Taking Stock of the Hock: Boys Basketball 2015-16

Taunton senior Jose Merardo dribbles around a defender in the first half against Mansfield. (Tom Madigan/Photo).
Taunton senior Jose Merardo dribbles around a defender in the first half against Mansfield. (Tom Madigan/Photo).

With nearly half of the games gone for all of the Hockomock teams, our editors Ryan Lanigan and Josh Perry take a look at where things currently stand for boys basketball.

Who is the midseason boys’ basketball Player of the Year?

Ryan Lanigan – As of the midpoint of the season, I’d say Taunton senior forward Jose Mercado is the current Player of the Year. He came into this week averaging 16.2 points per game and dropped a game-high 24 points in a comeback win over Milford. There were a lot of questions about the Tigers when some pieces from last year graduated or transferred. So far this year, Taunton has answered those questions so far this season with roads wins at Franklin and Mansfield. As one league coach told me, when Mercado is playing at his best that he’s “a man among boys.” He can score literally from anywhere, he’s a solid shooter from deep, can take the ball to the basket strong and has no fear with some midrange shots. Two other names to keep your eye on for the rest of the season are North Attleboro’s Brenty Doherty and Stoughton’s Brandon Teixeira.

Josh Perry – Player of the Year is as always a tough race to call at the midway point, especially with the league title races as close as they are. Franklin entered the season as one of the favorites in the Kelley-Rex and so far has lived up to that potential through the opening 10 games, which has included wins over Catholic Memorial, Foxboro and Mansfield. One of the main reasons for the Panthers success this year has been the play of senior guard Tim Prunier, who provides a steady hand in the backcourt as well as nearly 16 points per game. For a team that seems to have a different player stepping up every game, Prunier has been the consistent driving force this season and has the Panthers once again in the thick of the title race.

Who is the midseason boys’ basketball Underclassman of the Year?

Lanigan – I can’t remember the last time I wrote out the list of possible candidates for our UCOTY award and had so many possible candidates. There were nearly 10 names I came up with right off the top of my head but the one that stuck out the most was Franklin freshman Jay Dieterle. I remember the first game I saw the Panthers this year (against CM), I asked two former players if Dieterle saw much time. In about 30 seconds, he was in the game and drained a pair of three pointers. It’s one thing to be just a good shooter but Dieterle has already proven he has no fear taking the ball to the basket, taking a big shot in crunch time and he’s also a very strong rebounder. There’s still plenty of games to go but right now, Dieterle is already one of the better freshman I’ve seen in this league.
Perry – My pick for Underclassman of the Year has a familiar name to fans of the Hockomock. The Layman family has had quite an impact on the King Philip program and this season a new face has emerged in freshman forward Kyle Layman. The 6-foot-3 rookie has made an immediate impression with his ability to control the glass and as a defensive weapon in the middle of the zone. He has also shown a nice touch around the basket. He is a different player than his brother Jake, who is currently building his draft stock at Maryland, but he has the potential to be an important piece for the Warriors for the next four years.

Midseason First Team

Lanigan
G – Brent Doherty, North Attleboro
G – Alex DuBrow, Foxboro
G – Tim Prunier, Franklin
F – Brandon Teixeira, Stoughton
F – Jose Mercado, Taunton

Perry
F – Brandon Teixeira, Stoughton
F – Jose Mercado, Taunton
G – Alex DuBrow, Foxboro
G – Brent Doherty, North Attleboro
G – Tim Prunier, Franklin

What has been the biggest surprise this season?
Lanigan – Franklin graduated four of their five starters from last season – three of them that played at an All Star level – and graduated a good handful of depth players as well. I remember going to a preseason tournament and seeing the Panthers and barely recognizing anyone. Now they sit tied atop the Kelley-Rex division and look poised for a deep playoff run. Tim Prunier has been strong but it’s the supporting cast that has really been impressive. Obviously freshman Jay Dieterle has been a big boost but sophomore Paul Mahon has also been a huge asset while classmate Connor Peterson certainly looks like he has taken a big step. Kevin Gill has been a steady starter while Josh Macchi, Tom Houlihan and Connor Goldstein have all provided sparks off the bench. While some thought this could have been a rebuilding year for the Panthers, it’s looking like it could be a banner year.

Perry – The biggest surprise for me this season has been Taunton’s place at the top of the Kelley-Rex division at the midway point. The Tigers returned important pieces including Jose Mercado and Tommy MacLean, but the loss of E.J. Dambreville has not had nearly the impact that had been anticipated. Even without a couple of important transfers, Taunton just came through a week in which it beat both Franklin and Mansfield and it sits tied with the Panthers atop the standings. The surprise is not that Taunton is good, there was plenty of talent on the roster coming in, but to see Taunton right there with a shot at it first league title, with the second best offense in the Hock (64.2 ppg) and the third best defense (51.6 ppg), has been surprising.

