Hockomock Girls Basketball State Tournament Preview

State Tournament Preview
Attleboro’s Sarah Deyo (32) and Mansfield’s Meg Hill (31) could meet for a third time in the second round of the state tournament. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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Six girls’ basketball teams will begin their quests for a state championship when the state tournament begins this week. League champions Mansfield (Div. 1 South) and Foxboro (Div. 2 South) both earned the top seed in their respective brackets, but neither will have an easy road with league rivals like Attleboro, Oliver Ames, and North Attleboro posing major threats to bringing home a trophy. Milford will also represent the league as the lone Hock team in Div. 2 Central.

As usual, Div. 1 South is a loaded bracket with some of the top programs in the state, including defending state champion Bishop Feehan and perennial powers Braintree and Newton North. Mansfield (18-2) earned the top seed in a coin flip with the Shamrocks, who beat the Hornets in an exclusion game during the regular season. More important than the seed, Mansfield will now avoid the Shamrocks, the Wamps, and the Tigers until the South final.

Led by senior guard Jen Peel and junior center Meg Hill, the Hornets like to slow the pace down and focus on strong defense, which held teams to a league-best 38.0 points per game. Mansfield is young this season, but deep and versatile and head coach Mike Redding’s squad should match up well against the teams on its side of the bracket, including potential semifinal opponents Wellesley or Marshfield (which Mansfield beat 52-47 in December).

In order for the Hornets to get to the semifinals, they may have to go through Kelley-Rex rival Attleboro (15-7), which claimed the No. 8 seed and will host Brockton (Attleboro beat the Boxers 63-55 in December). The Bombardiers have scuffled down the stretch, losing seven of its final 14 games of the regular season, but closed it out by putting 94 points up on Durfee in the season finale.

With seniors Sarah Deyo and Julia Strachan, Attleboro has a potent inside-out combo and has been one of the top offensive teams in the league this year, averaging a league-best 61.4 points per game. The issue for the Bombardiers will be trying to slow down Jen Peel and Mansfield in the quarterfinal, if they can get past a dangerous Brockton team in Tuesday’s playoff opener. Attleboro struggled in two losses to Mansfield in the regular season, but will be hoping third time is the charm to set up a potential rematch with Wellesley, which knocked the Bombardiers out of last year’s tournament.

Foxboro (18-2) has been on fire to close out the season, winning 12 in a row entering the playoffs, including a 20-point win over North Attleboro to claim the league title and an impressive overtime win over Lincoln-Sudbury in the end-of-season tournament. The Warriors will be led by league MVP Ashley Sampson, who scored 31 in that win over L-S and nailed a three-pointer that forced OT, but a strong supporting cast includes Lily Sykes and Grace Tamulionis. The scary part is that all three are juniors and will be back next winter as well.

The Warriors will not have an easy path in Div. 2 South, which is another loaded bracket, and will have to face one of the two finalists from 2016, either Hingham or Oliver Ames, in the quarterfinal and could potentially face the Rocketeers for a third time in the semifinal. Westwood, Nauset, and Falmouth, which knocked Foxboro out of the tournament last year, could wait in the sectional final.

Oliver Ames (13-7), the defending Div. 2 South champ, has had an up and down first season in the Kelley-Rex but managed to claim second in the division and is a sleeper to retain its South title. The Tigers will have a very difficult road to try and repeat with a trip to last year’s South finalist Hingham waiting in the first round and a potential meeting with Foxboro looming in the quarterfinal (the Warriors won the league meeting between the teams 51-35).

Kayla Raymond will be the focus of all of OA’s opponents, but trying to slow down the junior forward is easier said than done. If the Tigers can get support for Raymond from senior Niyera Mitchell and find consistent outside shooting, then OA will be a tough matchup. Losing sophomore guard Sadie Homer during the season and senior Francesca Calabraro prior to it has made things tougher but no one will take head coach Laney Clement-Holbrook’s team lightly.

North Attleboro (16-6) is another sleeper in Div. 2 South. Last year, the Rocketeers were knocked out in the first round by OA on a last second Raymond basket and could have made a similar run to the Tigers if they had made it through. This year, North comes in with six losses, but only one to a team in Div. 2 and that was the league final against Foxboro. Despite missing senior guard Ashley Ahern to injury, North earned an impressive come from behind win against Attleboro in the final week and has the potential to make a deep run this year.

The Rocketeers are loaded with experienced seniors, including forward Caroline Collard and guards Samantha Taggart and Emily Schromm, who have shown the ability to win close games against good teams this season. North beat Foxboro in the first meeting, beat Oliver Ames by one, and has also beaten potential tourney opponents Hingham and Westwood this year. North faces Madison Park to start and likely will face Duxbury in the quarterfinal to try and get a rubber match with Foxboro in the semifinal.

Milford (10-10) qualified for the tournament for the first time since 2012 and has shown immense progress in head coach T.J. Dolliver’s second season in charge. But, the Hawks have also struggled down the stretch, albeit against a tough stretch of league opponents including North Attleboro and Foxboro twice, OA, and Attleboro. The Hawks will be in Div. 2 Central and will likely face Marlboro in the playoff opener, which is a team similar to the Hawks that shoots a lot of threes and does not have a true post presence.

