NORTH EASTON, Mass. – Oliver Ames and Franklin had a lot on the line in Friday night’s game at the William F. Nixon Gym. The teams were tied for second place in the Kelley-Rex division and trying to stay within two games of league-leading Mansfield (which has to play both the Panthers and Tigers again this year), while OA was also trying to clinch its spot in the state tournament.
Behind 29 points from senior forward Kayla Raymond and defensive adjustments strong contributions off the bench in the second half, OA rallied from three points down at the break for a 61-54 come from behind victory and a split of the season series with the Panthers.
In the first half, everything offensively for the Tigers ran through Raymond. The Stonehill-commit scored 12 of OA’s 14 points in the first quarter, twice scoring on three-point plays taking the ball to the basket. She added another four in the second in the second, while Caroline Flynn knocked down a three and Abby Reardon added four.
With Raymond on one side and Katie Flynn or Alex Sheldon giving weakside help, OA double-teamed Franklin center Ali Brigham, forcing the Panthers to find scoring on the perimeter. Junior guard Bea Bondhus stepped right in and drilled four threes in the first half, scoring 14 of her team-high 18 points in the process.
Teagan Collins also nailed one from outside, as Franklin closed the half on an 11-4 run to lead 28-25.
“That was the game plan, don’t leave Bondhus alone,” said OA coach Laney Clement-Holbrook. “We lost her and she had 14 points in the first half. All I wrote on the board at halftime was 21 (Bondhus) [has] 14, that’s all. Defensively, we needed to make a couple of adjustments and I thought we did.”
OA switched to man-to-man and upped the full-court pressure to try and keep the ball out of Bondhus’ hands. After Raymond tied the game with a three, Megan O’Connell (11 points) scored off a Kelsey MacCallum assist. Erin Holmberg (seven points) hit a three to give OA a lead, but Brigham (14 points and 11 rebounds) answered with a three-point play on an offensive rebound.
“They can make it very tough,” said Franklin coach John Leighton. “They made it so other kids had to score by focusing on Ali and Bea. I thought we countered it pretty well and we had some kids step up. We worked tremendously hard.”
Raymond continued to pour in the points, showing off nifty footwork under the basket to go up and under for a layup with Brigham on her back, but OA also started to get contributions off the bench. Caroline Flynn (six points) scored on a putback, while Meg Holleran and freshman Tori Harney also chipped in on both ends of the floor.
“They did a great job,” said Clement-Holbrook of the bench effort. “Honestly, we started see that become a part of who we are against Foxboro. I think from that point forward that’s what we want and I think they’re starting to believe a little more.”
OA caught Franklin in the press and Katie Flynn hit Raymond with a perfect pass over the top of the defense for a layup. It was one of five assists for Flynn, who caused problems for the Franklin defense in the high post. The senior also added four points, six steals, two blocks, and four rebounds.
“It’s not fancy, flashy,” said Clement-Holbrook about Flynn’s contributions. “That was one of the things we keyed on to try and get Brigham away from the rim. We had to come up with a scheme to see if we could get her out or over and Katie did such a great job because she hit some nice backdoor passes.”
OA led 44-39 heading to the fourth and Raymond drained a long jumper to get the final quarter started. Franklin would not go away, cutting the lead back down to four. The Tigers stretched it back out to nine on a basket by Holmberg and a jumper by Ally Scolnick, who came off the bench to score all seven of her points in the fourth.
“Kayla was kind of a one-man band in the first half,” said Leighton, “but in the second they got kids some open shots, especially in the transition when we were pressing.”
Clement-Holbrook explained, “Offensively, we did a reasonably good job of opening things up. The first time we played them with Brigham sitting in the middle like that it kind of took us a little while to figure things out. Because we moved people around, I think it made it a little more difficult for them to defend us.”
Brigham scored plus the foul off a feed from O’Connell to keep Franklin within six, but Raymond found Flynn with a wraparound pass on the baseline for a layup. Shannon Gray answered with a three on the other end, but OA beat the press and Scolnick set up Raymond for an easy basket. Raymond then returned the favor for a Scolnick bucket in transition.
“We gave up too many easy ones at the end,” Leighton said. “I thought we might be able to hang with them, but once they started getting those easy ones then they were able to pull away.”
Oliver Ames (10-4, 9-3) will be back at home on Tuesday to take on King Philip. Franklin (10-6, 8-4) will try to bounce back on Tuesday when it welcomes Taunton.
The Bombardiers enter the season with a new coaching staff and a very different starting lineup to the one that nearly knocked off Mansfield in the Div. 1 South playoffs last season. Former King Philip coach Marty Crowley has taken over after Rick Patch stepped down in the off-season and he will have only a few returning varsity players to call on this winter.
