Warriors Reign in D2 South Ends Against Pembroke

Foxboro girls basketball
Foxboro senior Chelsea Gibbons (31) scored half of her team’s points in a semifinal loss to No. 4 seed Pembroke. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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BRIDGEWATER, Mass. – After two years as the top team in Div. 2 South, defending state champion Foxboro saw its quest for a three-peat come to a very abrupt end on Wednesday night against Pembroke at Bridgewater-Raynham High.

The Titans held the Warriors, who led the Hockomock League in scoring at more than 60 points per game, to single digits and no more than three made field goals in each quarter. Pembroke pulled away in the second quarter and left the Warriors in the rearview mirror, pulling out a 50-24 victory that sends the Titans to the South final.

It was obvious from the start that Foxboro had the target on its backs and Pembroke wanted to be the team that ended its run.

“It definitely doesn’t help, but we didn’t come out ready,” said Foxboro coach Lisa Downs about facing every team’s best effort. “I don’t know if it was that we were scared because they didn’t seem that way when they warmed up, so I think it was a matter of they maybe thought we were better than we were and taking that team more for granted than we should have.”

Chelsea Gibbons, who scored half of her team’s points, opened the game with a three that barely even made the net ripple as it dropped through. Foxboro didn’t score again for more than six minutes. Pembroke went on a 13-0 run to take control.

The Warriors did climb back into the game before the end of the quarter. Jordyn Collins drove baseline for a layup and Yara Fawaz got one at the line after a rare offensive rebound. Gibbons (12 points) swished another three and suddenly it was a four-point game (13-9).

It felt like Foxboro was on the verge of righting the ship and preparing to go on a run to get back in front. That wasn’t how it played out.

The Titans came out firing in the second, knocking down each of the first five threes that they took. Gibbons hit a third from beyond the arc to cut the lead to 19-12, but then three more triples for Pembroke pushed the lead to 14. Lizzy Davis got her only points on a putback but the Titans went into the break leading 30-14.

Downs explained, “We tried to do a matchup 2-3 zone at one point and then we went to a half-court 1-3-1 trapping zone. We forced a turnover and then we dribbled out of bounds, things that we don’t do. So many things that were very atypical for us.”

Jayne Howe hit three from the outside in the second quarter and scored 15 of her 17 points in the opening half, outscoring the Warriors by herself. Pembroke used a 17-5 quarter to pull away.

“They’re a very good team,” Downs said. “All of our game plans that we put together to keep the ball out of the hands of [Howe] and [Katie Galligan], we just didn’t execute and it didn’t help that we had no rebounding whatsoever. It was just a perfect storm for us that we couldn’t do anything right.”

Katelyn Mollica knocked down her only jumper of the night to bring Foxboro back within 18 at 35-17 and then Gibbons answered a Pembroke basket with another three. It was as close as Foxboro would get. In fact the Warriors only managed four more points for the rest of the night.

“She couldn’t get into a rhythm at all and then she’s trying to force shots because she knew that she had to score,” said Downs about Mollica, who led the team ins coring as a sophomore, averaging more than 18 points per game. “She was a little bit tight and she wasn’t following through because she was trying to get a shot off quickly.”

Abby Hassman and Collins each scored in the fourth quarter but that was all that the Warriors managed as Pembroke was running down the shot clock on every possession and typically getting multiple looks thanks to its control of the glass.

Coming into the season, following the graduation of influential players like Ashley Sampson, Lily Sykes, Grace Tamulionis, and Shannon Smally, no one saw the Warriors as the potential No. 1 seed in the South. Despite the new faces in the lineup, Foxboro (20-3) still won a third straight league title and reached a third straight South semifinal.

“Each game that we played, each practice, I would see something a little more that I hadn’t expected,” Downs said. “We’re still a young team. They’ve had some good experience the last two years that hopefully they can build on and learn from and hopefully set some goals that after tonight’s game you never want to feel this crappy.”

Oliver Ames Claims Third South Title In Four Years

Oliver Ames boys soccer
Oliver Ames’ Matt Alvarado (right) celebrates his second half goal with Mason Galbato (left) and Cam Vella (center). (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
 
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TAUNTON, Mass. – Coming off its biggest win of the season in the D2 South Semifinals against top-ranked Nauset, Oliver Ames head coach John Barata was admittedly a little worried how his Tigers would come out on Tuesday night against Pembroke in the sectional final.

