Hockomock Track Teams Race to Support Good Cause

Hockomock Indoor Track
Hockomock League indoor track teams are competing to collect the most clothes for Cradles to Crayons. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)

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This winter, Hockomock League teams are not only competing on the track at the Reggie Lewis Center, but are also in a friendly competition off it. Teams are racing to collect new and gently used clothing that will be donated to the non-profit organization Cradles to Crayons to help families in need throughout the Boston and Metrowest areas.

The brainchild of Sharon athletes and MIAA student ambassadors Berta Faktorovich and Jacob Durbin, this is not an ordinary call for donations. The teams have been organized into a competition to see which program can collect the most. Certain items of clothing are worth more points than others, for example sweatshirts, coats, ski pants, and jackets are worth three points and t-shirts, socks, gloves, and hats are worth one.

Clothes are being collected at each of the league’s track meets, as all the teams gather together at the Reggie Lewis Center. Through the first two meets, North Attleboro was in the lead with 197 points and Sharon was close behind in second at 179.

Hockomock Indoor Track
Jacob Durbin.

The idea of using fun competition as a means for drawing interest in helping a local charity stemmed from an MIAA student ambassador huddle. “In small groups, we were talking about how having an incentive can encourage more people to bring in donations,” Faktorovich explained. “I then realized how great it would be to have a competition among the winter tracks teams for a clothing drive.”

After sharing the idea with Durbin, the duo set out to get support and buy-in from the league’s team captains and athletic directors. Thanks to social media efforts promoting the “standings” and continuing to spread the word throughout the league, nearly 500 articles of clothing have been collected through two meets.

“Especially around the holiday times when people are receiving new clothes and simply leaving their old clothes to get dusty in their closets, this is a great opportunity to collect clothes for those who need it,” said Durbin. “Adding other teams has only made this bigger and better for the recipients of these great donations.”

Berta Faktorovich.

While the first meet yielded only 76 pieces of clothing, the number jumped considerably at the second meet and Durbin and Faktorovich are hoping for even more support over the final two meets of the league season. The winning team will be announced at the league championship meet in February with a prize of MSTCA swag for collecting the most.

“The other teams turned out to be a huge help,” Faktorovich said. “We received so many items from all of the teams, especially North Attleboro. They even posted on their own Instagram stories about the drive, which helped spread the word.”

Durbin added, “The competition aspect of the clothing drive surely has caused more people to donate. They are incentivized to earn the reward at the end, but also represent their schools.”

The current standings after three meets are:

  1. Mansfield – 437
  2. North Attleboro – 396
  3. Sharon – 343
  4. Franklin – 204
  5. Canton – 182
  6. Attleboro – 160
  7. Foxboro – 140
  8. King Philip – 123
  9. Taunton/Oliver Ames/Milford/Stoughton – 0

According to a notice from Sharon High regarding the collection drive, “There are simply two requirements for donated clothes: they can be NEW and/or GENTLY USED, and they have to have a sizing tag intact. Trash bags, clearly marked with your school’s name, can be turned in at every dual meet.”

Cradles to Crayons has offices in Boston, Chicago, and Philadelphia. The organization seeks to assist more than 260,000 Massachusetts children that are battling poverty. “Clothing insecurity” is the term the organization uses to describe children who are without adequate or appropriate clothing, an issue that is even more pronounced during New England winters.

For more information about Cradles to Crayons and its efforts to help local families, visit https://www.cradlestocrayons.org.

The next winter track meet will be held at the Reggie Lewis Center on Friday, Jan. 24.

Milford Survives Sharon Surge With Overtime Win

Milford boys basketball Jordan Darling
Milford junior Jordan Darling goes up for a layup in the first half against Sharon. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
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SHARON, Mass. – A typical high school basketball game will feature plenty of momentum swings and runs over the course of 32 minutes.

The Sharon and Milford boys basketball teams managed to fit all of the drama into the fourth quarter and overtime on Sunday afternoon. Although the Eagles managed to erase a large second half deficit, and another Milford lead in the final seconds, the Hawks prevailed with a 79-78 overtime victory on the road.