Senior forward Sam Pierce will be the key piece on offense, as Attleboro tries to replace the more than 30 points per game that was lost with the graduation of Sarah Deyo and Julia Strachan. Pierce has been a consistent scorer and rebounder for the past few seasons, but this will be the first time that she is the primary offensive weapon and could be poised for a breakout year. Junior Jordyn Lako and senior Grace Mayer are strong on-the-ball defenders and should help Crowley implement his high-pressure defensive scheme. Senior Kim White will also be one of Attleboro’s ball-handlers in the backcourt.
One of the players who saw a little time on varsity last season that is expected to make a big jump is sophomore Nyah Thomas, who has the length to be a tough defender and showed in her few appearances last year that she can rebound and take the ball to the basket. Sophomore Liv McCall is a fearless shooter that will stretch the floor and transfer Mackenzie Roberts will give the Bombardiers added size in the paint.
Crowley said, “For us to be successful we must be able to play defense consistently and rebound. Sam, I am sure, is going to draw a lot of attention from other teams, so we must make sure that we are smart offensively and get touches for everyone.”
2016-2017 Record: 6-14 2016-2017 Finish: Missed postseason. Coach: Jim Choquette
There has been excitement around the Canton program for the past few seasons and that continues this winter, as the Bulldogs look to secure a place in the state tournament behind an experienced lineup that has been developing together for several years.
Senior Hannah Jerrier is the key for the Bulldogs, as the forward is coming off a league all-star season in which she emerged as a potential double-double night after night. Jerrier is a solid rebounder and scorer in the paint, reaching the 20-point mark nine times last season and averaging more than 16 points and nine rebounds per game. Junior Julia Hamilton will be back at point guard for the Bulldogs to help get the Canton into its offensive sets and provide pressure, on-the-ball defense. Senior Jess Powers is also back after missing a season to a knee injury and will add a boost to the team’s outside shooting and take pressure off Jerrier on offense.
Junior Maggie Connolly returns for her second year in the backcourt and seniors Lindsey Barrett, Nikki Gefteas, and Leya Conard will all add depth to the Canton roster this season, while junior Erin Devine adds another important post presence on both ends of the floor. The versatility of the roster will allow head coach Jim Choquette to change his game plans every game, slowing it down to play half-court or ratcheting up the pressure to go up tempo.
“Canton remains focused on playing together and staying positive for the best season possible,” Choquette said. “Leading up to our first game there’s been an extreme amount of effort and energy by a large group of unselfish girls and our seniors have all been great examples of staying positive throughout all situations!”
2016-2017 Record: 22-3 2016-2017 Finish: Reached Div. 2 State Semifinal Coach: Lisa Downs
After winning the Div. 2 South title and reaching the TD Garden last winter, this year’s Foxboro team will have high expectations, but with four starters returning, including reigning Hockomock League MVP Ashley Sampson, the Warriors will once again be the favorites to take home the Davenport division crown.
Having already passed the 1,000-point mark for her career, Sampson enters her senior season as the focal point of the Foxboro offense. Her ability to get into the lane and finish, as well as step back and knock down shots, makes her a tough cover and opens space for her teammates. Fellow senior Lily Sykes is one of the beneficiaries of that space and she can take advantage of open looks on the perimeter. Senior Grace Tamulionis is another player who can stretch the floor for the Warriors and can be an ‘X’ factor for Foxboro in big games. Senior Shannon Smally adds rebounding and post presence to keep defenses honest.
The Warriors are now the veteran team in the division, but there are also several younger players that have developed into critical pieces off the bench, including sophomore Abby Hassman, who has grown in the off-season into a strong rebounder. Freshman Katelyn Mollica will add backcourt depth with her tenacity on defense and already impressive court awareness. Junior Chelsea Gibbons is another player that is expected to step into a bigger role this season.
Foxboro coach Lisa Downs said, “This group of seniors have been part of our Varsity team since their freshmen year and with each year, they have learned and developed more – all of the girls on this year’s team put in the necessary work; now its time to execute.”
2016-2017 Record: 9-11 2016-2017 Finish: Missed postseason. Coach: John Leighton
Franklin got off to a rough start last season, beginning 0-6 with an inexperienced roster, but then closed the year with nine wins in the last 14 games, just missing out on a return to the postseason. This year, the Panthers will try to build on that year of experience and book a return to the playoffs.
The Panthers will have strength in the middle to try and get off to a much better start this season. Sophomore Ali Brigham, last year’s HockomockSports.com Underclassman of the Year, has received several Div. I NCAA offers, including one from the University of Minnesota, and at 6-foot-3 can dominate the paint on both ends of the floor. Franklin will also have outside scoring with junior guard Bea Bondhus, who is a consistent three-point shooter and will stretch defenses to open up the post for Brigham.
