TAUNTON, Mass. – It’s been a most challenging season for everyone, but with a delayed start and a one-week hiatus smack in the middle of its schedule, it’s been a bit tougher on the Taunton boys basketball team.
So it’s only fitting that the Tigers made clinching their first-ever Hockomock League Kelley-Rex division title a bit more difficult than it needed to be.
A near-perfect start from visiting Attleboro coupled with a sluggish first eight minutes from the Tigers put the hosts in a double-digit deficit.
But as these Tigers have done all season, they responded. Despite starting their season two weeks after everyone else, Taunton opened the season with five straight wins. And when they were forced to the sideline for a week, the Tigers came right back and beat one of the best teams in the state in Mansfield with just one day of practice.
And on Thursday afternoon, in their fourth game in the five-day span, the Tigers dominated the final three quarters of play, not only digging out of the hole they were in but burying it and covering it with a mound of dirt in the form of a 76-57 win over the Bombardiers.
The Tigers’ game with King Philip will not be made up and the Hockomock League is expected to award Taunton with a win via forfeit for that game multiple sources told HockomockSports.com.
It marks Taunton’s first league title since 2008 when it won the Old Colony League.
“Everyone has gone through issues this year but this is an extraordinary group, I’ve said it many times,” said longtime Taunton head coach Charlie Dacey. “Across the board, not just the first five either, you go right down the roster. We’ve had no issues at all this year. There’s usually something but this group has been great, they really like each other too.
“When we got into our offense, we got the lead into double figures and that force them to pressure a little bit. Then we really started to figure out that if we can our offense, things were working. Once we’re relaxed, like any team, they get into a comfort zone and we really pulled away.”
Attleboro got whatever it wanted to start the game, hitting mid-range jumpers and getting to the rim on open layups. The Bombardiers shot 9-for-16 from the field for 20 points while their defense was on point too, the Tigers were forced to settle for contested looks inside and out. The result was a 20-9 lead, seemingly stunning Taunton.
“We had confidence from yesterday’s game and that carried over to today,” said Attleboro head coach Mark Houle. “I thought the first quarter we played as well as we could have…defensively, offensively, transition baskets, we controlled the boards. They started rebounding better and we couldn’t stop them. We had them for 26 possessions in the second and third quarters and they scored on 22 of them. We tried to change it up as much as we could but they made plays consistently and we couldn’t stop them.
“Overall between yesterday and today we really battled but [Taunton] is a really good team.
The comeback didn’t come quickly, but it was steady. Attleboro scored to push its lead to 22-9 to start the frame and Taunton had three chances to get back on the board but went empty on two shots from the field and two from the line. The next play, however, might have been the spark that lit a fire for the Tigers.
Junior Tristan Herry, who scored a season-high 20 points, poked the ball free and won a foot race to the loose ball on the other end of the court. From there, Taunton went on to score on 12 straight possessions to erase the deficit and take a lead by halftime.
“Tristan was bustin’ on defense, he was trying to do all the right things on offense. I think that sunk into the other four, if he’s going to do it then we should do it. He was the catalyst in that turnaround for us. Tyler [Stewart] changes the flow of the offense because he demands attention, even if he’s not scoring. But Tristan got us going.”
Senior Josh Lopes (nine points, five rebounds) scored the first three points on a jumper and a free throw and Herry stepped up on the offensive end with his first three-pointer. A steal by Nigel Choate gave Taunton the ball back and an offensive rebound resulted in two points from senior Tyler Stewart (10 points, five rebounds).
Attleboro’s Justin Daniels (17 points) answered for the Bombardiers but junior Trent Santos (18 points, four assists) attacked the basket for two for the hosts. Herry sank his second three of the period to make it a four-point game but junior Evan Houle (nine points, four rebounds) answered with a triple of his own out of an Attleboro timeout.
