LOWELL, Mass. — Down a pair of starters and matched up against Malden Catholic, the top seed and defending state champions, Mansfield had little room for error in the Division 2 State Championship game.
The Hornets’ impressive season, highlighted by a memorable postseason run, came to a close with a 72-54 loss to the Lancers on the hardwood inside the Tsongas Center on the campus of UMass Lowell.
Although the Hornets were down just nine at the halftime break, Malden Catholic’s relentless effort on the offensive glass paired with some uncharacteristic Mansfield turnovers saw the deficit balloon up to 19 by the end of the third quarter.
“That’s a really, really good Malden Catholic team and we were going to have to play perfect to win,” said Mansfield head coach Mike Vaughan. “We had to try and find a way to play at our tempo and then live in the moment. They came out playing physically and our passes, and we were throwing passes we haven’t thrown since December. They were jumping passing lanes, and even if they were just deflecting it, it just disrupts the offense and your flow.
“The rest of the first quarter we weren’t cutting, we weren’t moving…guys were standing there, with pale faces, blank stares. I’ve been here before, I’ve seen it and I knew it was going to be an uphill battle.”
Malden Catholic’s Nick Martinez drained a three to open the game and was difficult to slow down the rest of the way as he finished with a game-high 28 points and seven rebounds. Mansfield senior JT Veiking scored a team-high 17 points and had nine boards while junior Eddie McCoy chipped in with 14 points.
The Lancers were prepared for Mansfield’s pass-heavy offense and jumped into the passing lanes for a couple of turnovers-turned-transition buckets and a 16-10 lead after eight minutes.
In an effort to disrupt Malden Catholic’s offense, the Hornets deployed a rare zone defense to start the second. It worked as the Lancers managed just one field goal in the first three minutes of the quarter — after three offensive rebounds — but Mansfield’s offense never quite could get in gear and managed just one bucket of their own.
Malden Catholic’s lead reached 12 after a turnover led to a three from Martinez. The Hornets clawed back into it as sophomore Nate Creedon drove to the rim for two, Veiking hit a floater and then finished off a traditional three-point play to get within 26-20 with 1:27 left in the half, but a quick 5-0 surge, including a bucket off another offensive rebound, saw the Lancers carry a 31-22 lead into halftime.
“We were down nine, we held them to 31 points and we gave up nine offensive rebounds and had seven turnovers, and that was the difference,” Vaughan said. “The talk at halftime was…if we could find a way…rebounding is somewhat effort, somewhat a knack for the ball, but it’s also skill. And we were playing a skilled team, of course they were going to rebound well.
“I think our guys were a little shell-shocked by the moment at the start. At the end of the day, when you start getting punched in the face, you have to look in the mirror. I think it took us a minute to absorb it but by that point, we dug ourselves a hole and you can’t dig a hole against [Malden Catholic].”
Mansfield gave Malden Catholic a little bit of its own medicine when senior Chris Hill collected an offensive rebound for a putback for the opening basket of the third quarter but it didn’t take long for the Lancers to get back on the offensive glass in the form of a three-point play from Ben Howard (11 points, nine rebounds). Bo Moody tacked on a three and Howard had another three-point play off an offensive rebound as the Lancers began to distance themselves.
The Hornets lost starting point guard Davon Sanders in the first game of the tournament, and starting forward Trevor Foley — who led the Hornets in scoring during the regular season and is widely regarded as one of the best defenders in the league — has been out for the past three games.
“[Malden Catholic] is talented, they have three legit players,” Vaughan said, “When you do stuff against them, and they can execute and find a kid open in the corner because they are that good, what are you going to do? And unfortunately, we weren’t perfect.
“As much as I don’t want to blame the fact we were down two guys — they are down a starter too — but our system and the way we play, our depth matters to us. When we don’t have that depth, we aren’t able to rotate guys through and continue to be fresh and continue to move.”
Hill had three straight for the Hornets, Veiking splashed in a triple off a pass from McCoy, and Caden Colby (eight points) finished the quarter with a great hustle play, fighting for an offensive rebound and putback at the buzzer but the Lancers’ lead was 53-34 going into the fourth.
“If you look at where we were at in December and where we are now, it’s like a different team,” Vaughan said. “We didn’t have an identity. We were good defensively but we looked like a hot mess on most possessions offensively. We cleaned that up and that takes a commitment from the guys, they had to trust each other. I thought the guys did an awesome job all year. Just the growth we had in one season was just amazing.”
Mansfield boys basketball finishes the season at 25-3.
WORCESTER, Mass. — The stage keeps getting bigger and the Mansfield boys basketball team keeps delivering.
Junior Eddie McCoy poured in a game-high 28 points as he continued a terrific postseason run and the Hornets put together another defensive masterpiece to pass their latest test with flying colors, a convincing 65-45 win over #6 Nashoba in the state semifinals.
The win sets up #2 Mansfield with its biggest and final test of the season: a date with top-seeded Malden Catholic in the Division 2 State Championship.
“It speaks volumes about where we are at,” said Mansfield head coach Mike Vaughan. “We were saying at the end of the game, this is just how Mansfield does things. For years we’ve used that ‘next up’ mentality, and we have guys playing close to 30 minutes trying to fill the voids with two guys out. Defensively we were awesome all night and offensively we found our opportunities to be effective, took care of the basketball, and did everything I thought we needed to do to win the game. We kind of just kept grinding throughout games.”
McCoy has been a star for far in the playoffs and wasted little time providing a spark on the offensive end for the Hornets. He knocked down an early triple and scored nine points in the opening quarter as the Hornets built a 17-8 lead. He added seven more in the second quarter while senior JT Veiking (16 points, six rebounds, four blocks) had eight points by halftime to help secure a 29-22 lead at the break.
“Not having Trevor [Foley] and Davon [Sanders] hurts us but I’m proud of this group for how we’ve handled losing them and how we’ve kept going,” McCoy said. “I think with Trevor being out, I feel like I’ve had to step up and be more of ‘the guy’ kind of role. I’m feeling confident out there.
“Now we have one more.”
The Hornets only forced five turnovers in the first half but played tough on-ball defense and held the Wolves to under 28% shooting from the field, including just two points off nine offensive rebounds.
“I thought defensively we were the one team that could match up with them,” Vaughan said. “We don’t get a lot of credit for our size because we play a lot of perimeter basketball but JT is 6’7, Chris is 6’5, and Eddie is 6’3 or 6’4. I thought all of our matchups worked and I thought if we could rebound the ball, which they were really good at, and we did that really well early. We got better at that in the third quarter and that helped us get that separation.”
Mansfield really created separation in the third quarter as it limited the Wolves to just 10 points — holding Nashoba to just two offensive boards while coming up with three forced turnovers.
Meanwhile, the Hornets’ offense just continued to break down Nashoba’s defense, both its man-to-man and 3-2 zone. Multiple passes, constant movement off the ball, backdoor cuts, and effective shooting — all key traits to Mansfield’s offense — kept Nashoba guessing.
Senior Chris Hill (10 points, six rebounds, four assists, two steals) asserted himself right away, taking the first three shots of the half (after just two in the first half) and making back-to-back layups. Nashoba answered with two buckets of its own, but over the final four minutes of the quarter. Mansfield outscored the Wolves 16-6 to create its largest lead of the game.
Veiking had a traditional three-point play to start the run, and McCoy had consecutive strong takes to the rim before sinking a pair of free throws. Junior Brandon Jackman hooked up with Hill (who had eight of his 10 points in the quarter) and then Hill set up Veiking for a triple. A late layup from Hill capped the run and Mansfield staked a 49-32 lead going into the fourth.
“When we came out of the locker room, you make eye contact with a senior [Hill] that’s played with you so long…sometimes you don’t have to say anything, they just know,” Vaughan said of Hill’s big third period. “We needed a second or a third guy, we knew they’d try to take some stuff away with Eddie and that’s when Chris asserted himself which I thought were three critical possessions coming out of the half.”
McCoy hit three free throws in the first couple of minutes of the fourth and Caden Colby (five points, three rebounds) added two of his own from the line. McCoy read a Nashoba pass perfectly, picked it off, and went in for the layup as Mansfield’s lead inflated to 56-38 with just under five minutes to go.
