FRANKLIN, Mass. – Even with some of its regular starters on the bench cheering on, Franklin started Tuesday night’s game with Attleboro locked in defensively and crashing the glass. The Panthers held Attleboro scoreless in the first and to just six points in the second quarter, allowing their offense time to click into gear.
Once Franklin got going on that end of the floor, knocking down 10-of-12 threes as a team in the second half, there was no way back for the Bombardiers. Franklin rolled to a 64-27 win, extending its win streak to nine games this season and 34 games overall and clinching a third straight Kelley-Rex division title.
“We have something to win,” Franklin coach John Leighton said of his team’s focus. “Beyond Thursday, there’s nothing out there. It’s the abyss. So, this was one tangible thing that they could do and they’ve been very fired up about it.
He added, “It’s a great league. It’s a great league when we play 20 games and a great league when we play 10. There’s great balance in the league, so I’m very proud of the girls for closing that out.”
Celebrating senior night, some of the usual suspects weren’t in the starting lineup, but the Panthers came out intent on controlling the boards and giving Attleboro no good looks.Katelynn Taylor (five rebounds) and Elizabeth Wilson (eight rebounds) set the early tone.
“We tried to limit their first and second looks and make their third or fourth look beat us,” Leighton explained. “The seniors this is their final home game and there was a spark across all 14 kids. I was impressed how they played.”
When junior Olivia Quinn, the team’s leading scorer, came in off the bench, the offense started to get going as well. She scored six of her game-high 15 in the first and Emma Sousa added a bucket for an 11-0 lead after one.
“Defensively in the first quarter I thought we did a good job when the game was still on the line, but then you go eight minutes and don’t score,” said Attleboro coach Marty Crowley. “We haven’t played from behind like that this year, from that kind of deficit so it’s a lesson learned.”
Emma Reilly (eight points) got Attleboro on the board with a pair of jumpers and Narissa Smith (eight points) hit a pull-up for her first points of the night, but Franklin’s depth and its strength in the paint was able to extend the lead to 17 by halftime. Katie Peterson scored all six of her points in the second and Brigid Earley chipped in with four of her six points in the frame.
Leading 23-6, Franklin was in control at halftime, but things still seemed out of sorts on the offensive end. The Panthers were getting good looks, but were making very few of them. Something seemed to click in the three-minute break before the start of the third quarter.
Quinn drove and kicked out to Erin Quaile (six points, five rebounds, and five assists) for a three to start things off. After Earley and Gabby Bosh traded drives, Stefany Padula spotted up in the corner for a three. Then Earley grabbed an offensive rebound and kicked out to Quaile from beyond the arc.
Out of nowhere, the lead was now 24 and Franklin was just getting started. Quinn had a nice lefty finish and then got an easy bucket after Quaile’s rebound and long lead pass. Teagan Collins (10 points) got into the act, burying her first three of the night, followed by one from Quinn, then one from Kaleigh Houlihan (11 points, 10 rebounds, and four steals), then another from Collins.
When the dust had settled, Franklin had knocked down seven threes and scored 29 points in the third and had built a 52-14 advantage.
“We got a lot of good looks, but missed a lot of wide open threes,” said Leighton. “When they started to connect in the second half, we just couldn’t miss. I said in the first half, they’re all good threes, no one is jacking up shots, but we don’t want to live by the three either, just keep playing. Then the roof came off the hoop and away they went.”
To Attleboro’s credit, the Bombardiers didn’t stop and had their best offensive quarter in the fourth. Meghan Gordon, who came into the night as the league’s leading scorer at more than 20 points per game, got a layup off a Smith steal and dish and then added a three. She finished with seven points and seven rebounds. Smith also knocked down a pair of threes in the fourth.
Franklin didn’t stop scoring either. Houlihan showed off her range, hitting a pair of threes including one from a few feet behind the line. Collins added her third three as well.
“In the third quarter, they probably could’ve been in the parking lot and not missed a shot the way things were going,” Crowley joked. “We held them 11 points in the quarter, so defensively you’re doing your job, but offensively we just couldn’t find a rhythm early on. We have great kids who work hard and tonight was just [Franklin’s] night.”
Franklin (9-0) will try to cap off an unbeaten season when it travels to Attleboro (5-2) on Thursday night.
WRENTHAM, Mass. – After playing at King Philip’s pace for the opening eight minutes and heading into the first break down by a point, Franklin coach John Leighton implored his team to slow things down, move the ball around, and look for good shots not just the first shot.