The Hawks will be counting on a big game from junior guard Kate Irwin, who has been among the league’s top scorers this season, but Milford has a lot of versatile players that can cause teams problems on the perimeter and in the paint, including senior Nicole Dahlgren. If the Hawks do get through the first round, then they will travel to No. 3 seed Groton-Dunstable and could face a couple of Eastern Mass. transplants in Hopkinton and Medfield.

Tamulionis, Foxboro Dunk the Hawks To Move Into First

Foxboro girls basketball
Foxboro’s Ashley Sampson drives to the basket along the baseline against Milford. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Coming into a game, Foxboro opponents know that they have to try and contain the Warriors leading scorer Ashley Sampson. The offense flows through the junior guard, who always seems to have the ball in her hands and can make plays in a number of different ways.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

While stopping one player is hard enough, the challenge grows when the other players find the range as well. On Saturday morning at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, Milford struggled to contain a Foxboro attack that was spearheaded by junior forward Grace Tamulionis, who scored a game- (and career-) high 20 points to go along with eight rebounds and four steals.

Foxboro had three scorers reach double digits and eight players get on the board on Saturday to beat Milford 66-37 and pull into a first place tie with North Attleboro atop the Davenport division standings.

“We’ve been practicing a little bit more and been able to translate that into the games,” said Foxboro coach Lisa Downs. “It started on Thursday against Oliver Ames (a 51-35 win) and they’re shooting the ball with a lot more confidence. It’s not just one girl that is contributing and every day we’re getting someone new to step up.”

Foxboro came out firing in the first quarter and Sampson led the way with eight of her 16 points. Three times Sampson got to the baseline on drives to the hoop and she also knocked down a step-back jumper. Tamulionis also looked up for it from the start with four points in the first.

Milford stayed close largely thanks to Jill Burley. After Riley Collins drilled a three off a Lauren Flahive assist to push the Foxboro lead to nine, Burley, who scored seven of her 11 in the quarter, scored on a pair of drives to the hoop to cut the deficit to five despite leading scorer Kate Irwin being forced to the bench with foul trouble.

In the second, Emma Liskov came off the bench to score five of her team-high 13 points to keep Milford hanging around, but Foxboro was able to push the lead to nine by the break. Shannon Smally scored her lone basket to make it 22-15 and then Flahive and Kristen Bortolotti (from a Lily Sykes steal and assist) scored the final four points of the half.

When asked if playing in the arena setting could have impacted the way the Hawks started, Milford coach T.J. Dolliver responded, “It could’ve been, I can’t say for sure. I know for me, it’s a big environment and it’s a little intimidating, but after you get out there and run around you’re playing, you’re coaching.”

In the third quarter, Milford was held to only two made field goals (one for Liskov and the other for Christine Pye) and Foxboro’s defense continued to shut down Irwin, who was held to just one point for the game.

“Our focus was to block her out from touching the ball,” said Downs of guarding Irwin. “We kept rotating Lily and Riley, our two quickest girls, and that’s going to tire anyone out.”

Dolliver added, “It’s tough. In games like this, you need your stars, your leading scorer, to show up and unfortunately it wasn’t a good game for all of us. It’s hard for me to say the effort wasn’t there because I have a great group of girls…but we didn’t show up to play.”

On the other end, Tamulionis emerged as the go-to player for the Foxboro offense. She scored 10 points in the third, including a pair of threes, and looked confident every time she touched the ball. Sykes (12 points) extended the lead to 20 with a pair of high-arcing three-pointers of her own that closed out the third with Foxboro ahead 47-27.

“Grace has been doing some amazing things defensively and on the boards and now to have her being able to put the points on the board is just an extra bonus that’s going to get us far,” said Downs of Tamulionis’ contributions.

Sampson scored four in the fourth quarter, Sykes added six, Collins knocked down a three, and Tamulionis hit a jumper as well. Milford was struggling to slow down the Warriors, who were shooting the lights out.

“We didn’t have a game plan of trying to stop Ashley,” said Dolliver, “because they have so many; we had to stop so many. They made some really good, contested shots, pulled away, and we couldn’t do anything about it.”

Downs was asked what impact it has on the Warriors when different players provide scoring, as Tamulionis did on Saturday and Sykes did against OA (she had 19 against the Tigers). Downs replied, “It’s huge. When we have another girl that other teams aren’t really paying attention to…all the focus isn’t on Ashley. That opens up a lot more things that we can do offensively.”

Foxboro (9-2, 8-2) is now tied with North Attleboro for first in the division heading into a tough trip to Attleboro on Tuesday. Milford (8-5, 5-5) drops to .500 in the league this season and faces a trip to Kelley-Rex leader Mansfield.

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Rocketeers Rally In Second Half to Get Past Milford

North Attleboro girls basketball
North Attleboro senior Caroline Collard (25) scored 16 points, 10 in the third quarter, to help the Rocketeers rally past Milford on Tuesday. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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NORTH ATTLEBORO, Mass. – North Attleboro was trailing by a point as the clock wound down under 90 seconds remaining in Tuesday’s game at the Kenneth Pickering Gym. The Rocketeers needed someone to make a play to avoid the upset against an upstart Milford team that was trying to tie North for the Davenport division lead.

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Senior Ashley Ahern picked the pocket of Jill Burley, her fifth steal of the game, and raced the length of the court for a layup to give North a 46-45 lead. It turned out to be the game-winning basket, as the Rocketeers locked down on defense and Ahern sealed the 51-45 victory by knocking down 5-of-6 free throws.