“Newton North coach Paul Connolly once said to me about the playoffs that you need a couple of things: you need to get lucky, have talent, and then you need a guy that comes out and plays at a different level,” Vaughan said. “Eddie’s been showing little glimpses all year but he’s taking over games and doing it in the flow. He’s not forcing action, he’s not trying to do it all, he’s allowing his teammates to contribute. He’s stepped in and made big plays over and over the last couple of weeks.”
Nashoba had five straight points to get the deficit down to 16 points (56-40) but that would be the closest they’d get the rest of the way. Sophomore Nate Creedon had success at the line to keep the Hornets ahead, Veiking tacked on one final bucket, and freshman Gabe McIntyre capped the scoring with a free throw.
Mansfield boys basketball (25-2) will finish its season against the top-seeded Lancers of Malden Catholic (22-2), who is looking for its second straight state title. The game is currently scheduled for Friday at 5:30 at the Tsongas Center in Lowell.
Sharon’s once comfortable 17-point lead to start the final frame turned into anything but as Mansfield came out with a renewed energy to the tune of a 12-0 run to make it 55-50. Sharon senior Dante James answered with a triple to stem the tide, but it was only momentarily as the Hornets kept clawing back.
Chris Hill drilled a three and Trevor Foley’s monster block led to a steal from Davon Sanders but the Eagles’ defense got back-to-back-to-back stops and on a night where he was the best player on the floor, Sharon junior Jacob McLoughlin (career-high 27 points) delivered one of the biggest shots of the game with a corner three for a 61-53 lead with 2:20 to go.
Caden Colby wrestled his way to a putback and two free throws from Sanders (17 points, 7 rebounds, 3 steals) cut the lead back to four before Nate Katznelson hit one from the line himself to make it 62-57 with just over a minute left. Foley (15 points, 10 rebounds, 4 steals) had a strong take to the rim at the end of the shot clock to cut the deficit to three and Mansfield got the ball back down just three. The Hornets got off a three from the corner but it was off the mark.
McLoughlin went 4-for-4 from the line in the final 15 seconds to seal the win.
“We preach mental toughness all the time,” said Sharon head coach Andrew Ferguson. “We said in the locker room that in the second half they would come out with all they’ve got, especially after what happened last time. We knew we’d be getting their best effort. We had to just get guys in the right position and just having really good players that can execute the plan.”
Mansfield put up more points in the fourth quarter than it had in the second and third quarters combined but fell just short of completing the comeback.
“We had a lot more fight in that fourth quarter,” said Mansfield head coach Mike Vaughan of what was different in the last eight minutes. “We had our backs against the wall and we are a team that doesn’t lose a lot so the kids responded. I think if we were able to limit it more in the third, it kind of cost us and it ended up being too big of a hole to climb out of.”
Sharon had its big lead going into the fourth because of its offensive execution in the first and third periods. McLoughlin set the tone right out of the gate by hitting his first six shots from the floor, including a trio of three-pointers. He finished with 15 points in the first eight minutes and his only miss from the floor was a desperation three before the buzzer. James (18 points, 7 rebounds), Tyler Goodman, and Matt Baur added baskets and the Eagles landed the first punch in the form of a 24-point first quarter.
“In previous years, we’ve been down double digits before we wake up,” Ferguson said. “To be able to attack them early in our gym, get the crowd into it…our crowd has been fantastic all year. We were able to get them involved early with that big first quarter.
“I don’t think there are any better point guards in this league than Jacob McLoughlin. When he has the scoring opportunities, he will have nights like tonight. He’s had double-digit assist games, his defense is so good, and his on-ball stuff forces teams out of things they want to do. He’s been struggling shooting the ball the last couple of games so seeing that first one go in certainly built some confidence in him.”
Mansfield tightened up defensive in the second as the Eagles only had half of the production in the second quarter, but their physical defense prevented the visitors from finding a rhythm on the offensive end.
The Hornets tried to exploit Sharon’s aggressive, physical defense and ended up with 19 first half free throw attempts (12 in the second quarter) but they weren’t able to cut into the deficit and trailed 36-29 at halftime.
“McLoughlin shot the ball really well tonight and that was a big difference,” Vaughan said. “He’s an elite level player in our league and obviously those players make big plays in big games. It doesn’t get much better than this for a high school game, it was an old-fashioned fight. I can’t be more proud of my guys to respond and come back at the level they did. We had a shot in the corner that would have tied it. We have to take some lessons about how we played in the fourth and apply that going forward.
“We were trying to move more than we did the first game but it’s hard with two styles of play. We’re a finesse team that wants to run our action. It’s no secret teams try to be physical with us. When you don’t get a consistent whistle, you have to adjust and I thought we did that in the fourth. And I thought throughout the game we got some shots in the scheme we were running, they just didn’t fall. You have to play through the physical play and when you have a shot, you have to knock it down.”
Sharon’s defense held Mansfield to just three points in the first three minutes of the third, a free throw from Eddie McCoy and a putback from Hill (17 points, 7 rebounds, 2 blocks). Katznelson drilled a three and Ryan Brown sank one of his own on a quick catch and release from the corner. Two more from James gave Sharon its biggest lead to that point at 46-32.
“We mixed between our man and our 1-3-1 zone defense, and I think we’re still pretty physical when we play in the zone,” Ferguson said. “They hurt us rebounding when we were in that zone so we had to play a little more man-to-man. We want to play aggressive defense, aggressive man-to-man defense, and our help and our secondary help was excellent tonight. That allowed us to be more physical too.”
Defense was the catalyst for Mansfield’s rally in the fourth quarter. Colby dove onto a loose ball for a steal that led to two points from Foley, and then Foley had an incredible stretch with three consecutive steals, all leading to points on the other end. Hill converted his own miss to make it 55-50 with just under five minutes left.
“I was talking to one of their assistants before the game and I asked, ‘how do you guys prepare knowing you’re getting everyone’s best every single night?’ He said it’s better than the alternative,” Ferguson said of playing Mansfield. “Mike does such a good job, from freshman right through varsity, they are so efficient in how they run things. It’s a program we’re emulating and we’re trying to be like them because they’ve been the standard.”
While the Eagles became just the third team since the Hock split into two divisions to earn a two-game season sweep of the Hornets (Franklin in 2012, Taunton in 2022), the Hornets still have control of the Davenport division. If the Hornets win out, they’ll win their first Davenport title in their first season in the division.
“This is a good learning lesson for us,” Vaughan said. “We don’t set goals to beat individual teams, we don’t circle specific teams, we never have. We want to win the league and we still control our own destiny. When you put it in perspective, our goals are still intact. Winning the league is a big goal of ours, and no matter how we got here, it doesn’t matter to us, we want to win the league.”
Sharon boys basketball (11-3 Hockomock, 13-3) will look to stay in contention for the division crown with a trip to rival Oliver Ames on Tuesday. Mansfield (12-2, 17-2) is also on the road with a trip to Stoughton on tap.
MANSFIELD, Mass. — Franklin and Mansfield are no longer competing for the same division title in the Hockomock League but that hasn’t changed anything in this rivalry.
The Hornets got off to a strong start offensively, locked in defensively all night long, and junior Trevor Foley had a big second half en route to a 56-46 win over the Panthers in the lone meeting of the season.
Mansfield hit five of its nine three-pointers inside the first eight minutes and forced Franklin into 12 of its 16 turnovers in the first half, limiting the visitors to just four points in the second quarter.
Foley had a quiet first half with just one make but roared to life in the second half, scoring 15 points on 7-for-11 shooting from the floor while hauling in eight rebounds. His one-handed slam gave Mansfield its largest lead (38-26) with three minutes to go in the third quarter, capping a 10-point quarter for the junior.
“It’s a lot less stressful that we don’t have to play them again in three weeks,” said Mansfield head coach Mike Vaughan. It marks the first time in his tenure (2005) that the teams will only play once. “We’ll miss that, we want to play them a second time because this game brings so much out of everyone. The kids really care, it matters to them, it’s like a state tournament game. That’s why we do this, it’s not for the 40-point wins or losses, it’s for games like this that you can find a way to play your best and gut out a win.
