MILFORD, Mass. – Heading into halftime of Tuesday night’s game at Milford High, the Hawks seemed on the verge of an upset over Kelley-Rex division leader Mansfield, but a collision in the final minute of the second quarter proved to be the game’s decisive moment and sparked a big second half comeback for the Hornets.
Senior point guard Kate Irwin, who had been held to five points and two assists in the first half, but who drew most of the attention from the Mansfield defense, collided with Mady Bendanillo and landed hard. Irwin could not return and the Hornets were able to take advantage.
Mansfield ran off 22 unanswered points in the third quarter to not only take the lead but also take control of the game on the way to a 53-40 victory that keeps the Hornets in front by two games in the league standings.
“This is a game that defines how good Kate Irwin is,” said Mansfield coach Mike Redding. “They’ve got a really good team but she’s the engine that makes it go. They had us on the ropes and we were going to be in deep trouble to get a win out of here with her in for a full game. She’s an MVP-caliber type player.”
With the Hornets mixing things up on defense and keying on Irwin, trying to keep the ball out of her hands, other Milford players needed to step up. Juliana Tracy scored all five of her points in the first, knocking down a three and scoring on a rebound, and Jess Tomaso drove to the hoop for two.
Mansfield would hold a 14-10 lead after the first thanks to senior center Meg Hill (17 points and 10 rebounds). She scored the Hornets’ first six points and, as the Hawks sank down on the paint, Emily Vigeant and Ann Maher (six points) drilled threes.
In the second quarter, Milford made the Hornets pay for giving so much attention to Irwin. After a jumper by Maggie Danehy (eight points and 10 rebounds) put Mansfield up by seven, the Hawks started to click.
Piergustavo knocked down a pull-up jumper, Gillian Valanzola drove to the basket for two points, and Julie Rabinowitz drilled a three to cut the lead to two. Piergustavo nailed her second three of the game to give Milford its first lead at 23-22, as part of a 13-0 run to close the half. Valanzola got free on another drive and Irwin caught Mansfield with a back cut and layup and Piergustavo closed the quarter with another three.
“I think we got got good looks,” said Milford coach T.J. Dolliver. “We have the players to step up and make those shots. We’ve expected defenses to take away Kate, but we don’t really plan for it and we don’t really practice it too much because we have the pieces that we need to be a complete basketball team.”
Coming out of halftime, Irwin was forced to the bench holding an ice pack and the Hawks never recovered. Mansfield turned things around, locking down on defense and shutting out Milford in the quarter, while finally getting the offense in gear.
Maher hit a three to cut the lead to a single point and then the Hornets took back the lead after Vigeant tracked down a rebound and assisted on a Hill basket. Bendanillo added four points in the third and Sydney Mulkern came off the bench to score nine points on three shots from beyond the arc to push the lead to 14 (44-30) heading into the fourth.
“Not many kids can come off the bench and first shot bury the three but she’s cool and calm and she’s got confidence in her shot,” said Redding of Mulkern. “She gives us a really good defender. She’s quick, long and defends really well.”
He added, “We played a great third quarter. Obviously, it helped not having to defend Kate but we also woke up on offense, started passing it well, and making some shots.”
The Hawks struggled without their point guard in the third, but Dolliver credited his team for not allowing the game to get out-of-hand and pushing back in the fourth.
“When Kate goes down and can’t enter the game again, the team is in shock a little bit,” he explained. “It takes a little while to get over that as an athlete, but I still thought we played well in the second half. There were the first five minutes or so where we were stagnant offensively, and defensively, and it’s a matter of picking yourself up and starting to play better.”
Milford cut the lead to 12, but Danehy scored on an offensive rebound and Hill drained a jumper. Rabinowitz nailed her second three and Tomaso (six points) scored with a baseline drive, before Piergustavo (14 points) ended with her fourth three.
“People are going to look at the box score and say, oh Milford lost by 13, but that’s not the story of the game,” said Dolliver. “I’m very proud of the way we played and we’re just trying to get ready for the playoffs.”