“That was just a classic, wild high school basketball game, that’s the only way to sum it up,” said Milford head coach Paul Seaver.

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The Hawks’ lead ballooned to as much as 18 halfway through the third quarter, and the advantage sat at 55-42 with the visitors just eight minutes away from a win.

The Eagles had other plans, however, dominating the fourth quarter to the tune of an 11-0 run over the first four minutes, putting the Hawks’ lead in serious jeopardy. Despite a timeout to try and stop the bleeding, Sharon continued on, pushing the run to 17-0 to seize a four-point lead with two minutes to play.

But as shocking as the run from the Eagles was, so was the response from the Hawks, which was a 9-0 burst in a one minute span, turning a four-point deficit into a five-point lead. Again, Sharon refused to fold by rattling off a 7-2 burst over the final 20 seconds, capped by sophomore John Baez’s ridiculous three-pointer that beat the buzzer to force overtime.

“That was mostly just effort,” said Sharon head coach Andrew Ferguson of the comeback. “We got down 18 points in the third quarter so we called a timeout, switched up our defenses a little bit. The kids worked unbelievably hard on the defensive end, we found some shots on the offensive end with it. But it comes back to their effort and hard work.”

Sharon senior Andrew Burton (24 points, five rebounds, six assists) gave the hosts the lead in the overtime period before Milford senior Colby Pires (19 points, nine rebounds) answered with his fifth three-pointer of the game to put the visitors in front.

Baez knotted the score with a free throw before Ralph Franklin Jr. sank one of his own to put the Hawks back in front. Junior Matt Baskin (career-high 27 points, eight rebounds) sank a pair from the line on one end but a foul on the box out allowed Jordan Darling (22 points, 14 rebounds) to reciprocate on the other end for a 72-71 lead.

Baskin drove through the lane for two more for a lead with 1:20 to play but it was Darling again who had the answer, finishing over good defense down low. Tyler Wetherbee and Darling combined for three free twos as the Hawks’ defense picked up key back-to-back stops on defense.

Caleb Gayle brought the Eagles within two but Ben Blanchard (20 points) converted two huge free throws in the final seconds. Senior Aidan Kane sank a three at the buzzer to bring the final score to a one-point game.

“Give [Sharon] all the credit,” Seaver said. “We played well enough to build a double-digit lead, I think we got it up to 18 at one point. And they are the ones who hit shots in the fourth quarter and more importantly got stops. It took us forever to finally get a basket to fall. At the end of the day, a win is a win in this league. Everybody you play on any given night is good and you have to be ready to go. But a win is a win.”

Blanchard was a big reason that Milford got off to a strong start, hitting three trifectas in the opening eight minutes, slashing to the basket for another two for 11 of Milford’s 20 first quarter points.

The Hawks used an 11-3 burst in the second quarter to create the separation it carried into the fourth quarter. A three-pointer from Kane brought the Eagles within one possession at 22-19 but Darling hit four straight free throws, Pires knocked down a three, Blanchard scored again, and Ralph Franklin Jr. finished at the rim for a 33-22 advantage.

While Milford’s offense continued its normal pace in the third quarter, Sharon got a huge boost from Baskin. The junior wing scored 12 of his points in that quarter, keeping the Eagles within shouting distance entering the fourth quarter. He hit twice from three-point range and had three buckets driving to the hoop.

“We think he can be a very good player in this league and he’s gaining confidence in each practice, in each game,” Ferguson said about Baskin, who transferred into the program this season. “We’re in his ear about it. He creates a lot of mismatches with his height, length, and offensive ability. If they put a big on him, he can take them off the dribble or if they put a smaller guy on him, we can put him in the post and he made some nice post moves today. He really asserted himself for the first time this year.”

Burton sparked the fourth quarter with four straight points and Baez added a free throw. The Eagles took advantage of a foul and a technical foul, making two of the four three throws and Cam Baker (10 points) scored on the ensuing possession to make it 55-51.