It was an impressive come from behind win for the hosts, who trailed by as many as 10 points in the third quarter, but also an indication of how far Milford has come in head coach T.J. Dolliver’s second season that the Hawks had the division leaders on the ropes.

“They did,” replied North coach Derek Herber about Milford having the Rocketeers on the edge. “We’ve seen enough of them…I told my girls that they’re scrappy like us and they can shoot a little bit, so we’ve got to be ready to play. They came out right away and did exactly that.

“They’ve come a long way and credit to T.J., he’s put a team together over there and they’re going to be a problem throughout the season.”

The opening quarter was an indication of the confidence that the Hawks are playing with this season. In an end-to-end period that resembled a track meet as much as a basketball game, the Hawks got points from six different players and scored 19 points.

Christine Pye (eight points) knocked down a pair of long jumpers and Burley scored four of her eight points on a pair of runners in the lane. Nicole Dahlgren (12 points, eight rebounds, five assists) scored on an offensive rebound plus the foul then assisted on a three-pointer by Juliana Tracy.

North kept it close in the opening quarter with a strong offensive attack of its own. Ahern scored four of her game-high 16 points and sophomore Julia Feid added six of her seven points in the first.

The pace continued in the second quarter, but the scoring slowed down. The teams scored six points apiece and headed into halftime with the Hawks ahead 25-21.

In the third quarter, Milford came out strong and took a double digit lead. Kate Irwin flipped a pass over the defense to Dahlgren for a layup then Gillian Valanzola used a pump fake to get past Caroline Collard in the post for a basket. After Dahlgren scored on one of Burley’s six assists, she then managed to keep a play alive while falling to set up Irwin (six points) for a three.

North trailed 36-26 and Herber called timeout.

“We’ve got to execute better on offense,” Herber told his team. “We have a height advantage, so lets try to get the ball to Collard and if we get the shots off that look that’s what we need to do. We were able to put some pressure on their guards and get in their face a little bit.”

Feid snagged a rebound of a missed free throw and fed it to Collard for a layup to get North started. Collard then scored a layup in transition off an Ahern assist and another off of a Feid inbound pass to get the Rocketeers back within three. Collard scored 10 of her game-high 16 in the quarter.

North regained the lead before the end of the third on back-to-back steals and transition baskets by Ahern. Dolliver was left rueing the missed opportunity to put North away.

“We just turned the ball over too much and it was just…careless,” he said. “They played good defense on it, but they were passes that we could avoid. We definitely have to take care of the ball a little more and that was the difference.”

North extended the run to 13 straight points with a pair of free throws and then Samantha Taggart answered a Dahlgren jumper with a three-pointer that made it 42-38. Pye scored on a layup to cut the lead in half, but Liz Morehouse scored her only points of the night to push the lead back to four.

Pye was left open on an inbounds play for a layup and then Dahlgren buried a straightaway three-pointer that put Milford back in front by a point with time running out for North.

“I was happy to see that they bounced back,” said Dolliver of his team’s response to the North run. “I really love this group. That’s the No. 1 seed [in the division] and you had them, so it’s a good sign in that aspect but I hold them to higher standards now. They know how to take care of end-of-game situations.”

The North defense was aggressive throughout the second half with Ahern causing problems for Burley and Emily Schromm holding Irwin, who currently leads the Hockomock in scoring, to just six points. It was Ahern who made the biggest play, turning the game around for North when it needed a stop and scoring the final seven points of the game.

“They all know it too, she’s the heart of the team,” said Herber of Ahern. “They take their cue from her. If she’s up on her person and in their face then everyone else has to have the same mentality. She’s still a little banged up and she fought through it today.”

North Attleboro (9-2, 6-0) will continue a tough stretch when it hosts Foxboro on Friday in another game against a team that is one game back in the division. Milford (6-2, 4-2) will have no time to dwell on the loss, as the Hawks host Hopedale on Wednesday.

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Strong Start Helps Irwin, Milford Run Past Stoughton

Milford girls basketball
Milford’s Kate Irwin drives to the basket in the second half against Stoughton. (Ryan Lanigan/HockomockSports.com)
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STOUGHTON, Mass. – There are a lot of things that TJ Dolliver wants his Scarlet Hawks to accomplish over the course of a game. Getting off to a strong start is near the top of that list.

Milford did just that, limiting Stoughton to just four points in the opening quarter and built on that advantage over the next three quarters for a 51-37 win on the road.

“We definitely started out strong…on the road, that’s the best you can ask for,” Dolliver said. “Honestly, in any game, if you have a great start that’s what you want. There’s been times when we haven’t started strong and the confidence level goes down. The girls can lose sight that it’s a 32 minute game. It’s nice when you can start strong and get that early lead.”

Christine Pye got things going early for the Scarlet Hawks, netting six of her seven points in the opening quarter. Kate Irwin, who had a four point play in the first quarter, paced Milford with a career-high 27 points.

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Scoring from Pye and Irwin paced Milford’s offense early on while its defense blanked Stoughton for over six minutes. The Black Knights were able to finally break through with a free throw from Val Whalen (11 points, 10 rebounds) but the Scarlet Hawks held a 12-4 lead after eight minutes.