Franklin has plenty of size this season. Sophomore forwards Breanna Atwood (5-foot-9) and Megan O’Connell (5-foot-10) and senior forward Kate Morse (5-foot-11) will provide plenty of depth on the inside. Junior Shannon Gray will be back to run the point and senior Grace Sameski will add backcourt depth. Freshman guard Elizabeth Wilson is poised to make an instant impact for the Panthers, as she did in the season opener by knocking down three free throws in the final seconds to force overtime against Holy Name.
“We are a young team with only two seniors, but I am very pleased with the effort and progress of the team,” said Franklin coach John Leighton, who is excited about the return of the majority of the team’s scoring and the potential of the youth on the roster.
King Philip has a new coach this season, with former Wellesley assistant Amy Siggens taking over for Marty Crowley, and there could be a period of adjustment for a still relatively young Warriors roster to adapt to the new system, but there is excitement about the progress being made by the seven returning varsity players.
Boston University-commit Shannon O’Connor will once again be a player to watch for the Warriors this winter. The junior’s ability to shoot off the dribble, defend multiple positions, and take the ball to the basket has made her one of the league’s elite perimeter players. As O’Connor continues to develop as a playmaker that will create open looks for her teammates, including junior Julia Leroux and sophomore Faith Roy. Senior Christina Hathaway (one of only two seniors on the roster) will add strength in the paint on both ends of the floor.
The Warriors will not lack for size this season. O’Connor is listed at 5-foot-11, junior Catherine Cummings and sophomore Faye Veilleux are listed at 5-foot-10, and Roy is listed at 5-foot-9. The versatility of those players will give Siggens room to switch up lineups when needed. KP is still pretty young and Siggens has added two freshmen, Emma Glaser and Brianna James, to this year’s roster.
Siggens said, “Early on we will stress the importance of being unselfish on offense and being tough and aggressive on defense. Knowing mistakes will be made, there will be no small emphasis on the importance of playing hard all the time… I am encouraged by our team’s enthusiasm and attitude.”
2016-2017 Record: 20-4 2016-2017 Finish: Reached Div. 1 South final. Coach: Mike Redding
Replacing the production of last season’s HockomockSports.com Player of the Year Jen Peel is a difficult task, but Mansfield has the talent, depth, and experience in the roster to make it work. The Hornets return four starters from last year’s squad and will lean on a loaded and versatile junior class to try and make it a three-peat of league titles.
The key returner for Mansfield is 6-foot-3 center Meg Hill. The Stonehill College-commit is already the program’s best in blocked shots and is soon to be the career leader in rebounds, while improving her offensive game every season. With Peel gone, junior Mady Bendanillo will be tasked with getting the ball into the post to Hill and to fellow junior Maggie Danehy, who had an impressive start with a double-double against Medfield in the Endowment Game. Reigning HockomockSports.com Defensive Player of the Year Ann Maher will also be back at shooting guard and is one of the team’s most consistent three-point threats.
Juniors Erin Daniel, Emily Vigeant, Sydney Mulkern and Kara Bendanillo will likely compete for the fifth starting spot and all should see plenty of playing time this year. With 5-foot-11 senior Maeve Carney and 5-foot-10 freshman Ashley Santos, the Hornets should be able to dominate the paint and sophomore Becca Hottleman will add depth at the point guard position.
Mansfield coach Mike Redding said, “We have a chance to be very good again with our junior group getting a ton of experience last year and we hope to compete for league title again.” He added that the Hornets bolstered the schedule this season as well. Redding said, “Our record may not be as good as last year when we earned the No. 1 seed, but we will be more battle tested for the state tourney in March.”
2016-2017 Record: 10-11 2016-2017 Finish: Reached Div. 2 Central first round. Coach: T.J. Dolliver
A year after returning to the postseason for the first time since 2012 (and nearly pulling off an upset of Marlboro on the road), Milford brings back seven seniors to try and make a push for a Davenport division title and another state tournament appearance.
The Hawks have a versatile lineup led by four-year starter Kate Irwin. The lefty point guard is one of the most dynamic perimeter scorers and playmakers in the league and she continues to improve each season. Her ability to get into the paint opens up room for her teammates and she can also step back and knock down threes. Irwin will be helped by fellow seniors Gillian Valanzola and Juliana Tracy, who add size on the post.
Senior Emily Piergustavo is a knock-down shooter from beyond the arc and her classmate Jess Tomaso has proven to be a solid rebounder from the guard position. There are also two sophomores and four freshmen on the roster this season to add depth and build for the future under third-year head coach T.J. Dolliver.