“They’re a good basketball team, we knew they’d hit some shots so our job was just to minimalize it to the best of our ability, and I thought we did that. They had a strategy to try and offset things we were doing but we were able to rotate, force a few turnovers, and got a lot of deflections to disrupt what they were trying to do. That’s just guys having a high basketball IQ and being committed for 32 minutes. I think that was a difference, we were locked in the whole game.”
Early threes from Davon Sanders (nine points, five assists, four rebounds, four steals) and Caden Colby (five points, six rebounds) gave the Hornets the lead off the bat, and Franklin was forced to play catch-up the rest of the way.
While the first quarter was more back-and-forth — which featured a pair of threes from Franklin senior Justin Allen (16 points, 5 rebounds) — a late triple from Sanders put the Hornets in front the rest of the way.
“I thought we played with pretty good pace, I just thought we didn’t take care of the basketball especially early in the basketball game,” said Franklin coach CJ Neely. “We were flying up and down, and getting it up the court quick…but you can’t decide when it’s time to play. I thought we came out very soft and very slow, and a bit careless with the ball. We usually move the ball a lot better, but we didn’t get it moving side to side like we like to do, and we didn’t get a lot of paint touches and that’s a credit to their defense.
“The second quarter really did us in. The lead got to nine or 10 points, and it’s hard to come back against a team like Mansfield because they grind it out, you have to be perfect. Give them credit because they out-executed us tonight.”
The lead held up thanks in part to Mansfield’s swarming defense, which limited Franklin to just 2-for-10 shooting in the second and five turnovers. The Panthers were strong on defense as well as they held the Hornets to just 10 points. JT Veiking came off the bench and scored all eight of his points in the first half to help give his squad a 27-18 lead at halftime.
“A game like this, and they do the same thing, you start preparing for this one a week ago,” Vaughan said. “You’re starting to put some stuff in, starting to talk about certain things, and you’re not using names but talking about things that will happen tonight. What we do as coaches, we’re not going to allow our teams to fail at our expense and we’re going to do everything we possibly can. If we play this game 100 times, we win 50 and they win 50, that’s just how these games go.
“When you play them, you empty everything and then try to come up with new stuff for the second time around. It’s just a chess match. Even the stuff CJ did with us tonight, that they haven’t done before. We both do our base stuff but there’s a wrinkle here, a wrinkle there. At the end of the day, they didn’t shoot as well as they’d like and if they shot better, it’s a different game. But that doesn’t take away from how committed and how hard we played and the plays we had to make. Every game with them is its own war and you just come up with twists and turns and trying to figure out how to gain one more basket because that’s what these games come down to.”
Foley didn’t take long to get going in the second half, finishing off a steal from Eddie McCoy (8 points, 5 assists) for the first bucket of the third quarter. Sanders added his third triple and Brandon Jackman converted a putback through traffic, and then Foley broke loose for a one-handed slam with authority for a 38-26 lead.
“It meant even more than it usually does because we only play them once so it’s a sweet victory,” Foley said. “It was a team effort. We moved the ball quickly on offense letting us create some driving lanes to the basket. We doubled [Sean] O’Leary on defense because he’s a great player but it was just smart, disciplined basketball and a team effort.”
Allen, Bradley Herndon, and Ben Harvey all found success attacking the basket but Foley answered for the Hornets and kept the hosts ahead by double-digits, 42-32, going into the fourth.
The Panthers continued to claw back into it as Caden Sullivan splashed in a three early and had another three-point attempt in the air that just rimmed out that would have cut the deficit to four. Andrew O’Neill had a strong take to the rim to get it back to eight, but Foley answered on the other end.
“He missed some early ones that I thought would have created a little bit of separation, and he was frustrated with himself,” Vaughan said of Foley. “The thing you love about a kid like Foley is that he self-motivates. I don’t need to get on him about that, he knows how important a game like this is. I talked to him before the game about not fouling out and being able to cover a kid like O’Leary, and he did it. He stayed disciplined and he made everything difficult and that’s why we can win games because we have special players like him on the floor.”
Sean O’Leary (15 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists) converted through contact and Franklin’s defense forced a turnover with just under three minutes to go. A miss on the front end of a one-and-one gave Mansfield possession back, and after using nearly the entire 35-second shot clock, Chris Hill drained a triple to extend the lead back to 10 with just over two minutes left.
“That was the key to the game just trying to minimize what they want to do,” Vaughan said. “We wanted to slow [O’Leary] down because he’s an elite level player in the league and then not giving up anything uncontested. There was a play late when we ran three kids at the ball, that was the focus. Our defense made a big difference.”
Mansfield boys basketball (8-1 Hockomock, 13-1 overall) is back in action on Friday with a trip to Canton. Franklin (8-1, 9-1) will try to bounce back from its first loss at home against Milford.
MANSFIELD, Mass. — Mansfield hasn’t fully found its groove on the offensive end of the floor yet, but the way the Hornets are playing defense will give them a chance at winning every game.
Mansfield forced Taunton into over two dozen turnovers, limited the Tigers to under 30% shooting from the floor, and kept the visitors in check all night long en route to a 59-42 win on Tuesday night.
“Defensively, we’re long, we can move, we’re athletic,” said Mansfield head coach Mike Vaughan. “I think the difference in the score was probably the defense turning into offense. I think score for score, we were close to even but we were able to get five or six baskets off the defense and we were able to build that lead.”
Points were at a premium for the most part as Taunton’s defense was up to the task into the third quarter. While the Hornets searched for a rhythm on offense in the first half with just 25 points at the break, the defense did its job as it limited the Tigers (who were without second-leading scorer Chris Perault) to 14 points through 16 minutes.
A 7-2 start to the second half for Taunton made it a two-possession game but some key defensive plays sparked a big run to close out the quarter for the hosts.
Davon Sanders, who recorded a career-high 14 points, scored back-to-back buckets, the latter coming off one of his eight steals. Another Taunton turnover resulted in a three from Sanders, who assisted on Mansfield’s next bucket from Caden Colby.
“I thought Davon played great,” Vaughan said. “In that third quarter, he made a few plays that we really needed.”
JT Veiking (17 points, six rebounds) leaked out for two on a feed from Chris Hill following a miss, and Trevor Foley (13 points, five rebounds, four blocks) capped the quarter with a pair of big plays. First, he hauled in a defensive rebound and went the length of the court for two followed by a steal and a breakaway one-handed dunk to give the Hornets a 42-23 lead going into the fourth.
“We came out ready to play in the second half but then it changed. I don’t think they made any big adjustments, things just started to work for them…and when things were working for them, they weren’t working for us and it snowballed.
“We lost our heads at times. [Mansfield] plays so smart for a high school team. You try to work on it, and it works in a calm gym during practice but during the games it’s different.”
Veiking started the fourth with a personal 6-0 run, including a three-pointer on the first possession (after a steal from Sanders) as Mansfield’s lead peaked at 48-23.
Taunton senior Chris Volcy (career-high 24 points, 11 rebounds) and freshman Jakari Innocent (eight points) each had early three-point plays, and Volcy added a three but the Tigers never got within striking distance.
Mansfield held Taunton to single digits in scoring in each of the first three quarters.
“I told them at halftime that we’d getting blown out if our defense wasn’t so good because we can’t sustain scoring right now,” Vaughan said. “The kids have to get out of their own heads, they have to get me out of their head, and just start playing and start making team-orientated decisions. We have guys that are trying to make the plays instead of just letting the offense come.”
The win marked the seventh double-digit win for the Hornets, and the seventh time (in nine games) they have held their opponent under 45 points.
Mansfield boys basketball (5-0 Hockomock, 9-0 overall) is back home again on Friday against Davenport division rival Sharon while Taunton (3-2, 4-3) will try to snap its current three-game skid at home against Attleboro.
ATTLEBORO, Mass. — Buoyed by a dominant second half on both ends of the court, the Mansfield boys basketball team opened the new season in grand style.