“Their zone really slowed us down,” Seaver said. “We tried to get it to the high post, we tried to dump it down and we actually had a lot of good looks from the outside but we just went ice cold for a long stretch. That translated to a poor defensive end during their comeback but credit Sharon. Credit their zone, they did a good job changing the pace on us. In the end, we made one more play, hit one more free throw, and that’s what we needed.”

Kiran Chandrasekaran took a feed from Burton and finished to make it 55-53 and Burton tied the game after a fast break. Burton gave the Eagles the lead with a free throw and Baskin pushed it to 59-55 with a three-pointer with two minutes left.

Pires played the role of hero for the Hawks. After Darling hit a free throw, Pires sank two technical foul free throws and then drained a corner three on the ensuing possession. After the Hawks drew a charge, Pires sank another triple and Milford suddenly had a 64-59 lead.

“Colby is a three-year varsity player, a two-time captain, a two-year starter and he’s kind of the heart and soul of this program,” Seaver said. “He made senior plays and he made winning plays. That’s who he is, that’s what he does and most importantly he showed it on the court today for us.”

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Baskin hit two free throws with 20.3 seconds left only for Blanchard to answer with two of his own with 11.5 seconds left. Burton drove to the hoop for two and the Eagles were able to create a turnover on Milford’s inbounds pass. Baez beat the buzzer with a three to force overtime.

“It’s a matter of mentality,” Ferguson said of what can turn games like this into a win. “Yeah, maybe this group hasn’t won a lot of basketball games but they want to win basketball games. We saw that there. I have to coach it better, we have to get a little better with our execution, and we have to maintain our emotions. I think that hurt us today. Hopefully, these experiences are building the confidence that will help us in the long run.”

Milford boys basketball (3-1 Hockomock, 3-1 overall) moves into sole possession of first place in the Davenport with the win and will be back in action on Wednesday against Mansfield. Sharon (0-4, 0-5) will host Taunton on Tuesday in search of its first win.

North Edges Sharon in Back-And-Forth Matchup

North Attleboro girls basketball
North Attleboro junior Amanda Kaiser lines up a corner three against Sharon. Kaiser scored 13 for the Rocketeers in the win. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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SHARON, Mass. – For the better part of three quarters, Sharon was able to keep North Attleboro off the glass, chased the Rocketeers off the three-point line, and kept North from getting out in transition. But down the stretch, the visitors turned up the pressure and made just enough plays to pull out the win.

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North Attleboro came up with enough defensive stops, including an important steal and layup by Amanda Kaiser, and knocked down five free throws in the closing two minutes to earn a 49-40 road victory in an early season meeting of two contenders for second place in the Davenport.

“We needed that,” said North coach Nikki Correia. “They’re a tough team and she coaches them well. They started to get a little tired, we gutted it out, and we were able to finish strong.”

Sharon was a little shorthanded coming into the game, as several players were out sick, but the Eagles continued to battle and stay close in the fourth quarter, even after an injury forced Kaitlyn Wallace (nine points) to the bench.

“We had a couple big turnovers that led to points for them and that was the difference in the game,” said Sharon coach Sandy Lombardi. “We battled. We’re short on the bench, we’re short players, and the kids go out there and play as hard as they can and that’s all you can ask for. We’re going to keep on working.”

North led by three points going into the fourth quarter and started to hit the glass to get crucial extra chances on the offensive end. Regan Fein grabbed an offensive board and kicked it out to Kaiser (13 points and seven rebounds) for a big three-pointer. Sharon answered back on the other end with a three by Ally Brown to make it 37-34.

Fein hit a jumper on a Kaiser drive-and-dish to extend the lead to five. After a Sharon free throw, Siobhan Weir twice saved a possession by snatching an offensive rebound and Summer Doherty swung the ball around the perimeter for a clutch three by Olivia Forbes (eight points).

“There was one possession that they had five or six shots and then they hit a big shot and it was just like, where are we,” Lombardi joked. “It’s a battle every single night.”

Trailing 43-35 and with Wallace on the bench, Sharon could have folded and looked ahead to Sunday’s game with Milford, but instead the Eagles battled back again. Leah Fandel (10 points and nine rebounds) sliced through the North defense for a finish at the rim and, after North missed the front-end of a one-and-one for the second time, Nicole Teven got the ball to Brown (12 points) for her fourth three of the night.

