#1 Mansfield (S) vs. #1 Franklin (C)
By Ryan Lanigan, Editor-in-Chief
The biggest rivarly in the Hockomock League is headed to Springfield.
The marquee matchup in the Hockomock League will be the marquee matchup for all of Massachusetts this weekend. The Mansfield Hornets and Franklin Panthers will take the floor on Saturday evening at the Mass Mutual Center vying for the Division 1 State Championship, marking the first time in state history that the D1 title game will feature two teams from the same league.
The Hornets and Panthers have delivered some of the most memorable regular season games in recent history, and now will take the rivalry to the next level.
Mansfield emerged victorious from a loaded D1 South bracket, rattling off wins over Newton South, BC High, Newton North, and Brockton in a two-week span. The Hornets then went to the TD Garden and knocked off the North’s best team, Everett.
Franklin, which has had a ton of success since being realigned to the Central bracket, is back in the D1 State Championship game for the second straight year. After losing to Cambridge last year, Franklin put together another impressive postseason run (wins over Lincoln-Sudbury, Natick, Algonquin, and Springfield Center) to get back to the Mass Mutual Center.
“Since we played them the first time and lost, we’ve been playing very well. And since we played the second time and they lost, they have been playing very well,” said Mansfield head coach Mike Vaughan. “It’s two teams playing great at the same time, which is why we are both here. There’s a new level of complexity because there are no secrets.”
The two teams are obviously very familiar with one another. Not only did they play two regular season games this year, they faced off in the Mass Premier Summer League championship this past summer. And a lot of the players know each other from the AAU circuit with some even being teammates with one another.
During the regular season, senior Matt Elias helped Franklin emerge with a win at home in the first meeting. The second time around, Mansfield defended its home court and built a big lead over the first three quarters.
“You don’t want to psych yourself out too much or change too much to be sneaky,” said Franklin head coach CJ Neely. “You want to balance your adjustments because there’s a reason why you got here, and same for [Mansfield]. We’ll both probably have something up our sleeves but you can’t change too much over three days, you have to stay focused. These kids have been playing each other since 4th grade Metro. It’s going to come down to who executes their stuff and who can make a couple more shots.
Arguably the biggest wrinkle about the rubber match between the two teams is both teams will be at full strength. In early January, Mansfield’s Tyler Boulter was just coming back and working his way into the lineup. He didn’t start against the Panthers, though he did score 10 points in the fourth quarter.
On the flip side, when the Panthers traveled south on 495 to Mansfield, they were without an all-star in junior Jalen Samuels. Samuels is a key piece down low on both sides of the ball and had a team-high 18 points in the first meeting.
Now, Boulter is back to his normal self – as seen by his 35 point explosion earlier in the playoffs – and Samuels is back in the Panthers lineup and is a threat for a double-double every night.
What makes the game very intriguing is because during the first game of our best players [Tyler Boulter] was just coming back from injury, wasn’t really in the rotation yet and was still working his way back into the mix,” Vaughan said. “And then the second game they without [Jalen] Samuels. Now both teams are at full strength, which is nice and what you want at this point.
“You sit back and see what you did right in the first game, and you see what you did wrong in the first game, and then the same for the second game. You try to figure out what adjustments they are going to make. CJ is going to have his guys ready to play and everyone is going to be very well prepared.”
Neely agreed that having both teams at full strength is best for the rubber match.
“Now we’re both back at full strength,” Neely said. “It’s good that we’re both at full strength. You don’t want to win or lose when someone is missing. Knock on wood everyone is still healthy on Saturday. There’s a lot of really good matchups down the line personnel-wise.”
Along with Boulter, Mansfield boasts Sam Hyland and Johnny McCoy as Hock all stars, the latter voted as MVP by the coaches. Franklin counters with Samuels, senior Paul Mahon, and sophomore Chris Edgehill. Franklin and Mansfield were the only two teams in the league to get three selections.
But beyond the all stars, there is still a lot of talent. Mansfield junior Damani Scott is playing at another level during the postseason and leads the Hornets in scoring and rebounds. Justin Vine, Ryan Otto, and Khristian Conner all see plenty of minutes for Mansfield and have had key roles during the 2018 run. And you can’t count out someone like Tommy Dooling or Nick Ferraz to come in and make a key play at the right time.
As for Franklin, as mentioned before, Matt Elias can be a game-changer. His shooting was the difference in the first meeting between the two. Jack Rodgers showed he’s capable of filling up the scoresheet with an 18 point performance against CM, and his athleticism gives him the ability to make some plays on the defensive end.