Host Attleboro had a good first quarter and kept close with the Hornets for the first half but Mansfield was relentless for 32 minutes on the defensive end and used their athleticism and size to attack the basket, both in transition and in the half court, to pull away for a 62-33 win over the Bombardiers.
“I think in the first quarter both teams were amped up, and sometimes when you’re amped up in your own gym balls go in, and when you’re amped up on the road they don’t,” said Mansfield head coach Mike Vaughan, now in his 19th year at the helm. “I thought we did a really good job defensively. I think our length will bother people and I think it did tonight. Night number one, couldn’t be happier with the result and how the kids responded after their early punch and sticking with the game plan.”
Not only was it Attleboro’s home opener for the season, but it was also their first home game in their brand new high school, which opened up this fall. The Bombardiers translated that energy into a strong opening quarter as Hayden Crowley and Nathan Hodson — both varsity newcomers — each hit a three and junior returner Neo Franco sank a pair of shots.
But even Attleboro’s strong start wasn’t enough for the lead after eight minutes as Mansfield senior Chris Hill, the most seasoned player in the Hock entering the season, helped the Hornets quell the early waves of momentum and hit a pair of threes of his own, the latter of the two giving Mansfield a 14-13 lead after a quarter.
Mansfield improved on both ends of the court in the second quarter, upping its scoring output while lowering Attleboro’s. That trend continued in the third and fourth quarters as well as the Hornets outscored the hosts 33-10 in the second half, pitching a shutout in the fourth quarter until 10 seconds to play.
“Their defensive intensity stayed pretty consistent throughout the entire game,” said Attleboro head coach Mark Houle, now in his 28th year leading the Bombardiers. “I think for us, the early energy was great both offensively and defensively, but I think they wore us down a bit on the defensive end. We weren’t making shots and their length hurt us inside. Having kids get experience today was important, especially against a really good, well-coached team. Matching them early was good but in order to compete at that level, you have to do it for 32 minutes.
“They went into a different gear in the second half and we weren’t ready for that.”
Hill had a terrific performance with 21 points, eight rebounds, five blocks, and four assists. He led the charge again in the second quarter with seven points, converting an early layup that canceled out a three from Crowley, and then finishing a putback plus the foul just a couple minutes later that evened out yet another triple from Crowley (nine points).
Juniors Trevor Foley (16 points, six rebounds), Brandon Jackman, and Eddie McCoy (six points, five rebounds, four assists, two steals) all scored to help Mansfield establish a 29-23 lead at the break.
Mansfield’s single-digit advantage didn’t last long in the third quarter. The Hornets got out on the break, after makes and misses, running up the court for quick, and at times, easy baskets. Foley, McCoy, and senior Caden Colby all scored early and Davon Sanders scored off an offensive rebound midway through the quarter.
A brief 6-2 burst — featuring a bucket and assist from JT Veiking (10 points, three rebounds), a dunk from Foley up the middle, and two more from Hill extended Mansfield’s lead to 45-31.
“We tried to do a little more in transition because we have guys like Eddie and Trevor who can get out in front,” Vaughan said. “And we had touches in the paint tonight for the first time in 16 years, so that was pretty good. If we can go inside out and move the ball, and be a little more consistent with the movement, we can be good but I was pretty happy with how we played.
“I thought our flow was good, our transition was good and our defense was great.”
Hill drained a three to start the fourth and Mansfield never looked back. Their swarming defense forced the Bombardiers into 13 turnovers and Mansfield recorded seven blocks as a team (five from Hill), taking advantage of their size.
“He played pretty consistent through four [quarters] and he has a calming way about him,” Vaughan said of Hill. “The difference between this year and previous years is now he’ll exert himself in an offensive possession or on defense too, he had some really impressive blocks. He has that ice in his veins, just does his job.”
For Attleboro, which had all but three of its players getting their first meaningful varsity minutes, the experience is invaluable
“It’s a lot about details…we need to sprint and get back on defense,” Houle said. “it was a layup drill for them in the second half. Even when we scored, we turn around, and two passes later they are getting a layup. It will be important when we watch the film and I think they’ll learn from this game and figure out what we can do better as a team.”
Mansfield boys basketball (1-0 Hockomock, 1-0 overall) is on the road again Friday, making a trip to Foxboro for a key Davenport division clash. Attleboro (0-1, 0-1) is home again when it hosts Milford.
Attleboro has consistently been in the hunt for the Kelley-Rex division in recent years, and if the Bombardiers are going to be there again this year, they will have to do so with a lot of new players to the varsity level.
Not only did the Bombardiers graduate a sizable senior class, but the majority of them were also key pieces in longtime head coach Mark Houle’s lineup and rotation. Add in the transfer of promising 6’5-forward Trevor White, and Attleboro has very few pieces left from last year. But that’s not to say Attleboro is without talent. Junior Neo Franco is coming off a very successful first year with the team, earning HockomockSports All-Underclassmen Team honors. Jaiden Outland saw more and more minutes as the season went on and he showed what he’s capable of with a career-high 18 points in Attleboro’s win over Durfee in late February last year; he could be poised for a big year. Senior Michael Beverly is the third returner for the Bombardiers after picking up some minutes last year while newcomer senior Justin Hanrahan could be a key piece right away.
Another reason for optimism is that most of the new faces in the lineup this year played for the Bombardiers’ JV squad last season, which posted an impressive 19-2 record. Seniors Spencer Sherck, Zyeem Charles, Nathan Hodson, and Michael Alfonso will provide key leadership for Houle this year. Junior Max Crawford will join sophomores Dante Monestime, Hayden Crowley, and Brady Erwin as potential contributors for the Bombardiers.
“We need to continue our commitment to be a highly competitive defensive team, our communication, and understanding of defensive concepts is a priority and is a reason we were one of the top defensive teams in the league last year,” Houle said.
2021-2022 Record: 9-11 Coach: Eric MacKinnon
Canton surprised a lot of people on the outside of the program with a nine-win season that certainly was good enough for a playoff spot, but the Bulldogs have put that seeding drama in the rearview mirror and are now focused on surprising people again this year.
In order to do so, the Bulldogs will need new players to step up as second-year head coach Eric MacKinnon only has one returning starter from last year. Matt Chafin emerged as a top perimeter option, averaging 8.8 points per game last year (reaching double figures in just under half of the games). Although he isn’t returning from last year’s lineup, Julius Hicks provides a big boost for MacKinnon and Bulldogs, coming back after missing all of last season with an injury. Hicks would have certainly been in the rotation last year and will be a vital piece this year. Junior Zaza Francoeur is an athletic wing player that can impact the game on both ends of the floor for the Bulldogs.
Defense emerged as one of Canton’s strengths a season ago as the Bulldogs bought into MacKinnon’s game plan. Canton allowed the least amount of points against in the Davenport division at 50.6, and they will look to replicate that again this year.
“With our personnel and style of play we have the ability to score from the perimeter and play inside-out at times,” MacKinnon said. “Our length and athleticism should allow us to get out in transition.”
Foxboro is one of the few teams in the league that has more familiar faces returning than not, and after only missing out on the Davenport title by one game last year, the Warriors are aiming to compete with defending champs Sharon and division newcomer Mansfield for the top spot this season.
The Warriors boast one of the better senior classes, anchored by HockomockSports First Team selection Alex Penders. Penders, a 6-foot-5 forward who averaged 16.3 points and 11.7 rebounds per game last year and recently committed to play at Ithaca next year, is joined by classmates Sam Golub, Ryan LeClair, and Andrew Finn. Golub and LeClair played a lot of minutes for head coach Jon Gibbs last season and both improved as the season went on. Having three experienced players will certainly give the Warriors an advantage, especially on the defensive side of the ball where Gibbs always has his teams prepared.
Penders can score in a variety of ways and will be a matchup problem for most teams in the league. Golub is a proven shooter that can get hot at any time while LeClair is a pesky defender, and as seen by his performance on the road at Stoughton last year, is a capable scorer. Penders will certainly be the focus of the offense but he’s a very unselfish player and Foxboro should have a good balance in the scoring column. While the Warriors have a strong senior class, they’re still a relatively young team. With only two juniors, the rest of the roster is filled by six sophomores and two freshmen. Junior Ryan Cotter and sophomores Ryan Kelley and Nolan Gordon will be names to keep an eye on.