Dolliver said, “I am very excited for our team this year. This is my 3rd year with a lot of these girls and seeing how they have progressed over the years have really set this team up for a fun season.”
Last season, North Attleboro boasted one of the most experienced lineups in the league with five of its top six players being seniors, but this year the Rocketeers will be incorporating a number of new faces, as only six players (only starter) return from last winter.
The lone returning starter is junior guard Julia Feid, who had a breakout season on the wing and will be counted on to lead the offensive attack this year. Feid’s classmate Emily Haskell will also be on the wing for North this season and will also have a large chunk of the offense run through her. Senior Emily Pastore, junior Liz Smahi, and sophomore Michelle Pothier will also contribute scoring from the wing, while junior Lauren Pezzi and sophomore Olivia Forbes will run the point and distribute the ball in the half court.
The graduation of Caroline Collard and Liz Morehouse leaves an opening on the post, but North has several players that will step in to provide a presence in the paint. Senior Julia Santos and juniors Emma Noreck and Kaley Sullivan will each get opportunities to contribute. North faces a tough early season schedule with the likes of Franklin, Oliver Ames, Archbishop Williams, and Hingham, so it will be critical for the new players to find their feet quickly.
North Attleboro coach Derek Herber said, “The team has quickly began to gel and I am hopeful that we if we can survive the early part of the season, we can qualify for the tournament.”
2016-2017 Record: 13-8 2016-2017 Finish: Reached Div. 2 South First Round. Coach: Elaine Clement-Holbrook
Oliver Ames struggled to find consistent offense last season and it kept the Tigers from being able to challenge Mansfield for the league title or make another run in Div. 2 South, but a healthy lineup with several key returning players has OA optimistic for improvements this winter.
The main focus will be on senior forward Kayla Raymond. The Stonehill College-commit is one of the most versatile players in the league, with the length and leaping ability to dominate in the paint and the range to step out and knock down jumpers. Raymond is listed as a forward/center but could potentially be used at multiple positions. Senior guard Abby Reardon is back to get the Tigers into their offensive sets and as one of the league’s top on-the-ball defenders. Classmate Katie Flynn also returns to give Raymond help in the post.
In addition to the seniors, junior Alex Sheldon will provide depth at the forward position and junior Sadie Homer was a dynamic scorer on the perimeter before an injury cut her season short last year. Homer was a solid three-point shooter last year and will be expected to stretch defenses again this season. Sophomore guard Meg Holleran emerged as a playmaker during her freshman campaign and could see a bigger role this year.
“OA is looking to blend some younger talent and are working hard to provide some depth in the backcourt,” said OA coach Laney Clement-Holbrook. “Looking forward to the fight for the Kelly Rex Division.”
In addition to a new coaching staff, Sharon will see a number of new faces on the roster, as several of last year’s players are focusing on other sports this winter. Former Rockland and East Bridgewater assistant Sandra Lombardi takes over for Cliff Tomassian and will have a young group to work with in her first head coaching position.
Junior small forward Emma Eberhardt is one of the returning players that will be expected to provide leadership and scoring for the Eagles. Eberhardt, a HockomockSports.com All-Underclassman Team performer last year, was Sharon’s top scorer last winter and also has the size to be a problem for opponents on the glass. She scored 16 points in Sharon’s win over Nipmuc in the season opener. Senior guard Miranda Cheung will also be back for Sharon to provide ball-handling and perimeter shooting.
Sophomore Telishya Herbert made the jump from JV to varsity midway through last season and had an instant impact on the Eagles with her athleticism and her ability to score in the paint. She had 10 points against Nipmuc and could be ready for a breakout year as Sharon’s second scorer to take some pressure off Eberhardt. Also back from last year’s roster are junior Evanjuline Elisma and sophomore Ally Brown.
Lombardi said of her new team, “We are going to be quick and aggressive. I’m excited to see what the season will bring.”
The Black Knights narrowly missed out on the postseason last year, despite having a number of underclassmen in the roster, and expectations for this season include a return to the playoffs under third-year head coach Charmaine Steele-Jordan.
Senior Val Whalen was the team’s MVP last season after leading the Black Knights with more than 13 points and nine rebounds per game. Whalen has improved every season and her intensity on defense and on the glass boosts is contagious. Stoughton is a physical team that likes to put pressure on the ball defensively and Whalen sets the tone. Senior Jordan Motley is also a tenacious rebounder and gives the Black Knights another strong presence in the paint.
Sophomore guard Shyanne Trinh had a breakout freshman campaign, scoring more than 10 points per game, and her ball-handling and long-range shooting opens things up for the post players. Fellow sophomore Aliyah Wright also had a strong rookie campaign and her size is a difficult matchup for many of the point guards in the Hock. Stoughton will also count on junior guards Lindsey McDonald and Hailey Egan and sophomore Lexi Baptista. Freshman Sydnee Hyacinthe has also been called up to add depth in the backcourt.