Redding had a similar thought after the final whistle. He admitted, “We’re lucky to get out of here. Stoughton did us a favor and we almost gave it back tonight. I told the girls, from here on in everyone’s out to knock us off. We have to bring our ‘A’ game.”
Mansfield (12-4, 10-1) will get back into division play on Friday when it hosts Taunton. Milford (10-5, 6-5) will try to hold onto second in the Davenport when it faces Stoughton.
MILFORD, Mass. – Holding onto a seven-point lead with a little more than a minute remaining in Tuesday night’s game against Davenport division rival Canton, Milford moved the ball around the perimeter to run clock. Despite the pressure from the Canton guards, the Hawks were able to keep the ball moving until it got to senior guard Kate Irwin on the left wing.
The lefty point guard took two hard dribbles to get space and pulled up from just inside the three-point line. Irwin got a clean look and hit nothing but net on the last of her game-high 26 points, 17 of which came in the second half.
Irwin’s jumper effectively sealed a 49-38 victory for the Hawks, who move into a tie with the Bulldogs for second place in the division ahead of the visit of league leading Foxboro on Friday.
“We played that to perfection,” said Milford coach T.J. Dolliver of the team’s penultimate possession. “I’m happy to see that because when we played Stoughton we didn’t handle the end of game situation well and that bucket there is the difference in the game. We ran 25 seconds off and made a bucket.”
Irwin had only two points in the first quarter, as Canton junior Maggie Connolly made her work for every shot. The imposing figures of 6-foot-3 Erin Devine and 6-foot-1 Hannah Jerrier in the paint also made it difficult to find good looks at the rim.
Senior guard Emily Piergustavo picked up the slack for the Hawks in the first with seven of her nine points, including a a three and a basket from an offensive rebound. Devine led the Bulldogs with four and it was a three-point edge for the Hawks heading to the second.
That was when Irwin started to catch fire. She opened the second with a traditional three-point play off a steal, scored off a Piergustavo offensive rebound and assist and then got another steal and transition basket.
“Getting to the hoop in the half court was going to be difficult,” said Dolliver about his team’s desire to run at every opportunity, “so luckily we got our good looks in transition and we were getting to the hoop.”
Canton continued to keep the game close, despite only getting four points from Jerrier. The team’s leading scorer was blanketed by Milford’s 2-3 zone with all of the Hawks making sure to know where the senior was at all times. The zone opened up opportunities from the outside and junior guard Julia Hamilton (nine points) made a pair of threes, the second of which tied the score at 24-24 in the third quarter.
“We get into a lot of situations where we defer to the bigs because they’re talented and it’s part of our game plan to utilize them, so it’s nice to have Julia do one of the things she’s good at and help our team get us ahead in that area,” said Canton coach Jim Choquette.
Jerrier (10 points and 11 rebounds) scored off a Connolly assist to give the Bulldogs a 26-24 lead, but Milford went on a 9-2 run to finish the third with a five-point advantage. Irwin scored eight of those final nine points, hitting a pair of pull-up jumpers and scoring twice off of steals.
“She always makes the difference,” said Dolliver of Irwin. “She’s a tough kid too. I get on her now and then and she handles it well.”
The game remained tight in the fourth quarter. Jerrier scored on a putback to start the fourth, but Gillian Valanzola scored off an Irwin assist to answer. Hamilton got the ball into Devine for a basket at the rim and, after Jess Tomaso scored to push the lead back to four, Molly Ludwig scored off another Hamilton assist to make it 37-35.
Again, the Hawks were able to close a quarter strongly. Kate Lobisser rattled in her only basket of the night to get the run started and Irwin added three more with a finish, plus the contact, following a steal. After the teams traded a series of free throws, Irwin got open in the corner and hit the dagger jumper to ensure the win.
“We didn’t execute enough to win,” admitted Choquette. “You have to give credit to Milford…at the end of the day, they just made more of those little things that they had to right. The score’s not as close as the game was, but in a close game it comes down to the team that makes the extra play.”
Milford’s ability to compete with Canton’s size on the glass was also a factor in limiting the Bulldog’s offense. Tomaso and Valanzola each finished with six rebounds, while Irwin and Juliana Tracy each finished with five.