The Tigers’ relentless offensive attack continued as an offensive board from Choate turned into a free throw from junior Faisal Mass (12 points, 12 rebounds, five assists). Joe Francois-Annevil took a feed from Alvin Harrison and scored down low but Herry drained another triple and a steal from Choate resulted in two after a putback from Mass.
Stewart had a big block and then found Choate for two down low, and after another Attleboro turnover, Mass finished through contact to put the hosts ahead for the first time, 32-31. Stewart then sank an elbow jumper and the Tiger took a 34-32 lead into halftime.
“I think we were a little fatigued from yesterday but going into the second, we talked with each other about how we felt we were the better team,” said Stewart, who is committed to play at Wentworth. “Tristan hit some big shots that really changed the momentum for us. Once he hit those shots, it got the rest of us going.
“Just a chance to play [this season] was really exciting for us. I think we’ve shown that this group plays really well under adversity. The amount of things we’ve had to go through to get to this point is insane, all the way back to the start of last year through this year, shows a lot about this group.”
Taunton’s offense wasn’t as effective in the third quarter, but it was pretty close. The Tigers picked up points on 10 of their first 11 possessions of the quarter to build a double-digit advantage.
Lopes and Daniels traded buckets to start and the Tigers finally had an empty possession on their second trip up court. Mass found Santos for a three and then Santos returned the favor to Lopes for two more. Attleboro cashed on its third shot of its next possession when Chris Holcomb sank a three to keep the deficit at four.
Santos and Mass each connected from downtown in a one-minute span and layups from Santos and Stewart pushed Taunton’s lead to 55-45 going into the final quarter.
“Herry kept them in it early and then after that, it was all of them, I think every single one of them played well today,” Houle said of the Tigers. “It was pretty spread out, and it felt like any time we did get a stop in the second or third they got an offensive rebound and got an extra opportunity.”
Attleboro cut into the lead early in the fourth as a strong take from Francois-Annevil make it 60-51 but Mass answered with two after a nice fake, Santos dropped in a floater, Herry hit on a pull-up, and Lopes scored after a turnover and the lead ballooned to 68-51 with just under four minutes.
After scoring just nine points in the first, Taunton scored 20 or more points in each of the second, third, and fourth quarters.
Taunton becomes just the third team to win the Kelley-Rex division in boys basketball since the Hockomock League split in two. Mansfield has won it 10 times, including a share this year, while Franklin won it outright in 2012 and earned a share in 2016.
Taunton boys basketball (8-1 Kelley-Rex, 8-1 overall) will host Sharon on Saturday at noon for its final game of the season. Attleboro (5-5, 10-5) will host rival North Attleboro on Sunday at 1:30.
FOXBORO, Mass. – The final eight minutes of Wednesday afternoon’s contest gave us a glimpse into the future as a young Foxboro squad scratched and clawed its way back into the game, showing what the Warriors are capable of.
But the first 24 minutes belonged to North Attleboro, a veteran group that built a big cushion through the first three quarters and showed its experience by making enough plays down the stretch to fend off Foxboro’s ferocious comeback attempt, earning a 61-53 win.
The Rocketeers’ offense exploded for 21 points in the first quarter and added 19 more in the second, carrying a 17-point lead into the final quarter. The Warriors made things interesting, cutting the deficit to single digits with three minutes to play but North Attleboro did enough to close out the win.
“Basketball is a game of swings, I always say it,” said North Attleboro head coach Sean Mulkerrins. “They are a younger team, we have an older group and I didn’t want us to have a hangover from the 23-point final to lead into this start so I want at them pretty hard yesterday and prior to the start of the game to stress how important a good start was. Jon [Gibbs] obviously does a great job and they came back with a counter punch and thankfully we had just enough of a cushion.”
North Attleboro followed a similar blueprint from its win over the Warriors (58-35) on Monday evening as Mulkerrins stressed the importance of a strong start, fully aware of what Foxboro can do (as seen in the fourth quarter).