Steele-Jordan said of her senior forwards, “I’m looking forward to their leadership, hustle on the court and their defensive presence this year. Whalen and Motley’s veteran play along with our returning sophomores will be great for the Black Knights this season.”
2016-2017 Record: 1-21 2016-2017 Finish: Missed Postseason. Coach: Walter Harrigan
Taunton is coming off a difficult season in which the Tigers finished with just one victory, but one game into the new year and Taunton has already matched that total. The season opening win over Cumberland (R.I.) fits with the optimism around the program, as the Tigers blend youth with experience in the hopes of making a run at a playoff spot.
The Tigers will be led by senior forwards Hannah Moniz and Mackenzie Handrahan, who combined for 26 points in the win at Cumberland and provide a mix of rebounding, scoring at the rim, and outside shooting to balance the Taunton offense. Junior Lily Patneaude also returns from an all-star season and is Taunton’s most dynamic scorer with range from well beyond the arc. Junior Alexa White is another guard that will provide solid contributions on both ends of the floor.
Junior Shantel Andrew, a 5-foot-7 forward, is expected to be a significant contributor this season, after missing two years with knee injuries. As usual, Taunton has plenty of youth on the roster with four freshmen making varsity, a couple of whom got playing experience last year as eighth graders. Forwards Jaelyn and Sonya Fernandez and guards Kelsey White and Tori DaRosa are going to be counted on to play big roles this year for the Tigers.
Taunton coach Walter Harrigan said, “Our goal for this year is to continue to work hard while focusing on the development of good habits which will hopefully lead to team improvement and a trip to the state tournament.”
#19 North Attleboro, 1 @ #14 Plymouth North, 0 – Final – North Attleboro’s Abby Calistra scored in the first half on an assist from Kayley Gorman to help the Rocketeers score the upset on the road. Big Red will play at #3 Walpole on Saturday at 4:00.
#2 Stoughton, 2 vs. #15 Norwood, 3 – Final
D1 Central West
#6 Franklin, 3 vs. #11 Wachusett, 0 – Final – Franklin took care of business in its opening game of the state tournament, sweeping Wachusett (25-21, 25-15, 25-23). Junior setter Lauren McGrath had a balanced game with 31 assists while adding six digs and a pair of aces. Maggie Doyle (one block) had nine kills while fellow middle Meaghan Maguire (one block) finished with eight kills. FHS coach Kate Horsmann noted Riley Marino, Shannon Gray, and Lauren Bissanti all played well defensively and in serve receive.
NORTH EASTON, Mass. – Beginning the season with a relatively young and inexperienced lineup, Franklin opened with six straight losses. Given time to figure out the varsity level, the kids have turned out to be alright after all.
All 11 of the players on the Franklin roster saw time on Friday night in the first game of a doubleheader at the William F. Nixon Gym and nine of those players got on the scoresheet, as the Panthers showed off their depth to beat Oliver Ames 59-48. It was the fifth straight win and sixth in the last eight games for Franklin, which is now .500 in the league and four wins from booking a playoff spot.
“It’s a tremendous difference,” said Franklin coach John Leighton about the team’s confidence over the past few weeks compared to the start of the season. “You start 0-6 with a young team then they’re going to doubt themselves. They’re going to question things. I’m so impressed by every member of the team picking each other up and that’s lifted the confidence.”
In the first meeting with the Tigers, Franklin allowed Oliver Ames to pull away late for a double digit win. On Friday, it was the Panthers that put together a strong final quarter to turn a five-point lead into an 11-point win.
Franklin scored 17 points in the fourth, 12 of those coming at the free throw line. The Panthers shot 12-of-16 from the charity stripe and all but three of its final 14 points came from the line.
Shannon Gray, who had only three points entering the final quarter, led the way by making 5-of-6 free throws, while freshman Ali Brigham (10 points, 10 rebounds) scored on a putback and senior Carli Koffinke (team-high 13 points) knocked down one of her four three-pointers to help seal the victory.
“In the fourth quarter, Shannon Gray, who had barely scored, was attacking the rim and drawing fouls and that’s what we needed,” said Leighton. “Early it was Ali dominating and Carli scoring…I love to have that balance.”
OA was shorthanded on Friday with sophomore guard Sadie Homer sidelined with a knee injury, but the Tigers came out strong and led 14-13 after one. Senior Hannah Carroll got off to a strong start with five of her 12 points in the quarter, both baskets off assists by Kayla Raymond, who added four of her team-high 15 in the first.