Over the next two quarters, the Panthers did just that, scoring 40 points in the second and third quarters combined and turning that deficit into an 18-point lead. Franklin would lead by as many as 25 points in the fourth and earned a sweep of the Warriors with a 62-48 victory.
“Something you never want is a slow start and that’s exactly what we had,” said Leighton. “We had way too many turnovers, we went too fast, but what I was impressed by is that by the end of the quarter they had bought into the idea of slowing it down, seeing the next step, and when you start getting defensive stops they can’t press as much.”
KP had the Panthers on the run in the first, playing the frenetic style that the Warriors thrive on. After back-to-back threes by Emma Glaser and Courtney Keswick (10 points), the hosts held a 10—6 lead. Olivia Quinn (game-high 22 points, six rebounds, and four steals) answered back with a three of her own and a layup to put Franklin in front, but Caroline Aaron’s drive to the basket put the Warriors up 12-11 after one.
Franklin has plenty of experience on its roster and the players talked in the huddle about the need to settle down and play their game. The defending state champions started to look more like themselves in the second.
Brigid Earley scored six of her 10 points in the second, as Franklin made an effort to get the ball inside. Elizabeth Molla responded with a three that cut the lead back to three, at 25-22, but the Panthers scored the final seven points of the half to lead by double digits.
Elizabeth Wilson crashed the boards for a putback and then Earley (four assists, seven rebounds, and two blocks) picked out Quinn for a short jumper. Quinn was the focal point of the offense, scoring eight points in the second and 13 in the first half, as Franklin led 33-22.
“I said to them that we were down 11 at halftime, but it felt like it could’ve been tied,” said KP coach Dan Nagle, who was on the bench for the first time this season. “We had a couple of live-ball turnovers where we missed wide open layups and they go down and we get a steal and throw it to them right under the basket. You can’t even be mad because your kids are flying around and working hard.”
Things clicked into high gear for the visitors in the third. After Jackie Bonner (eight points) drilled a three to start the second half, Franklin went on a 16-0 run to break the game open.
KP scored seven straight to get some momentum, including threes by Cat Spellman and Keswick, but Peterson’s offensive rebound and layup put the Panthers ahead by 18 heading to the fourth.
Leighton said, “This year, we have three or four kids who can score every night. The pressure isn’t on Liv to carry us on her back, we have a lot of kids who can contribute. This is the deepest group we’ve had in a very long time.”
One of the features of Franklin’s play was its passing. Quaile finished with eight assists, while Earley had four and Padula had three. The Panthers were spreading the ball around and making it difficult for KP to trap.
“Unselfish ball is good, especially today,” Leighton explained. “When they’re going to double you, they’re trying to make you go faster, so if you can pass and find the open kid then everyone has more time. It buys time and space.”
That continued at the start of the fourth, as Quinn hit a short jumper after a good drive and kick out by Bridget Leo and then Quinn played provider on a corner three by Emma Sousa, who had missed the first three games of the season. Franklin stretched its lead to 60-35.
Although a comeback was unlikely at that point, the Warriors never stopped running and pressing and kept battling to the final whistle. Bonner had a steal and layup and Julia Marsden assisted on Keswick’s third three of the afternoon. Aaron (11 points) had another drive through the lane and stepped back to knock down a three of her own to help the Warriors cut the deficit to 14.
“Us just realizing that all those little plays matter is a good lesson,” Nagle said. “Franklin is where we want to be eventually and we competed with them at a high level. We had them playing faster than they want to, we turned them over a good amount. Today was progress, not perfection, but it was a good effort.”
Franklin (4-0) will have a few days off before it faces Taunton on Thursday, while King Philip (1-3) will look to get back in the win column when it faces Milford on Tuesday.
Foxboro, 49 @ Sharon, 68 – Final – After escaping with a one-point win on the road earlier this week, Sharon put together a complete performance on both ends of the court to earn a season sweep of Foxboro. The Eagles connected on five of their 11 three-pointers in the second quarter, outscoring the Warriors 23-10 to build a 39-21 lead by halftime. Senior Kiran Chandrasekaran hit a pair of triples in the second, senior Matt Baskin added two more, and junior Sam Cohen had one of his five trifectas in that frame to help the Eagles take a lead they would never relinquish. Chandrasekaran scored 15 of his career-high 17 points in the first half while Baskin had 10 of his 13. Foxboro had a strong third with 18 points, with sophomore Alex Penders scoring half of his 16 points in the frame, but Cohen had a trio of threes in the period and sophomore Matt Baur chipped in six points to keep the Eagles head. Junior Dylan Gordon led the way for the Warriors with a career-high 17 points.