But those worries were quickly erased as the Tigers came out firing, dictating the play throughout the first half. OA took the lead just before the halftime break and then added two more in the second half to earn a 3-0 win over the sixth-seededa Titans, giving the fourth-seeded Tigers their third D2 South crown in the last four years.

“That’s where the experience kicked in for us,” Barata said. “We knew that even after winning such a big game, it was just one game and the next big game was this one. Having won that one and losing this one, [the Nauset win] wouldn’t have meant much. So it was very important coming out firing, and we did.”

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It shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that the Tigers were ready to go. With 21 seniors on the roster, Oliver Ames is stacked full of playoff experience.

The Class of 2018 witnessed the Tigers win four playoff games, including the sectional final, in 2014, their freshman year

In 2015, a handful of those seniors – then sophomores – played vital roles in five postseason wins including a win in the D2 State Final. And last year, they picked up experience in two more postseason games.

Now in the program’s 16th playoff game since they were freshmen, these seniors had no trouble getting going from the start.

“It’s a great senior group, it’s a group I’ve been with since kindergarten and first grade,” Barata said. “We knew it was a special group coming through, and we’ve had similar groups and have similar groups coming, but it’s been a special bond. For me, it’s been nice to see them succeed and now hold their own title up, not with senior groups. They’ve done it on their own.”

Less than a minute in, the Tigers had two goal scoring chances. Senior Chris Lawrence’s throw somehow flew through the area without a recipient. And seconds later, senior Mason Galbato chipped a service in but senior James Gillespie’s header was saved.

Three minutes later, senior Matt Alvarado found Gillespie at the far stick but his header just went over the bar. Two minutes later, Gillespie’s low shot just missed the far post after senior Michael Nikiciuk had set him up via a low centering pass.

In the 18th minute, Lawrence launched another long throw that slipped through the keepers’ hands but Brian Flaherty cleared the loose ball off the line to prevent the Tigers from taking the lead.

Flaherty gave the Titans their best chance of the first half. OA senior keeper Jack Carroll did well to clear away a cross, but the loose ball fell to Flaherty who floated a shot off the crossbar from 25 yards out.

But the momentum didn’t shift as OA continued its pressure. Alvarado touched a ball over the top that Pembroke tried to shield back to the keeper but strong pressure from senior Nathaniel Cardoza nearly gave the Tigers the lead.

A minute before half, the Tigers cashed in on a corner kick. Senior Jack Sheldon drove the corner right to the six-yard line where Cardoza rose up and nodded his header inside the near post for a 1-0 lead.

“We felt like we should have opened the game up much earlier,” Barata said “It made it a battle and we knew it was a going to be a difficult contest but we should have opened the scoring much earlier and much more frequent. But [Pembroke] made some adjustments, then we made some adjustments [in the second half] and got control back.”

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While Pembroke picked up some of the play to begin the second half, the Tigers withstood the pressure. The best chances for the Titans came on a scramble in front off a corner kick, but OA did well to clear it.

The Tigers finally found an insurance goal in the 71st minute. Sheldon gained possession on the right flank near the corner flag. He was able to beat his defender along the line, drawing the defense out. He slid a pass right to the penalty spot where Alvarado calmly blasted a right footed shot into the back of the net to make it 2-0.

“We talked about going into a defensive formation or not, but at the end of the day, we had so many chances it just didn’t make sense to go into a cocoon and have them come at is. So we decided to not do it and it paid off. We were able to get the two at the end.”

OA put the game away for certain just two minutes later as Gillespie was rewarded for a great run with a service into the area. His shot was saved but Nikiciuk was right on the doorstep to tap it in for a 3-0 lead.

With the win, Oliver Ames boys soccer (15-2-4) advances to the D2 State Championship to take on North sectional champion Concord-Carlisle (13-2-6) on Saturday, with a location and time to be announced. It is also a rematch of the 2014 final, a 1-0 win by the Patriots.

“We look forward to playing them again, they are a fantastic team,” Barata said. “They have five state titles, they are a juggernaut in high school soccer. They are the bar that everyone tries to be. I know Ray [Pavlik] well, he’s a fantastic coach. I hope we give them a great game.”

