for the top spot this season.
The Warriors boast one of the better senior classes, anchored by HockomockSports First Team selection Alex Penders. Penders, a 6-foot-5 forward who averaged 16.3 points and 11.7 rebounds per game last year and recently committed to play at Ithaca next year, is joined by classmates Sam Golub, Ryan LeClair, and Andrew Finn. Golub and LeClair played a lot of minutes for head coach Jon Gibbs last season and both improved as the season went on. Having three experienced players will certainly give the Warriors an advantage, especially on the defensive side of the ball where Gibbs always has his teams prepared.
Penders can score in a variety of ways and will be a matchup problem for most teams in the league. Golub is a proven shooter that can get hot at any time while LeClair is a pesky defender, and as seen by his performance on the road at Stoughton last year, is a capable scorer. Penders will certainly be the focus of the offense but he’s a very unselfish player and Foxboro should have a good balance in the scoring column. While the Warriors have a strong senior class, they’re still a relatively young team. With only two juniors, the rest of the roster is filled by six sophomores and two freshmen. Junior Ryan Cotter and sophomores Ryan Kelley and Nolan Gordon will be names to keep an eye on.
“This is a very hard-working and coachable group that is improving on a daily basis,” Gibbs said. “We have a very exciting blend of experienced veterans and newcomers who are hungry to contribute. If we can defend and rebound at a high level, the potential is there for a very successful season.”
2021-2022 Record: 21-4 Coach: CJ Neely
Entering the past two seasons, there was a lot of unknown for the Panthers after graduating a large senior class each year. It’s the opposite this year as Franklin graduated just three players and has the majority of last year’s squad that went 21-4 back in the fold.
After a third-place finish in the Kelley-Rex last season, Franklin could be the team to beat this go around. Junior Sean O’Leary highlights a talented and experienced group of long, athletic players. O’Leary, a 6-foot-4 forward that can score from anywhere on the court and was named to the HockomockSports All-Underclassmen Team last year, will be one of the top players in the league this year. Junior Andrew O’Neill (8.8 points per game) is another returner and head coach CJ Neely will lean on a small but talented senior class that features Ben Harvey (HockomockSports All-Defensive Team), Justin Allen, Geino Scaringello, and Hayden Morandi.
Juniors Hansy Jacques, Bradley Herndon, and Andrew Benoit were all on the team last year and could see increased minutes this season. There will be more opportunities on offense for players to step up with the graduation of Sean Vinson (12.8 ppg) and last year’s leading scorer and HockomockSports Underclassman of the Year Henry Digirogio (16.1 ppg) has opted not to play this year. And promising sophomore Caden Sullivan, who likely would have been in the rotation, will miss significant time due to injury.
“The preseason has been very competitive at practice,” Neely said. “We have a great group of guys who really care for each other. While we do have a good amount of returning players, there is a lot of playing time up for grabs and it will be a daily challenge for guys to earn roles. I have been most impressed with how committed and focused the players have been each day on the court and in film sessions to always look for ways to improve as a group. It will be fun to watch them grow and compete all year.”
2021-2022 Record: 6-16 Head Coach: Dave DeStefano
King Philip brings back a good portion of its roster and is looking to book a spot in the tournament and contend for the Kelley-Rex division title.
The Warriors are one of the few teams in the league that brings back their leading scorer from a year ago in Will Laplante, a seasoned veteran that has averaged over 16 points per year in each of the last two seasons. Laplante is joined by senior Grant Kinney, who had some breakout games last year, and Tommy Martorano, who showed that at his best (a career-high 36 points) that he can score with the best players in the league. That trio is three of KP’s top five scorers from a year ago. Senior Colin Peck, a 6-foot-2 forward, will likely see an expanded role after playing some valuable minutes last year.
Juniors Tommy McLeish and Trevor Clyde, both 6-foot-3 forwards, have made a big jump from last year and will be key pieces for head coach Dave DeStefano this year. New additions Danny Silveria and Peter Cataldo, both juniors, look to factor in as key defensive pieces for the Warriors. Sophomore Tommy Kilroy didn’t see a ton of minutes early on last year but his role expanded as the season went on, scoring in double figures against Mansfield and in a win over Xaverian. Fellow sophomores Brandon Nicastro, Drew Laplante, and Jack Assini will all looking to contribute this season as well.
“The boys have really committed this offseason,” DeStefano said. “The limited practices so far have been really competitive. It’s no secret that our defense has to drastically improve to be competitive in the league. We want to make our opponents uncomfortable and focus on working together to get stops. On offense, we are looking to have a balanced attack and create great scoring opportunities as a team.”