Franklin, 55 @ Milford, 41 – Final – Starting the second half with a five-point lead, Franklin doubled up on Milford in the third, outscoring the hosts 24-12 in the third to pull away for the win and the season sweep. Senior Jake O’Brien got the Panthers off to a strong start, scoring half of his career-high 14 points in the opening quarter as Franklin established a 14-7 lead. Milford’s defense clamped down to hold the Panthers to just eight points in the second with Sean Murray scoring eight of his team-high 10 points in the opening half to keep the Hawks close, down just 22-17 at the break. Declan Walmsley came alive with eight of his 12 points in the third quarter, O’Brien added seven more, and sophomore Ben Harvey hit a big three as Franklin dropped 24 points in the third to extend the lead to 46-29.
Oliver Ames @ North Attleboro – Postponed to TBD.
Sharon, 14 @ Foxboro, 75 – Final – Ten players scored for the Warriors, as they completed the sweep of Sharon. Katelyn Mollica led the way with 19 points, Aislinn Servaes added 10, and Erin Foley scored eight to lead Foxboro to its second win of the season.
Milford, 23 @ Franklin, 71 – Final – The Panthers used a balanced attack to extend its win streak to 27 games, going back to the start of last season. Olivia Quinn and Jessica Pingeton each scored a dozen to pace the Panthers, while Erin Quaile, Teagan Collins, and Brigid Early each had eight points. Twelve Franklin players scored in the win. Jillian Michelson had nine for the Hawks.
2018-2019 Record: 8-14 2018-2019 Finish: Missed postseason. Coach: Martin Crowley
Attleboro was three wins shy of reaching the postseason last year, despite a roster filled with inexperienced players, and the Bombardiers demonstrated the potential in the squad by upsetting Franklin late in the season and handing the Panthers their only league loss. This winter, the Bombardiers will be looking to turn potential into reality and make a jump into the playoff picture.
Six players are returning from last year, including seniors Nyah Thomas and Liv McCall, who give Attleboro a talented backcourt on both ends of the court. Thomas adds length and slashing ability, while McCall is a sharpshooter who will be the team’s primary ball-handler. Sophomore Meg Gordon has taken a big leap from last year and head coach Marty Crowley thinks that she is ready for a breakout season on the wing.
Juniors Gabby Bosh and Emma Reilly will both be back to add some nous to the lineup, while sophomores Hailey and Lindsey Perry add grit and toughness. Junior Ryan Johnson will add size to the frontcourt, while sophomore Lillian Froio and juniors Jackie MacDonald and Laura McVeigh add depth and physicality. Overall, it is a much deeper, more experienced group for Crowley to build lineups with this season.
“For us to be successful we must be able to play defense consistently and rebound,” Crowley said. “Nyah and Liv I am sure are 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, however, we feel as if we have the players in place who will contribute offensively.”
2018-2019 Record: 14-7 2018-2019 Finish: Reached D2 South Semifinal. Coach: Jim Choquette
Youth was served for the Bulldogs last season, as a talented trio of freshmen jumped into the starting lineup and helped Canton have one of its most successful seasons in program history, with 14 wins and a return to the state tournament. There were still some learning curves to overcome, but now a more experienced group is play with speed and get out on the break as often as possible to give Foxboro a challenge in the Davenport title race and bring home a postseason win.
Although Canton is still a relatively young team, the talent on the roster is undeniable. Sophomores Kiara Cerruti and Sydney and Fay Gallery all had impressive rookie campaigns, showing off their skills on the wing, from three-point range, and in the paint. They will face even more pressure this season, as teams know what they like to do and will be even more determined to take them out of their games.
Sophomore Carly Fitzgerald will be one of the players stepping into the point guard role vacated by the graduation of Julia Hamilton and will be the facilitator getting Canton into its offense. In the paint, Canton has size and athleticism in senior Lilah Milton and junior Kayla Albert, who are both active rebounders and finishers at the rim and both have shown the ability to knock down the occasional jumper as well. Juniors Angie Elias and Sam Lamarr and sophomore Annie Hoban all have experience from last year to add to Canton’s depth.
Canton coach Jim Choquette said, “Each day we will try to improve as a coaching staff and a program. By the end of the season, our hopes are to be playing at our best.”