Franklin’s rotation is a bit shorter than Mansfield’s but that doesn’t mean the likes of Sean Leonard and Will Harvey won’t be factors in this game, especially with their size. Paul Rudolph and Alex Klowan can help Franklin spread the floor as well.
“We know everything about each other, it’s going to come down to who makes more plays on Saturday,” Vaughan said. “That’s why we play these game. There won’t be a lack of engagement or lack of excitement from either side because of how big this game is.”
“We’re very similar teams with similar approaches to the game,” Neely said. “The personnel is similar. It seems whoever executes better that particular night gets the win, same with how our regular season games went.”
Franklin and Mansfield will tipoff at 5:45 at the Mass Mutual Center with the winner earning the first state title in program history.
02/09/18 – Mansfield Clamps Down On Defense To Defeat Franklin
By Joe Clark, HockomockSports.com Student Reporter
MANSFIELD, Mass. – Over the past couple of seasons, when Franklin and Mansfield have played, the game has come down to whoever played the better defense.
That was no different on Friday night at Mansfield High, as the Mansfield boys basketball team held Franklin to just 13 first-half points in a 59-47 win.
After Chris Edgehill made a layup over two minutes into the game to open up the scoring, Mansfield rattled off twelve straight points to take a 12-2 advantage. Four points from Franklin captain Paul Mahon (15 points, four rebounds) in the last minute of the quarter put the Panthers within striking distance at 12-6 entering the second quarter.
In the second quarter though, Mansfield continued their defensive onslaught while its offense came alive behind nine points in the quarter from John McCoy (16 points, five steals, four rebounds), who helped the Hornets outscore Franklin 17-7 in the frame.
01/12/18 – Elias Lifts Franklin To Key Division Win Over Mansfield
By Ryan Lanigan, Editor-in-Chief
FRANKLIN, Mass. – Having three legitimate offensive options has made Franklin one of the top teams in the area. But its now safe to say senior Matt Elias gives the Panthers a fourth.
Senior Paul Mahon, junior Jalen Samuels and sophomore Chris Edgehill have been reliable options for the Panthers over the past year and a half, but Elias has elevated his game this season.
The senior sharpshooter scored a career-high 17 points, connecting on four three-pointers to lead the Panthers to a key 67-52 win over Mansfield, putting the teams into a first-place tie in the Kelley-Rex. It also marked Franklin’s first win in its current gym, which opened in 2014.
“Elias had a huge game,” said Franklin head coach CJ Neely. “He’s a silent assassin. When he’s playing well, we’re playing well. You go right down the line, we have guys that can play but he’s really stepped up for us all season long, he’s had big shot after big shot. He’s shooting with a lot of confidence, he’s playing with a lot of confidence and that’s what we’re going to need if we’re going to win games like tonight.”
How They Got Here
D1 South First Round – Mansfield 76, Newton South 49
Mansfield junior Damani Scott was on fire from beyond the arc, going a perfect 5-fo-5 en route to a career-high 25 points. After leading by just four through eight minutes of play, the Hornets combined for 44 points between the second and third quarters to pull away. Tyler Boulter added 14 points and Justin Vine finished with 13 points.
D1 South Quarterfinal – Mansfield 71, BC High 58
Senior Tyler Boulter missed on the first shot of the game but didn’t miss much after that. He scored a career-high 35 points with an incredible shooting performance, going 13-for-16 from the floor. Of those 13 makes, he hit eight straight three-pointers to help Mansfield pick avenge their first loss of the season to BC High and advance in the tournament.
D1 South Semifinal – Mansfield 70, Newton North 50
For the second straight game, Mansfield took on an opponent it played in December, and for the second straight time, the Hornets came away with a more impressive result than the first meeting. Despite beating the Tigers in the regular season, superstar Ethan Wright went off for 32 points. This time around, senior Sam Hyland was impressive on the defensive end and held one of the best players in the entire state to nine points.
D1 South Final – Mansfield 79, Brockton 65
The Hornets faced off against the Boxers in a rematch of a late regular season matchup, this time vying for the D1 South title. Like the previous two games, Mansfield was hitting on all cylinders and created a big lead early against Brockton. John McCoy recorded a double-double with 23 points and 10 rebounds while Damani Scott poured in 10 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter.
D1 State Semifinal – Mansfield 73, Everett 65
Facing off against legendary coach John DiBiaso (in his final season), 2,000-point scorer Ghared Boyce and the D1 North Sectional Champion Crimson Tide of Everett, the Hornets looked to be headed for a tight battle after a back-and-forth entertaining first quarter. But Mansfield capitalized on the momentum it built at the end of the first and used a 13-2 surge over the first five minutes of the second quarter to create the necessary separation. Junior Khristian Conner stepped up to have a big game with 13 points.
