MANSFIELD, Mass. – None of Mansfield’s opponents this season will be shocked as to who the Hornets will turn to on the offensive side of the ball. Everyone knows that senior guard Jen Peel is going to have the ball in her hands and will be looking for junior center Meg Hill.
Of course, having that knowledge does not make them any easier to stop.
Marlboro found that out on Monday evening in the third game of the Roundball Classic at the Albertini Gym, as Hill scored 20 points and pulled down 11 rebounds and Peel scored 18 points and dished out six assists (four of them on baskets by Hill) to lead Mansfield to a 54-38 victory that puts the Hornets in Wednesday’s final against Abington.
“Jen every now and then will do something crazy,” said Mansfield coach Mike Redding, “but then the next two possessions it’s no-look for a layup. We’ll live with some of the mistakes with all the benefits that come along with Jen.”
He added, “Meg did a good job. I thought she dominated the boards when she was inside and she hit some big shots for us.”
The Hornets jumped out to a 15-8 lead at the end of the first quarter with Hill (eight points) and Peel (five points) combining for 13. Hill scored eight of Mansfield’s first 10 points, including three jumpers from around 10 feet from the hoop. Peel added a deep three off a Kara Bendanillo assist to open the lead up.
In the second, Mansfield started to pull away and seemed to have the game in control. Hill scored six points in the quarter, twice scoring at the rim from Ann Maher assists, and Stephanie Kemp added her lone basket on the break as the Hornets built a 28-17 lead.
But the Panthers crept back into the game before halftime on what was an 8-2 run. Marlboro started to control the glass and use those second opportunities to score, including a rebound by Maddison Farrell and a kick out for a three by Halle McCabe that brought the lead back to eight.
Mansfield held a seven-point advantage at the start of the third quarter, which Maher turned to 10 with her lone three points of the game. Marlboro kept fighting and cut the lead to 36-30 before a 9-2 run put Mansfield back on top by double digits heading to the fourth. Peel made four free throws in the run and Mady Bendanillo showed off her speed to race past the defense and score in transition.
“We started okay and in the second quarter we were completely out of sync,” said Redding, “but we’re showing that we’re growing up and we took control of the game in the third and pulled away.”
Bendanillo started the fourth with an assist to Maggie Danehy for a layup on the break and Emily Vigeant added another transition basket. Peel drove to the basket for a hoop and the Hornets held Marlboro to only six points and one made basket in the fourth as the defense picked up.
Redding said about the Hornets holding the Panthers to only 17 points in the second half, “We ended up playing a little more man than zone, which helped with boxing out and getting rebounds and we executed a little bit better on offense.”
Mansfield will advance to the final of the Roundball Classic to face Abington, which beat Dartmouth in the opening game of the day. The Hornets, with just one loss in the regular season (their second was an exclusion game), are also trying to stay in the running for the top seed in Div. 1 South.
Redding explained, “We’ve just got to get one more and then worry about coin flips and all that.”
Mansfield (18-2, 15-1) will take on Abington on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m.
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