2021-2022 Record: 21-5 Coach: Mike Vaughan
Mansfield had its incredible streak of nine straight Kelley-Rex division titles come to an end last season, and now the Hornets start a new chapter as they begin their first season in the Davenport. Expectations remain sky-high for the Hornets, who are an immediate favorite for the division crown.
The Hornets have two of their best scorers back from last year in senior Chris Hill (12.5 ppg) and junior Trevor Foley (8.2 ppg), but Mansfield did graduate its leading scorer in Matty Hyland and lost five of its top seven scorers. That means there’s a lot of opportunity for new faces to step up. Hill has probably played more varsity minutes than anyone else in the league and he can compete at a high-level night in and night out. Foley really emerged as a top player by the end of the season, averaging over 16 points per game in March.
Senior Caden Colby was part of the rotation last year and will see a bigger role this year while classmate JT Veiking is a 6-foot-5 forward that can score on the perimeter or down low. Senior Michael Creedon rounds out the senior class and can provide a spark with increased minutes this year. Junior Eddie McCoy is poised for a breakout year, an athletic wing player that can attack the rim and cause problems for opposing defenses. Juniors Brandon Jackman and Davon Sanders should see time in the Mansfield backcourt this year.
“This season will be our tallest team in my tenure, it will be fun to see what different things we can do on the defensive end,” Vaughan said. “Offensively we should have plenty of power to put points on the board but the big question mark will be how quickly we can find our max compete level.”
2021-2022 Record: 2-21 Coach: Paul Seaver
Milford had an entirely new team last season and was the youngest team in the league. With just four seniors gone from last year, the Hawks are still a young team but head coach Paul Seaver believes his group learned a lot last year and is trending in the right direction.
The Scarlet Hawks have three of the top four scorers from last season back in the fold, including junior Jake Soares (8.0 ppg), sophomore Andrew Rivera (7.8 ppg), and senior Wyatt Zagami (7.1 ppg). Zagami, who can really fill it up when he’s on a hot streak, is joined by classmates Guy Saintyl, Jacob Ligor, and Joe Buckley to round out a small senior class for the Hawks. Soares was probably Milford’s most consistent player for the first two months before an injury ended his season early, and Rivera showed some glimpses of high-level play throughout the year.
Having a year of experience will be key, especially as a lot of other Hock teams are featuring a lot of first-year varsity players. Sophomore Luca Testa is another young player that saw a lot of minutes for the Hawks last year and will be a key piece during this campaign. Sophomore Gus Coutinho is a dangerous shooter and freshman CJ Farrell could be an impact player right away as well.
“Last season we were very young and very inexperienced,” Seaver said. “We learned how to compete while playing a tough schedule. Now with double digits returnees, we not only aim to improve on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball – we aim to improve in all aspects. Our goals and expectations will be what we make them and what we do with the opportunities that are given to us. I have a great crop of kids who are committed, hard-working individuals who continue to climb the ladder and do things the right way.”
2021-2022 Record: 5-15 Coach: Sean Mulkerrins
North Attleboro battled through an up-and-down season last year that featured some impressive wins — like a double-digit victory over Foxboro and a sweep of Stoughton — as well as some tough losses, like to Foxboro in overtime and to rival Attleboro by just three points. The Rocketeers graduated their two leading scorers from a year ago but return the majority of a roster that was playing their first varsity minutes last year.
Besides its four seniors last year, the rest of the Rocketeers were brand new to the varsity level. That means this year’s group will feature a bit more experience, albeit North is still on the young side. Givany Carney is North’s most experienced player and will be one of the go-to options on the offensive end of the court. Carney is a crafty player that does well getting to the rim with a good combination of speed and size. Senior Jack Munley is a tone-setter and can change the momentum of a game with his effort while senior Derek Maceda showed glimpses last season as a potential go-to guy offensively, both on the perimeter and attacking the basket.
Sophomores Ryan Bannon and Chase Frisoli both played some valuable minutes as freshmen and should see increased roles this year. Bannon is a solid defender and can be a contributor on the offensive end while Frisoli is a high-IQ player with range. Junior Chris Hanewich is another player that head coach Sean Mulkerrins is relying on to contribute on both ends of the floor. With some good experience, North will be looking to establish itself as one of the hardest-working teams in the league, which starts on the defensive end.
“We have a roster of kids who are working hard to improve and learn our system,” Mulkerrins said. “Our practices have been very competitive. We are very focused on building and maintaining our team culture so we are prepared to compete against the talented basketball programs in the Hockomock League.”
2021-2022 Record: 10-12 Coach: Oliver Vil
Oliver Ames is going to have a new look this year under second-year head coach Oliver Vil. The Tigers lost the majority of the team that won a preliminary playoff game last season and missed out on the Davenport division title by just a game.