Dolliver explained, “I don’t know how many offensive rebounds they had but they had their fair share and they’re going to get their fair share in every game, but that was a point of emphasis before the game because that’s where a lot of their points come from.”
Milford (5-2, 3-2) will host league leading Foxboro on Friday night. Canton (4-2, 3-2) will be back home on Friday to face Sharon.
The Bombardiers enter the season with a new coaching staff and a very different starting lineup to the one that nearly knocked off Mansfield in the Div. 1 South playoffs last season. Former King Philip coach Marty Crowley has taken over after Rick Patch stepped down in the off-season and he will have only a few returning varsity players to call on this winter.
Senior forward Sam Pierce will be the key piece on offense, as Attleboro tries to replace the more than 30 points per game that was lost with the graduation of Sarah Deyo and Julia Strachan. Pierce has been a consistent scorer and rebounder for the past few seasons, but this will be the first time that she is the primary offensive weapon and could be poised for a breakout year. Junior Jordyn Lako and senior Grace Mayer are strong on-the-ball defenders and should help Crowley implement his high-pressure defensive scheme. Senior Kim White will also be one of Attleboro’s ball-handlers in the backcourt.
One of the players who saw a little time on varsity last season that is expected to make a big jump is sophomore Nyah Thomas, who has the length to be a tough defender and showed in her few appearances last year that she can rebound and take the ball to the basket. Sophomore Liv McCall is a fearless shooter that will stretch the floor and transfer Mackenzie Roberts will give the Bombardiers added size in the paint.
Crowley said, “For us to be successful we must be able to play defense consistently and rebound. Sam, I am sure, is going to draw a lot of attention from other teams, so we must make sure that we are smart offensively and get touches for everyone.”
2016-2017 Record: 6-14 2016-2017 Finish: Missed postseason. Coach: Jim Choquette
There has been excitement around the Canton program for the past few seasons and that continues this winter, as the Bulldogs look to secure a place in the state tournament behind an experienced lineup that has been developing together for several years.
Senior Hannah Jerrier is the key for the Bulldogs, as the forward is coming off a league all-star season in which she emerged as a potential double-double night after night. Jerrier is a solid rebounder and scorer in the paint, reaching the 20-point mark nine times last season and averaging more than 16 points and nine rebounds per game. Junior Julia Hamilton will be back at point guard for the Bulldogs to help get the Canton into its offensive sets and provide pressure, on-the-ball defense. Senior Jess Powers is also back after missing a season to a knee injury and will add a boost to the team’s outside shooting and take pressure off Jerrier on offense.
Junior Maggie Connolly returns for her second year in the backcourt and seniors Lindsey Barrett, Nikki Gefteas, and Leya Conard will all add depth to the Canton roster this season, while junior Erin Devine adds another important post presence on both ends of the floor. The versatility of the roster will allow head coach Jim Choquette to change his game plans every game, slowing it down to play half-court or ratcheting up the pressure to go up tempo.
“Canton remains focused on playing together and staying positive for the best season possible,” Choquette said. “Leading up to our first game there’s been an extreme amount of effort and energy by a large group of unselfish girls and our seniors have all been great examples of staying positive throughout all situations!”
2016-2017 Record: 22-3 2016-2017 Finish: Reached Div. 2 State Semifinal Coach: Lisa Downs
After winning the Div. 2 South title and reaching the TD Garden last winter, this year’s Foxboro team will have high expectations, but with four starters returning, including reigning Hockomock League MVP Ashley Sampson, the Warriors will once again be the favorites to take home the Davenport division crown.
Having already passed the 1,000-point mark for her career, Sampson enters her senior season as the focal point of the Foxboro offense. Her ability to get into the lane and finish, as well as step back and knock down shots, makes her a tough cover and opens space for her teammates. Fellow senior Lily Sykes is one of the beneficiaries of that space and she can take advantage of open looks on the perimeter. Senior Grace Tamulionis is another player who can stretch the floor for the Warriors and can be an ‘X’ factor for Foxboro in big games. Senior Shannon Smally adds rebounding and post presence to keep defenses honest.
