Franklin Girls’ Basketball Team Co-State Champions

Christopher Tremblay, Staff Sports Writer
Franklin High School girls’ basketball team ended their perfect season as co-champs with Andover, with the state championship game canceled due to Covid-19 precautions. Shown, in a photo provided by the coach, is the team after winning its sectional championship.
Issue Date: 
April, 2020
Article Body: 

The quest to win the Division 1 State Girls’ Basketball Championship began last March, when the Franklin girls walked off the Worcester State University court after falling to Springfield Central 64-57 in overtime of the State Semi Finals. The Panthers decided right there and then that they would be back and were going to work hard in the off-season to get a chance to play in the Championship game this year.
“I thought that we had an outstanding team from day one. They set their goals high and were prepared to accomplish them,” Franklin Coach John Leighton said. “We moved on from last year’s success and buried last year’s loss. I thought it was vital to move on, because otherwise you live in past glory. We’ve talked about this before, and we talked a little bit this week about knocking on the door, but we want to finish.”
Throughout the season the Franklin girls did all the little things and put together an unbeaten season going 20-0 in the regular season as they entered the Division 1 Central Tournament. According the Franklin Coach, this year’s team was the tightest group that he ever coached; the girls bonded and developed together.
Entering the Sectionals, Franklin was awarded the number one seed, and although everyone was gunning for them, the Panthers pretty much sailed through the tournament with no real issues. Framingham was the first to fall 85-37, then Holy Name 59-42 before Franklin took down Natick 53-38 for the Championship in what the coach called the team’s most complete game beginning to end.
“Throughout the entire season, we had that X on our chests, but it never bothered us. In fact, the girls embraced it and took on the mentality of being the hunter instead of the hunted,” the Franklin Coach said. “Every team was circling their calendars, looking to be the one who knocked us off; all it did was give us motivation to be better. A lot of good teams took shots at us, but no one succeeded.”
Cruising through the Sectionals with an average win by 27 points, Leighton knew that he had a special group of girls.
“I knew that we had the potential to be really good this season,” he said. “The girls came out and played fantastic defense all year long, and defense translated to offense.”
In the Division 1 State Semi-Finals at Worcester State University, almost a year to the date when they were eliminated by Springfield Central. Franklin tipped off against Minnechaug, the Western Champion. The Panthers defeated the Falcons 55-43 and earned their first ever trip to the State Championship game where they would meet up with North Champion Andover at the DCU Center in Worcester.
Two days prior to the two teams playing the Championship game the MIAA announced that they had voted to cancel the Championship game due to the COVID-19 outbreak and thus named both Franklin and Andover Division 1 State Co-Champions. Needless to say, Franklin was disappointed.
“It’s tough. The girls had been on this quest from day one, and they wanted to finish what they started, Leighton said. “They are aware of what’s going on in the world, but wished that they had the chance to play the title game on the court and finish their season with a win.”
Although it was a complete team effort from day one, senior Ali Brigham, who broke Kelly Meredith’s 2008 school scoring record in the Framingham game, was definitely a key factor leading the Panthers in scoring. Sophomore Olivia Quinn, the team’s number two scorer, flourished under Brigham and took her game to the next level allowing Franklin to stretch the field, while junior Megan Quaile continued to show she was the best defensive player on the court at any time.
“Olivia was a much better person when she walked into the gym this year from the last time she stepped off the court in Worcester,” the Franklin Coach said. “She worked extremely hard in the off-season playing AAU basketball. She is a role model in terms of improvement.”
Although Franklin went undefeated finishing the season at 24-0 while capturing their first ever State Championship, it wasn’t the way the Panthers wanted it to end. It was an undefeated season, but it wasn’t the perfect season.