MANSFIELD, Mass. – Trailing by two points entering the fourth quarter, Mansfield knew that it would need a spark on the offensive end to come out on top against non-league rival Bishop Feehan in Friday night’s meeting in the James Albertini Gym.
The Hornets put the ball into the hands of junior point guard Mady Bendanillo and she delivered, personally outscoring the Shamrocks 15-12 in the final eight minutes. With Bendanillo leading the way, Mansfield, which had scored 36 points over the first three quarters, put up 30 as a team in the fourth.
Bendanillo finished with a game- and career-high 22 points and added five assists to lead the Hornets to a 66-50 victory over Feehan, which head coach Mike Redding said afterwards was his first coaching win against the Shamrocks.
“She put on a show tonight,” said Redding of Bendanillo. “She was money at the free throw line (9-of-10 in the fourth quarter), hit some big threes, and handled the ball. I think she played more minutes than anybody and never gets tired, never takes a possession off, and she’s definitely coming into her own getting confidence scoring.”
He added, “We know Meg’s going to get some points inside, Ann will hit some threes, but when Mady goes for double digits then we become a really good basketball team.”
Bendanillo got the fourth quarter started with a three-pointer to give the Hornets a one-point edge. After she hit a pair of free throws, junior Maggie Danehy got into the act with a baseline drive and finish to make it 43-38. Feehan scored, but Ann Maher (12 points and four assists) nailed a step-back three from the left wing to push the lead to six.
The speed of Bendanillo allowed her to break the Feehan press and turn any rebound into a quick break and her ability to get to the rim led to five different trips to the line in the quarter. She buried a three (her third of the night) off a Steph Kemp assist for a 51-43 lead then assisted on a Maher three that pushed the lead to nine.
Meg Hill (14 points and 10 boards) had a pair of baskets in the fourth, one off a Maher assist and the other on a putback, and Danehy added a layup, as the Hornets stormed to the final whistle.
“It was just a lot of different contributions when we needed it,” said Redding about the difference on this night compared to other meetings with Feehan in the past. “Where in the past we may have gone flat for a couple minutes and no one would make a play. Tonight we had a bunch of kids making plays to extend it and make it comfortable.”
The game looked similar to recent meetings between the two teams midway through the second quarter. With the Hornets struggling to make shots and with Hill, who had kept Mansfield in the game with eight points in the first quarter, on the bench with her second foul, Feehan built a 24-12 lead and looked poised to break the game wide open.
Instead of the game getting out of hand, the Hornets grabbed hold of the momentum and closed the half with a 14-4 run. Erin Daniel (seven points) drained a three that cut the lead to seven and Bendanillo followed with a steal and layup and then a three off an assist by her twin sister Kara.
After a Kemp steal, Kara Bendanillo scored her only basket of the night to tie the game at 26-26. Although Feehan added a bucket to lead at the break, it was the Hornets that went into halftime happier.
“When Meg got her second [foul], we sat her and said okay we just have to survive these last two [minutes] and we went on an 8-0 run with the subs,” Redding explained. “That really kind of set the tone going into the second half.”
He continued, “All of a sudden we have that run and it’s a ballgame and we came out with some confidence to start the second half.”
Sydney Mulkern hit a three after the break, her only points of the game, to give Mansfield its first lead since it was 2-0. Nicole Smith (15 points) answered with a three for the Shamrocks, but Maher stepped into a kick out pass by Hill to bury a three on the next possession. Daniel added four points in the quarter to keep the Hornets within two heading to the final eight minutes.
“It was a great game,” said Redding. “We’ll have out hands full over there and this will probably end up being the first of three of them. So, they’re all going to be fun to watch. It’s a high level of basketball for both teams.”
Mansfield (4-1, 2-1) will get a few days off before facing Franklin on Dec. 28 with a rematch against Bishop Feehan slated for Jan. 3.
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