Koffinke kept the Panthers in it early, burying a pair of threes off assists from Bea Bondhus and Grace McDermott. Leighton said of Koffinke, “She’s worked so hard at her shot and her game. You can see that she’s worked and if she gets a couple inches then she’s going to take it and really it’s a weapon for us.”
The defense picked up in the second for Franklin, which held OA to just eight points and grabbed a six-point halftime edge. Gray (eight points) started the second with a three off the first of Izzy Faught’s three assists in the quarter. Grace Sameski knocked one down to extend the lead and then Kate Morse (10 points, five rebounds, four assists) hit another. Carroll hit a pair from beyond the arc to keep OA hanging around.
The Panthers extended the lead to as many as 10 points in the third with Morse again providing big plays. She buried an elbow jumper and then a big three that made it 40-30.
“Cool as a cucumber,” said Leighton about Morse. “Kate’s a great three-sport athlete, but she’s really come on as a basketball player this year and I’m thrilled to have her another season.”
Brigham chipped in with four in the quarter and Koffinke knocked down another three, but Franklin could not put away the Tigers. OA battled back behind senior point guard Abby Reardon, who scored seven of her nine points in the third and assisted on a Katie Flynn transition layup.
“We’ve lost several games in this scenario where we couldn’t close out,” said Leighton. “We talked about playing more of a full game. Good possessions, hold them to one shot, make your free throws, then you can play with the lead and it’s hard to beat.”
The Panthers followed that formula down the stretch and pulled out the win. It was a total team effort, which is what Leighton thinks defines this year’s team.
He explained, “One way we’ve improved over the course of the year is exactly that. We have 11 girls, they all play and the idea is to get the open girl to take the shot and really work to make sure it’s a good shot. We really worked to move the ball a lot better the last few games.”
Franklin (6-8, 6-6) will try to keep its win streak alive on Monday with a trip to Taunton. Oliver Ames (9-5, 8-4) will look to get back on track, and clinch a tournament spot, when the Tigers travel to King Philip.
FRANKLIN, Mass. – Much of the attention on Oliver Ames this season will be centered on junior forward Kayla Raymond, and rightfully so, but the Tigers are going to need other players to step up if they want to repeat last season’s run to the Div. 2 South title.
On Friday night, in the opener of a Coaches vs. Cancer doubleheader, those other players made the plays that the Tigers needed to pull out a divisional road win against Franklin. While Raymond was once again the star with a game-high 22 points and 14 rebounds, OA had five other players score at least six points.
“That’s ultimately what we have to do,” said OA coach Laney Clement-Holbrook. “Everyone is going to be keying on Kayla and that’s what they’re going to be focused on doing and we need other people who can step up and contribute and take some of the pressure off.”
In the opening quarter OA needed only one player, as Raymond scored eight of the Tigers’ nine points in the first and the Panthers were held scoreless for the opening 6:40 of the game.
“She didn’t force anything, but the second you go one-on-one…she’s into the offense immediately,” said Franklin coach John Leighton about Raymond. “She’s a junior, she’s only going to get better. She’s a great kid and makes her team better.”
Franklin scored the final four points of the first and despite the rough start trailed by only five at the first break. In the second, both teams exploded offensively, splitting 52 points between them in a back-and-forth quarter.
The Panthers were given a lift by sophomore Bea Bondhus off the bench, scoring 11 of her team-high 14 points in the quarter. Her driving layup gave Franklin its first lead at 25-23. Freshman Ali Brigham chipped in with eight of her 12 points in the second as well, giving the Panthers an inside-out combination that was tough to guard.
“She’s got her length and she’s athletic and you can just tell she’s going to get better every time she plays,” said Clement-Holbrook of Brigham, who also pulled in 10 rebounds. “Her awareness as to where the ball is, where the defense is, how to time the ball over the top, she’s going to be a serious issue to deal with.”
Raymond continued her strong performance burying a three from the corner and scoring off an assist by Meg Holleran (six points). Senior Hannah Carroll also heated up in the second, scoring seven of her nine points, including a transition three. Katie Flynn added six of her eight points and Sadie Homer (eight points, 10 rebounds, six steals) chipped in with a three to close the half and put OA back up five.
“I thought we came out in the first quarter too high energy and not enough execution,” said Leighton. “When that second shift came through for everybody, you saw marked improvement. I thought Ali and Bea really sparked us there and I thought Shannon [Gray] really stepped up at point guard and move the ball well for us.”
The Panthers cut into the lead in the third. Katie Morse scored the first five points of the quarter, including a corner three to tie it only to have Homer answer it on the other end. Carli Koffinke scored on a drive, but again OA matched it with a layup from Abby Reardon (six points). Koffinke (eight points) hit a floater to close out the quarter with Franklin down just two, 44-42.