Stoughton got within six points halfway through the second quarter after a pair of free throws from Jordan Motley (15 rebounds) but Milford came back with an answer. Over the next four minutes, the Scarlet Hawks hit a trio of trifectas – one each from Nicole Dahlgren (six points, seven rebounds), Irwin and Jess Tomaso – and scored 12 points total to take a 27-16 lead into halftime.

Milford kept its 10 point cushion throughout the third quarter, coming back with an answer anytime Stoughton scored. Stoughton freshman Aliyah Wright (12 points) drained a three late in the third to cut it to eight but Milford’s Emily Piergustavo converted an offensive rebound on the ensuing possession. Wright scored again to make it single digits but a traditional three point play from Irwin put the lead back to 11.

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“We seemed to have an answer each time,” Dolliver said. “Stoughton’s a very physical team, I really like that team a lot. They play so strong, they rebound very well and they’re hard to play against. Luckily our offense, when Stoughton went on a run here or there, we just found a way to get a bucket.”

Irwin scored nine of her 27 points in the third quarter and added five more in the final frame to help the Scarlet Hawks ice the game.

“She’s done a really good job of increasing her intensity,” Dolliver said of Irwin. “She’s evolved as a point guard over the last two years. One big focus point was getting her to take better shots. She’s taking less shots this year but averaging twice as many points this year.

“She’s making good decisions for us. If she has a good shot, we want her to take it but if it’s not a great shot, she moves the ball. She’s been very coachable about it and I love watching her play.”

Milford girls basketball (5-1 overall, 3-1 Hockomock) is back in action next week when it travels to Canton on Tuesday. Stoughton (1-5, 0-4) will be back in action on the same day with a trip to Foxboro.

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Girls Basketball: 2016-17 Davenport Division Preview

2016-2017 Davenport Girls Basketball Preview
Shannon Smally (15) of Foxboro and Val Whalen (14) of Stoughton battle in the post in one of last season’s Davenport division meetings. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

By HockomockSports.com Staff

2016-2017 Davenport Girls Basketball Preview

CANTON

2015-16 Record: 6-14 (3-13)
2015-16 Finish: Missed playoffs
Head Coach: Jim Choquette

The Bulldogs continue to add to the program both on the court and on the bench with former Canton and UMass Boston star Olivia Murphy joining the coaching staff this season to help out with the freshman team. It is a sign of the continued growth of the program under head coach Jim Choquette, who is hoping that the momentum built at the end of last season will carry over to this year.

Senior forward Emma Murphy returns after a league all-star season and will be joined on the front line by returning starters senior Casey Shea and juniorHannah Jerrier, who was an honorable mention for all-star last winter. Adding depth on the front line will be sophomore forwards Molly Ludwig and Erin Devine, who lacks inexperience but adds significant height.

Jess Powers is recovering from an injury suffered during lacrosse season and her return will add more scoring punch to a deep and quick backcourt group. Sophomore Julia Hamilton is back to run the point for the Bulldogs and will be joined by classmate Maggie Connolly, junior Lindsey Barrett, senior Taylor Carrington, and junior twins Lillian and Evelyn Carrington. This group will allow Canton to keep defensive pressure high all game long.

“Our strengths will be scrappy defense and rebounding on both ends,” said Choquette. “our goal is to improve each game and be playing our best headed into the last part of the season…the faster we find chemistry the faster we’ll find the win column.”

FOXBORO

2015-16 Record: 15-7 (11-5)
2015-16 Finish: Reached Div. 2 South quarterfinal
Head Coach: Lisa Downs

Despite a lot of youth in the lineup, Foxboro has been one of the top teams in the Davenport division for several seasons and this year should be no different, as the Warriors enter the winter with very high expectations and as one of the favorites for the league title.

A lot of the interest in the Warriors stems from the continued development of junior point guard Ashley Sampson, who has turned into one of the best all-around guards in the Hockomock and is the player that the Foxboro offense flows through. Sampson has plenty of help in the backcourt with classmate Lily Sykes, who offers scoring from the perimeter, and seniors Lauren Flahive, Riley Collins (back after an injury), and Hailey Maling, who are all strong on the ball defenders.

In the front court, Kristen Bortolotti is back after missing last year with an injury and will add speed and a strong mid-range game. Junior Grace Tamulionis is another matchup nightmare for the opposition with her size on the boards and on defense and her ability to step outside and shoot the three. Junior Shannon Smally continues to improve and gives the Warriors an inside presence, while newcomers Chelsea Gibbons and Abby Hassmancould make big contributions for the Warriors.

“The girls have been playing together throughout the summer and fall and this familiarity should work to our benefit this season,” said head coach Lisa Downs. “We will continue to focus on our running game and our defensive efforts and I am fortunate to have the players that not only buy into this system, but, also appreciate this pace.”

MILFORD

2015-16 Record: 9-11 (5-11)
2015-16 Finish: Missed playoffs
Head Coach: T.J. Dolliver

After missing out on a playoff spot by one game a season ago under first-year head coach T.J. Dolliver, Milford enters this winter with high hopes of making the leap into the postseason with a deep and versatile roster that has gained a lot of experience together over the past few seasons.

The enthusiasm for the Hawks begins with dynamic junior point guard Kate Irwin, who has shown the ability to get to the basket at will, draw defenses to get open looks for her teammates and also be a pesky on the ball defender. With Irwin creating open shots, junior Emily Piergustavo’s return after missing last year with an injury will be a big boost on the perimeter along with senior guard Jill Burley.