2017-2018 Record: 20-3 2017-2018 Finish: Reached D2 South Semifinal. Coach: Lisa Downs
The two-time defending Davenport division champions return all but one player from last year’s roster, so Foxboro remains the team to beat for the league title and expectations are very high heading into a new season. After a trip to the Div. 2 South semifinals last season, the Warriors will be aiming for even more this winter, trying to regain the top spot not just in the Hock but also in the South sectional.
Junior Katelyn Mollica was the team’s leading scorer last year and is already closing in on 1,000 points for her career. The team’s primary ball-handler and one of the best shooters in the league, Mollica will be one of the top offensive threats in the league. She will have plenty of help. Senior guard Lizzy Davis and senior forwards Yara Fawaz and Abby Hassman will also return to the starting lineup this season and add athleticism, speed, and tenacity on both ends of the floor, taking some pressure off Mollica with their ability to score in the open court.
Senior Shakirah Ketant came on strong at the end of last season and gives Foxboro a different, more physical look in the paint. Junior Jordyn Collins is a tough on-the-ball defender and has speed to burn. Seniors Jamie DeVellis and Julia Kelley both saw time on the floor last year and will add to Foxboro’s depth. Sophomore center Hannah Blake is a new face that could provide more strength in the post.
“The Hockomock League continues to produce teams, which make every night a tough one – there are really no teams that you can take lightly,” said Foxboro coach Lisa Downs. “The preparation required to compete in this league really benefits teams that get to the postseason.”
2018-2019 Record: 21-4 2018-2019 Finish: Reached D1 State Semifinal. Coach: John Leighton
Franklin is coming off its best season in program history and the Panthers have the talent returning to potentially surpass that success this winter. After winning the program’s first sectional title and coming within minutes of reaching the state title game, Franklin returns three of its starters and a host of bench players ready to step into bigger roles this year.
The key to it all is senior Ali Brigham. The George Washington-commit controlled the paint on both ends of the floor last season and remains the league’s most dominant star, as she continues to expand her game to make it even more difficult for the opposition. Teams can’t focus only on Brigham, as senior forward Meghan O’Connell showed in the playoffs the problems she can present with her ability to score and rebound and sophomore Olivia Quinn is another forward with size that teams will struggle to match up with.
Junior point guard Erin Quaile is a tenacious defender and a solid ball-handler, who is developing her outside shot. Senior Sydney Garilli and juniors Elizabeth Wilson, Teagan Collins, and Carissa Alers all saw time last season and will be in the backcourt rotation. Franklin will also add several newcomers, who could step right in and contribute, including juniors Katelynn Taylor and Kaleigh Houlihan and sophomores Emma Sousa and Stefany Padula. On balance, the Panthers look likely to be the team to beat again in the Kelley-Rex.
“I am excited by what I have seen to date,” said Franklin coach John Leighton. “They are a very motivated group who have bought into their team motto ‘We Over Me.’ They are good teammates who seek team success over individual glory.”
2018-2019 Record: 14-8 2018-2019 Finish: Reached D1 South Quarterfinal. Coach: Dan Nagle
King Philip had a breakout season in 2018-19, winning 13 games and reaching the Div. 1 South quarterfinal. Returning seven players from last year’s roster, new head coach Dan Nagle takes over a program in solid shape and is looking to build on last season’s success and try to challenge Franklin at the top of the league standings this winter.
Senior Faye Veilleux spearheaded KP’s breakout season when she emerged as one of the top post scorers in the league. Her versatility and her ability to get out in transition will be crucial to Nagle’s fastbreaking style. Senior Faith Roy will give the Warriors a clutch outside shooter and classmate Taylor Butler adds physicality to the guard or forward position.
Junior Emma Glaser will be expected to take on a bigger role after a strong sophomore season on the wing and junior point guard Brianna James demonstrated the ability to get into the lane at will and finish even against taller opponents. Juniors Caroline Aaron and Courtney Keswick are also back from last year to provide depth on the wings and 6-foot-3 freshman Emily Sawyer will give KP much-needed size in the post, as they try to combat Franklin’s Ali Brigham. The Warriors are going to try and break teams down with aggressive defending and their speed in transition.
Nagle said, “It has been a great start to the year with this group of kids. From top to bottom our roster is full of girls who love the game of basketball and are enjoying the process of improving day to day here in the early going. I think we will be a fun team to watch this season, and I look forward to the challenge of having our kids compete night in and night out in an excellent league like the Hockomock.”
