Franklin High Girls Hoop Finishes Year with Sectional Title

Christopher Tremblay, Staff Sports Writer
Franklin High Girls’ Basketball was able to achieve its first ever sectional championship this year, with a strong effort on behalf of each player. Players are already tightening up their game in hopes of winning states next year.
Issue Date: 
April, 2019
Article Body: 

Franklin Coach John Leighton has been at the helm of the girls’ basketball team for 16 years and had never been able to guide his team to a Sectional Championship. The Panther’s came close twice back in 2012 and 2013 when the made it to the championship only to run into a buzz saw called Braintree. The Wamps defeated the Panthers by 5 and 7 points in 2012 and 2013 respectively. It was the last time Franklin would advance into the Division 1 South Championship.
Following the 2013 season, Franklin was moved out of the South Sectional and placed in the Division 1 Central Tournament. While the Panthers continued to earn a spot in the tournament nothing of significance came from it. In fact, in 2017 Franklin didn’t even make the tournament, it was the first time in Leighton’s tenure that his team was left at home during tournament time.
Not getting to the tournament left a sour taste in the mouths of his basketball players.
“Last year we started the season 0-6, and it looked as though we were headed for another year without a tournament berth,” the Franklin Coach said. “Being winless, I decided to insert some of the younger girls into the lineup to give them exposure. Things turned around, and we got into the tournament.”
Although Franklin advanced into the tournament, the team made some mistakes and found themselves getting blown out by Natick 52-39, leaving them hungry.
This year was a different story, and Franklin made the best of what they had finishing 18-2 (18-4 including the two Coyle Cassidy loses) earning themselves a three seed in the Division 1 Central Tournament. Like the past few tournaments it looked as though Franklin was going to be one and done trailing to Westford by 10 points in the third quarter. Things eventually changed and the Panthers advanced into the next round with a 63-53 come from behind victory.
“We found ourselves down by 10, but I saw no panic in the girls as they sat on the bench,” Leighton said. “They were angry at the way they were playing and were determined not to lose. Every tournament game this year, we started out slow and found our self behind, but we overcame it each time.”
Following the Westford win, Franklin came back to defeat Concord Carlisle 57-43 and Wachusett, the number one seed 61-60 to capture the school’s first ever girls’ basketball Sectional Championship.
Winning the Sectional Title was an amazing feat for the Panthers and a team well deserving of a banner, but while it was an accomplishment they will never forget the celebrating wouldn’t last all that long. Despite all the hard work and preparation, Franklin fell in the state tournament to Springfield Central 64-57 in overtime.
“The underclassmen were already preparing for next year after the game. Plain and simple their goal is to win the State Championship next year,” the Coach said. “Two days removed, and I’m already itching to get back on the court and have the next year begin.”
Although all the returning Panthers are on board in order to accomplish that goal next year, they have to first win the Hockomock League, clean up their play and come into that season having worked hard to be in shape and ready to go.
To be able to raise that Sectional banner in the gym was a combined effort by the entire team. Bea Bondhus, a senior captain was the team’s second leading scorer and while junior Allie Brigham was scoring inside Megan O’Connell took a step forward in the tournament. O’Connell had averaged 8 points and 6 or 7 rebounds during the regular season, but once she stepped on the court during the tournament she put up a double/double every night.
Sophomore Erin Quaile, who was called up late last year for her defense, shows why the Coach made the move and provided some stellar defense throughout the tournament.
One important individual that didn’t get to play most of the season and nothing in the tournament was Breanna Attwood. Atwood was the team’s sixth player off the bench last year and possessed a unique talent.
“She was a defensive spark for us,” the Panther Coach said. “Although we lost her, luckily we lost her early enough in the year so that we could regroup and learn to play the game life without Bre.”
As Franklin gets ready to defend its Division 1 Central Championship, the team will do so without its three seniors. Moving on will be starters Bondhus and point guard Shannon Gray, in addition to Calen Frongillo, who came off the bench. With the majority of the team coming back next season, Leighton says there is no total reset button. Despite wanting to enjoy their time off this summer, each and every girl will be working to make themselves that much better for when next season begins.