Milford will also have plenty of players to contribute on the glass and in the paint. Senior Nicole Dahlgren, a two-year captain, is a strong rebounder but can also step out and hit threes as can junior Jess Tomaso. Five-foot-8 senior Christine Pye, 5-foot-11 junior Gillian Valanzola, 5-foot-8 senior Emma Liskov, and 5-foot-10 Juliana Tracy give Milford an imposing group of front line players.

“These girls have been playing together for a while and their team chemistry is amazing,” said Dolliver. “We are starting to learn the minor details of offense and defense in order to give our team a better chance of success.”

NORTH ATTLEBORO

2015-16 Record: 11-10 (9-7)
2015-16 Finish: Reached Div. 2 South tournament
Head Coach: Derek Herber

The Rocketeers head into their first season in the Davenport division with eight returning players from last year’s team that was two points away from a first round victory in the Div. 2 South tournament against Hock rival Oliver Ames.

Senior Ashley Ahern is a three-year starter at guard and was the team’s leading scorer last winter. Ahern will be the player that gets the offense going, but she will get plenty of help from her classmates, Emily Schromm and Samantha Taggart. Schromm was one of the top defenders in the league and can stretch a defense with her outside shooting and Taggart can play all three guard positions and led North in assists last year. In the paint, senior Caroline Collard is the team’s leading rebounder and showed a soft touch around the basket.

North can also look for improvements from sophomore Julia Feid, who got valuable minutes as a rookie last year, senior Liz Morehouse, who adds depth in the post, and juniors Julia Santos, who both brought athleticism off the bench at the wing positions. Sophomore forward Mackenzie Roberts is a newcomer who adds size and outside shooting and junior Emily Pastore can step in at all three guard positions.

The Rocketeers have plenty of experience on the roster and will be one of the favorites for the league title at the beginning of the season. While head coach Derek Herber can count on a number of returning players, he hopes to “mix in a few new faces into the lineup to help with depth.”

SHARON

2015-16 Record: 5-15 (3-13)
2015-16 Finish: Missed playoffs
Head Coach: Cliff Tomassian

Sharon is another team that has been building with youth and has created a lot of depth on its roster and, despite losing three of its top four scorers from last winter, has garnered preseason hype as a potential sleeper to make a return to the postseason for the first time since the Eagles made a run to the Div. 2 South final in 2013.

The Eagles will be hoping for an improvement on the offensive side of the ball, which was a challenge at times last winter. Junior point guard Shira Stoller, a three-year starter, is continuing to improve at limiting turnovers and looking for her own shot as well as setting up teammates. One of the players that benefits from Stoller’s ability to get into the lane is sophomore Emma Eberhardt, who was third on the team in points as a rookie and continues to develop into a consistent wing scorer.

Sophomore Veronica Wallace has emerged as one of the top backcourt defenders during the preseason and is one of the fastest players on the Sharon roster. Senior Ana Crosby, who is also a standout on the soccer and lacrosse fields, is another player that is continuing to improve and will have an increased role this season. Freshman Kaitlyn Wallace is a newcomer to watch and could have a bigger role to play over the course of the year.

“Our defense is going to have to be our key in order to compete, and our girls know that,” said third-year coach Cliff Tomassian. “We get our best looks on offense off of great defensive stands. Our girls are going to have to be patient and vigilant on both ends and be ready to take chances.”

STOUGHTON

2015-16 Record: 7-11 (7-9)
2015-16 Finish: Missed playoffs
Head Coach: Charmaine Steele Jordan

The Black Knights lost six seniors to graduation but this offers plenty of opportunities for a new crop of younger players to get playing time and learn the system of second-year head coach, and former Stoughton star, Charmaine Steele Jordan.

Two of the players that will be counted on most this season are junior forwards Val Whalen and Jordan Motley, who are two of the best rebounders in the league and can also get out on the break and score in transition. Their development in the half-court offense will be a key for Stoughton making a playoff push in the Davenport division this season. Senior Lili Njiem is another player that could make a big impact, as one of the team’s three captains.

The Black Knights will have as many senior as freshmen on this year’s roster (three) along with four sophomores and three juniors, so the foundation for the future is in place. Shyanne Trinh, Lexi Baptista, and Aliyah Wright are the three newcomers to the program who will be hoping to make an instant impact.

“So excited for the upcoming season,” said Steele Jordan. “We lost six seniors so there is lots of opportunity for our players to step up. Our returnees from last year will contribute for us despite being pretty young.”

Irwin Paces Milford to Opening Win Over Taconic

Milford Girls Basketball
Emily Piergustavo (22) and the Hawks opened the season with a non-league victory over Taconic. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

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MILFORD, Mass. – For the first two or three minutes of the game, it was Milford that looked like the team that had driven more than two hours from Pittsfield for Saturday’s non-league matinee. The Hawks fell behind 6-0 and look a little out of sorts in the season opener.

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Then senior guard Jill Burley buried a three to cut the Taconic lead in half and the hosts kicked into gear. Milford went on an 18-2 run in the opening quarter to take a lead that it would never relinquish.

Sparked by junior Kate Irwin’s 21-point, four-assist, five-rebound performance and double-digit rebounds from senior Christine Pye (10) and junior Jess Tomaso (14), Milford held off Taconic 52-45 in a game that the visitors managed to keep close right to the end.