2018-2019 Record: 17-6 2018-2019 Finish: Reached D1 South Quarterfinal. Coach: Mike Redding
Mansfield has consistently been one of the top programs in the Kelley-Rex division but even the best programs are going to need time to overcome the graduation of 10 seniors. The Hornets will lack experience, but head coach Mike Redding will be looking for improvement over the course of the season and will be hoping to have the team playing its best basketball as the tournament rolls around.
Senior Becca Hottleman was recently cleared after knee surgery and will be back at the point for the Hornets. Hottleman is one of only two players that got starts last year. Junior forward Ashley Santos is the other and she will be one of the players expected to see her numbers take a jump, as she should expect to get a few more looks on the offensive end. Senior Kelly Doherty and junior Kayla Vine will jump into starting roles on the wings, while junior Sara Dooling will be a starter at forward.
While there is a lack of varsity playing time on the roster, there are plenty of upperclassmen that will be expected to contribute. Junior Sarah Sacco will back-up Hottleman at the point, while junior Ally Prentis and senior Grace Benton will add depth at the wing. Senior Grace Maher and juniors Brooke Berube and Kacey Veiking will see time in the frontcourt and freshman wing Abby Wager should get opportunities to build experience this season.
“This group has very limited varsity basketball experience overall because we had that large and talented group of 10 seniors last year, but we’re not young and will rely on senior leadership and a deep junior class and all have varsity experience in other sports,” said Redding. “We have good size and depth in the post and all of them can shoot, handle the ball, and play like guards, which should cause some problems for the defense. It will be a work in progress and we’ll have to battle for wins in a very good league but this will be a good basketball team by February when the tourney rolls around.”
2018-2019 Record: 1-19 2018-2019 Finish: Missed postseason. Coach: T.J. Dolliver
Last year was a tough one for Milford. After graduating the bulk of the roster, an inexperienced group struggled through the season, but never lost the work rate and closed out the winter with its first win. The Hawks are still relatively young, but head coach TJ Dolliver is approaching the new year with optimism because of his team’s continued growth.
Four juniors are entering their third varsity seasons and the Hawks will be counting on them to provide necessary leadership on and off the court. Emma Lawrence, Jillian Michelson, Carly Fereira, and Katie Maietta have all gotten plenty of playing time last year and the hope is that experience will serve them well this winter.
This will be a guard-heavy lineup, especially with no player over 5-foot-8. Junior Elise Fauerbach will add some physical play to the frontcourt and sophomore forward Jill Araujo is a newcomer that can add some depth in the paint.
“There is a lot to pay attention to but what I care about the most is how we do this together,” said Dolliver. “I have a great group of girls and a great coaching staff and I believe this season will be very rewarding.”
2018-2019 Record: 7-14 2018-2019 Finish: Missed postseason. Coach: Nikki Correia
It has been a tough run over the last few seasons for North Attleboro, which won seven games and missed the playoffs for the third straight year, but there are still positives to take away as former assistant Nikki Correia takes over for her first year in charge. North has several experienced players returning to try and push Big Red back up the standings.
The backcourt should be a plus for North with senior point guard Olivia Forbes back to run the show and keep the Rocketeers getting into the transition game that Correia prefers. She will be joined at the guard position by junior Amanda Kaiser, who emerged as not only a threat from deep but also as a tough defender who gets her hands into the passing lane. Juniors Siobhan Weir and Lydia Santos will add to the depth at guard to help with the full-court pressure that North will turn to this year.
North hasn’t had much height in the past few seasons, but there are several forwards who can compete on the glass. Senior forward Eliza Dion is an aggressive defender and can take her defender off the dribble. Senior Regan Fein will add extra depth in the paint. Freshman guard Ava McKeown and sophomore guard Summer Doherty are two newcomers that could make an instant impact.
“I am looking forward to being apart of watching this team and this program grow this year,” Correia said. “There are six returning seniors, so that veteran play will be very helpful, as well as returning a great shooter and adding an athletic sophomore and freshman to the mix.”
2018-2019 Record: 13-9 2018-2019 Finish: Reached D1 South Quarterfinal. Coach: Laney Clement-Holbrook
Oliver Ames had a lot of new faces last year, but the success was very familiar. The Tigers finished with 13 wins and reached the Div. 1 South quarterfinal, giving Wellesley all it could handle on the road. A year of experience and the return of a strong core of players means expectations are even higher for OA this winter.
