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Franklin - Local Town Pages

Panthers’ Peterson Hopes to Finish Hoop Tourney Run

Katie Peterson is closely guarded in game against Oliver Ames but her 16 points helped Franklin win the contest, 51-48. Photos courtesy of

Staff Sports Writer
The Franklin High girls’ basketball team is ready for some unfinished business.
Two years ago, in 2020, the Panthers were preparing for the state tourney championship final, but the Mass. Interscholastic Athletic Association stepped in two days before the playoff finale and canceled all post-season play because of the COVID-19 outbreak. Franklin, which had compiled a 26-0 record, was declared a co-champion along with Andover.
Then, as the epidemic evolved into a pandemic in 2021, winter sports were played, however, schedules were cut in half and tournaments were off — for all sports. The Panthers again were unbeaten at 10-0.
So, here we are in 2022 with Franklin once again a legitimate contender to capture a state crown. The Panthers, who had a pair of games postponed because of COVID-19, were 16-0 at Local Town Pages deadline. The players and coach John Leighton remain hopeful of finally getting an opportunity to win a state title.
Junior forward Katie Peterson, who leads the team in scoring and rebounding, puts Franklin’s past in perspective with these words: “All we’re looking for is a chance to finish the run.’’
Peterson, who’s averaging 15.7 points and 7 rebounds a game, was a freshman call-up in 2020 and was a solid contributor on last year’s squad.
“We’ve got the talent to advance deep in the playoffs,’’ said Peterson, who also excels in lacrosse. “We’re all excited and ready to compete. Two years ago, we were all prepared for the final, but it never happened.’’
The six-foot Peterson, who competes in club basketball and lacrosse, is a versatile competitor who’ll play a key role in the post-season for Leighton’s forces. She’s got all the key attributes.
“Katie can play either forward position,’’ Leighton said. “An all-around talent, she’s athletic, has speed, strength and quickness, she’s mentally tough and has a high basketball IQ. She’s not only a smart player, but she’s very instinctive and has excellent court sense.’’
Peterson, who has a scholarship to play lacrosse for powerhouse UMass-Amherst, relies on an aggressive, up-tempo style.
“I like playing in the frontcourt because I can use a spin move to get open in the post and take up-close shots,’’ she offered. “Or, I can be on the perimeter and either shoot or drive. I like a fast-pace game, running on breakaways and using speed to beat opponents off the dribble. I enjoy playing all over the place.’’
Peterson enjoyed competing against Oliver Ames last December in one of Franklin’s early-season contests. She calls the encounter “my favorite game.’’
“We beat them in overtime,’’ she noted, “in a game that was competitive and pressure-packed. We kept our winning streak alive. I was able to force a turnover with 16 seconds to go with our team up by a point. I was fouled and went to the line for two shots. I sank both, putting us up by three. We won, 51-48, and although I scored 16 points, I was more pleased with the way I handled the pressure. They’re a quality team.’’
Peterson’s other goals, besides a deep run in the tourney, are to win the Kelly-Rex Division title and to help the Panthers “be the best we can be.’’ As far as leading the squad in scoring and rebounding, that’s not a priority. “If I lead in those categories and become a Hockomock League all-star, I’d be humbled by that. All-star honors would mean I’ve contributed and helped our team to be successful.’’

 Katie Peterson is on the move in one of Franklin’s lacrosse matches last year. She’ll be playing for UMass-Amherst after graduation.

Three teammates Peterson admires for their contributions are senior co-captains Olivia Quinn (forward) and Stefany Padula (guard), and junior point guard Bridget Leo. “All three are hard-workers who want the best for our team,’’ Peterson said. “They’re consistent and they contribute both on offense and defense.’’
Besides excelling in basketball, Peterson is also dynamic on a lacrosse field. She’s a midfielder but can also compete as an attack or a defender. She also participates in unified basketball. In all three venues, Leighton coaches her. He’s an assistant in lacrosse for head coach Kristen Igoe.
“Coach Leighton is a great motivator who pushes us to be competitive and to work hard every day,’’ Peterson said. “He puts in so much time and effort to help us improve.’’
Academically, Peterson is on another level. She’s got a 4.5 GPA and has a scholarship to play lacrosse at UMass-Amherst where she’ll major in business. “I chose UMass for its top-notch business school, its atmosphere and its high-ranking lacrosse program. It’ll be a challenge to play there, but I like challenges.’’
Relying on an athletic philosophy that focuses on winning, reaching one’s potential and having fun, Peterson says “what’s important is to work as hard as possible to get results.’’
Valuable life lessons can be learned in athletics and Peterson lists three that she’s embraced. “Sports have helped me to sharpen my leadership skills and my work ethic,’’ she emphasized. “Another key is learning how to handle adversity. Sports can help players get through and cope with difficult times.’’
Calling her parents (Deric and Beth) role models for their support and encouragement, the Kentucky native (she and her family moved to Franklin when she was three) enjoys participating in school activities that include peer leadership, Best Buddies and community service. She also is active in DECA (business club).
“Katie is a wonderful teammate,’’ Leighton said. “She’s a natural at making everyone comfortable in unified basketball. “And, she knows how to build team unity. If she chose to play basketball in college, she could easily help a team, but she’s very adept at lacrosse, where her size and speed are definite assets.’’
Katie Peterson’s versatility and her passion to compete will be a difficult combination for Franklin’s tourney foes to deal with, and she wants the opportunity for the girls’ basketball team to complete some unfinished business.