At this point, which team will be going furthest in the tournament?

Lanigan This is always one of the hardest questions that we do for the midseason report. Franklin has a strong shot at making a deep run in the Central but inexperience will be the question as they approach the postseason. Taunton has been terrific this season and have a lot of guys that can hurt you on any given night but depth could become an issue down the stretch. Mansfield is still a strong team and when they get going, they will be a team no one wants to see in D1 South.

But my pick is Foxboro. The Warriors showed this past Friday night just how good they can be when they have Alex DuBrow, Jason Procaccini and Rob Lowey all clicking offensively. On top of that, role players like Jonathan Carnino, Andrew Block, Mark Clagg and Joe Morrison have all shown they can hit a big shot when needed. The big challenge will be on the defensive end if they can clamp down and keep their heads in the game. I said it in the preseason and I’m sticking with it now: I think we’ll see the Warriors in the sectional finals.

Perry –  Picking who will go furthest in the tournament is a fun exercise because it is impossible to know the match-ups. If I had to pick one team right now, it would be Franklin. The Central has plenty of tough teams, but to get to the sectional final, the Panthers could realistically only have to win two games, which makes the path to the final considerably shorter in not necessarily easier than that of the likes of Foxboro, Mansfield, and Taunton. All of these teams have the chance to make noise this year but in terms of who will get the furthest I’m leaning towards the Panthers.

Franklin’s Superb Shooting Delivers Upset of CM

Franklin reacts after upsetting top-ranked Catholic Memorial on Wednesday night. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
Franklin reacts after upsetting top-ranked Catholic Memorial on Wednesday night. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)

By Ryan Lanigan, Editor-in-Chief
FRANKLIN, Mass. – Franklin typically likes to hangs its hat on defense.
But for at least one night, the Panthers relied on their offense to get the job done.
Franklin shot 50% from beyond the arc, connecting on 17 three pointers and never trailed in the second half in a 92-87 upset of Catholic Memorial, the defending D1 State Champions and the top ranked team in the state.
The Knights are ranked #1 by both ESPNBoston and The Boston Herald.
Freshman Jay Dieterle scored 16 of his team-high 24 points in the second half and sophomore Paul Mahon scored all 18 of his points in the second half to pace the Panthers.
“Taking them, making them, all of that’s kind of ridiculous and I think you need stuff like that to beat a team like CM,” Franklin head coach CJ Neely said of the team’s shooting from deep. “[CM’s] firepower is unbelievable. I think we held them to eight in the first quarter and they still put up 87 points. We usually pride ourselves on defense but this was a credit to our guys. I challenged them in the offseason to make 100 shots a day and they took it to heart and you can see the benefit of the guys who put in the work in the offseason.”
For the first quarter, it was Franklin’s defense that worked. The Panthers limited the Knights to just eight points while picking up a seven point cushion — a lead they would rely on for the rest of the game.
The second quarter is when the Panthers started to connect from deep. Tom Houlihan (16 points) connected on three of the team’s six three pointers in the second quarter. The Panthers then shot 10/18 from deep (5/11 in the third, 5/7 in the fourth) in the second half.
“It felt like we couldn’t hit a shot on Monday, we did a ton of shooting yesterday [in practice],” Neely said. “We had to have a light practice because we knew this one would be up and down. OA, they played us so hard so we had to go light so we took a lot of shots in practice and working on beating pressure. We were able to knock some down finally.”
Catholic Memorial was able to turn a five point deficit at halftime into a tie game early in the second half. Using a 12-5 run, the Knights tied the game 49-49 with a chance for a lead with an and-one free throw attempt. Instead, the shot rimmed out and Franklin’s Mahon hit a three on the other end.
The Knights refused to go away despite Franklin’s sharpshooting. A basket from CM’s Brandon Twitty (game-high 27 points) brought the Knights within seven in the fourth quarter at 68-61 with just over five minutes to play.
That’s when Dieterle really stood out. On Franklin’s ensuing trip up court. the freshman drained a wide open three pointer. As CM tried to push the pace and respond, Dieterle was able to get to the floor and take the loose ball. Eventually Franklin got possession of it and once again, Dieterle drained a three, extending the Panther’s lead to 74-61 with just over five minutes to play.
“I was just getting to the hoop more and more as the game went on and I just got more comfortable out there,” Dieterle said. “We all just put in work over the summer, we all got our shots a day…100 makes a day and it’s showing right now. This was amazing.”
After a timeout, the Knights rattled off nine straight points to make it a four point game but Dieterle took the ball to the rim for a finish plus the harm for a three point play. When CM got within five again, Houlihan hit his fifth three of the game to push the lead back to eight. Mahon then hit another three to make it an 11 point lead with two minutes to play.
“We’ve got a freshman out there playing like a senior, we’ve got Mahon burying shots, [Connor] Goldstein, Houlihan too” Neely said. “I mean all of those guys bought into making the 100 shots a day and that changes the way you can play the game when you have shooters that can space it like that.”
Despite fouling, Franklin kept its lead by going 11/13 from the free throw line in the second half. The Knights were 13/22 from the free throw line but just 4/11 in the second half.
“All credit to them, Franklin shots lights out,” CM head coach Denis Tobin said. “I said to our guys that we probably won’t play a team that will shoot this well the entire season. But Franklin made them, good for them they deserved it.”
Sam Harrell chipped in with six points, seven rebounds and five assists, Josh Macchi had 10 points, Kevin Gill scored six points, had seven assists and six rebounds and Tim Prunier had nine points. Prunier, who has been one of the top players in the Hockomock League, was limited because of foul trouble. He had two early in the second quarter and a charge early in the third quarter force him to the bench.
When asked what he would say if he was told before the game that the Panthers would score over 90 points and beat CM with Prunier scoring just nine, Neely said, “I would have been surprised. He’s obviously the leader of our team and he’s a great player but it goes to show that we’re not about one guy, we’ve got a whole team full of guys ready to play. They’ve played without Tim before, he’s been in foul trouble in basically every game we’ve played so far, so they’re used to it now. We have plenty of guys willing to step up and take shots. That was the message going in, to play with confidence and be aggressive. Right before we went out there I said play with an exclamation point.”
“It’s definitely hard having our leader out on the bench but he was great when he was on and everyone had to step up and everyone did,” Dieterle added.
Franklin (4-0) will have some time to rest now as they will be off until December 29th when they take on Algonquin in a non-league contest.
Ryan Lanigan can be contacted at RyanLanigan@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @R_Lanigan.