Sophomore Caroline Peper will be the player that is going to draw the most attention at the start of the new season. As a freshman, Peper was one of the league’s top scorers and its top shooters. Junior Caroline Flynn was also an all-star last year. She runs the point, is one of the top passers on the team, and also one of its top rebounders. Her overall game helps the Tigers control games. Also in the backcourt will be seniors Meg Holleran and Erin Holmberg, who is coming back after surgery cost her almost all of last season.
Senior Tate Hadges will be on the front line, giving OA another strong defender and rebounder. Sophomore Hailey Bourne, while undersized, gives the Tigers a lot of effort in the post even when matched up against some of the best frontcourt players in the league. Junior Jess Erlich and Tori Harney and sophomore Anna Murphy will add to the team’s depth on the wing.
“As always, the Hock will present with a very high level of competition,” said OA coach Laney Clement-Holbrook. “We are looking forward to being capable of putting together a variety of strong personnel combinations which will provide us with depth as we face those challenges.”
2018-2019 Record: 9-11 2018-2019 Finish: Missed postseason. Coach: Sandra Lombardi
Sharon narrowly missed out on its first playoff appearance under head coach Sandy Lombardi, finishing just one win away from a tournament berth. With three returning starters and several younger players who got significant playing time last year, the Eagles will be eyeing that elusive postseason berth.
Three seniors will be counted on to lead the team at both ends of the floor. Point guard Ally Brown will be expected to get the Eagles into their offensive sets and is a strong defender on the other end, keeping pressure on the perimeter. Shooting guard Kaitlyn Wallace is the team’s top outside threat, stretching the defense with her range and also being a strong passer off the dribble. Forward Telishya Herbert led the team in scoring last year and is a matchup nightmare in the paint with her aggressive play going to the basket.
The starting lineup will be rounded out by junior Leah Fandel and sophomore Trinity Payne, two athletic forwards that will give Sharon decent size on the front line. Senior Nicole Teven, juniors Julia Early and Gaby Cabral and freshman Tess Letendre will all see plenty of playing time this season and will look to contribute to the team’s success.
“Ally, Kaitlyn, and Telishya have the most varsity experience and I expect great things from them this year,” Lombardi said. “We have a young team and I am hoping some of the younger players are able to step up this year as well.”
2018-2019 Record: 7-13 2018-2019 Finish: Missed postseason. Coach: Charmaine Steele Jordan
A new era will begin this winter, as Stoughton moves into its brand new gym with a lot of new faces on the roster, hoping to get the Black Knights back into the playoff race this season after missing out on the tournament last year.
The key for the Black Knights will be its senior leadership. Although Sydnee Hyacinthe has moved on to Milton Academy, they still return a strong core led by senior Aliyah Wright. The point guard can be a dominant presence on both ends of the floor, sparking Stoughton on defense and breaking down the opposition off the dribble. Senior Shyanne Trinh is healthy to start the season and will be the team’s top outside threat, with the ability to knock down shots off the dribble. Senior forward Lexi Baptista is an athletic post threat who can also step back and knock down the mid-range jumper.
Senior Hannah Pagano and juniors Brooke Bulger, Mackenzie Manning, and Catherine Downey will add to the team’s depth, especially in the backcourt. Sophomore Makaiyah Singleton Rivera and freshman Kyla Sheedy-Goff will be two of the newcomers to the roster that could make a name for themselves this season.
“Despite being somewhat young this season this group of ladies worked really hard in the off-season,” said Stoughton coach Charmain Steele Jordan. “The sky is the limit this season and our Black Knights are going compete hard until the final whistle blows.”
2018-2019 Record: 7-15 2018-2019 Finish: Missed postseason. Coach: Amy Siggens
After a number of seasons under coach Walter Harrigan, Taunton has turned to former King Philip coach Amy Siggens this year and she has brought plenty of energy into her first preseason with the Tigers, trying to push the program back into the playoff hunt.
As Siggens and the players become more comfortable with each other, the Tigers will count on their returning starters to get things off to a good start. Juniors Sonya and Jaelyn Fernandez and Kelsey White will be the players to watch this season after strong sophomore campaigns. All three have good size, with both Sonya and Jaelyn providing strong presences on the boards and out on the break and White causing match-up issues on the perimeter. All three will need to step up on the defensive end and keep the Tigers running.
Taunton also has depth, although it will be relatively inexperienced. Seniors Liz Crisman and Jaylah Chaves and junior Tori DaRosa will add more depth in the backcourt. Sophomores Braeley McDonald and Abby Souza (who has helped out on varsity since she was an eighth-grader) and freshman Kameron St. Pierre will also chip in this season.