The Rocketeers heeded the advice of their coach and came out flying in the first eight minutes. North score on six of its first eight possessions to build a 13-4 lead over the first four minutes of action. After missing on the first possession, Casey Poirier (nine points, five rebounds) took a feed from Edan Kelley (nine points) to break the ice and get the run started.
“North is an excellent team, they are a veteran team and they execute extremely well on offense,” said Foxboro head coach Jon Gibbs. “They get the ball to the right guys in the right places and put you in difficult positions. And defensively they are so well prepared and they do a great job taking away what you want to do, which is a credit to their coaches and players. Playing against a good team like that, it certainly gives us a good measuring stick moving forward.”
Brody Rosenberg (nine points, five assists, four rebounds) sniffed out a pass and laid it in for two and Poirier scored after Jared Vacher forced a Foxboro turnover. The Big Red missed on its first shot of the next possession but junior Gavin Wells (career-high 13 points) crashed hard and tipped it back in. North’s defense got its sixth stop of the game and Rosenberg cut to the basket, taking a feed from Kelley for two and a 10-2 lead, forcing the home side into a timeout.
Foxboro got one stop but couldn’t turn it into points and North came back down and senior George Ladd (21 points, 10 rebounds, five assists) came down with a traditional three-point play. JuniorDylan Gordon (16 points) hit two from the line but Kelley answered with a three to make it 16-6, a double-digit lead the visitors would carry for the majority of the game.
“We knew that Foxboro would be ready and it wouldn’t be a continuation of what the scoreboard was from the first game,” Mulkerrins said of the strong start. “I was real happy with the way our guys were locked in. There were a couple of things, counters to the counters so to speak, that I thought we were ready for. Defensively we were locked in too.”
Ladd added two more and Rosenberg drained a three off a feed from Poirier and the visitors staked a 21-8 claim through one quarter.
Foxboro made things interesting in the opening moments of the second with back-to-back threes from sophomore Sam Golub (12 points, four rebounds) to get within two possessions but North responded with a pair of runs to regain a comfortable lead. Wells, Kelley, and Poirier all hit from two-point range and then Jason Rodriguez linked up with Ladd for two more. Ladd used a strong post move for two to cap a 10-4 surge that put the Rocketeers ahead 31-20.
Gordon finished at the rim to get Foxboro back into the scoring column but North used another run, this time a 9-2 spurt to close out the first half. Wells drained a corner three off a feed from Ladd and then Rosenberg rewarded Ladd for his movement down low. Kelley scored off a turnover and then fed Wells for two in the final minute to put North ahead 40-22 at the half.
At halftime, North Attleboro had 12 assists on its 18 makes from the field.
“Our guys have done a great job committing to sharing the ball with each other,” Mulkerrins said. “It starts with George because if your best player offensively isn’t willing to share the ball then it creates some issues. We know he’s going to get doubled, going to get tripled and he’s willing to share it and I think there’s a domino effect.”
Foxboro’s defense started to slow the Rocketeers’ offense in the third quarter, limiting the visitors to just 10 points on four makes from the floor while forcing three turnovers. Foxboro’s offense was steady. Four players scored for the Warriors with Gordon getting four, Golub and sophomore Alex Penders (16 points, 15 rebounds three blocks) had a bucket each, and Sean O’Leary drained a three but the deficit was 50-33 going into the final quarter.
The Warriors made things interesting with a quick 7-0 run to open the fourth quarter, Golub making an early three, and Gordon scoring four straight in just 1:30 of action. Six straight from Ladd, including a traditional three-point play, kept the visitors ahead, pushing the lead back to 56-42, but Foxboro continued to claw its way back.
“Penders is a heck of a player, he’s a bull,” Mulkerrins said. “We tried to go to George early and often to try and see what counter [Foxboro] would make defensively. They did a good job on him but I thought later in the contest, a couple of penetrations he made from the right-wing area, I thought he showed his senior stripes a bit there and made some big buckets for us.”