Last time out against King Philip, North struggled at the line, Fein stepped up and buried two and then Kaiser came up with a steal in the backcourt and finish to stretch the advantage to seven points. Eliza Dion knocked down two more at the line to close things out for the Rocketeers.

Sharon got off to a strong start to the game. Trinity Payne (nine points and eight rebounds) scored on an offensive rebound and Brown buried her first three-pointer. After North got back within two, Payne had a steal and basket and Brown hit another from deep for a 12-5 lead after one.

“She did a great job [against the press],” Lombardi said of Brown, who played the full 32 minutes. “She had a couple big threes for us that made it close and we ended up just having a couple turnovers late that were costly.”

The Rocketeers turned things around in the second to tie the game going into halftime. Fein was the key to North getting points against Sharon’s half-court zone. She scored six of her game-high 16 in the second, showing off her mid-range jumper.

Correia said of Fein, “She’s a finesse player and for the last few years we were trying to get her to go inside, but it’s not her game. We said, you’re a senior now, this is what your game is, those little 10 footers, the jumper from the corner, the free throw line, and she’s starting to get comfortable in her game and how she can play.”

Kaiser gave North its first lead of the night when she corralled a long rebound and instantly went up for a corner three. Doherty nearly had a steal to keep possession but stepped on the sideline. With four seconds left in the half, Brown raced up court and dished for Fandel to score at the buzzer and make it 19-19.

Things continued to be back-and-forth after the break. North scored five straight, including a three by Kaiser, but Sharon answered right back thanks to Wallace, who finally got going. She drilled a corner three and tied it with a baseline drive. After Fein knocked one down from beyond the arc, Wallace again matched it with a drive plus the foul and then assisted on a Payne bucket that put Sharon up 29-27.

Freshman Ava McKeon had a steal and assist on a Fein jumper and Kaiser extended North’s lead to 32-29 with a steal and layup. After a pair of Fandel free throws, McKeon came back with a drive to the rim that put the Rocketeers ahead 34-31 heading into the final eight minutes.

“They had a good game plan to slow us down,” Correia admitted. “We came out very flat and very soft and we struggled with the zone.

“We were able to get Amanda open. We scratched the offense we were running and run something higher up. I think sometimes our girls think you can’t screen against a zone, but you can and once we started to pin the girl she got comfortable and knocked down a few.”

North Attleboro (2-3, 2-2) will be back on the court against neighboring rival Bishop Feehan on Sunday. Sharon (0-4, 0-3) will look for its first win of the season against Milford on Sunday evening.

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Hottleman Drives Mansfield to Dramatic Win at Sharon

Mansfield girls basketball
Senior Becca Hottleman (15) scored with 4.5 seconds remaining to lift Mansfield to a 52-50 victory at Sharon. It was the first win of the season for the Hornets. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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With the game tied at 50 and the clock running down under 20 seconds left to play, Sharon had a look from in close that wouldn’t fall. The rebound was batted around and was heading out of play. Sharon guard Kaitlyn Wallace was sure that the Eagles were going to retain possession and let the ball go out of bounds. The officials had other ideas and gave Mansfield the ball and a shot at the win.

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The Hornets got the ball into the hands of senior point guard Becca Hottleman, who took off up court. Mansfield coach Mike Redding thought about calling a timeout to set up a play, but Hottleman didn’t need one. She stepped to her right, found a seam in the Sharon defense, and made a difficult layup under pressure to put her team in front with 4.5 on the clock.

Hottleman missed her free throw, but Sharon was unable to advance the ball before time ran out on a 52-50 Mansfield victory. It was the first win of the season for the Hornets and the first-ever game-winner for Hottleman, who is still working her way back from a knee injury that has kept her out since March.

“She’s our best off the dribble and she had some space and I thought maybe if she kicked it out and nothing was there then maybe take the timeout,” Redding explained. “I just asked her when’s the last time she hit a game-winner and she said she’d never hit one before. Good thing to save it for her senior year.”