Needing to close out the game, OA went back to its star. Raymond hit a turnaround jumper on the right block, assisted on a basket for Flynn, then snatched an offensive rebound for a basket. Homer added a steal and an assist on a Reardon layup and then Raymond drilled her second three to put the Tigers ahead by 12.
Franklin continued to hang around but had turnovers on consecutive possessions and OA closed it out with free throws. “That’s been our Achille’s heel,” said Leighton. “Big game, big crowd, and things got a little tighter.”
He added, “In the end you have to play better ‘D’. You can’t give up 60 points in high school girls’ basketball regularly and win. I thought we made some steps forward but Kayla Raymond is a special kid and when we packed it in they had other kids step up and make shots.”
Clement-Holbrook is still looking for consistency from her relatively young team and hoping to see a four-quarter performance.
She explained, “We didn’t play our best and the fact that they were able to get things together in the final three minutes was really the difference.
“In no game this season have we played four consistently good quarters. I told the seniors, a quarter of the season is already over and we need to play with urgency.
Oliver Ames (4-2) will try to keep momentum high against King Philip on Tuesday before its showdown with league-leading Attleboro next Friday. Franklin (0-6) is young and struggling through a rare tough start to the season, but will hope to get the season jumpstarted next week against Taunton.
2015-16 Record: 21-3 (14-2) 2015-16 Finish: Reached the Div. 1 South quarterfinal Head Coach: Rick Patch
The Bombardiers came within one game of winning their first Hockomock League title last year and despite the loss of 2015-16 Player of the Year Emily Houle to graduation, Attleboro comes into this season as one of the favorites in the Kelley-Rex again this winter.
One reason for the high expectations for the Bombardiers is senior forward Sarah Deyo. The Southern New Hampshire-commit comes into the season just 68 points shy of 1,000 for her career and is a matchup nightmare for the opposition with her ability to score in the paint and from the outside. Fellow senior Julia Strachan returns from a knee injury that cost her all of last season and the Adelphi-commit adds another strong shooter and rebounder to the front line. The Bombardiers are loaded at the forward position with junior Sam Pierce coming back after a breakout sophomore campaign that saw her average nearly a double-double.
While the strength of the Bombardiers is in the post, Attleboro has experience in the backcourt with senior Mish Logie and sophomore Jordyn Lako returning as the primary ball-handlers and strong on-the-ball defenders. Juniors Grace Mayer and Kim White will add depth in the backcourt off the bench. Guard Liv McCall is another who could contribute this season, among a group of six freshmen that will be on the varsity roster.
“We are very excited about our program and how its progressed over the last three seasons,” said head coach Rick Patch, “and the positive, entitled-to-nothing culture we have established that best represents ‘Blue Pride’ and the Attleboro community.”
2015-16 Record: 13-8 (10-6) 2015-16 Finish: Reached Div. 1 Central quarterfinal Head Coach: John Leighton
Franklin has been consistently one of the top programs in the league and despite losing a strong group of seniors, the Panthers are once again in the mix for a league title and a return to the Div. 1 Central tournament.
Leading the way this season is a core of five experienced seniors that offer Franklin a good balance of interior and perimeter scoring. Carli Koffinke is in her third year on varsity and is a threat from the outside, taking advantage of the Panthers’ drive and kick style of offense. Point guard Margaux Welsh will take over the primary ball-handling role and will be expected to get the offense going. Izzy Faught and Grace McDermott will add depth in the backcourt and forward Erin Skidmore adds athleticism and quickness in the paint.
In order to stay consistently competitive, the Panthers have always been able to count on new players coming in to refresh the roster. This winter will be no different with junior forward Kate Morse in her first year on the team as well as sophomore point guard Shannon Gray and three-point threat Bea Bondhus, who had a team-high 11 points in the season opener. Freshmen Ali Brigham and Megan O’Connell will add to Franklin’s front-court depth.
“With so many younger and newer players, we are hoping to build team chemistry and improve each and every day,” said Franklin coach John Leighton. “We are very encouraged with our depth and will lean on our seniors for leadership.”
2015-16 Record: 6-14 (4-12) 2015-16 Finish: Missed playoffs Head Coach: Martin Crowley
Under head coach Martin Crowley, King Philip has been a very tough team to play against, focused on high-pressure defensive effort and not letting up from the opening tip to the final whistle. This year, the Warriors are hoping to get a little more consistency on the offensive end to match that defensive intensity.
KP will not lack for athletes this winter beginning with returning starter Shannon O’Connor, who emerged as a potential scoring threat on the wing as a freshman last season. Classmate Julia Leroux also impressed in her rookie season and they are already go-to players on the offensive end. Junior forwards Hadley Zolak and Christina Hathaway and senior Courtney Kelleher will give additional scoring and rebounding as athletic forwards that can battle in the paint and get out and run the break.