Wednesday’s Schedule & Scoreboard – 12/23/15

Today’s games are listed below.
Boys Basketball
Franklin, 92 vs. Catholic Memorial, 87 – Final – Franklin freshman Jay Dieterle netted a team-high 24 points and added five rebounds and four assists, sophomore Paul Mahon scored all 18 of his points in the second half, Thomas Houlihan had 16 points, Josh Macchi netted 10 points and Sam Harrell had six points, seven rebounds and five assists. Franklin made 17/34 three pointers in the game. 

Stoughton, 56 @ Falmouth, 67 – Final – Stoughton senior Brandon Teixeira scored a team-high 24 points in the loss for the Black Knights.
Hockey
King Philip, 1 @ Coyle Cassidy, 4 – Final
Milford, 2 @ Holliston, 4 – Final
Oliver Ames, 2 vs. Dartmouth, 3 – Final –  OA took the lead on a first period goal by Eric LeBlanc, but the Indians scored the next three. Matt Mancini scored on a breakaway in the third period to cut the lead to one. Oliver Ames outshot Dartmouth 42-18 but the Indians’ goalie, Tyler Martin, made 40 saves, including one in the final seconds to get the win.
Taunton, 5 @ Stoughton, 3 – Final Tyler Pietrzyk scored a pair of goals and assisted on a third to lead the Tigers. Zack Albert, Sven Ormseth and Josh Denham also scored for the Tigers. Mark Sheehan and Sean Doherty each had a goal and an assist for the Black Knights, who also got a goal from Brendan Campbell. 
Wrestling
Marshfield Quad – Franklin went 3-0 on the day, beating Marshfield 36-19, Duxbury 50-14 and Pembroke 27-19. 
Plymouth North Quad – Oliver Ames went 2-1 on the day, with its lone loss coming to #24 ranked Cambridge R&L. The Tigers got wins over Plymouth North (49-26) and BC High (35-33) but fell to CRL (42-36). Lustin Funai continued his strong start to the season at 132, going 3-0 with three pins. OA’s Ryan Lehane (152) was also 3-0 with three pins while Jack Mills (22) went 2-0 with a pair of pins. Anthony Berksza (138), Sean Davenport (160), Jacob Murphy (170) and Dean Pachini (195) went 2-1. 
Swimming
Boys
Mansfield, 78 @ Milford, 90 – Final
Girls
Mansfield, 88 @ Milford, 82 – Final
Gymnastics
Canton, 120.55 @ North Attleboro, 132.45 – Final
Sharon, 133.75 @ North Attleboro, 132.45 – Final
Sharon, 133.75 vs. Canton, 120.55 – Final
Girls Hockey
Canton, 1 @ Sandwich, 1 – Final
Franklin, 3 vs. Leominster/St. Bernards, 5 – Final
King Philip, 4 vs. Westwood, 0 – Final