“This is a very hard-working and coachable group that is improving on a daily basis,” Gibbs said. “We have a very exciting blend of experienced veterans and newcomers who are hungry to contribute. If we can defend and rebound at a high level, the potential is there for a very successful season.”
2021-2022 Record: 21-4 Coach: CJ Neely
Entering the past two seasons, there was a lot of unknown for the Panthers after graduating a large senior class each year. It’s the opposite this year as Franklin graduated just three players and has the majority of last year’s squad that went 21-4 back in the fold.
After a third-place finish in the Kelley-Rex last season, Franklin could be the team to beat this go around. Junior Sean O’Leary highlights a talented and experienced group of long, athletic players. O’Leary, a 6-foot-4 forward that can score from anywhere on the court and was named to the HockomockSports All-Underclassmen Team last year, will be one of the top players in the league this year. Junior Andrew O’Neill (8.8 points per game) is another returner and head coach CJ Neely will lean on a small but talented senior class that features Ben Harvey (HockomockSports All-Defensive Team), Justin Allen, Geino Scaringello, and Hayden Morandi.
Juniors Hansy Jacques, Bradley Herndon, and Andrew Benoit were all on the team last year and could see increased minutes this season. There will be more opportunities on offense for players to step up with the graduation of Sean Vinson (12.8 ppg) and last year’s leading scorer and HockomockSports Underclassman of the Year Henry Digirogio (16.1 ppg) has opted not to play this year. And promising sophomore Caden Sullivan, who likely would have been in the rotation, will miss significant time due to injury.
“The preseason has been very competitive at practice,” Neely said. “We have a great group of guys who really care for each other. While we do have a good amount of returning players, there is a lot of playing time up for grabs and it will be a daily challenge for guys to earn roles. I have been most impressed with how committed and focused the players have been each day on the court and in film sessions to always look for ways to improve as a group. It will be fun to watch them grow and compete all year.”
2021-2022 Record: 6-16 Head Coach: Dave DeStefano
King Philip brings back a good portion of its roster and is looking to book a spot in the tournament and contend for the Kelley-Rex division title.
The Warriors are one of the few teams in the league that brings back their leading scorer from a year ago in Will Laplante, a seasoned veteran that has averaged over 16 points per year in each of the last two seasons. Laplante is joined by senior Grant Kinney, who had some breakout games last year, and Tommy Martorano, who showed that at his best (a career-high 36 points) that he can score with the best players in the league. That trio is three of KP’s top five scorers from a year ago. Senior Colin Peck, a 6-foot-2 forward, will likely see an expanded role after playing some valuable minutes last year.
Juniors Tommy McLeish and Trevor Clyde, both 6-foot-3 forwards, have made a big jump from last year and will be key pieces for head coach Dave DeStefano this year. New additions Danny Silveria and Peter Cataldo, both juniors, look to factor in as key defensive pieces for the Warriors. Sophomore Tommy Kilroy didn’t see a ton of minutes early on last year but his role expanded as the season went on, scoring in double figures against Mansfield and in a win over Xaverian. Fellow sophomores Brandon Nicastro, Drew Laplante, and Jack Assini will all looking to contribute this season as well.
“The boys have really committed this offseason,” DeStefano said. “The limited practices so far have been really competitive. It’s no secret that our defense has to drastically improve to be competitive in the league. We want to make our opponents uncomfortable and focus on working together to get stops. On offense, we are looking to have a balanced attack and create great scoring opportunities as a team.”
2021-2022 Record: 21-5 Coach: Mike Vaughan
Mansfield had its incredible streak of nine straight Kelley-Rex division titles come to an end last season, and now the Hornets start a new chapter as they begin their first season in the Davenport. Expectations remain sky-high for the Hornets, who are an immediate favorite for the division crown.
The Hornets have two of their best scorers back from last year in senior Chris Hill (12.5 ppg) and junior Trevor Foley (8.2 ppg), but Mansfield did graduate its leading scorer in Matty Hyland and lost five of its top seven scorers. That means there’s a lot of opportunity for new faces to step up. Hill has probably played more varsity minutes than anyone else in the league and he can compete at a high-level night in and night out. Foley really emerged as a top player by the end of the season, averaging over 16 points per game in March.
Senior Caden Colby was part of the rotation last year and will see a bigger role this year while classmate JT Veiking is a 6-foot-5 forward that can score on the perimeter or down low. Senior Michael Creedon rounds out the senior class and can provide a spark with increased minutes this year. Junior Eddie McCoy is poised for a breakout year, an athletic wing player that can attack the rim and cause problems for opposing defenses. Juniors Brandon Jackman and Davon Sanders should see time in the Mansfield backcourt this year.
“This season will be our tallest team in my tenure, it will be fun to see what different things we can do on the defensive end,” Vaughan said. “Offensively we should have plenty of power to put points on the board but the big question mark will be how quickly we can find our max compete level.”
2021-2022 Record: 2-21 Coach: Paul Seaver
Milford had an entirely new team last season and was the youngest team in the league. With just four seniors gone from last year, the Hawks are still a young team but head coach Paul Seaver believes his group learned a lot last year and is trending in the right direction.
The Scarlet Hawks have three of the top four scorers from last season back in the fold, including junior Jake Soares (8.0 ppg), sophomore Andrew Rivera (7.8 ppg), and senior Wyatt Zagami (7.1 ppg). Zagami, who can really fill it up when he’s on a hot streak, is joined by classmates Guy Saintyl, Jacob Ligor, and Joe Buckley to round out a small senior class for the Hawks. Soares was probably Milford’s most consistent player for the first two months before an injury ended his season early, and Rivera showed some glimpses of high-level play throughout the year.
Having a year of experience will be key, especially as a lot of other Hock teams are featuring a lot of first-year varsity players. Sophomore Luca Testa is another young player that saw a lot of minutes for the Hawks last year and will be a key piece during this campaign. Sophomore Gus Coutinho is a dangerous shooter and freshman CJ Farrell could be an impact player right away as well.
“Last season we were very young and very inexperienced,” Seaver said. “We learned how to compete while playing a tough schedule. Now with double digits returnees, we not only aim to improve on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball – we aim to improve in all aspects. Our goals and expectations will be what we make them and what we do with the opportunities that are given to us. I have a great crop of kids who are committed, hard-working individuals who continue to climb the ladder and do things the right way.”
2021-2022 Record: 5-15 Coach: Sean Mulkerrins
North Attleboro battled through an up-and-down season last year that featured some impressive wins — like a double-digit victory over Foxboro and a sweep of Stoughton — as well as some tough losses, like to Foxboro in overtime and to rival Attleboro by just three points. The Rocketeers graduated their two leading scorers from a year ago but return the majority of a roster that was playing their first varsity minutes last year.
Besides its four seniors last year, the rest of the Rocketeers were brand new to the varsity level. That means this year’s group will feature a bit more experience, albeit North is still on the young side. Givany Carney is North’s most experienced player and will be one of the go-to options on the offensive end of the court. Carney is a crafty player that does well getting to the rim with a good combination of speed and size. Senior Jack Munley is a tone-setter and can change the momentum of a game with his effort while senior Derek Maceda showed glimpses last season as a potential go-to guy offensively, both on the perimeter and attacking the basket.
Sophomores Ryan Bannon and Chase Frisoli both played some valuable minutes as freshmen and should see increased roles this year. Bannon is a solid defender and can be a contributor on the offensive end while Frisoli is a high-IQ player with range. Junior Chris Hanewich is another player that head coach Sean Mulkerrins is relying on to contribute on both ends of the floor. With some good experience, North will be looking to establish itself as one of the hardest-working teams in the league, which starts on the defensive end.
“We have a roster of kids who are working hard to improve and learn our system,” Mulkerrins said. “Our practices have been very competitive. We are very focused on building and maintaining our team culture so we are prepared to compete against the talented basketball programs in the Hockomock League.”
2021-2022 Record: 10-12 Coach: Oliver Vil
Oliver Ames is going to have a new look this year under second-year head coach Oliver Vil. The Tigers lost the majority of the team that won a preliminary playoff game last season and missed out on the Davenport division title by just a game.