D1 Central Quarterfinal – Franklin 79, Lincoln-Sudbury 49
Unlike a year prior, Franklin opened its 2018 tournament run in style with a convincing win over Lincoln-Sudbury. Last season, Acton-Boxboro gave the Panthers a scare in the opening round but Franklin used a 30-9 run in the first half to put the game against L-S to bed early on. Senior Paul Mahon netted 19 points and had four steals while Will Harvey produced seven points off of the bench.
D1 Central Semifinal – Franklin 68, Natick 54
Sophomore Chris Edgehill helped the Panthers get off to a strong start, scoring seven of his team-high 19 points in the opening frame, including a buzzer-beating three. When Natick cut the deficit to single digits in the fourth quarter, the Panthers exploded for a 10-2 run and didn’t give up a field goal over the final four minutes of the first half. Junior Jalen Samuels added a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds in the win.
D1 Central Final – Franklin 58, Algonquin 53
While Franklin senior Paul Mahon hounded Algonquin superstar Kyle Henderson, the Tomahawks’ Nick Redden made a living down low to keep the game close. In the end, it was Franklin’s defense that came up with the necessary stops, with Mahon forcing a key turnover with less than a minute to play in a two-point game. Chris Edgehill finished with 23 points for the Panthers.
D1 State Semifinal – Franklin 62, Springfield Central 43
Taking on their biggest challenge of the postseason, the Panthers came away with their most impressive win of the season. In a rematch of last year’s state semifinal that Franklin won in dramatic fashion, the Golden Eagles entered this year’s contest undefeated and looking for revenge. But Franklin had an ideal start, hitting five three-pointers in the first eight minutes for a 21-10 lead after one. The Panthers went on to pull away in the second half to earn a second straight trip to the D1 State Championship.
Key Regular Season Wins
Mansfield 71, Newton North 62 – When Newton North made it a two-point game late in the fourth quarter, Mansfield answered with a 6-0 run to create enough separation to beat the Tigers. Senior John McCoy had 22 points and nine rebounds while junior Tommy Dooling chipped in with 13 points.
Franklin 48, Arlington 46 – Franklin showed off its defensive abilities by holding the Cougars (#2 seed in D2 North) scoreless for the final two minutes of the game, turning a deficit into a late lead. Senior Matt Elias tied the game with a three and sophomore Chris Edgehill scored half of his 14 points in the final frame. Paul Mahon added 14 points in the win.
Mansfield 60, Bridgewater-Raynham 47 – Coming off their first loss of the season three days earlier to BC High, the Hornets got back on track with a convincing win over the visiting Trojans. Mansfield allowed just six points in the opening quarter and kept the lead from there. Senior John McCoy had 22 points and 11 rebounds while senior Justin Vine dropped a career-best 21 points in the win.
Franklin 74, Catholic Memorial 60 – Franklin came to life in the second half to pull away from the highly touted Knights. The Panthers poured in 28 points in the third quarter to turn a close game into a comfortable win. Senior Jack Rodgers dropped a career-high 18 points and dished out five assists to lead Franklin while Paul Rudolph (seven points) and Alex Klown (eight points) gave the Panthers a spark off the bench.
Mansfield 73, Hanover 44 – The Hornets took care of business against the defending MIAA D3 State Champions. Hanover, which made it to the D2 South Semifinals this season, was at the mercy of Mansfield senior Tyler Boulter, who connected on five three-pointers for a season-best 17 points at that time. Sam Hyland added 13 points, four rebounds and four assists for the Hornets.
Franklin 76, New Bedford 65 – Franklin built a 29-point lead after three-quarters of play, scoring at least 25 points in each the first and third quarters. New Bedford put together a furious rally in the fourth quarter, getting within single digits with under two minutes to play but never within striking distance. Sophomore Chris Edgehill dropped 24 points in the win while junior Jalen Samuels finished with a double-double: 13 points and 13 rebounds.
Mansfield 69, Brockton 64 – Mansfield senior John McCoy put on a show, dropping a career-high 35 points to pace the Hornets to a big win over Brockton. Mansfield trailed by six (37-31) at the half and by one entering the fourth quarter. McCoy had four three-pointers in the win and had a strong day attacking the basket, earning a 13-for-19 clip from the free throw line.
Franklin 76, Tech Boston 67 – In a foul-riddled contest, Franklin got the job done against Tech Boston – who came into the game undefeated and the consensus top-ranked team in the state among media outlets. Sophomore Chris Edgehill scored a career-high 31 points and went 17-for-18 from the free throw line. The teams were tied after one quarter and then Franklin rattled off a 12-3 run to end the first half. Jalen Samuels added 13 points and 13 rebounds in the win.