Penders had back-to-back strong takes down low and Gordon sliced through the defense for two more and the lead was down to just six, 56-48, with three minutes to go. Foxboro fouled to try and extend the game and North obliged with some missed free throws but the Rocketeers’ defense clamped down and didn’t let Foxboro get any closer.
Wells added four free throws down the stretch to help ice the game.
“I couldn’t be any prouder of their effort,” Gibbs said. “North made some timely shots throughout the game and we missed some shots that we probably hope to make. We had a couple of stretches where we got sloppy with the ball and had some turnovers and that allowed North to build a little bit of a lead.
“But at the end of the day, our effort and energy was phenomenal and it could have been easy for a team that’s 2-8 to quit when you’re doing 17 points going into the fourth quarter but we fought and scrapped and battled and made it a game and a had chance to steal it. I think that speaks a lot to the character of those kids and I’m really proud of that.”
North Attleboro boys basketball (7-2 Davenport, 7-2 overall) kept its hopes for a share of the division title alive with a win at the time but Oliver Ames won it outright with a victory over Stoughton later in the day. The Rocketeers travel to Sharon on Friday to close out their division schedule. Foxboro finishes its season at 2-8 in the division and 2-9 overall.
MANSFIELD, Mass. – The Mansfield boys basketball team had plenty to celebrate on Monday night after clinching at least a share of the program’s ninth straight Kelley-Rex division title while senior Matt Boen scored his 1,000th career point in the process.
But neither accomplishment came very easily.
After suffering their first loss of the season to Taunton on Sunday afternoon, the Hornets found themselves in close to a must-win situation against the Tigers if they wanted to extend their impressive reign atop the Hockomock League.
And after Boen dropped 31 points on Sunday, the senior guard attracted plenty of attention from the Taunton defense. That defense coupled with the pressure and nerves of nearing the milestone resulted in just two points through three quarters of play.
But all’s well that ends well as the Hornets put the game to bed with a dominant fourth quarter, limiting the visitors to just three total points over the first six minutes of the final frame to pull away. Boen got going as well, and the Tigers did their part in making sure the senior guard reached the milestone in front of family and friends by intentionally fouling twice in the final minute.
Boen got a kind roll off the front of the rim on a free throw with 15.2 seconds to go to hit the millennium mark, the final touch to a 68-53 win for the Hornets.
“I talked to Coach Vaughan and told him that the first thing I wanted to do was cut down the nets [for a league title] and then focus on getting my name on the banner,” Boen said. “To get them both done on the same night is even better.”
“When’s the last time we won one without a Boen, that’s the big question,” asked Mansfield head coach Mike Vaughan. Michael Boen was apart of three straight from 2013-2015 while Max Boen won three as well (2015-2017). Matt has been apart of the past four teams that have raised a banner.
“Taunton played great last night, they gave us everything we could handle,” Vaughan continued. “Tonight I thought we did a much better job rebounding the ball which I think was the difference in the game. We made some plays when we needed to. Matty was off a little bit with the pressure but he was able to find other ways to help us.”
Mansfield came out with more zest in this contest compared to just over 24 hours before when Taunton dictated play with its energy. Even though Taunton held a slim lead at the end of the first quarter (13-12) and used a late bucket to tie things at halftime (29-29), it never felt like the Tigers had real control of the game.
The Hornets threatened to pull away in the third, getting key contributions from the rest of the roster as Boen tried to find his rhythm. Foley (six rebounds) had five points, including a three, and Hill (six rebounds) was responsible for four more as Mansfield rattled off a 9-0 run for a 42-33 lead.
Taunton did its best to hang around with senior Tyler Stewart (9 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists) fighting through a double team for two only for Hyland (five rebounds, five assists) to answer with a three-point play on the other end. Ryan Sullivan (15 points, six rebounds) drained a three and Josh Lopes dropped in a floater to get the Tigers back within five at the end of the third, 45-40, but that would be as close as the visitors would get the rest of the way.
