Hornets Title Run Ends in Dramatic Overtime Loss

By Josh Perry, Managing Editor

With only a few minutes left on the clock, someone on press row made the comment that the visiting crowd at the DCU Center seemed dead. There was a palpable, nervous energy coming from the Mansfield faithful. The Hornets trailed Putnam by seven points late in the fourth quarter and the team looked stunned.

Sensing the importance of the moment, the fans stirred.

As one, the mass of black-clad supporters rose to their feet, student section flashing Illuminati signs, and they got loud. In fact, they got LOUD. The Hornets were only 4-26 from three-point range in regulation and had only scored nine points in the second half, but those fans still believed and they wanted to make sure that the players in green knew it.

On a day that seemed like it would never end, the final game of state championship Saturday turned into a riveting, instant classic that could have gone on all night.

The Hornets comeback started when Michael Boen grabbed an offensive rebound and put it back, plus the foul, to cut the Beavers lead to just four points. Putnam’s Jonathan Garcia was fouled on a breakaway, which was deemed an intentional foul. But, he missed both free throws and Mansfield forced a five-second call on the inbounds play to get the ball back down four with 1:39 to go.

After the teams traded turnovers in a frenzied back and forth sequence, Boen, who rarely looked for his own shot, buried a three-pointer. Just like that, the Hornets were back within one point. Kayjuan Bynum made a pair of free throws to extend the lead back to three, but Mansfield got the ball with 20 seconds remaining and the chance to tie the game.

Senior Greg Romanko, who was playing his final game as a Hornet, had a tough night from the floor. He would finish with only four points (two on an emphatic dunk in the second quarter) and missed all his attempts from three-point range, but with 7.5 seconds left he saved the game.

Rocky DeAndrade missed a three-pointer and, on the battle for the rebound, Romanko reached over Ki-shawn Monroe and knocked the ball off the Putnam guard’s leg to give Mansfield one more chance at tying the game.

Not surprisingly, the play was drawn up for sophomore Ryan Boulter, who has been Mansfield’s sharpshooter all season. Boulter got the ball and drew a foul on an attempt from beyond the arc. Mansfield’s chance to stay in the state title game rested on Boulter’s shoulders.

It was jarring to have the raucous crowd go from deafening to silent, but the noise level of the crowd, the pressure, not of it seemed to affect Boulter. He made all three shots without even hitting the rim. Cue the phrase “ice in the veins” being added to dozens of game recaps and, more importantly, cue pandemonium in the stands.

Boulter’s ability to make shots under pressure would be needed again in overtime. Despite shooting only 1-8 from three in regulation, when he got the ball in the extra period, there was no doubt he was going to make it. Boulter’s three-pointer gave Mansfield a 45-44 lead and, after two free throws by Bynum and a layup by Ty Nichols, he knocked down another to even the scores again at 48-48.

Nichols would eventually be the hero for Putnam with a pair of free throws that gave the Beavers a 50-48 lead with only 7.5 seconds remaining. On its final possession, Mansfield had to go the length of the court and point guard Rocky DeAndrade, who finished with 10 points, missed a shot at the buzzer.

Following the game, head coach Mike Vaughan led the team to the Mansfield fan section and the players and supporters were able to applaud each other. It was the program’s first ever trip to the state finals and the Hornets, and their fans, ensured it would be a night that few would forget.

“The positives are endless with this team,” noted Vaughan in the press room following the game. “Our team has really stuck together throughout, played hard, and had some fun. I mean, you can’t be upset about a 25-win season in high school. I’m very proud.”

Although his career at Mansfield came to a close with a loss, Romanko was proud of his teammates and his final season as a Hornet.

He reflected, “It’s unbelievable. This is something that I never thought that I’d be able to do and I love these kids. They work so hard and deserve to be here.”

It is difficult to look beyond the moment and the painful loss, but the future is bright for Mansfield with the majority of the squad returning, including the core of DeAndrade, Hockomock League MVP Brendan Hill, Boen, and Boulter.

Hill, who at times kept Mansfield in the game on both ends of the floor, finished with 12 points, five steals, two blocks, and six rebounds. Through the disappointment, Hill remarked that the team is already looking forward to making another run next season.

“Next year coming back, we’ll be more comfortable and ready to go,” said Hill about the experience gained from playing in the state title game. “All these guys, we’re already talking about next year and we’ll be back strong.

The pieces are in place in for another run at the title next season and Vaughan hopes that this experience will push the returning players to accomplish even more.

He said, “This is going to sting for a few days.  If anything…if after we wake up after a couple of days…if we can make this a motivation for next season to get back here. This isn’t easy. We’re going to show up three days after Thanksgiving and get ready to do this all over again.”
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