The Warriors are now the veteran team in the division, but there are also several younger players that have developed into critical pieces off the bench, including sophomore Abby Hassman, who has grown in the off-season into a strong rebounder. Freshman Katelyn Mollica will add backcourt depth with her tenacity on defense and already impressive court awareness. Junior Chelsea Gibbons is another player that is expected to step into a bigger role this season.
Foxboro coach Lisa Downs said, “This group of seniors have been part of our Varsity team since their freshmen year and with each year, they have learned and developed more – all of the girls on this year’s team put in the necessary work; now its time to execute.”
2016-2017 Record: 9-11 2016-2017 Finish: Missed postseason. Coach: John Leighton
Franklin got off to a rough start last season, beginning 0-6 with an inexperienced roster, but then closed the year with nine wins in the last 14 games, just missing out on a return to the postseason. This year, the Panthers will try to build on that year of experience and book a return to the playoffs.
The Panthers will have strength in the middle to try and get off to a much better start this season. Sophomore Ali Brigham, last year’s HockomockSports.com Underclassman of the Year, has received several Div. I NCAA offers, including one from the University of Minnesota, and at 6-foot-3 can dominate the paint on both ends of the floor. Franklin will also have outside scoring with junior guard Bea Bondhus, who is a consistent three-point shooter and will stretch defenses to open up the post for Brigham.
Franklin has plenty of size this season. Sophomore forwards Breanna Atwood (5-foot-9) and Megan O’Connell (5-foot-10) and senior forward Kate Morse (5-foot-11) will provide plenty of depth on the inside. Junior Shannon Gray will be back to run the point and senior Grace Sameski will add backcourt depth. Freshman guard Elizabeth Wilson is poised to make an instant impact for the Panthers, as she did in the season opener by knocking down three free throws in the final seconds to force overtime against Holy Name.
“We are a young team with only two seniors, but I am very pleased with the effort and progress of the team,” said Franklin coach John Leighton, who is excited about the return of the majority of the team’s scoring and the potential of the youth on the roster.
King Philip has a new coach this season, with former Wellesley assistant Amy Siggens taking over for Marty Crowley, and there could be a period of adjustment for a still relatively young Warriors roster to adapt to the new system, but there is excitement about the progress being made by the seven returning varsity players.
Boston University-commit Shannon O’Connor will once again be a player to watch for the Warriors this winter. The junior’s ability to shoot off the dribble, defend multiple positions, and take the ball to the basket has made her one of the league’s elite perimeter players. As O’Connor continues to develop as a playmaker that will create open looks for her teammates, including junior Julia Leroux and sophomore Faith Roy. Senior Christina Hathaway (one of only two seniors on the roster) will add strength in the paint on both ends of the floor.
The Warriors will not lack for size this season. O’Connor is listed at 5-foot-11, junior Catherine Cummings and sophomore Faye Veilleux are listed at 5-foot-10, and Roy is listed at 5-foot-9. The versatility of those players will give Siggens room to switch up lineups when needed. KP is still pretty young and Siggens has added two freshmen, Emma Glaser and Brianna James, to this year’s roster.
Siggens said, “Early on we will stress the importance of being unselfish on offense and being tough and aggressive on defense. Knowing mistakes will be made, there will be no small emphasis on the importance of playing hard all the time… I am encouraged by our team’s enthusiasm and attitude.”
2016-2017 Record: 20-4 2016-2017 Finish: Reached Div. 1 South final. Coach: Mike Redding
Replacing the production of last season’s HockomockSports.com Player of the Year Jen Peel is a difficult task, but Mansfield has the talent, depth, and experience in the roster to make it work. The Hornets return four starters from last year’s squad and will lean on a loaded and versatile junior class to try and make it a three-peat of league titles.
The key returner for Mansfield is 6-foot-3 center Meg Hill. The Stonehill College-commit is already the program’s best in blocked shots and is soon to be the career leader in rebounds, while improving her offensive game every season. With Peel gone, junior Mady Bendanillo will be tasked with getting the ball into the post to Hill and to fellow junior Maggie Danehy, who had an impressive start with a double-double against Medfield in the Endowment Game. Reigning HockomockSports.com Defensive Player of the Year Ann Maher will also be back at shooting guard and is one of the team’s most consistent three-point threats.