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Gibbs, Nolte Come Through For Canton In Playoff Win

Canton hockey
Canton hockey celebrates in front of its home fans at the Ice House after holding on to beat Pembroke 1-0 in the first round of the tournament. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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CANTON, Mass. – For the opening 12 minutes of Wednesday evening’s game, Canton junior netminder Quinn Gibbs was basically a spectator. Every once in a while, he would drop down to watch a puck dribble wide of the net for an icing, but was otherwise untroubled by the Pembroke attack.

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That would not last, as the Titans would put 23 shots on goal in the final 33 minutes of the game, many of them through screens or from point-blank range. Gibbs would come through with stops on all of them, making 23 saves to record a shutout in the first round of the Div. 2 South tournament at the Canton Ice House.

Gibbs heroics kept the score level until late in the third period when sophomore Ryan Nolte fired in the game’s lone goal to lift Canton to a 1-0 victory over the Titans and a spot in the Div. 2 South quarterfinal.

“He played one of his best games of the season and we needed him,” said Canton coach Brian Shuman of Gibbs.

“Quinn’s tough as nails in net and against these guys, in particular in the third period both times we’ve faced them, he’s had some guys go in there hard and he just stepped up and just played big in those situations,” Shuman continued.

It was not until 2:49 remained in the first period and the game’s first power play before the Titans put a shot on goal and Gibbs was forced to make a strong save from the edge of his crease. In the second, Pembroke put eight shots on net and Gibbs was equal to all of them.

He was called upon again in the opening seconds of the third when Zach Simpson got free in front and one-timed a shot from four feet out but Gibbs stood tall to block it. A few minutes later he stuck out a quick toe to deny Joe Benting from the circle and Nathan Beath on a point-blank redirect.

Shuman explained, “You can easily get rattled when guys are going in there hard but he doesn’t; he’s unfazed and he made some big stops for us tonight.”

Canton came out of the gates flying and dominated the opening period. The Bulldogs had 14 shots in the first. Mike Dadasis set up Jack Goyetch for the best chance but the shot was saved by Pembroke goalie Justin Pijanowski. Tommy Kilduff stole a puck to the left of the goal and fed it to freshman John Hagan but that was also stopped.

In the second, Canton added another 10 shots (the Bulldogs finished with 35 in the game) but most were coming from the edges of play. Senior defensemen Jackson Maffeo and C.J. Martin both had several shots through a crowd and Bubba McNeice had a quick turn and a shot that was saved.

“We’ve been averaging more than four goals per game the second half of the season because we’ve been getting pucks to the net and bodies to the net,” said Shuman. “I feel like we got pucks there tonight, but no bodies. We were just a half second too slow.”

One player that was creating chances on a consistent basis was Goyetch. The junior forward was a constant thorn on the forecheck and his speed through the neutral zone created a power play and several scoring opportunities.

Shuman said, “Jack is a rock. Every single game you know what you’re going to get out of him and that’s energy. You’re always going to get a goalscoring chance or two…and we need a guy like that. It seemed like Jack was able to settle things down for us.”

Hagan nearly broke the deadlock just before the end of the second period after getting a feed from Nolte. The freshman forward settled the puck, took aim, and was unlucky to see his shot elude the goalie’s shoulder but carom back off the bar.

The Bulldogs struggled to get control in the third and it was Pembroke that had the edge in scoring chances, until the final six minutes. Canton was given a power play chance and Nolte made it count. He skated on the far side boards, circled back around and from the left face-off dot went high on the short side and roofed his wrister.

“What a shot,” said Shuman. “Ryan did not play his best game, and Ryan will tell you that, but he made a big shot when he counted and that’s what he’s all about. He’s a big game player for us.”

Charlie Malloy had a chance to seal the win with a steal and a breakaway but his shot was blocked aside. Kilduff nearly snagged an empty net goal in the final seconds but could not prevent the icing.

Pembroke continued to press and forced Gibbs to make a save and then watch a puck slide just wide of the post. It was exactly what Canton expected from a state tournament game.

“Typical D2 South game,” Shuman agreed. “As long as I can remember, we’ve had so many one-goal D2 South games. We’ve had a lot of one-goal games this year and we’ve been finding ways to win them.”

One of those one-goal wins was against Bishop Feehan and Canton (15-4-3) will face the Shamrocks again on Saturday in the Div 2 South quarterfinal at Asiaf Arena.

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