“It was everything, we were a half step slow tonight,” said Taunton head coach Charlie Dacey. “We won the 50-50s yesterday and they won the 50-50s today. It just started mounting up, our kids were dead tired. But you have to play through it, they are no less tired than [Mansfield], they played the same game yesterday. We just got too deflated too early. Things weren’t going our way and you could see it in their body language. Our outside shots weren’t falling and then Tyler’s in foul trouble…it just snowballed.
“Last night it was Boen, Boen, Boen, and tonight the other guys stepped up. They have their ball movement and all of a sudden it’s flying around and we’re late on a close-out or behind on a cut, two points here, two points there.”
Foley opened the fourth with back-to-back confident, strong takes to the rim and Boen picked up just his second field goal of the game to push the lead to two possessions. Boen hit two from the line before Taunton finally snapped the scoreless drought, Stewart alertly finding Faisal Mass (16 points, nine rebounds) for two down low. But the Tigers couldn’t get a stop as Foley once again found success driving to the rim.
Stewart added one from the line but Jack Colby responded with a nice take and, after an offensive foul took gave Stewart his fifth foul, Foley came down with a dagger three to make it 60-43 with just under two minutes to go.
“Just the commitment the guys make year in and year out, we never rebuild we just keep reloading with new guys and new faces,” Vaughan said. “What about Jack’s play the last couple of weeks? What about Foley’s play today, it was tremendous. Chris Hill is no longer a sophomore after today’s game, he really came out and battled and played really well. We told him in our film session we needed him to be better and that’s a lot of pressure for a sophomore but he stepped up to the plate. Matty Hyland’s been super consistent all year, he had some big baskets tonight. I couldn’t be prouder of the guys.”
The Hornets wasted little time getting Hill going in the first quarter as he took a shot on four of Mansfield’s first six possessions with seven points. Meanwhile, Taunton had five players get on the scoring sheet in the opening eight minutes with Mass hitting a corner three late to give the visitors a 13-12 lead.
Hyland and Hill had early triples for the Hornets and then scored back-to-back at the rim to keep the Hornets ahead. Santos answered with three and Lopes attacked the basket for two but Brian See drained a key three and Hyland took a charge to get the Hornets the ball back. Hyland scored on the other end but five straight from the Tigers — two from the line from Santos and a traditional three-point play by Mass — brought the visitors level by halftime.
Mansfield (9-1 Kelley-Rex, 13-1 overall) will host Lowell Catholic on Wednesday night at 6:30. Taunton (6-1, 6-1) will try to bounce back when it travels to Attleboro on Wednesday at 12:00.
And on top of that, the Taunton boys basketball team had just one practice to prepare following a one-week layoff.
The Tigers overcame both obstacles, alleviating any fears of rust with a strong start that set the tone for the rest of the way in a 72-66 win over the visiting Hornets.
The win marked Taunton’s first win over Mansfield since January 2016, snapping a 10-game skid.
“I was really afraid of the rust factor, I was exactly afraid of a slow start,” said Taunton head coach Charlie Dacey.
But Dacey’s fears were quickly erased as the Tigers opened the game with their best offensive quarter of the game (21 points) to establish a lead that they only relinquished once, and briefly, in the third quarter.
“Shaking [any rust] right away was huge, they didn’t lose any confidence,” Dacey said after his side his half of their 16 shots from the field in the first eight minutes. “Having an experienced group helps with that. We’re running some stuff but [Mansfield] knows it, they’re taking away what we have so we’re adjusting on the fly. The kids did some self-adjusting on the floor which is real important.”