Not only will the lineup feature new faces, but it will also feature a lot of new faces as the Tigers have a deep group this year. Senior captains Chris Elias and Ari Spiliakos are two returners that will be leaders for the team both on and off the court. Senior Nick Asiaf is a capable ball handler and can attack the rim while seniors Nick Rhodes and Jaden Graham provide key depth. Sophomore Cole Craffey played some meaningful minutes a year ago and will be one of the Tigers’ go-to options offensively this year. He’s very confident with the ball and can score inside and out.
With seven of their top eight scorers from a season ago gone, there will be plenty of opportunity for new players to step up. Freshman Solen Lolonga was in the starting lineup for the Tigers’ season-opening win over Southeastern and had a strong showing with 19 points. Vil also has a deep junior class that features Jake Willard, Daniel Casey, Andrew Sullivan, and David Rodgers, who all played in the win.
“Our strength this season on offense will be our ability to move the ball and create shots for one another,” Vil said. “We will have the same defense approach as last season, forcing our opponents into taking difficult shots and limiting transition offensive baskets. We now have minimal room for careless mistakes to compete in an already difficult conference. I am extremely excited to battle a plethora of well-coached disinclined teams every night we step on the floor to play a game this season.”
2021-2022 Record: 12-9 (Davenport division champions) Coach: Andrew Ferguson
Sharon won its first Davenport division title in eight seasons last year and with its top three scoring options back in the mix this year, the Eagles will be in contention to repeat that feat again this year.
Senior Matt Baur and juniors Jacob McLoughlin and Nate Katznelson give Sharon one of the top trios of players in the league. Baur, who earned HockomockSports First Team honors last year after averaging 15.1 points and 6 rebounds a game, is the heart and soul of the team. He leads by example both on and off the court and is the engine of the team. He doesn’t have to fill up the scoring column to have a big impact on the game. Both Katznelson and McLoughlin emerged as top players in their first season and will be vital pieces this year.
Senior captains Jack Bates and Tyler Goodman both came off the bench as key pieces for head coach Andrew Ferguson last year and will see increased responsibility this year. Bates is a pesky defender and a good floor general while Goodman can provide a spark with his shooting. Senior Dante James, an athletic wing player, comes over from Mansfield and should give the Eagles a big boost with their depth. Juniors Ryan Brown, Anthony Piron, and Cam Sherman provide backcourt depth while juniors Zach Wise, Jaden Segal, and sophomore Sam Letendre provide physicality to the Eagles’ frontcourt.
“With a small senior class, this team is blending experience with youth and has already begun to form a tight bond both on and off the court. Our practices have been super competitive and we look forward to competing against a very strong schedule.”
2021-2022 Record: 9-11 Coach: Evan Taylor
Last season, Stoughton entered the final stretch of league games right in the mix for the Davenport division title but ended up on the outside looking in finishing in a tie for fourth and just missing out on the postseason. With just a few returners back in the mix, the Knights will be looking for a new group of players to lead them into the tournament and contend for the division crown.
Stoughton has two major challenges to address this year, one on each side of the ball. The Black Knights lost their three top scorers from last year with Connor Andrews (19.9 ppg) and Cash Mathurin (5.9 ppg) graduating, and Rayan Sablon (18.3 ppg) transferring out. Head coach Evan Taylor will lean heavily on his four returning players to try and fill that void. Senior Jayden Costa Haywood played some meaningful minutes a season ago and has taken a big leap and the Knights will look for him to provide an offensive punch. Junior Liam Pearl (5.2 ppg) also worked his way into the rotation and made some key shots in clutch moments, including at Foxboro and at home against Canton. Sophomore Matthew Greenspoon (5.6 ppg) is the top scorer back from last year and will look to build on a strong debut season as a freshman.
The other challenge for Stoughton will be on the defensive end as the Knights look to make a drastic improvement after allowing over 60 points per game last year. On top of the returners, Taylor is looking for senior Tagh Swierzewski and junior Jarred Daughtry to make an immediate impact on the defensive side of the ball. Other newcomers include senior Obioma Dike, juniors Elijah Connor, and Nathan Figaro, sophomore Mykel Thomas, and freshmen Anthony Alessi and Aiden Rideout.
“Defense has been the main focus at the start of this season,” Taylor said. “Our goal is to be a top three defense in the league with a lot of great on-ball defenders and high IQ players on the
2020-2021 Record: 19-3 (Kelley-Rex division champions) Coach: Charlie Dacey
This season will mark a new chapter in the storied history of Taunton basketball. After back-to-back Kelley-Rex championships, including the program’s first outright title a year ago, the Tigers will have a lot of new faces in the lineup this year.