Not only will the lineup feature new faces, but it will also feature a lot of new faces as the Tigers have a deep group this year. Senior captains Chris Elias and Ari Spiliakos are two returners that will be leaders for the team both on and off the court. Senior Nick Asiaf is a capable ball handler and can attack the rim while seniors Nick Rhodes and Jaden Graham provide key depth. Sophomore Cole Craffey played some meaningful minutes a year ago and will be one of the Tigers’ go-to options offensively this year. He’s very confident with the ball and can score inside and out.
With seven of their top eight scorers from a season ago gone, there will be plenty of opportunity for new players to step up. Freshman Solen Lolonga was in the starting lineup for the Tigers’ season-opening win over Southeastern and had a strong showing with 19 points. Vil also has a deep junior class that features Jake Willard, Daniel Casey, Andrew Sullivan, and David Rodgers, who all played in the win.
“Our strength this season on offense will be our ability to move the ball and create shots for one another,” Vil said. “We will have the same defense approach as last season, forcing our opponents into taking difficult shots and limiting transition offensive baskets. We now have minimal room for careless mistakes to compete in an already difficult conference. I am extremely excited to battle a plethora of well-coached disinclined teams every night we step on the floor to play a game this season.”
2021-2022 Record: 12-9 (Davenport division champions) Coach: Andrew Ferguson
Sharon won its first Davenport division title in eight seasons last year and with its top three scoring options back in the mix this year, the Eagles will be in contention to repeat that feat again this year.
Senior Matt Baur and juniors Jacob McLoughlin and Nate Katznelson give Sharon one of the top trios of players in the league. Baur, who earned HockomockSports First Team honors last year after averaging 15.1 points and 6 rebounds a game, is the heart and soul of the team. He leads by example both on and off the court and is the engine of the team. He doesn’t have to fill up the scoring column to have a big impact on the game. Both Katznelson and McLoughlin emerged as top players in their first season and will be vital pieces this year.
Senior captains Jack Bates and Tyler Goodman both came off the bench as key pieces for head coach Andrew Ferguson last year and will see increased responsibility this year. Bates is a pesky defender and a good floor general while Goodman can provide a spark with his shooting. Senior Dante James, an athletic wing player, comes over from Mansfield and should give the Eagles a big boost with their depth. Juniors Ryan Brown, Anthony Piron, and Cam Sherman provide backcourt depth while juniors Zach Wise, Jaden Segal, and sophomore Sam Letendre provide physicality to the Eagles’ frontcourt.
“With a small senior class, this team is blending experience with youth and has already begun to form a tight bond both on and off the court. Our practices have been super competitive and we look forward to competing against a very strong schedule.”
2021-2022 Record: 9-11 Coach: Evan Taylor
Last season, Stoughton entered the final stretch of league games right in the mix for the Davenport division title but ended up on the outside looking in finishing in a tie for fourth and just missing out on the postseason. With just a few returners back in the mix, the Knights will be looking for a new group of players to lead them into the tournament and contend for the division crown.
Stoughton has two major challenges to address this year, one on each side of the ball. The Black Knights lost their three top scorers from last year with Connor Andrews (19.9 ppg) and Cash Mathurin (5.9 ppg) graduating, and Rayan Sablon (18.3 ppg) transferring out. Head coach Evan Taylor will lean heavily on his four returning players to try and fill that void. Senior Jayden Costa Haywood played some meaningful minutes a season ago and has taken a big leap and the Knights will look for him to provide an offensive punch. Junior Liam Pearl (5.2 ppg) also worked his way into the rotation and made some key shots in clutch moments, including at Foxboro and at home against Canton. Sophomore Matthew Greenspoon (5.6 ppg) is the top scorer back from last year and will look to build on a strong debut season as a freshman.
The other challenge for Stoughton will be on the defensive end as the Knights look to make a drastic improvement after allowing over 60 points per game last year. On top of the returners, Taylor is looking for senior Tagh Swierzewski and junior Jarred Daughtry to make an immediate impact on the defensive side of the ball. Other newcomers include senior Obioma Dike, juniors Elijah Connor, and Nathan Figaro, sophomore Mykel Thomas, and freshmen Anthony Alessi and Aiden Rideout.
“Defense has been the main focus at the start of this season,” Taylor said. “Our goal is to be a top three defense in the league with a lot of great on-ball defenders and high IQ players on the
2020-2021 Record: 19-3 (Kelley-Rex division champions) Coach: Charlie Dacey
This season will mark a new chapter in the storied history of Taunton basketball. After back-to-back Kelley-Rex championships, including the program’s first outright title a year ago, the Tigers will have a lot of new faces in the lineup this year.
The biggest challenge will be replacing the production from one of the best trios in the Hock in recent history in Player of the Year Trent Santos, Faisal Mass, and Tristan Herry, who combined for just under 75% of the team’s scoring last year. One of the familiar faces returning to the starting group is junior Troy Santos, who has the most career points of anyone on the roster. Santos showed some flashes last year but will have a lot more looks this year. Seniors Chris Volcy and Alvinsky Morisseau, and junior Tyson Carter are also returners from last year and figure to see increased minutes this season.
Senior Chris Perault could be the biggest addition for the Tigers, a player that can score both from the perimeter and attacking the basket. Santos will factor in as one of the top shooters both on the team and in the league while Volcy has really improved from last year and could be a top scoring option for the Tigers. Longtime head coach Charlie Dacey is looking for Dimari Brown and Travis Johnson to provide a spark on the low block, plus some more faces to step up off of the bench.
“This year’s Taunton team will be very different from last year. This edition will be faster without a singular scorer, points can come from a variety of styles,” Dacey said. “Speed and aggressive defense will be the key to Taunton’s success this year.”
MANSFIELD, Mass. — Behind a spectacular defensive effort, the Mansfield boys basketball team battled back to get in position to take the game.
But the signature run that the Hornets have used to put away teams time and time again just never came to close it out.
The Hornets dug themselves out of a 15-point second half hole, erased a seven-point deficit in the final 90 seconds of regulation but couldn’t quite put the finishing touches on the big comeback, falling 57-51 in double overtime to Norwood in the Division 2 Round of 8.
“I thought our defense was pretty spectacular,” said Mansfield coach Mike Vaughan, who saw his team force the Mustangs into 25 turnovers. “I thought we did an awesome job on [Noah Beaudet]. I thought we were able to minimize their other guys’ chances and really put ourselves in a position to come back. The problem was, for whatever reason, the second half of the year we’ve struggled scoring. In the first half…you only have 14 points, you can’t do that against a team at this level.
“We continued to stay true to ourselves defensively and started to make some plays, hit a couple of shots. I just can’t say enough about their effort and commitment to playing the right way and playing hard. You can’t get a better high school game out of this.”
Mansfield boys basketball
The Hornets were limited to 14 points total in the opening half, and a bucket just seconds into the start of the second put the Mustangs ahead 29-14. Mansfield refused to go quietly and outscored the visitors 14-4 the rest of the way in the quarter to get back into it.
After an early bucket, sophomore Trevor Foley (16 points, seven rebounds, four blocks, three steals) turned a steal into an emphatic one-handed slam to bring the hosts within a point, 33-32. Mansfield tied it on a free throw from junior Chris Hill (14 points, six rebounds), who tacked on a three a couple of possessions later to tie it 36-36.
Norwood star junior Noah Beaudet broke free for a rare open look and drained a triple and scored three from the foul line to bring the Mustangs back in front, 44-37, with 1:47 to go.
Senior Andrew Slaney connected on a corner three and the Hornets trapped immediately on the inbounds and forced a turnover, resulting in a quick layup from senior Matt Hyland (10 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists, five steals).
Mansfield forced back-to-back turnovers but missed the front end of a one-and-one and had another chance blocked. With 26 seconds left, Hyland found Hill on a backdoor lob play and Mansfield tied it 44-44. The Hornets got another stop on defense with 10 seconds to go but a layup chance was off the mark for the hosts to send the game into overtime.