There is also a youth movement at KP this year with a strong, athletic freshman class that has already put in a standout soccer season this past fall and is ready to contribute to the basketball team as well. Chloe Layne has stepped right in and will be an instant contributor at the point guard position and will be joined by classmate Faith Roy on the varsity roster.
“Youth will be served,” said Crowley, “however our goal is the same it is every season whether you have a veteran team or not and that is to qualify for the tournament in what I believe is the most competitive league in the state.”
2015-16 Record: 21-4 (15-1) 2015-16 Finish: Reached Div. 1 South semifinal Head Coach: Mike Redding
The Hornets are coming off the program’s first ever Hockomock League title, edging Attleboro in the final game of a dramatic league campaign, in front of arguably the biggest crowd to watch a game (male or female) in the league last season. This year, Mansfield has the challenge of trying to defend its title despite losing eight seniors from last season.
Mansfield’s title defense begins with senior guard Jen Peel, who has been limited by an injury in the preseason and will be moving from the point to the off-guard position this year. She is one of the best playmakers in the league and will have junior center Meg Hill to find in the half-court. Hill is a dominant force on both ends of the floor and should expect to get even more touches this year and needs to be aggressive looking for her shot.
The Hornets will have plenty of size beyond the 6-foot-3 Hill. Senior Olivia Broyles and junior Maeve Carney are both over six feet tall and sophomores Maggie Danehy and Emily Vigeant are just under six feet. Sophomore twins Mady and Kara Bendanillo will add speed to the roster with Mady having the experience of playing time as a freshmen, including a start in the South semifinal against Bishop Feehan. Junior Ann Maher is another player that can be expected to take on a bigger role this year at the shooting guard position.
“We may be more athletic than a year ago and we’ll run as much as we can and press more than we did a year ago,” said head coach Mike Redding. “It should be fun and with seven sophomores in our top 11 we should get better and better as they get experience and confidence.”
2015-16 Record: 21-4 (13-3) 2015-16 Finish: Won Div. 2 South title Head Coach: Elaine Clement-Holbrook
Oliver Ames is coming off a remarkable 2015-16 season that saw the Tigers reach the 20-win mark, claim the Davenport division title, make a run to the Div. 2 South title and a chance to play at the TD Garden, and celebrate the career of head coach Elaine Clement-Holbrook, who became the state’s all-time career leader in wins (finishing the season with 645). This year, OA will face the challenge of trying to match that level of success while taking on a new division after being moved into the Kelley-Rex.
The key to the Tigers putting in league title fight is junior forward Kayla Raymond, who is one of the most talented players in the Hock and one of the toughest match-ups with her combination of size, speed, shooting touch, and handle. Raymond will get help from senior guard Hannah Carroll, who became one of the team’s top shooters from the perimeter and can stretch opposing defense. Senior Niyera Mitchell is coming back from an off-season injury and has the size and touch to be a strong performer on both ends of the court.
OA lost only two seniors to graduation but then also lost shooting guard Francesca Calabraro to a knee injury during the soccer season. Senior Abby Reardon will be one of the backcourt players that will be counted on to pick up the scoring slack, while Clement-Holbrook will be hoping for senior Brenna Burkett and junior Sadie Homer to provide a scoring touch at the forward position.
“Moving to the Kelley Rex will be a tremendous challenge for us,” said Clement-Holbrook. “Our goals are the same as before: Compete to qualify for the tournament, challenge for the Hock title and go as deep as possible in the tournament.”
2015-16 Record: 4-16 (2-14) 2015-16 Finish: Missed playoffs Head Coach: Walter Harrigan
Taunton is coming off a tough year in which the Tigers only managed four wins, but it was also a chance for a number of young players to get valuable varsity experience and Taunton will be hoping to have it pay off with seven returning players on this season’s roster.
One of the exciting younger players that emerged last year was Lily Patneaude, who showed off athleticism and a range of offensive skills as a freshman. Junior Hannah Moniz is another wing player that can provide scoring off the dribble or from the perimeter. Junior MacKenzie Handrahan will add rebounding and defense on the post and eighth grader Sonya Fernandes could be a newcomer to watch on the Taunton front line.
The back court has a mix of experience and youth led by senior guard Abby Kingman, whose ball-handling and speed will be vital. Kingman’s classmate Jess Regan is returning after missing her entire junior year to an injury and will offer a steady hand at the point guard position. Junior Dominique Bradley and sophomore Alexa White will add depth to the guard positions.
“Taunton has a combination of experience and youth,” said head coach Walter Harrigan, “along with some skill and athleticism that has the makings for a fun and interesting year.”