Outright State Hoop Title Would Suit Peterson Franklin High All-Star a Quality Captain
Franklin High’s Katie Peterson will be playing lacrosse next year for UMass-Amherst
By KEN HAMWEY,
Staff Sports Writer
Winning a state basketball championship outright this month would be the perfect outcome for the Franklin High girls basketball program. And it would also be a welcomed achievement for Katie Peterson.
A 6-foot quick forward, Peterson was a freshman call-up in 2020 when the Panthers compiled a 26-0 record and were one victory away from a state title. All they had to do was defeat Andover, but the Division 1 matchup was canceled because of the coronavirus. All the other state finals also were called off. Favored to win the title, Franklin had to settle for co-champion status.
A year later, in 2021, the virus turned into a pandemic. All schools played an abbreviated schedule, and there were no playoffs. Peterson played meaningful minutes as the Panthers finished at 10-0. Then, as a junior in 2022, Peterson led the squad to decisive victories over Braintree and Lincoln-Sudbury in the early rounds of the tourney. A clash against Springfield Central, however, ended any title thoughts as FHS lost, 61-42.
A dynamic midfielder in lacrosse, Peterson, who’s earned a scholarship to play lacrosse at UMass-Amherst, again experienced disappointment. The Panthers lost by a goal in the state title game against Westwood, 10-9, when she was a sophomore, and last year the Panthers lost in the round of eight to Lincoln-Sudbury.
Five legitimate chances to claim a state crown ended with only a co-championship.
“We had quality teams my first three years in basketball,’’ Peterson said. “We had players who were talented and invested in the game. Last year was disappointing. We worked so hard in practice and in games, and to see it end earlier than we expected was a tough pill to swallow. Three years ago, we were all prepared for the final, but it never happened.’’
Losing to Westwood in lacrosse was difficult, because the Wolverines captured the state crown by scoring in the final 10 seconds. Peterson, however, remains optimistic that Franklin will again be a prime contender for a state title in basketball.
“My team goals at the start of the year were to dominate the Kelley-Rex Division, win that crown, then go deep in the tourney and strive to win it,’’ said the 17-year-old Peterson, who’s a co-captain. “Winning it all is a realistic goal. We started the season as a young team with potential and a strong work ethic. Now, we’ve become a close-knit group with good team chemistry.’’
The Panthers’ record at Local Town Pages deadline was 15-2 and they clinched the Kelley-Rex Division championship.
A Hockomock League all-star last year, Peterson averaged 15 points and 7 rebounds a game as a junior. “My personal goals at the start of this season were to be an all-star again, average a double-double, increase my rebound numbers and be a captain who leads on and off the court and who is supportive and communicative. To repeat as an all-star would mean I’m helping my team benefit.’’
At Local Town Pages deadline, Peterson was averaging 15.7 points and 8.8 rebounds a game. She was scoring at a 53 percent clip inside the three-point arc.
Coach John Leighton labels Peterson as “an all-around competitor with lots of grit.’’
“Katie can score from the perimeter or inside, and she rebounds effectively,’’ he said. “She also does all the ugly stuff (blocks, steals, assists and deflections). She drives well and can shoot threes. In practice, there’s no letup. She wants to win every possession. Her high basketball IQ, mental toughness and instinctive nature make her a special player.’’
Peterson, who can also play power forward, 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-paced game, running on break-aways and using speed to beat opponents off the dribble.’’
Peterson’s favorite competition came against Oliver Ames last year.
“We beat them in overtime,’’ she noted, “in a game that was competitive and pressure-packed. 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.’’
When it comes to being calm in key situations, Peterson is a fan of Bridget Leo, a senior point guard who’s also a captain, praising her teammate’s whole court play, aggressive style and great passing and finishing and also calling Leo “a great teammate and leader.’’
Peterson, who has a 4.5 GPA, plans to major in business at UMass. She earned a scholarship for lacrosse, and besides being a midfielder, she can also play as an attack or defender.
Peterson has high praise for Leighton and lacrosse coach Kristin 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. Coach Igoe is also a good motivator who cares about her players and helps them get to a higher level.’’
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 challenges.’’
Katie Peterson has a plethora of skills but it’s her passion to compete that will be a major plus in the tourney. She wants the opportunity for the girls’ basketball team to complete some unfinished business and win a state championship outright.