The biggest challenge will be replacing the production from one of the best trios in the Hock in recent history in Player of the Year Trent Santos, Faisal Mass, and Tristan Herry, who combined for just under 75% of the team’s scoring last year. One of the familiar faces returning to the starting group is junior Troy Santos, who has the most career points of anyone on the roster. Santos showed some flashes last year but will have a lot more looks this year. Seniors Chris Volcy and Alvinsky Morisseau, and junior Tyson Carter are also returners from last year and figure to see increased minutes this season.
Senior Chris Perault could be the biggest addition for the Tigers, a player that can score both from the perimeter and attacking the basket. Santos will factor in as one of the top shooters both on the team and in the league while Volcy has really improved from last year and could be a top scoring option for the Tigers. Longtime head coach Charlie Dacey is looking for Dimari Brown and Travis Johnson to provide a spark on the low block, plus some more faces to step up off of the bench.
“This year’s Taunton team will be very different from last year. This edition will be faster without a singular scorer, points can come from a variety of styles,” Dacey said. “Speed and aggressive defense will be the key to Taunton’s success this year.”
NORTH EASTON, Mass. — First-year Canton head coach Eric MacKinnon didn’t have many complaints about his team’s defensive performance, holding OA under 50 points.
But neither did first-year Oliver Ames head coach Oliver Vil, whose squad was equally as good on the defensive side, leading to a 46-36 win for the Tigers and a season sweep of the Bulldogs.
Despite being held to just four points over the final eight minutes of play, the Tigers didn’t surrender a field goal in the fourth quarter, holding Canton to just six points, all from the free throw line.
“The second half wasn’t our strong suit on the offense end, had a lot of turnovers but the kids grinded it out which was great to see, defensively we worked really hard,” Vil said. “With the Hock, every night is a battle and I think the guys are ready mentally for it. Now we just have to clean up a lot of mental mistakes.”
Canton cut the deficit to eight after back-to-back threes from Matt Chafin (from Lanse Dorcelus) and Nate Mei (from Conor Hunter) and looked to have the momentum going into the break, but a late turnover led to a three-pointer from OA’s Zach Tagliamonte (OA’s only three of the game) just before the buzzer, and the Tigers carried a 31-20 lead into the second half.
“We’ve been really happy with our defense the last four or five games…. but we just can’t score, we can’t make shots when we’re getting them,” MacKinnon said. “And then we’re not getting a ton of good shots. We’re having a tough time getting to the rim.
“We were making more [three-pointers] earlier in the year, so we’re trying to have more balance with getting to the rim, throwing it into the post but we’re just not doing a great job of it. So it just feels like a lot of possessions are flat.”
The Bulldogs once again made a game of it with a 9-2 burst in the third quarter. An early bucket from OA’s CJ Williams extended the hosts’ advantage to 33-20 but Dillon Nguyen converted a tough shot down low, Mei (13 points) converted a turnover into two and then scored again off a nice handoff from Hunter (nine points, eight rebounds, three assists, three blocks).
Tagliamonte answered for OA but Canton came back right away with its fifth three of the game when Mei returned the favor to Hunter, cutting it to six at 35-29.
But that would be the closest the Bulldogs got the rest of the way, and the visitors didn’t hit another triple for the remainder of the game.
Jake Grimaldi hit two free throws, and then found Tagliamonte for a tough two. Sophomore Jefferson Smock came up with a big block on one end and then finished through contact on the other to give OA a 42-30 lead going into the fourth.
Points were hard to come by in the fourth, with Dorcelus and Mei combining for three free throws to cut the deficit to single digits. Drew Baxter made a tough shot after a big rebound from CJ Santos, but both teams went scoreless after that for nearly four minutes.
OA got its second bucket of the quarter when Dan Reilly found Tagliamonte for two to make it 46-35 with just under a minute to go.
Tagliamonte led the way with 13 points, but with defenses zoning on the junior who is among the top scorers in the Hockomock League, Vil was pleased to see other names get it going offensively.
Baxter finished with 10 points and eight rebounds, Grimaldi had nine points and four boards, and both Santos (four rebounds, four assists) and Williams (seven rebounds) had five points apiece.
“With the style we play, it can be anybody that steps up on any given night,” Vil said. “We’ve been fortunate with Zach this year, he’s a sniper that can really pull from anywhere and he’s very good in transition. But he kind of came out of nowhere, a lot of teams are starting to focus on him so we’re starting to see some other guys start to flourish around him which is what we need.”
Oliver Ames boys basketball (6-6 Hockomock, 7-9 overall) is on the road on Tuesday with a big clash at rival Sharon. Canton (4-8, 5-9) returns home to host rival Stoughton on the same night.