Sharon is still looking for its first win of the season, but head coach Sandy Lombardi is pleased with the progress her team showed from the first game and the fight that it demonstrated in battling back from an early deficit.

“You read the articles, oh they’re having trouble shooting from the outside and then they come out and stick I don’t know how many threes in the first half and it was like, I thought you couldn’t shoot?” Lombardi joked. “The second quarter we bounced back, we got down by 10 or 12 and came back. It was a tough loss but I thought it was a great game overall.”

It has been a rough start to the season for the Mansfield offense, but the Hornets were firing on all cylinders in the opening quarter, knocking down four three-pointers and scoring 21 as a team. Kayla Vine scored seven of her team-high 14 in the first, including a pair from beyond the arc. Hottleman and classmate Kelly Doherty both hit one each from outside as well.

Trailing 21-11 after one, the Eagles turned things around in the second. Sharon pressured the perimeter to limit Mansfield’s chances and started to find openings in the Hornets’ zone defense.

Wallace (game-high 16 points, nine rebounds, and five assists) got things started with a three on a kick-out by Leah Fandel (11 points) and then she assisted on a corner three by Telishya Herbert (10 points and six rebounds). Fandel was left open on an inbounds play for a layup and then Ally Brown (eight points) buried a three to cut the Mansfield lead to just one, 29-28.

“Kaitlyn had a big game,” said Lombardi. “Ally had a good game for us and those kids don’t come out of the game. They play the whole game for us and that’s pretty much the way it’s going to be the rest of the season.”

The Eagles got their first lead of the night on a pair of Wallace free throws, but Ashley Santos (12 points, five rebounds, and three blocks) answered back with two at the line. Freshman AAbby Wager had a big block on a Sharon layup attempt in the closing seconds of the half, but the loose ball fell right to Brown, who knocked down a baseline jumper right at the buzzer for a 32-31 halftime edge.

“The second quarter they heated up,” Redding said. “It kind of forced us out of the zone and then we went to a 1-3-1 trap and eventually ended up playing man. The good thing was we made shots tonight and got some confidence on offense but now we got to defend a little better, but I think they did a good job moving the ball and making shots.”

Sharon came out of the break looking to grab hold of the game, but struggled to find its offense. Brown nailed another three off an assist by Trinity Payne, but baskets by Sarah Dooling (eight points) and Santos tied the game.

Wallace drilled her third three of the night to make it 38-35, but the Hornets would go on a spurt, scoring the final eight points of the quarter to grab the lead. Vine had a steal and layup and then Grace Maher grabbed an offensive rebound for her only basket of the night. Vine closed out the third with a driving hoop for a 43-38 lead.

“We started moving the ball around a little bit, we were getting wide open outside shots, we were getting the ball inside, the high-low was working well, and it kind of fell apart in the third,” Lombardi said.

At the start of the fourth, it was Sharon’s turn to make a run and the hosts scored seven straight to start the quarter and get the lead. Fandel hit a short jumper on a pass from Nicole Teven, who also grabbed a steal and layup to make it a one-point game. Another Fandel basket on another inbound play put the Eagles in front.

“She was on the varsity last year,” Lombardi said of Fandel, “but she’s still feeling her oats a little bit and I thought she had a strong game inside.”

Santos answered with a post move to tie the game at 45-45 and Doherty (nine points) chipped in with a basket on a rebound. Wallace would get her last points of the night to tie it again, but then Vine got open and knocked down her first three since the first quarter to put the Hornets ahead 50-47.

Fandel continued to be a menace for the home team. A putback brought the Eagles back within one and then she tied the game with one of two from the line. The junior scored seven of her team’s 12 points in the quarter.

“We needed a win,” Redding admitted. “Two tough ones to start and this gives us a little boost going into the holidays. We’re going to have a lot of these in the league with teams like us that are good but young and getting better. These are the ones that you’ve got to get and to get one on the road is even better.”

Both teams will step out of the Hock for their next games. Mansfield (1-2) will host Newtown (Conn.) next Friday in the start of a holiday tournament that also includes Fontbonne and Bridgewater-Raynham. Sharon (0-2) will host Holliston the following Sunday.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.