“The reason for it was we’re putting them at the line too many times,” said second-year Milford coach T.J. Dolliver of the Hawks inability to put the game out of reach in the second half. Taconic went to the line 19 times in the second half (30 times in the game) and made 10.

Dolliver added, “We fouled way too often and they were fouls that could be avoided. I said at halftime that if we’re going to keep them in the game then it’s going to be at the line and we need to stop fouling.”

The fouls started in the first quarter with Milford putting Taconic in the bonus before the end of the opening eight minutes and both Burley and fellow captain Nicole Dahlgren (seven rebounds) were forced to the bench for a long stretch due to foul trouble.

Milford showed its depth by finding other players to step up. Emily Piergustavo, who missed last season with a shoulder injury, had one of her three first half steals to get Irwin a transition basket and then the combo repeated it to tie the game at 8-8. Piergustavo (six points) buried a three off an Irwin assist to give Milford its first lead and Irwin added another basket off an offensive rebound.

Pye scored off a rebound and Gillian Valanzola scored off an inbound pass by Emma Liskov to give Milford an 18-8 lead. Taconic turned momentum around and went on a 10-2 run that cut the lead back to just two points, but Irwin scored with a drive to the left and a Dahlgren offensive rebound and kick-out gave Tomaso (six points) an open look from three to extend the lead back to eight.

Milford went into the break ahead 30-19 and rebounding played a big role in the Hawks lead. Dolliver said, “The nice part about our team is that we rebound from top to bottom. Our bigs rebound the ball very well and our guards rebound the ball very well. They’re very fundamental in their box outs and that’s huge.”

The third quarter was a struggle for both teams. Irwin buried a three to give Milford its largest lead of the game at 14 points, but the Hawks only managed one more made field goal for the rest of the quarter when Tomaso followed her own shot twice before finishing.

Luckily for the Hawks, Taconic was also finding it tough to score. The Braves had only two made field goals and three free throws in the third and could only cut two points off the halftime lead, trailing 35-26 into the fourth.

Milford started the fourth like it wanted to finally put Taconic away. Irwin hit a runner and then Dahlgren buried a long jumper. After being forced to the bench because of foul trouble, Burley finally got her chance and buried a pair of three-pointers that put the Hawks up 45-31.

“I was happy to see her hit those,” said Dolliver of Burley, “because I know she was frustrated because she got into early foul trouble and honestly didn’t play a lot until the end and then knocks down a couple shots and in her mind it’s forgotten.”

If Milford thought the game was done, Taconic had other ideas. After a two-hour drive, the Braves were going to keep it interesting for the full 32 minutes of game time. Taconic was 7-14 from the line and closed the gap to as little as six points with a few minutes remaining, but Dolliver called timeout to settle his team down.

When asked if in those pressure moments it helps having Irwin to give the ball to, Dolliver replied, “Of course…and now that we get Emily back as well it’s another ball-handler, which is huge when we’re getting pressured.”

Milford (1-0) will try to keep the momentum going at the start of the season in its league opener on Tuesday against King Philip.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Taunton Rallies Late to Beat Milford, Earn First Win

Alyssa Gibson
Senior forward Alyssa Gibson (24) scored 13 points and grabbed nine rebounds to lead the Tigers to their first win of the season on Tuesday night. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)

By Josh Perry, Managing Editor

TAUNTON, Mass. – The Tigers have a young roster, one that has suffered through injuries and missing players during a difficult first half of the season, but on Tuesday night Taunton set aside the early season disappointments and found a way to get its first win of the season.

Senior forward Alyssa Gibson led the Tigers with 13 points and nine rebounds, including five points in the fourth quarter as Taunton rallied from from five points down to pull out a 44-40 victory over Milford.

“We needed to pick it up,” said Taunton coach Walter Harrigan. “We needed a win. These girls have worked hard, we’ve been decimated with injuries and all the stuff going on this year, so they deserved it.”

At the start of the fourth, Milford had built a 34-28 lead behind nine of Kate Irwin’s team-high 12 points, but good ball movement against the Hawks’ zone got the ball to Jordan Wade (nine points) and the senior guard knocked down her third three of the game to cut the lead to just three.

After MacKenzie Handrahan scored her only basket of the game on a rebound putback, Emma Liskov answered with a layup that made it 36-33. Raquia Pate (eight points, 10 rebounds) scored on another offensive rebound to once again bring Taunton back within one.

“I thought we did a good job right from the beginning,” said Harrigan. “I thought we boxed out really well; offensively we’re just a little stagnant and we really weren’t getting the ball movement.”

After an Irwin free throw, Gibson twice was fouled taking the ball to the basket and each time made three of four free throws to tie the game at 38-38 with 2:15 remaining. It was the first time the game had been tied since the opening quarter. On Taunton’s next possession, freshman Lily Patneaude scored on a runner to give Taunton the lead  and then Gibson scored on a layup to extend it to four points.

Harrigan said, “We were hoping to get one run. We were hoping it would come early, but luckily we were able to get it late in the game.”

Irwin raced up the floor to score on a layup and cut it back to two and the Hawks managed to create a turnover on the sideline, but Jill Burley missed both free throws after the steal and Taunton claimed the rebound. Milford was only 3-10 from the line in the fourth and also missed several chances close to the rim.