Juniors Erin Daniel, Emily Vigeant, Sydney Mulkern and Kara Bendanillo will likely compete for the fifth starting spot and all should see plenty of playing time this year. With 5-foot-11 senior Maeve Carney and 5-foot-10 freshman Ashley Santos, the Hornets should be able to dominate the paint and sophomore Becca Hottleman will add depth at the point guard position.
Mansfield coach Mike Redding said, “We have a chance to be very good again with our junior group getting a ton of experience last year and we hope to compete for league title again.” He added that the Hornets bolstered the schedule this season as well. Redding said, “Our record may not be as good as last year when we earned the No. 1 seed, but we will be more battle tested for the state tourney in March.”
2016-2017 Record: 10-11 2016-2017 Finish: Reached Div. 2 Central first round. Coach: T.J. Dolliver
A year after returning to the postseason for the first time since 2012 (and nearly pulling off an upset of Marlboro on the road), Milford brings back seven seniors to try and make a push for a Davenport division title and another state tournament appearance.
The Hawks have a versatile lineup led by four-year starter Kate Irwin. The lefty point guard is one of the most dynamic perimeter scorers and playmakers in the league and she continues to improve each season. Her ability to get into the paint opens up room for her teammates and she can also step back and knock down threes. Irwin will be helped by fellow seniors Gillian Valanzola and Juliana Tracy, who add size on the post.
Senior Emily Piergustavo is a knock-down shooter from beyond the arc and her classmate Jess Tomaso has proven to be a solid rebounder from the guard position. There are also two sophomores and four freshmen on the roster this season to add depth and build for the future under third-year head coach T.J. Dolliver.
Dolliver said, “I am very excited for our team this year. This is my 3rd year with a lot of these girls and seeing how they have progressed over the years have really set this team up for a fun season.”
Last season, North Attleboro boasted one of the most experienced lineups in the league with five of its top six players being seniors, but this year the Rocketeers will be incorporating a number of new faces, as only six players (only starter) return from last winter.
The lone returning starter is junior guard Julia Feid, who had a breakout season on the wing and will be counted on to lead the offensive attack this year. Feid’s classmate Emily Haskell will also be on the wing for North this season and will also have a large chunk of the offense run through her. Senior Emily Pastore, junior Liz Smahi, and sophomore Michelle Pothier will also contribute scoring from the wing, while junior Lauren Pezzi and sophomore Olivia Forbes will run the point and distribute the ball in the half court.
The graduation of Caroline Collard and Liz Morehouse leaves an opening on the post, but North has several players that will step in to provide a presence in the paint. Senior Julia Santos and juniors Emma Noreck and Kaley Sullivan will each get opportunities to contribute. North faces a tough early season schedule with the likes of Franklin, Oliver Ames, Archbishop Williams, and Hingham, so it will be critical for the new players to find their feet quickly.
North Attleboro coach Derek Herber said, “The team has quickly began to gel and I am hopeful that we if we can survive the early part of the season, we can qualify for the tournament.”
2016-2017 Record: 13-8 2016-2017 Finish: Reached Div. 2 South First Round. Coach: Elaine Clement-Holbrook
Oliver Ames struggled to find consistent offense last season and it kept the Tigers from being able to challenge Mansfield for the league title or make another run in Div. 2 South, but a healthy lineup with several key returning players has OA optimistic for improvements this winter.
The main focus will be on senior forward Kayla Raymond. The Stonehill College-commit is one of the most versatile players in the league, with the length and leaping ability to dominate in the paint and the range to step out and knock down jumpers. Raymond is listed as a forward/center but could potentially be used at multiple positions. Senior guard Abby Reardon is back to get the Tigers into their offensive sets and as one of the league’s top on-the-ball defenders. Classmate Katie Flynn also returns to give Raymond help in the post.
In addition to the seniors, junior Alex Sheldon will provide depth at the forward position and junior Sadie Homer was a dynamic scorer on the perimeter before an injury cut her season short last year. Homer was a solid three-point shooter last year and will be expected to stretch defenses again this season. Sophomore guard Meg Holleran emerged as a playmaker during her freshman campaign and could see a bigger role this year.