“Any coaching change brings lots of challenges and, this season, we will be faced with our share,” said Siggens. “I am very encouraged from what I’ve seen thus far. Our bench is young and talented but how quickly a good group of less experienced players develop, will determine the degree of our progress and we are off to a good start.”
WORCESTER, Mass. – When the ball swung around to Franklin guard Shannon Gray right in front of the Panthers bench, her teammates started to rise in anticipation of a shot. But Gray hesitated and passed it back up top. Franklin coach John Leighton urged the senior to let it fly when she gets the chance.
Gray heeded that advice and she knocked down a pair of threes on back-to-back possessions to stretch the Franklin lead from just four points to double digits. She knocked down three of her team’s five shots from beyond the arc in the second half, helping the Panthers pull away for a convincing 59-43 victory over No. 2 seed Concord-Carlisle in the Div. 1 Central semifinal at WPI’s Harrington Auditorium.
“We talked at halftime, start like it’s 0-0 and play like we do and the key is to keep reversing the ball,” Franklin coach John Leighton explained. “In the second half, they were just packed in so when we reversed it the kids were just wide open to take the shot and once one goes in that confidence starts coming.”
At halftime, Franklin held a slim, two-point lead over the Patriots and that was entirely because of two players, junior center Ali Brigham and her classmate Megan O’Connell.
The Panthers opened the game with a 10-0 run, as O’Connell took advantage of the attention on Brigham in the paint to find driving lanes. Brigham added an and-one off an offensive rebound and had four points in the first, but O’Connell was the aggressor in the paint and on the glass (13 rebounds), scoring 10 of Franklin’s 14 in the first. She finished with 19 points in the game.
“I had a pretty bad game last time and I really just wanted to get back to where I know I can be,” said O’Connell about her aggressive start. Leighton added, “I’m so happy for her because she’s been so patient all year. They were so hyper-focused on Ali that the lane just kept opening up. Early on everyone was a little tentative and she was aggressive.”
The Patriots crept back into the game, trailing by just six after one and then getting as close as two at several points in the second quarter. Franklin was determined to get the ball into the paint and Brigham (game-high 22 points, 14 rebounds, and five blocks) scored all of her team’s nine points in the period, twice scoring on put-backs and twice getting baskets at the rim thanks to O’Connell assists.
While Franklin had the lead at the break, it was hard to envisage a trip to the final with only two players getting on the scoresheet, especially as the Patriots threw a variety of different defenses at Brigham in the post, almost daring the Panthers to shoot from the perimeter. That strategy worked for a half, but Franklin made the Patriots pay in the second half.
After an O’Connell drive for two, Bea Bondhus knocked down Franklin’s first three, and her only shot of the game, to make it 28-21. Concord-Carlisle, which came into the game with only one loss on the season, cut the lead back to just four points but then Gray stepped up and knocked down a pair to suddenly make it a 10-point edge.
“She’s our captain and she leads us in every way,” Leighton said of Gray. “She’s the most selfless kid. She makes us run, her composure…so for her to get a little bit tonight was really nice.”
Leighton added about the team’s outside shooting, “It broke what they were doing. They went into that triangle-and-two to look to pack the paint hoping we wouldn’t make any threes. I think it was vital to break their confidence in what they were doing.”
Again the Patriots rallied with back-to-back buckets, but Brigham answered with a rebound and score and then Teagan Collins finished a break with a scoop shot off the glass. As the clock wound down on the third, Erin Quaile put a punctuation mark on the quarter by drilling a three at the buzzer to give Franklin its largest lead at 43-31.
The Panthers scored nearly as many points in the third quarter as in the first two combined. That offensive barrage continued in the fourth. Brigham got a three-point play on a rebound and then finished off another rebound to make it 49-31.
Corcnord-Carlisle hit back with five straight points, but then the Panthers put the game out of reach. Gray snagged an offensive rebound and made a nice dish underneath to a wide open O’Connell for two. Gray then stepped back outside and nailed her third three-pointer of the afternoon and O’Connell added two more with yet another rebound.
“We just needed to slow down really,” said O’Connell. “We were getting ahead of ourselves and trying to make the perfect pass, but we just needed to make the easy pass and we’d get layups.”
Franklin (20-4) is making a second appearance in the D1 Central final, its first since 2015, and will face the top seed Wachusett.