“We couldn’t put the ball in the hoop and we couldn’t rebound,” said Milford coach T.J. Dolliver, “so it was kind of a combination of all of it. If you can’t make easy ones, can’t make free throws, then you have to rely on tough shots and that’s not the way you want to go.”

Patneaude made a free throw for the Tigers to make it 43-40, but missed the second. The ball bounced free and Hanrahan again chased down the rebound to save the possession. Maggie Sullivan was fouled and made a free throw to essentially ice the game up four in the final seconds.

“It’s just tough to watch because sometimes we just don’t have any fight,” Dolliver remarked. “We need to get angry sometimes and actually battle, but it’s something we need to work on as a team and I need to work on as a coach and try to figure out a solution.”

Milford took a 20-17 lead into halftime. Irwin and Gill Valanzola each scored five points in the opening half, while Pate led the Tigers with six and Gibson had four.

In the third quarter, the Hawks went on a run and jumped out to their largest lead of the game at 26-17. Irwin was proving difficult to stop for the Tigers, especially when she got into transition. Junior forward Nicole Dahlgren also provided an offensive spark with six of her 10 points coming in the third. Senior Jill Powers also chipped in with three.

The Tigers battled back to stay in the game heading to the fourth. Abby Kingman hit a jumper just as it looked like Milford may pull away. Gibson scored four points in the quarter, Hannah Moniz (five points) hit a perimeter shot and Wade knocked down a big three that cut the lead back down to two points.

Powers answered with a bucket on the other end and the Hawks went into the fourth with a five-point lead. It could have been another game in which the Tigers came close but Taunton showed resiliency to close it out and get its first win of the season.

Harrigan commented, “We’ve been close in a couple, but they’ve got to continue to work hard. We know what we have. We’ve got some senior leadership and then we’re very young and we’re going to continue to improve as the season wears on.”

Taunton (1-9, 1-7) will try to start a winning streak on Friday when it hosts North Attleboro. Milford (4-7, 1-7) will look to bounce back when it travels to Davenport leader Oliver Ames.

Josh Perry can be contacted at JoshPerry@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @Josh_Perry10.

Foxboro Boys and Girls Complete Sweep of Milford

By Allie Piergustavo, HockomockSports.com Contributor

MILFORD, Mass. – Despite a strong effort by a young Milford girls’ squad, it was not enough to overcome the Foxboro Warriors on Friday night, falling by a score of 66-55.

Dominance from the start was key in the Warrior’s victory. Foxboro outscored Milford 20-7 in the first quarter, despite committing five fouls. Foxboro senior Cassidy Harrison scored 12 of the team’s 20 points in the first.

“She’s been scoring a lot early in games, and everyone moves off of that energy she brings out there offensively,” said Foxboro coach Lisa Downs. Downs also complimented the team’s defense early on in the game. She said, “Our defense in the first half was a catalyst to what we were able to do on offense.”

Milford, however, did not go down without a fight. The effort from the Scarlet Hawks was at top level throughout the entire game. The game as a whole was a total team effort, with points being distributed throughout multiple players.

“We knew who we were going up against; we knew Foxboro was a very good team,” said Milford coach T.J. Dolliver. “We kept the energy up and we needed to, because if we ever hung our head at any point, it would’ve affected us mentally, and in the game as well.”

Despite having a young roster, Milford continues to improve game-by-game. After losing a tough match-up to Sharon on Monday night, they looked to bounce back stronger than before, striving to reach their goal of getting better every game.

Milford’s top scorer on the night was senior Jill Powers with 15 points and she also added six rebounds. Sophomore Nicole Dahlgren added 10 points and five rebounds for Milford.

Foxboro looks to continue its win streak on Tuesday night at home against Franklin, while Milford looks to come back from tonight’s loss Tuesday night at home versus Attleboro.

Foxboro Boys Run Away With Road Victory

After a strong victory on the girl’s side, it was up to the Foxboro boys to complete the sweep. It was soon clear that the team would have little issue completing the challenge. The Warriors completed a statement victory over the Scarlet Hawks, winning 64-44.

After trailing Milford 1-0 for the first minutes of the first quarter, Foxboro’s offense came alive, and ultimately outscored Milford in the first quarter 15-8, while committing just two fouls.

Foxboro’s top scorer for the night was senior forward Rob Lowey, tallying 20 points for the Warriors. Next to Lowey was fellow senior Alex DuBrow, with the guard adding 15 points.

Despite these numbers, Foxboro’s victory tonight was a full team effort. “I was really proud of our depth,” said Foxboro coach Jon Gibbs. “A lot of different guys stepped up for us tonight when we had some of our key guys in foul trouble, so I was really proud of that.”

On the Milford side, the leading scorers for the Scarlet Hawks were junior guard Zach Tamagni and senior forward Dwight Anderson, with 12 and 11 points, respectively.

A junior and senior-heavy roster means returning experience for the team. This has shown throughout the season, especially after a statement win over Davenport rival Sharon this past Monday night.

Milford (3-3, 2-2) looks to bounce back from tonight on Tuesday night at Attleboro. The future for the Warriors is very bright, as well. After tonight’s victory, Foxboro (6-1, 4-1) looks to carry that momentum into the next game at Franklin.

