Hill Double-Double Powers Hornets in 'Must Win' Game

Hockomock Meg Hill Mansfield

Mansfield freshman Meg Hill (31) scored 13 points and pulled in 11 rebounds to help the Hornets overcome division rival Franklin and stay in the league title hunt. (Josh Perry/HockomockSports.com)
By Josh Perry, Managing Editor
MANSFIELD, Mass. – It was tight, physical, defensive, and at times pretty ugly for both teams, but in the end Mansfield kept its hopes of catching North Attleboro for the division title alive with a 43-30 victory over Franklin on Friday night at the James Albertini Gym.
The win keeps the Hornets at two losses in the league, which is tied with the Panthers for second behind unbeaten (in the Hockomock) North.
“I think it’s been three, four years since we’ve beaten them,” said Mansfield coach Mike Redding. “They’ve sort of had our number… I think this is a big win for our team to get them at home.”
He added, “The overtime losses to North and Attleboro — this became a must win if you want to hang around in the race. If we can find a way to beat Foxboro on the road then we have a shot heading into February and that’s all you want.”
The one bright spot offensively for Mansfield was freshman center Meg Hill, who finished with a double-double of 13 points and 11 rebounds. She also scored seven of those 13 in the third quarter to help Mansfield get separation from the Panthers heading to the final quarter.
Redding said, “We’re getting her more touches and she’s finding where she can get the ball and finish. She’s not a freshman anymore. Second half of the year she’s up to sophomore level and hopefully as we approach the tournament she’s up to junior level.”
The game started off with both teams ice cold. Jen Peel, who tied Hill with a game-high 13, scored four points in the opening quarter, but was 2-4 from the line and her third point came with 3:40 remaining and made it 3-0. The Panthers scored on an Aubrey Kutil free throw four seconds later, but would not hit a shot from the field until Lexi Martin (five points, seven rebounds) knocked down a three with 2:25 left in the first.
Despite their struggles, Franklin would take an 8-7 lead heading into the second quarter. Olivia Adiletto and freshman Kiera Fernandes followed the Martin basket with a floater and a jumper to cap a 7-0 run. The momentum would not carry over and it took 4:25 before Adiletto (team-high seven points) scored the next shot from the field for the Panthers.
Amazingly, that layup made it 12-11 because the Hornets were struggling just as much offensively. Mansfield got Franklin into foul trouble but shot only 6-14 from the line in the second (10-23 through three quarters). A Hill putback tied the game at 17-17 heading into half.
Franklin coach John Leighton said, “I thought it was a highlight of defense both ways. Both teams communicate and slide to take things away. They cut off the driving lanes from us and we really worked to take away the three from them and make both teams score in different ways.”
The third quarter was all Mansfield. Hill started the quarter with a three-point play and then scored again after a nice lob pass from Peel (three assists)over the fronting defender. Julianne Newell came off the bench to score four points and crash the boards (nine rebounds). Peel had a tough finish in the lane and then Hill got another layup.
“[Meg’s] the piece that we haven’t had for the past few years,” said Redding, “that interior presence, easy baskets, and extra rebounds. Those add up over the course of a game.”
As time was winding down in the quarter, Hill picked up another offensive rebound and fired a pass to Caroline Maher in the corner. The junior guard knocked down the rare open three-pointer to make it 34-23 heading to the fourth.
“In the second half, I thought Mansfield got things going on offense and we really struggled and that was the difference,” said Leighton. “They outrebounded us significantly and they did a lot of the little things well. We tried to make different people beat us…and they did.”
Franklin tried desperately to find a spark in the fourth with a full-court press and Tracy Pisani buried a corner three to cut the lead to 38-29, but that was as close as the Panthers would come. Leighton also praised Pisani for her effort in slowing down Maher on the other end of the floor.
“That’s what Tracey does for us,” he explained.  “She’s special that way and I thought we had some great help defense. We were in foul trouble early and we made some adjustments and made them work for their shots, but eventually their shots started falling.”
Redding noted, “We said before the game that if we can limit easy points, don’t let them get steals for layups, and don’t let them get extra points on rebounds and we did both of those things and that’s how we played such good defense.”
Peel knocked down four free throws in the final minute to close out the game and move the Hornets and Panthers into a tie for second in the division.
Mansfield (8-3, 6-2) will be on the road next week against Davenport leaders Foxboro on Tuesday and division rival KP on Friday. Franklin (8-2, 6-2) will travel to Stoughton on Tuesday and to Attleboro on Friday.
Josh Perry can be contacted at JoshPerry@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @Josh_Perry10.
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