“It’s definitely a big deal,” said O’Connell. “We’ve been working really hard every day in practice and we’re just trying to get as far as we can.”
Leighton praised his team for meeting its high expectations. “Two years ago, we started 0-6 and I brought the team that year to watch the finals at Worcester State,” he recalled. “We were like, this is where we want to be. This is what lays ahead, if we do what we need to do.”
He added, “For this team, hard work has been the key.”
FRANKLIN, Mass. – Franklin head coach John Leighton was not pleased when he called timeout with his team trailing by 10 points in the third quarter of Wednesday night’s Div. 1 Central quarterfinal against Westford Academy. The Grey Ghosts had just knocked down their third triple of the quarter and eighth of the night and Leighton urged his team, which has allowed less than 40 points per game this season, to find another gear on the defensive end.
The Panthers responded and then some. Franklin gave up only 10 more points the rest of the way, turning a 10-point deficit into a 10-point, 63-53 win that sends the Panthers into the quarterfinal. Franklin closed the game on a 30-10 run to earn its first playoff win since the team made a run to the Central final in 2015.
“We really communicated far better on defense, communicated the switches, communicated how we had to rotate far better at the end of the third quarter and especially the fourth quarter,” Leighton explained. :When we were in better position, then we rebounded better, which kept them to a lot of one-and-done’s.”
Out of that third quarter timeout, Franklin went on a 7-0 run that instantly got the hosts back into the game. Olivia Quinn set up Ali Brigham for a basket to get things started and then Quinn added her only basket of the night off a Shannon Gray dish. Westford got two back, but then Brigham snatched one of her 15 rebounds and scored to make it only a three-point game heading to the fourth.
Erin Quaile completed the comeback for the Panthers when she buried a three-pointer from the left wing, her only points of the night, to put Franklin ahead 46-45. It was Franklin’s first lead since the second quarter. Jennifer Martin answered for the Ghosts with a step-back three, her fourth of the night, but momentum was with the Panthers and they answered with a long inbounds pass to Brigham under the basket to tie it.
Brigham, who was recently voted the Hockomock League MVP, was dominant throughout and she grabbed another offensive rebound to put Franklin back in front. She finished with a game-high 33 points.
She also got some help from senior guard Bea Bondhus, who scored seven of her 15 points in the fourth quarter to secure her first win in the playoffs and make sure this was only her final home game, not the final game of her career. Bondhus drained a three on a kick out from Brigham that put the Panthers up 53-51 and then she followed it with a pump-fake and drive to the basket that extended the lead to four.
“In our timeout we were talking about reversing the ball side to side,” Bondhus said. “And so me and Ali were talking and I said, my girl is running in and doubling so look opposite and she said I’ve got you next possession and it happened exactly as we said it would happen.”
Leighton said of Bondhus, who is one of just three seniors on the roster, “Bea’s been a great three-point shooter forever, but she raised her game up. How many times did she ball-fake, drive, and create. She defended, boxed out, rebounded. She’s really expanded her game.”
A pair of free throws by Brigham was followed by a jumper from Megan O’Connell, who had a rough shooting night up until that point, and the Franklin bench and the home crowd sensed that the Panthers were moving on.
“It took a lot of mental toughness there,” Bondhus said. “We wanted to focus on our defense because we gave up five threes in the first half and we wren’t closing out. Once we started getting defensive stops that transitioned into offense for us.”
Three-point shooting had put Franklin in an early hole, as the Grey Ghosts knocked down four from beyond the arc in the first quarter alone. Despite Brigham scoring nine in the first, including a spinning pull-up jumper from the free throw line, and Bondhus adding five, Westford held a 16-14 edge.
The Panthers kept forcing the ball into the paint to Brigham, who added another eight points in the second quarter, but on the defensive side of the ball Franklin was allowing Westford to control the boards and get second chance opportunities. The Ghosts extended the lead to 10 at one point in the second, but a mini-run cut that lead in half by the break. Brigham in the paint and Bondhus from three giving Franklin a quick five points.
The threes kept raining down from the visitors in the third quarter until Leighton’s timeout and his insistence that the Panthers lock down the perimeter.
Bondhus said, “I was really happy we pulled it out. This team means so much and we’re all best friends off the court, so it was so nice to have the team win there… It really shows our toughness.”
Franklin (19-4) will take on No. 2 seed Concord-Carlisle on Sunday at WPI at 5:00.
Leighton remarked, “It was big to get back to WPI. These kids have never played there. Now they want to get to the final. They’re not done; hungry for more.”
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.