The Panthers didn't go down without a fight, but in the end the Oliver Ames girls' basketball team out-muscled, out shot, and out defended Franklin.
The defending Davenport Division Champion Tigers won their season opener, 57-48 Friday night over the defending Kelley-Rex Division Champion Panthers at the Nixon Gymnasium in Easton.
"The whole thing in a nutshell is we played good defense and we just did such a terrific job off the boards," Oliver Ames coach Elaine Clement-Holbrook said. "That’s what we’ve been talking about all week long is defense, rebounds and free-throws."
The Tigers' transition game got them off to a running start, out-battling Franklin to start the game, taking a commanding 14-6 lead after one period, and 30-17 lead at the half.
It was a start Franklin coach John Leighton wished he could have back.
"We started slow," he said. "We started scatterbrained. I would borderline say we were scared. We were inconsistent and it took a while to get our feet back under us."
OA senior captain Caitlyn Abela didn't help Franklin's cause. Playing a game that ranged from the block to the three-point line, she knocked down 24 points and secured 14 rebounds.
"She’s far better off the dribble this year than she’s ever been," Leighton said. "She’s always been a great spot-up shooter. She’s become way more physical. Her ball handling has improved and you can’t just put a big physical kid on her. You can’t put a guard on her. She’s a match-up nightmare."
Abela, who has already made her mark as a shooter, will look to pick up slack lost when forward Candace Steadman graduated.
"She was terrific," Clement-Holbrook said. "It was a balanced game for her; the fact that she was able to hit the glass offensively and get some putbacks. We made a couple of nice passes to her inside. Everybody knows she can shoot from the outside and I think it’s been impressive in terms of her adaptability in terms of being able to go inside as well as outside."
Behind Abela, fellow captain Asia Mitchell (9 pts), junior Kate Holleran (8 pts), junior Michaela Lievi (7 pts) and senior Kristin Ellis (4 pts), the Tigers opened up a 20 point lead in the 4th quarter.
While a 15-0 run in the final minutes made things interesting, Oliver Ames was able to stop the bleeding with a minute left.
"Franklin did not back down," Clement-Holbrook said. "They were very, very physical."
The presence of Ellis in the trenches was important. The senior center announced earlier in the day that she was returning from a torn meniscus. She finished with 10 rebounds.
"She gets the loose balls, she reflects it, she doesn’t turn the ball over much, she’s a terrific rebounder," Clement-Holbrook said.
Ellis and the rest of her teammates helped Abela lead the way on offense.
According to the senior forward, each player adds to the team's chemistry.
"I’ve played with the seniors who were on my team since fourth grade so we have good chemistry together," Abela said. "Everyone else just fits in nicely, too."
The captain will look for another team effort when the Tigers take on Foxborough Tuesday.
"I feel like I have an important role in the offense but everyone has a key role," she added. "We all have to play our roles whether it’s offense or defense. I thought everyone did a good job tonight."