Points were at a premium in the four-minute overtime period. Hyland lost control in the paint but the ball fell right to Foley for a layup with 2:17 to go. Hill grabbed a steal but the Hornets missed on a chance to extend the lead. Hyland had a steal on the next possession but the Hornets turned it right back over and Norwood tied the game on a putback from Ziad Awde.
Both teams missed on a three in the final minute as the game went double overtime, tied 46-46.
Mansfield boys basketball
Mansfield sandwiched a pair of misses around a turnover, and Beaudet converted to put the visitors ahead. A free throw cut it to one but a tough jumper from Beaudet extended it back to three, 50-47. The Hornets couldn’t get anything to go on their next trip, and Norwood turned an offensive rebound into two points, 52-47 with 1:15 to go.
Foley scored to cut it to four but the Mustangs did enough at the line to keep the advantage the rest of the way.
“I think it just came down to us missing some bunnies, we had our opportunities. I thought in the first half we were forcing some action and then we got to a point we weren’t forcing it, but there were some opportunities when it looked like easy baskets that we just didn’t put in the hole. I’m not sure we shot great from the foul line either. Those two things…you can’t shoot yourself at this level. Defensively, we did it…we played great on defense and played as good as we could on defense.
“But offensively, I thought there were a lot of times we got exactly what we wanted but didn’t capitalize on it.”
Mansfield had an uncharacteristic day on the offensive end, shooting under 30% from the field overall and under 20% from three-point range.
Hill scored the opening basket of the game but it would end up as Mansfield’s lone lead of regulation. Hyland had the two other buckets but Norwood claimed a 14-6 lead after one.
An early three from Hill gave Mansfield a good start to the second quarter, and points from Foley and Anthony Sacchetti made it 14-13 before Mansfield’s offense went cold and the Mustangs closed the half on a 13-1 run.
Foley ignited the Hornet offense with back-to-back buckets in the third, Hyland and Caden Colby each had one from in close, and Slaney added a three. By the end of the third, Mansfield closed the gap to just five, 33-28.
“They are tremendous kids,” Vaughan said. “This was just a great group, starting with the seniors all the way through. Nice kids, came to work every day and never complained. I had no issues with this team all year long. They were great, it was a fun team to be around.”
Mansfield boys basketball finishes the season at 21-5.
Santos drained the shot with 4:30 to go to put the Tigers ahead for the first time in the second half, a lead that never vanished as Taunton used a dominant fourth quarter to secure a 56-46 win, clinching at least a share of the Kelley-Rex title.
Taunton can become the first team besides Mansfield to win the division outright since 2012 with a win over Milford on Friday. Santos finished with 11 of his 27 points in the final quarter along with seven rebounds, three assists, and three steals.
“I know coach wouldn’t have been too happy if I missed that shot but we were on a run and the momentum was crazy, I just felt it so I shot it and when it went in, I was relieved,” said Santos. “Franklin and Mansfield, all of their help defense and how they force you way out, they do a really good job with it. But that shot, we were on a run there so I felt it.”
Santos’ pull-up three was the midway point of a stunning turnaround for the Tigers. Mansfield’s suffocating defense held the hosts without a point for the final five minutes of the first half, and limited Taunton to 12 hard-earned points in the third quarter.
Going into the fourth, Taunton scored on back-to-back possessions just twice. Once in the first quarter on a putback from Santos and then a three from Faisal Mass (12 points, 11 rebounds, two blocks). And once in the second quarter, a three from Troy Santos (eight points, six rebounds) followed by a layup from Trent Santos. The Tigers didn’t have a significant run at any point through the first 24 minutes.
A commitment to an improved defensive performance and better rebounding (13-4 in the fourth) led to a spirited offensive performance over the final eight minutes as the Tigers opened the quarter with a 14-0 run, and in the end, outscored the Hornets 20-2.
“It was really our defense in the fourth quarter,” Santos said. “We all locked in and committed to rebounding and getting out on the break and we were able to hit some big shots to go on that run that won us the game. It feels amazing, the atmosphere in here was crazy, and in that fourth quarter, it was really fun to play basketball.”
The fourth quarter fittingly started with a stop for the Tigers, first a steal and then a miss from Mansfield. Although Taunton was off on its first shot, sophomore Cyrus Morissette came up with a pair of offensive boards to keep the possession alive and he found Tristan Herry for his lone make from the field, a three-pointer.
Another stop was hauled in by Herry, and he quickly pushed it up for Santos, who didn’t hesitate before draining a three. Out of a timeout, Taunton forced a shot clock violation, Mansfield got a stop of its own, and then Mass came down with a board after the Hornets missed again.
Morissette took a pass at the top of the key and bullied his way to the basket, banking it in to tie it at 44-44 with under five minutes to play.
Then came the steal from Santos, the pass from Herry, and the pull-up three from Santos that put Taunton ahead for good.
“They kind of just locked in collectively defensively,” said Taunton head coach Charlie Dacey. “We got some stops and obviously came down the other end and hit some shots. Trent hit some shots, maybe not recommended shots but he’s been taking them and making them all year. And Tristan had a big three too, and Cyrus getting to the rim was another one. A lot of small things added up.
“They’ve been working hard all year long and we’ve been pushing them in practice, we really have. And they’ve responded. Other teams I’ve had in the past haven’t always done that. They show up every day and they go, and that’s unique in high school.”
Mansfield had a couple of chances to get back into it but had a travel to start and then missed on a pair of three-point attempts. They got a couple of stops but couldn’t get it going on offense, missing another three and then a pair of free throws.
Taunton boys basketball
Taunton came back the other way and Santos got his man in the air on a fake, took a step to his right, and then drained another triple — his third of the quarter — to make it 50-44 with 1:43 to go.
“That momentum is huge for us, just huge. Success breeds success…it’s at that point, I’m hands off,” Dacey said. “It’s always Mansfield or Franklin, and then us. This year, now it’s us. It’s great for the kids, it’s good for the psyche of the school.”
Taunton boys basketball
Mansfield finally broke its cold spell when sophomore Trevor Foley (10 points, 10 rebounds, four blocks) converted a putback to cut it to four points. Mansfield scrambled on defense to try and double but Santos was able to find Morissette cutting to the basket for two and a 52-46 lead with under a minute to go, icing the win.
“I thought we did a really good job rebounding the and then we gave up the three to Herry off an offensive rebound, and then Santos came down and hit another one and I could see faces on my guys deflated,” said Mansfield head coach Mike Vaughan. “I just said to them, when you wear this uniform, you always believe we’re winning. I felt like we played not to lose instead of going out to win. There were so many things in the last four minutes that weren’t what we typically do.
“I thought we did a good job contesting shooters and making them work for everything. I don’t know if they got an open look really throughout the game so I was happy with what I thought was high-level defense. If you’re holding them to 56, you’re doing a pretty good job defensively.”
Santos got off to a great start to the game. After being shut out in the first half during the first meeting in Mansfield, Santos exploded for 12 points out of the game as the Tigers staked a 15-13 lead after eight minutes.
“It’s my eighth time playing [Mansfield] and I get more sick of it every time I play them, they do such a good job moving the ball and forcing us into tough shots and getting us tired, that’s how they win,” Santos said. “For us to really just commit and lock in and finish strong, I think that’s really what won us the game.”
Mansfield took control of the game with a 13-0 run to end the first half. Matt Hyland (17 points, six assists, two steals, two blocks) sandwiched a pair of makes around a putback from Foley to tie the game. Hyland then found Foley for two, Hyland drained a three-pointer, and then a layup from Hyland following a block from Foley had the visitors up 31-24 at the break.
An early three from Troy Santos and a take from Mass got Taunton going early in the third but Mansfield countered with a free throw from Anthony Sacchetti and a transition bucket from Hyland. Chris Hill dropped in a baseline jumper, Sacchetti cut to the basket for two more, and another bucket from Foley had the Hornets ahead, 44-36, going into the fourth.
Mansfield is still mathematically alive for their 10th straight Kelley-Rex title but the Hornets would need to beat both Milford and Attleboro to close the week and would need the Scarlet Hawks to land an upset over Taunton on Friday.
