Down three starters and one more rotation player in just the fourth game of the season, Mansfield’s depth was put to the test.
Following a dominant third quarter and the team’s fourth straight 30-point plus win, it’s safe to say the Hornets passed with flying colors.
Locked in a tight, two-possession game at halftime, the Hornets nearly equaled their first half output (28) in the next eight minutes, outscoring the hosts 26-6, to run away with a 72-42 victory over North Attleboro.
“I think it goes to show the depth that we have and the guys that are able to come in and play,” Vaughan said. “There are guys on our team that came off our bench that would be starters on other teams. A lot of it is kids just believing in themselves.
“We thought coming in that this might be really good for our team, regardless of the results, the next two games, to try and figure out can these guys contribute in a different way than just a quality role player. Can they come in and do this for us maybe in February or March?”
The two starters still in the lineup for the Hornets also delivered with senior Matt Hyland (eight rebounds, six assists, three steals) scoring 14 of his game-high 19 points in the second half, and classmate Jack Lasbury-Casey sank four three-pointers in the decisive third quarter on his way to 14 points and eight rebounds.
Without leading scorer Chris Hill (15.3 points per game), senior Anthony Sachetti (7.3 ppg), and point guard Andrew Slaney (4.7 ppg), the Hornets needed a boost from players who have come off the bench so far this year.
Junior Dante James added a scoring punch with 14 points and helped the Hornets’ ball movement with seven assists, 6’6 junior JT Veiking gave the Hornets a big presence down low defensively and stepped out to hit a couple of threes, finishing with 12 points and four boards, and sophomore Trevor Foley sparked the visitors early with nine first quarter points, finishing with nine boards, a block, and a steal as well.
Locked in a close battle over the first six minutes, Mansfield finished the opening frame with a 10-2 run to build a 16-6 lead. North had a bright start to the second quarter with a nice drive by Givany Carney and back-to-back buckets from Brody Rosenberg (13 points) to stay in it.
In fact, the Rocketeers used a 7-2 spurt in the middle of the quarter — four points from Gavin Wells (10 points) and a three from Casey Poirier — the stake a 22-20 lead with two minutes to go until halftime. Similar to the first quarter, Mansfield finished strong in the form of an 8-0 run (a three-point play by James and then five straight from Veiking — to claim a 28-22 lead by halftime.
But as the Hornets have done to so many teams before, they turned the game on its head with a big run, a run that turned into a dominant eight-minute frame.
James got two from the line to start and then Lasbury-Casey hit back-to-back threes — the first off an offensive rebound and the second off a turnover from the Big Red. North came up empty on one end and James converted at the rim for Mansfield. Another turnover from the hosts turned into another three from Lasbury-Casey and just like that it was 41-24 at the midway point on the third.
“We had some lapses in our transition defense but give all the credit to [Mansfield], they run their lanes so hard and so good at looking up,” said North Attleboro head coach Sean Mulkerrins. “Add in a couple of lapses defensively and some threes by [Lasbury-Casey]. Hats off to them, we held on for a bit but not enough. It didn’t look good on the scoreboard but I was really proud of the way we played hard and battled.”
Derek Maceda snapped the scoring drought for the Rocketeers but Mansfield answered on a putback from Hyland, who was fouled and added the free throw. Hyland added two more, Mansfield got a stop, and James added the Hornets’ fourth three of the frame. Lasbury-Casey hit another triple in the final seconds to cap an incredible quarter as Mansfield turned an eight-point lead into a 54-28 advantage going into the final quarter.
“They are disciplined in whatever it is they do,” Mulkerrins said of defending the Hornets for four quarters. “At the end of the day, especially high school athletes, the group that is more disciplined in what they do is more often than not going to find success. You have to defend an away screen and then a second cut, and then do it again, and then do it again. Doesn’t matter if they run a flex or some ball screen offense, knowing how well coach Vaughan prepares those kids, they’re going to run it again and again.”
Hyland put the game away with nine points in the final quarter and Veiking had five more.
Mansfield boys basketball (3-0 Hockomock, 4-0 overall) is on the road again for its annual New Year’s Eve day clash at Bridgewater-Raynham at 4:00. North Attleboro (0-3, 0-4) is off until the new year when it travels to Foxboro on January 7th.
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