“OA is looking to blend some younger talent and are working hard to provide some depth in the backcourt,” said OA coach Laney Clement-Holbrook. “Looking forward to the fight for the Kelly Rex Division.”
In addition to a new coaching staff, Sharon will see a number of new faces on the roster, as several of last year’s players are focusing on other sports this winter. Former Rockland and East Bridgewater assistant Sandra Lombardi takes over for Cliff Tomassian and will have a young group to work with in her first head coaching position.
Junior small forward Emma Eberhardt is one of the returning players that will be expected to provide leadership and scoring for the Eagles. Eberhardt, a HockomockSports.com All-Underclassman Team performer last year, was Sharon’s top scorer last winter and also has the size to be a problem for opponents on the glass. She scored 16 points in Sharon’s win over Nipmuc in the season opener. Senior guard Miranda Cheung will also be back for Sharon to provide ball-handling and perimeter shooting.
Sophomore Telishya Herbert made the jump from JV to varsity midway through last season and had an instant impact on the Eagles with her athleticism and her ability to score in the paint. She had 10 points against Nipmuc and could be ready for a breakout year as Sharon’s second scorer to take some pressure off Eberhardt. Also back from last year’s roster are junior Evanjuline Elisma and sophomore Ally Brown.
Lombardi said of her new team, “We are going to be quick and aggressive. I’m excited to see what the season will bring.”
The Black Knights narrowly missed out on the postseason last year, despite having a number of underclassmen in the roster, and expectations for this season include a return to the playoffs under third-year head coach Charmaine Steele-Jordan.
Senior Val Whalen was the team’s MVP last season after leading the Black Knights with more than 13 points and nine rebounds per game. Whalen has improved every season and her intensity on defense and on the glass boosts is contagious. Stoughton is a physical team that likes to put pressure on the ball defensively and Whalen sets the tone. Senior Jordan Motley is also a tenacious rebounder and gives the Black Knights another strong presence in the paint.
Sophomore guard Shyanne Trinh had a breakout freshman campaign, scoring more than 10 points per game, and her ball-handling and long-range shooting opens things up for the post players. Fellow sophomore Aliyah Wright also had a strong rookie campaign and her size is a difficult matchup for many of the point guards in the Hock. Stoughton will also count on junior guards Lindsey McDonald and Hailey Egan and sophomore Lexi Baptista. Freshman Sydnee Hyacinthe has also been called up to add depth in the backcourt.
Steele-Jordan said of her senior forwards, “I’m looking forward to their leadership, hustle on the court and their defensive presence this year. Whalen and Motley’s veteran play along with our returning sophomores will be great for the Black Knights this season.”
2016-2017 Record: 1-21 2016-2017 Finish: Missed Postseason. Coach: Walter Harrigan
Taunton is coming off a difficult season in which the Tigers finished with just one victory, but one game into the new year and Taunton has already matched that total. The season opening win over Cumberland (R.I.) fits with the optimism around the program, as the Tigers blend youth with experience in the hopes of making a run at a playoff spot.
The Tigers will be led by senior forwards Hannah Moniz and Mackenzie Handrahan, who combined for 26 points in the win at Cumberland and provide a mix of rebounding, scoring at the rim, and outside shooting to balance the Taunton offense. Junior Lily Patneaude also returns from an all-star season and is Taunton’s most dynamic scorer with range from well beyond the arc. Junior Alexa White is another guard that will provide solid contributions on both ends of the floor.
Junior Shantel Andrew, a 5-foot-7 forward, is expected to be a significant contributor this season, after missing two years with knee injuries. As usual, Taunton has plenty of youth on the roster with four freshmen making varsity, a couple of whom got playing experience last year as eighth graders. Forwards Jaelyn and Sonya Fernandez and guards Kelsey White and Tori DaRosa are going to be counted on to play big roles this year for the Tigers.
Taunton coach Walter Harrigan said, “Our goal for this year is to continue to work hard while focusing on the development of good habits which will hopefully lead to team improvement and a trip to the state tournament.”