Gibbs said, “We’re continuing to get better, so right now its just continue to get better, and continue to build momentum and keep it going as long as we can.”

Sharon Edges Milford In Davenport Battle

By Allie Piergustavo, HockomockSports.com Contributor

MILFORD, Mass. – Both the Milford Scarlet Hawks and the Sharon Eagles entered Monday night’s contest with similar goals in mind.

Milford entered the game off of a close and exciting win against border rival Hopedale and was looking to keep momentum in its direction. Sharon entered with the same goal, winning the past two games at its own holiday tournament over winter break and looking to get back to .500 for the season.

It was the Eagles that came out on top in the divisional matchup, defeating the Hawks 39-31. Senior Charlotte Ransom and freshman Emma Eberhardt tied with for the team-high 11 points apiece and senior Alyssa Piazza added 10 for the Eagles.

The game, however, did not begin in Sharon’s favor. In the first 2-1/2 minutes of play, Milford held a 6-1 lead.

“We started off with a man press, full court, it wasn’t really working to our advantage in the first quarter,” said Sharon coach Cliff Tomassian. In fact, Sharon scored more points via free throws than field goals, while committing only one foul of its own in the first quarter.

At the end of the first quarter, Milford led Sharon 10-5. Sophomores Juliana Tracy and Kate Irwin dominated the quarter, with Irwin scoring six points and Tracy scoring four.

“We started off the way we wanted to,” said Milford coach T.J. Dolliver, “getting a couple steals, couple easy buckets, and that’s the way you hope to start out every game.”

Milford, however, could not keep its lead. Sharon began the second quarter on a 3-0 run, and held Milford without a point for the majority of the quarter.

Sharon committed just one foul in the second quarter, while also scoring 14 points. Milford, on the other hand, committed five fouls, and were limited to just three points in the entirety of the second. 

“There was really good teamwork and communication on the defensive end to get those steals,” Tomassian added. “It led to a pretty good second quarter for us.”

While reflecting on the game, Dolliver said, “We just couldn’t buy a bucket; shots weren’t falling for us. It’s not something you can really be mad about as a coach. I think a lot of shots were forced, they just didn’t fall for us tonight.”

One of Sharon’s main advantages that gave them the lead was making Milford pay for its fouls and turnovers. Milford turned the ball over 20 times in the game.’

Milford’s top scorer for the night was sophomore Kate Irwin with 11 points. The Hawks’ top rebounders were sophomore Juliana Tracy and junior Nicole Dahlgren, tallying seven apiece.

Milford (4-3, 1-3) returns to the court on Friday at home against Foxboro and Sharon (3-3, 1-3) travels to Oliver Ames that night.

Fast Start Helps Milford Earn Season Sweep of Hopedale

By Allie Piergustavo, HockomockSports.com Contributor

HOPEDALE, Mass. – Milford came into Wednesday’s night contest against Hopdale with one main goal in mind: start strong. That goal was clearly accomplished against Hopedale when the Scarlet Hawks got off to a great first quarter and won by a score of 54-41.

The victory marked Milford’s third straight win. Sophomore Kate Irwin, who led the Scarlet Hawks in points, got the game started strong by scoring the first points for Milford within the first ten seconds of play.

“Last time we played them, we started off slow,” Milford head coach TJ Dolliver said. “And so, that was one of the main points during the speech…we have to start off strong, we have to get going.”

After the first quarter, Milford held a 19-9 lead with sophomore Juliana Tracy leading the team with seven points. Hopedale also committed four fouls in the first quarter, displaying some impatience from the Blue Raiders. However, there was a quick turn of events in the second quarter. By the half, Hopedale cut the lead to just three, with a score of 26-23.

“Our help defense wasn’t there,” Dolliver said, referring to the second quarter. “Our defense was with our hands and not our feet, and that really hurt us.”

In fact, Hopedale scored the majority of their points in the second quarter, scoring 16 points, ten of which came from senior captain Lea Hyland.

“In the second quarter especially, she wasn’t afraid to catch and shoot,” Hopedale head coach Stephanie Caffrey said. “She’s our best shooter and that’s who we want to have the ball.”

Milford’s top scorer was sophomore Kate Irwin, leading the Scarlet Hawks with 17 points. Irwin’s explosive offense was one of the main aspects that drove Milford past Hopedale, a consistency for the young player.

“All it takes is one basket and you’re on a roll,” Dolliver said about the sophomore point guard. “She went to the foul line numerous times and got on a roll.” Irwin shot 80% from the foul line on the night.

It was the fouls that proved to be a game-changer on both sides of the court. Milford committed 14 fouls in the game, while Hopedale committed 17 fouls. Of the 14 fouls Milford committed, ten points resulted from free throws. Of the 17 fouls Hopedale committed, 17 points resulted from free throws.

Through halftime, Hopedale aimed to stay up and try to advance to a lead. In fact, at one point, Hopedale lead by a score of 28-27 as a result of foul shots. It was the only time in the entire game Hopedale had a lead over Milford.

Another standout player for the Scarlet Hawks was junior Emma Liskov. Liskov had 11 points and was a key part of the Hawk’s offense early in the game.

“Press and rebounds, she’s very good at that. One of her specialties is defense…being active with her hands and finishing plays,” Dolliver said.

With the win, Milford improved to a 4-2 overall. Milford takes the court Monday night at home against the Sharon Eagles.