But if Taunton wins on Friday, it will give the Tigers the division title outright. It would be the program’s second straight (after sharing with Mansfield a year ago), and first outright Hock title.
“We still have to win on Friday against Milford, but we definitely had a sour taste in our mouth from last year in the loss at Mansfield, seeing them cut the nets down,” Santos said. “It really felt good to get one back here, against them especially.
Taunton boys basketball (14-1, 16-2) will host Milford on Friday for a chance to clinch the league crown, but the Scarlet Hawks will first travel to Mansfield (12-2, 15-4) on Wednesday night for a date with the Hornets.
FRANKLIN, Mass. — One of the best rivalries in the state added a new chapter on Friday night, and it was one of the best games in series history.
Up-and-down, back-and-forth the Panthers and the Hornets went, matching shot for shot and stop for stop over the course of four quarters — and it took every second of the 32 minutes to decide this one.
Mansfield senior Matty Hyland sank both of his one-and-one free throws with 13.4 seconds left and the Hornets held on as Franklin’s last-second turnaround jumper at the elbow hit off the iron and stayed out, securing a 56-55 victory in a thriller.
The largest lead for either side was nine in favor of the hosts after senior Sean Vinson, who had a career-high 27 points in a gutsy performance, knocked down one of his five three-pointers just a minute into the second quarter for a 20-11 lead.
Meanwhile, the visiting Hornets had the lead just three times in the first half. The first coming on the back of an 11-0 run that erased Franklin’s largest advantage, and twice more over the next couple of minutes. But each of the three leads never increased more than two points before Franklin tied it or went back ahead.
Mansfield’s first lead of the second half came on a three-pointer with a minute to go in the third quarter, a 42-41 lead that the Hornets carried into the final quarter.
And the final quarter, a rollercoaster back-and-forth that featured nine lead changes, the largest lead being five points for Mansfield at 52-47, but that too, was quickly erased as the Panthers retook the lead.
“It was a good old-fashioned boxing match,” said Mansfield head coach Mike Vaughan. “How many lead changes were there? It had to be a lot, it was back-and-forth. I think they had a little bigger of a margin than we did, I don’t think we ever had a big lead. I thought there were times we could have folded and put our tail between our legs but we came down and made big plays.
“Against Franklin, you have to find creative ways to score. Sometimes it’s threes, sometimes you have to get to the rim. They are so solid defensively, you have to be creative and find different ways to score each trip, and ultimately, we were able to do that for sure.”
The fourth lead change of the final quarter came on a nice pass from Mansfield junior Chris Hill to find sophomore Trevor Foley cutting to the basket. Foley had one of the best games of his career with 16 points, 11 rebounds, four steals, and two blocks — more to come on the blocks.
The fifth came right after on a nice up-and-under move from Vinson and the Panthers took a timeout.
Mansfield boys basketball
Mansfield was the first team to get back-to-back buckets in the quarter, first with Hill dropping one in from close, and then after a stop, Hyland battled through some great defense to finish off a tough layup for a 50-47 lead. Another stop led to another bucket from Hyland for Mansfield’s largest lead of the entire game at 52-47.
It didn’t last long: Vinson knocked down a corner three off a pass from Justin Allen (11 points). The Panthers looked poised to tie the game after a turnover but Foley came racing back and pinned the ball against the backboard for a huge chase-down block.
The Panthers, who played the entire second half without leading scorer sophomore Henry Digiorgio because of an injury in the first half, weren’t too fazed as they got a stop and Ben Harvey found Vinson for yet another three, and just like that, Franklin was ahead with under two minutes to play.
The see-saw battle continued, and arguably the biggest plays of the game came next. Hyland came up with an offensive rebound to give the visitors a second shot, which was also off but this time Foley won the battle for the board.
The Hornets missed another chance but once again, Foley came flying in and tipped in the offensive board for two, and a 54-53 lead with under a minute to go. Mansfield won the rebounding battle 9-1 in the final quarter, including five offensive boards.
Andrew Slaney came up for a steal for the Hornets, and Vaughan tried to call a timeout but neither official noticed. The Panthers took advantage with a steal and Allen laid in an uncontested layup for a 54-55 lead with 20 seconds to go.
Mansfield boys basketball
Mansfield came back up the floor in a hurry, and yet again Vaughan’s timeout efforts went unnoticed, and instead, Hyland drew a blocking call for Franklin’s seventh foul of the half.
Hyland finished with 17 of his 25 points in the second half for the Hornets, tying a career-high.
“There’s something to be said about guys like Matty and what he was able to do,” Vaughan said. “Vinson did a really good job against him defensively and really made him work for everything. And as much as I was trying to whine for a foul, he did it clean and he did a really good job of keeping him in front of him and Matty had to work for anything that he got.”
Hyland hit both free throws and Mansfield — who was well under the bonus — strategically fouled twice over the final 10 seconds to drain some clock. Franklin inbounded it with 3.9 seconds left and got off a shot but it was off the mark.
Mansfield boys basketball
“I thought the guys that were out there really gave their heart and soul, I can’t ask for more effort-wise,” said Franklin head coach CJ Neely. “We’ll watch the film and probably see something things we could have done better execution-wise. You don’t want to let it go to that last possession like that, they had a lot of offensive rebounds that we could have pulled in and maybe turned it into a three-point lead instead of a one-point lead.
“You can’t give a team like that multiple chances down the stretch and unfortunately offensive rebounds killed us late. I don’t think it was for most of the game and we made them work for everything they got. Hyland’s a great player and made some big plays down the stretch that really sealed the game.”
As they often have this year, Franklin had a strong start to the game with success from range. Sophomore Andrew O’Neill hit a pair of three-pointers and sophomore Sean O’Leary cashed in on a Mansfield turnover for a quick 8-0 lead. A three from Caden Colby and a late steal and bucket from Foley closed the gap to 15-11 at the end of one.
O’Leary went to work in the paint for two and Vinson sank a three to Franklin’s largest lead but that was short-lived as Mansfield answered with an 11-0 run, sparked by a three from Jack Lasbury-Casey. Foley cleaned up his own miss and had another steal and layup, and Hyland had four straight to take a 22-20 lead.
“I’m proud of Trevor, he’s really come into his own. He’s played well the last couple of games and has kind of built some confidence and starting to play like a junior instead of a sophomore…his first half was huge, he stepped in and really took some of the pressure off Matty.”
Vinson stopped the bleeding to tie it 22-22, and then drained a three after Foley’s tough take handed Mansfield its second lead. Slaney hit one of Mansfield’s five total threes but this time it was Allen who answered with a three. Allen then added another one right before the buzzer to give Franklin a 32-27 lead at halftime.
“Sean Vinson has been one of the best leaders we’ve ever had and I expect nothing less of that when he’s on the floor,” Neely said. “He missed the first matchup [COVID], he was devastated. He was really looking forward to his chance to play Mansfield here at home, and you can see it in the effort he put out there. What a performance for him.”
Franklin finished 10-for-21 from three-point range, but only hit on three trifectas in the second half on half the attempts. Losing Digiorgio was a big blow to not only the shooting game (he made four on Tuesday against Taunton and had three in the first meeting with Mansfield), it hurt the Panthers’ rebounding game (Digiorgio had double-digit boards on Tuesday).
“That’s our leading scorer and one of our best players, it’s hard to in-game adjust to losing him,” Neely said. “I do think we settled in eventually and get O’Leary some touches inside and Vinson had some big shots, big plays, and we had some other guys step up. But you don’t just replace a guy like Hank, he’s a really good player that we missed out there.”
“We always want to try and take [the three] away because they have a lot of firepower there and they can do it in a hurry, you really have to try and keep them in check,” Vaughan said. “We made some adjustments and obviously Digiorgio not playing is super unfortunate and he’s a high-level scorer and rebounder, so I hope it isn’t bad and he’s back soon. You never want to see something like that happen and it changed their rotations and their shot selection.”
Mansfield boys basketball
Mansfield boys basketball (12-1 Hockomock, 15-3) stays within a game of first place of the division with a game in hand and will travel to first place Taunton for a huge showdown on Tuesday. Franklin (11-3, 15-3) hits the road to visit Milford on the same day.