Taunton extended its lead to 38-29 by halftime but Mansfield came out with a renewed energy to start the second half and slowly chipped away at the lead. A big three from sophomore Chris Hill (13 points, 5 rebounds) finally made a real dent in Taunton’s lead, and then Matt Boen (31 points) and Hill scored back-to-back to make it a three-point game, down 47-44.
“I think a lot of it when there were some 50-50 balls, Taunton wanted it a little bit more,” offered Mansfield head coach Mike Vaughan. “I bet when the stats come out, they probably won more 50-50 balls by a two-to-one margin. We talked at halftime if you don’t win those battles against a good quality basketball team, 90% of the time you lose and this was 90% of the time. Game for game, the stat lines look good. We did some good things, they did some good things, we both hit shots. It was really two high-quality teams that were well prepared.
“We thought in the third quarter and early in the fourth, they might be running out of gas a little bit but they found extra energy and made some plays down the stretch and took care of business.”
Hill had a strong take to his left for two with just under two minutes to go in the third and the Hornets grabbed their first lead of the game when Boen hit one of his four threes for a 49-47 lead. It was a momentum swing that has forced many Hockomock foes to fold in the past, but Taunton was able to recover before the end of the quarter.
The Tigers broke the press and junior Trent Santos (22 points, seven assists, six rebounds) found Nigel Choate wide open with a nice pass underneath for two to tie it back up. Tyler Stewart (12 points, 22 rebounds, 5 blocks) converted down low and Josh Lopes (13 points, 4 assists) added two more as Taunton took a 53-52 lead into the final quarter.
“They maintain their confidence in those moments and they have a good chemistry together,” Dacey said. “They believe in each other and trust each other and that’s really important in high school basketball.
The teams took turns landing jabs in the final quarter, each time Taunton scored to extend its lead, the Hornets had an answer to keep it close. Stewart added two from the line and junior Tristan Herry (eight points, six assists, two steals) hit a three late in the shot clock only for Mansfield senior Brendan Foley to answer with back-to-back strong takes to the rim.
“Stewart has a major impact inside, whether it’s a post touch, an offensive rebound, keeping a ball alive, or just the amount of energy we have to focus on him leaves some other guys open,” Vaughan said. “I’ve said it in the past about our teams, when you get a fourth or fifth guy stepping up making some critical play in a huge game, that sometimes separates you.
“[Herry] hitting the three at the top…we doubled the post, we did everything we wanted, we rotated off what we mark as not their top shooter and he hits a three. When you get stuff like that…Taunton is a very talented deep team with a lot of pieces that can cause matchup problems all over the place.”
Santos took advantage of a steal and scored in transition, and after a Mansfield miss, Herry linked up with Santos for a big three. Herry then found Faisal Mass (13 points, eight rebounds) in good position down low for two and the Tigers had a 65-57 lead at the halfway point of the final quarter.
Jack Colby (11 points, five rebounds) answered with two from the line for the Hornets and Foley came up with a steal and assist, finding Boen for two in transition to cut it back to for. After a Taunton miss, Boen sank a pull up jumper and it was back to a two-point game.
Santos floated a perfectly weighted entry pass to Stewart down low for an easy two. With time ticking away, the Hornets elected to foul Mass to send him to the line for one-and-one. Mass hit the first to push the lead to 68-63 with 1:16 to play.
Unsurprisingly, the Hornets once again had an answer as Boen took a handoff from Colby and drained an off-balance three to make it 68-66. Mansfield continued to press but the hosts passed through it, Herry finding Santos at half court who skipped a pass to Mass for a layup.
Taunton got a stop on a missed three but Mansfield appeared to have the offensive rebound. Instead of getting a second look, Herry came swooping in and knocked the ball free to get Taunton the ball back. Three passes later, Santos had an open layup to make it 72-66 with 20 seconds to go.
The teams won’t have to wait long to renew acquaintances as Taunton boys basketball (6-0 Kelley-Rex, 6-0 overall) travels to Mansfield (8-1, 12-1) on Monday at 6:15.